The Market Aha Moment

What is an Aha moment?

Any ideas?

Simple. It’s when you go “Aha, so that’s what it’s like!”

Or “Aha, so that’s what it’s supposed to be!”

You’ve understood something big. Finally. You see light. That’s an Aha moment. 

The human being likes to be happy. 

Professional happiness adds to our well-being. 

To be professionally happy, you need to be doing something during which you forget about time. 

What is this something for you?

Wait for your Aha moment. 

Let’s assume you’ve decided upon a profession in the markets. The next question is… which market?

Which market draws you out fully? Which market consumes you? In which market do you perform the best? In which market are you happy?

Why isn’t your Aha moment coming here too?

Well, Aha moments aren’t for free. You have to struggle for them. 

Start trying out different markets. 

See what gives you a kick.

See where you have a natural flair.

See what lingers.

Discard what you can’t stand.

Hit and try.

Try everything if you must.

Eventually, something will speak to you.

You’ll want to be in one particular market, perhaps two.  

It’ll be your calling. 

Aha. 

I’ll tell you how it went with me. 

I started with Equity. 

Fluked a few. Made some money. Bet bigger. Thought I was good. Won some more. Bet really big. Lost huge. Thought to myself – no more Equity. 

Then came Gold and Silver. Did ok. Found it boring. No more Gold and silver. 

Tried Private equity. Did ok. Boring. 

Arbitrage. Boring. But, an avenue for parking.  

Real estate. Corrupt.

Commodities…didn’t get a kick. The delivery option always loomed over my head. What if I forgot to square off?

Stock futures. Got hammered. No more. 

Foreign stocks. Time difference killed my evenings. Out. 

Foreign mutual funds. Expense ratios were sky-high. Slugged it out for a while, but then finished it off. Lost. 

Structures – broke even, then won a bit. Got bored. 

Debentures. Only do short term ones, to park funds. No kicks. Debt is boring by default.

Mutual funds. Yeah, well, did my fair bit of them. Did excite me, since they were connected to Equity. As of now, there’s just light MF activity. 

Stock options. Lost a bit, but didn’t actually get hammered. Gave me a bit of a kick. Well, it was Equity related, so no wonder. Started interfering with my second Equity stint. I let options go. 

Second Equity stint. Did ok…ok…ok…lost a bit, won a bit, was enjoying it, when suddenly…came Forex. 

Forex…whoaahh…I loved it. Swept me away. Technology, charting, skill-set, I wanted to be here. Aha. Huge leverage, though. Risk. This had to be my second game, not my first. Yeah, safety first, always. Alright, what would be my first game? Yeah, what would be my bulk game? 

Equity of course. I understood it and enjoyed it. I’d done ok. Had leant lessons. Knew how to handle it. Infrastructure was in place. Aha. Nailed it in the third attempt.

So and thus, I found my games upon my Aha moments. That’s where I am. Don’t plan to do anything else.

When’s your Aha moment coming?

Work towards it. 

So, When Does One Attack Here?

Ammunition.

Your game revolves around it.

We’re not talking war over here.

Or are we?

The marketplace is a war-zone, come to think of it.

Question is, how do you use you ammo?

Do you fire the bulk right away?

Who are you trying to scare?

This is the marketplace, people, overall, it’s not scared of your few rounds. There are just too many players, with varied interests and ideologies. Your few rounds might cause a mini-spike in the underlying concerned, but that’s about it. That mini-spike is not going to make it to tomorrow’s paper.

So, why bother? You don’t need to attack here. Straight away, that is. You can attack when the time is ripe, and when you are ripe too.

What does being ripe for an attack mean?

It means that your defences are fully in place and on auto-pilot. Your basic income is taken care of and suffices your family’s needs. Actually, let’s go a little further and say that your family is able to live comfortably on income generated by you which is independent from any of your speculative / risky activities. This is the first step. You need to work yourself into such a position, even if it takes you a long time. Without knowing that your family is safe, no matter how you fare in the marketplace, you will not be able to trade freely.

Then comes the second step in setting up your best defence. You need to have access to an emergency fund. Meaning, this kind of a fund needs to be salted away first. It then needs to be made accessible when required, and otherwise, it is to remain unused. Don’t let your emergency fund’s miniscule return bother you. In lieu of that, you are getting safety. Your emergency fund needs to remain safe, sound, and there, when you need it. This way, if and when something happens, and funds are required, a). you won’t have to tap into your family’s basic income, and b). you won’t have to tap into your trading corpus. You’ll access your emergency fund. Your family will remain financially undisturbed, and so will your trading, despite the emergency.

Now comes the final step, before you can get on with your trading, yes, even aggressively. In this step, the focus is on you. While setting up your family’s basic income and your emergency fund, you have struggled. Your health could have taken a knock. Your mind could be in a whirl. Normalize, my friend. Take time off. Stare at the wall. Get your body-chemistry back to equilibrium. Take a vacation. Take many vacations. Finally, when you are in shape, go for it.

Ok, so you’re in shape, and ripe for attack.

Now, the time needs to be ripe for attack too.

Mrs. Market has three basic modes of movement. She trends, moves in a range and then, she just plain goes nowhere, i.e. she’s flat.

Your aggression needs to be implemented only when she’s trending. Period.

That’s when it’ll yield mind-blowing returns.

Fire away when she’s flat or moving in a range, and you’ll keep getting stopped out.

How can you tell when she’s trending?

Through technical analysis.

So, study. Learn to differentiate between her three basic modes of movement.

Then, when she trends, and only then, use your ammo aggressively.

As Ponzi as it Gets

Charles Ponzi didn’t dream that he’d become one of the most copied villains in the History of mankind.

Ponzi was a financial villain. His ideology was so simple, that it was brilliant.

Lure the first set of investors with promises of huge returns. Transfer the first few return payouts. Lure more and more investors as the news spreads about the scheme with great returns. Transfer few more return payouts to old investors from the investment principal of new investors. Lure a peak level of investors ultimately. Then vanish with all the collections.

As Ponzi as it gets.

I hardly read the financial newspapers. Technical trading finds news to be more of a burden. Earlier, I used to gauge sentiment from the news. Now, my Twitter-feed is an excellent gauge for sentiment. Also, with time, one starts to gauge sentiment in the technicals. Candlesticks are a great help here.

Yesterday, in a loose moment, I picked up the Economic Times. Normally, it’s not delivered to our house. Yesterday, a supplement of the ET was included in our normal newspaper. Probably a sales gimmick. Anyways, I glanced through it. Was shocked to find that 25 recent Ponzi schemes had been unearthed in India alone.

What is it about us? Can we not understand what greed means?

The sad fact was that all the investors who were trapped were retail small timers.

Education, people, education. Are you financially literate? If not, please don’t enter the markets. No amount of regulation can save you from being duped if you are financially illiterate.

When you’re putting your money on the line for the long term, you’re looking for quality of management. A track record is something you want to see. Average returns are great returns if they promise safety of the principal.

Where there’s promise of huge rewards, there are also proportionate risks. If you really want the thrill of very high returns, all right, fine, go ahead and risk a miniscule percentage of your portfolio size in a risky, high yielding scheme. Tell yourself that the principal might or might not come back, and for heavens sake, don’t bet the farm here.

These financial times are as Ponzi as it gets, people, so TREAD CAREFULLY.

An Elliott-Wave Cross-Section through a Crowd Build-Up

At first, there’s smart money.

Behind this white-collared term are pioneering investors who believe in thorough research, and who are willing to take risks.

Smart money goes into an underlying, and the price of this underlying moves up. Wave 1.

At the sidelines, there are those who have been stuck in this underlying. As the price moves above their entry level, they begin to off-load. There’s a small correction. Wave 2.

By now, news of the smart money has perforated through the markets. Where is it moving? What did it pick up? Who is behind it? Thus, more investors following news or fundamentals (or both) enter. The price moves past the very recent short-term high of Wave 1, accompanied by a surge in volume.

This is picked up on the charts by those following technicals, who enter too. By now, there are analysts speaking in the media about the turn-around in company so and so, and a large chunk of people following the media do the honours by entering. Wave 3 is under way.

Technical trend-followers latch on, and soon, we are at the meat of Wave 3, i.e. the middle off the trend.

Analysts on the media then speak about buying on dips. All dips are cut short by a surge of entrants seeking to be part of the crowd.

The first feelings of missing the bus register. The pangs of these cause more people to enter.

Meanwhile, the short community has been getting active. Large short positions have been in place for a while, and they are bleeding. Eventually, the short community throws in the towel, and there’s massive short-covering, causing a further surge in price.

Short-covering is sensed by gauging buying pressure despite very high price levels. It is the ideal time for smart money to exit. That’s exactly what it does, without any dip in the price of the underlying whatsoever.

Short-covering is over. Smart money starts boasting about its returns of X% in Y days, openly, at parties, in the media, everywhere. This causes pangs of jealousy and intense feelings of missing the bus in those still left out. Some enter, throwing caution to the wind.

The price has reached a level at which no one has the guts to enter. Demand dries up. With no buying pressure, the price dips automatically. Bargain hunters emerge, and so do shorters. The shorters sell to the bargain hunters right through a sizable dip. This dip happens so fast, that most of the crowd still remains trapped. Wave 3 has ended, and we are now looking at the correcting Wave 4 in progress.

At this stage, technical analysts start advising reentry upon Fibonacci correction levels. Position traders buying upon dips with margin of safety enter, and so does the second-last chunk of those feeling they’d missed the bus. The price edges up to the peak of Wave 3 and past it. That’s the trigger for technical traders to enter.

We now see a mini-repeat of Wave 3. This is called Wave 5. Once Wave 5 crosses its meat, the last chunk of those still feeling they’d missed the bus makes a grand entry with a sharp spike in the price. These are your Uncle Georges, Aunt Marthas and Mr. Cools who know nothing about the underlying. They cannot discern a price to earnings ratio from an orangutan. They desperately want to be a part of the action, since everyone is, at whatever the price. And these are the very people that traders sell to as they exit. With that, the crowd is at its peak, and so is the price. There are no more buyers.

What’s now required is a pin-prick to burst the bubble. It can be bad news in the media, the emergence of a scandal, a negative earnings report, anything.

The rest, they say, is History.

Options 1.0.3

Has your stop ever been jumped over?

Yes?

Did it make you angry?

Yes?

It might make you angrier to know that Mrs. Market couldn’t care less about you on a personal level. It’s you who has to adapt, not Mrs. Market.

So, next time you see Mrs. Market moving many points in one shot, you have a choice. Either you can choose to take the chance of having your stop jumped over in the hope of huge rewards, or you can use options as an instrument to trade.

In general, a stop getting jumped over is a non-issue with options, because you are pre-defining your maximum loss here. Your option-premium is the maximum loss you will incur on the trade. Once you’ve mentally aligned yourself with this potential maximum loss, you are actually then asking Mrs. Market to do all the jumping she wishes to do. It just doesn’t bother you anymore. You travel, do other stuff, and then take a sneak-peak at your position.

Once your position starts making money, you might decide to fine-tune your trade-management after achieving your target. If you then make sure that your trailing stop is wide-gapped, you can still relax and do other stuff. Maybe one time out of twenty, Mrs. Market will jump even your wide-gapped trailing stop. Even if she does, you are well in the money, and you do not forget to install a new stop. Also, a little while ago, you were mentally prepared to forgo your whole option-premium, so giving back a part of your profits seems a piece of cake to you.

Welcome to the world of options. We have plunged right in. I believe that the best way to learn something is to plunge right in. Gone are the days of bookish learning.

The options market in India is just about coming into its own. At any given time, there will be at least 20 scrips on the National Stock Exchange showing very high options volume for long trades, and at least 10 scrips showing heavy volume for short trades. Bottomline: you can get into a liquid trade on either side, anytime you want. The number of scrips showing this kind of liquidity is picking up. We are still very, very far away from the mature options market in the US. What can be said is that the Indian options market will offer you liquid trades, anytime, both on the long and the short side. Frankly, that’s all one needs.

On the flip side, options on commodities have yet to come to India. Also, only the current month options are adequately liquid in India. Regarding options, the Indian market is getting there. Well, as long as you get a liquid trade anytime you want, who cares if we’re not as mature as the US options market? I don’t.

Over the last few months, options have been the instruments of choice, with unfathomable volatility abounding. I was dying to have a go, but have been caught up in so much other distracting stuff, that I’ve not traded for two months now. I like sticking to my trading rules. One of them is to not trade if I’m distracted. I really stick to this one.

Those who did trade the options market over this period would have done exceptionally well, because ideal conditions persisted. Big and quick moves, like a see-saw. The scenario would look like this: Long options give quick profits, short options simultaneously becoming very cheap, especially the out of the money ones. One sells the now expensive long options (which were picked up cheap), and stocks up on the now cheap out of the money short options. The market turns around and leaps to the downside, giving quick and large profits on the short options. One sells the short options and picks up now cheap out of the money long options, again. The repeat trades according to this pattern can continue till they stop working. When they stop working, what have you lost? Just your premium on some out of the money options.

Wish I’d had the frame of mind to trade options over the last two months. But then, one can’t have everything!

Jumping Jackstops

Recently, Mr. Cool and Mr. System Addict decide to get into a trade.

Yeah, surprise surprise, Mr. Cool is liquid again!

They’ve decided to trade Gold, and are pretty much in the money already. Their trades have come good first up. Both are leveraged 25:1, which is common with Gold derivatives. Mr. Addict has bet 5% of his networth on the trade, and Mr. Cool, true to his name, has matched Mr. Addict’s amount.

Gold prices jump, and Mr. Addict’s target is hit. He exits without thinking twice, and is pretty pleased upon doubling his trade amount within a week. He pickles 90% of the booty in fixed income schemes, and is planning a holiday for his girl-friend with the remaining amount. Instead of trading further, he decides to recuperate for a while.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cool rubs his hands in glee as the price of Gold shoots up further. His notional-profits now far exceed the actually booked profits of Mr. Addict. When’s he planning to exit? Not soon. He wants to make a killing, and once and for all prove to Mr. Addict and to the world, that he rules. He wants to bury Mr. Addict’s trade results below the mountain of his own king-sized profits. Gold soars further.

Mr Cool has trebled his money, and is still not booking any profits. He picks up his cell to call Mr. Addict. Wants to rub it in, you know.

Mr. Addict puts down his daiquiri by the poolside in his hotel in Ibiza. His girl-friend has at last started admiring him. They’ve been swimming all morning. “All right, all right, he’ll take this one call. Oh, it’s Mr. Cool, wonder what he’s up to?” Mr. Addict is one of the few people in the world who are able to switch off. He’s totally forgotten about Gold and his winning trade, and is really enjoying his holiday.

Mr. Cool tries to rub it in, but receives some unperturbed advice from the other end of the line. He’s being asked to be satisfied and to book profits right now. Of course he’s not going to do that. All right, fine, if he wants to play it by “let’s see how high this can go”, he needs to have a wide-gapped trailing stop in place, says Mr. Addict. Of course he’s got a wide-gapped trailing stop in place, says Mr. Cool. Mr. Addict wishes him luck, cuts the call, and forgets about the existence of Mr. Cool, dozing off into a well-deserved snooze.

As Gold moves higher, Cool starts to think about that wide-gapped trailing stop. Let alone having one in place, he doesn’t even know what it means. A quick call to the broker follows. The broker is ordered to install a trailing stop into Mr. Cool’s trade. Since Cool doesn’t know what “wide-gapped” means, he forgets to mention it. The broker doesn’t like Cool’s attitude and his proud tone. He installs a narrow-gapped trailing stop.

Circumstances change, and Gold starts to drop. It’s making big moves on the downside, falling a few percentage points in one shot. Cool’s narrow-gapped trailing stop gets fully jumped over; it doesn’t get a chance to become activated in the first place, because it is narrow-gapped and not wide-gapped. The price of the underlying just leaps over the narrow gap between trigger price and limit price. Happens. Cool does not install a new stop. Stupid.

Next morning, Cool’s jaw drops when he sees Gold down 15% overnight. On a 25:1 leverage, he’s just about to lose his margin. The phone rings. It’s the margin call. Cool panics. He answers the margin call. His next call is to Mr. Addict, asking what he should do. Mr. Addict is shocked to learn that Cool has answered the margin call. He asks him to cut the trade immediately.

Cool’s gone numb. Gold drops another 4%. Phone rings. Second margin call. Cool doesn’t have the money to answer it. In fact , he didn’t have the money to answer the first one. In the broker’s next statement, that amount will show up as a debit, growing at the rate of 18% per annum.

Mr. Cool’s not liquid anymore. Actually, he’s broke. No, worse that that. He’s in debt. Greed got him.

A Fall to Remember (Part 2)

Part 1 was when Silver fell almost 20 $ an ounce within a week. Like, 40%. Swoosh. Remember? Happened very recently.

And now, Gold does a Silver, and falls 20 % in a few days. These are the signs of the times. “Quick volatility” is the new “rangebound move”. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

The wrong question here is “What’s a good entry level in general?” Why is this question wrong?

When something new becomes the norm, there is too little precedence to adhere to. It becomes dangerous to use entry rules which were established using older conditions as a standard.

I believe there is one way to go here. The correct question for me, were I seeking entry into Gold or Silver, would be “Is this entry level good enough FOR ME?” or perhaps “What’s a good enough entry level FOR ME?”

Let’s define “good” for ourselves. Here, “good” is a level at which entry doesn’t bother YOU. It doesn’t bother you, because you are comfortable with the level and with the amount you are entering. You don’t need this sum for a while. It is a small percentage of what you’ve got pickled in debt, yielding very decent returns. If the underlying slides further after your entry, your “good” level of entry still remains “good” till it starts bothering you. You can widen the gap between “not-bothering” and “bothering” by going ahead with a small entry at your “good” level, and postponing further entry for an “even better” level which might or might not come.

If the”even better” level arrives, you go ahead as planned, and enter with a little more. If, however, your “good” level was the bottom, and prices zoom after that, you stick to your plan and do not enter after that. This would be an investment entry strategy, which sigularly looks for a margin of safety. Entry is all-important while investing, as opposed to when one is trading (while trading, trade-management and exit are more important than entry).

Trading entry strategies are totally different. Here, one looks to latch on after the bottom is made and the underlying is on the rise. Small entries can be made as each resistance is broken. It’s called pyramiding. Trading strategies are mostly the complete opposite of investing strategies. Please DO NOT mix the two.

Sort yourself out. What do you want to do? Do you want to invest in Gold and Silver, or do you want to trade in them? ANSWER this question for yourself. Once you have the answer, formulate your strategy accordingly. U – good level – how much here? U – even better level – how much there? U – no more entry – after which level?

Life is so much simpler when one has sorted oneself out and then treads the path.

Blowing up Big

Derivatives are to be traded with stops. Period.

Stops allow you to get out when the loss is small.

Common sense?

Apparently not.

Who has common sense these days?

Also, the human being has embraced leverage as if it were like taking the daily shower. Bankers and high-profile brokers have free flowing and uncontrolled access to humongous amounts of leverage.

Apart from that, the human being is greedy. There’s nothing as tempting as making quick and big bucks.

Combine humongous amounts of leverage with large amounts of greed and brew this mix together with lack of common sense. That’s the recipe for blowing up big.

Every now and then, a banker or a high-profile broker blows up big, and in the process, at times, brings down the brokerage or the bank in question. In the current case at hand, UBS won’t be going bust, but its credibility has taken a sizable hit.

Bankers are to finance what doctors are to medicine. Where doctors manage physical and perhaps mental health, bankers are supposed to manage financial health. Bankers are taught how to manage risk. Something’s going wrong. Either the teaching is faulty, or the world’s banking systems are faulty. I think both are faulty. There exists a huge lack of awareness about the definition of risk, let alone its management.

Trained professionals lose respect when one of them blows up big. Such an event brings dark disrepute to the whole industry. Most or all of the good work to restore faith in the banking industry thus gets nullified to zilch.

A doctor or an engineer is expected to adhere to basics. I mean, the basics must be guaranteed before one allows a surgeon to perform surgery upon oneself. A surgeon must wash hands, and not leave surgical instruments in the body before stitching up. Similarly, an construction engineer must guarantee the water-tightness or perfection of a foundation before proceeding further with the project.

Similarly, a banker who trades is expected to apply stops. He or she is expected to manage risk by the implementation of position-sizing and by controlling levels of leverage and greed. Responsibility towards society must reflect in his or her actions. A banker needs to realize that he or she is a role model.

All this doesn’t seem to be happening, because every few years, someone from the financial industry blows up big, causing havoc and collateral damage.

Where does that leave you?

I believe that should make your position very clear. You need to manage your assets ON YOUR OWN. Getting a banker into the picture to manage them for you exposes your assets to additional and unnecessary stress cum risk.

In today’s day and age, the face of the financial industry has changed. If you want to manage your own assets, nothing can stop you. There exist wide-spread systems to manage your assets, right from your laptop. All you need to do is plunge in and put in about one hour a day to study this area. Then, with time, you can create your own management network, fully on your laptop.

Your assets are yours. You are extra careful with them. You minimize their risk. That’s an automatic given. Not the case when a third party manages them for you. Commissions and kick-backs blind the third party. Your interests become secondary. Second- or third-rate investments are proposed and implemented, because of your lack of interest, or lack of time, or both.

Do you really want all that? No, right?

So come one, take the plunge. Manage your stuff on your own. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, and it will definitely teach you a lot, simultaneously building up confidence inside of you. Go ahead, you can do it.

Crowds Eventually Start Behaving in a Deluded Manner

We’re human beings.

The majority of us likes forming a crowd.

Our crowd-behaviour eventually goes warped. History has shown this time and again.

In the market-place, I make it a point to identify crowds. The biggest money is to be made by capitalizing upon the folly of a crowd. That’s why.

So first let’s gauge very broadly, what the main aspects of market-study are, and then let’s see where crowd-behaviour fits in.

Market-study encompasses three broad areas. These are:

1). Fundamentals,
2). Technicals and
3). Sentiment.

You guessed it, crowd behaviour falls under “Sentiment”. Well, sentiment can knock the living daylights out of the best of “Fundamentals”. And, sentiment makes “Technicals”. Thus, for me, the most important factor while understanding market moves is sentiment.

A stock can exhibit the choiciest of fundamentals. Yet, if a crowd goes delusional, it can drive down the price of even such a stock for longer than we can remain solvent. Let’s write this across our foreheads: Delusional Crowds can Maraude Fundamentals.

Since we are now writing on our foreheads, let’s write another thing: Delusional Crowds can cause Over-Bought or Over-Sold conditions to Exist for longer than we can remain Solvent. There go the technicals.

A crowd thinks in a collective. All that’s required is a virus to infect the collective. A virus doesn’t have to be something physical. It can even be an idea. The space that we exist in is laden with disease-causing energies. Once a crowd latches on to a virus-like idea, its behaviour goes delusional.

Here are some examples of such behaviour. At the peak of the dot-com boom, in March 2000, a crowd of rich farmers from the surrounding villages walks into a friend’s office. They are carrying bags of cash. They tell my friend that they want to buy something called “shares”. They ask where these can be purchased, and if they are heavy (!). Since they are carrying their life-savings with them in cash, and plan to spend everything on this purchase of “shares”, they want to also effetively organize the transport of the “shares” to their homes in the villages. Thus they want to know if “shares” are heavy to transport!

In the aftermath of the dot-com bust, Pentasoft is down more than 90% from its peak. I think this legend is from 2001. A crowd of rich businessmen collects the equivalent of 20 million USD and buys the down-trodden shares with all of the money. The scrip goes down to zilch and today, one’s not even able to find a quote for it.

In the 17th century, people actually spend more than the price of a house for the purchase of one TULIP, for God’s sake.

You get the drift.

The current crowd is building around Gold. It’s behaviour as of now is still rational. In due course, it has high chances of going irrational.

Whenever that happens, we’ll definitely be able to see the signs, because both our eyes are OPEN.

Street’s got the D-word

There seems to be an X-word in every avenue of life.

The Street has its own – the D-word.

It spells D-e-r-i-v-a-t-i-v-e-s.

Whatever reasons there are for a crisis to develop become secondary at the peak of the crisis, because derivatives take over. The crisis is driven to the nth level because of massive institutional leveraging in derivatives in the direction the crisis is unfolding. Recipe for disaster.

The human instinct is to maximize profit, irrespective of any consequences. When masses start shorting the stock of a company that’s already in trouble, its stock price can well go down to zero (and lead to bankruptcy), even if the company’s mistakes are not deserving of such a price / destiny.

Similarly, when masses start going long the futures of a company’s stock, the resulting stock price overshoots fair-value in a major way. Then come along some fools and buy the scrip at an extreme over-valuation. They are the ones that get hammered.

That’s the way this game has unfolded, time and again.

Does it need to be this way for you?

No.

Firstly, as a long-term investor, don’t buy into over-valuation. Make this a thumb rule. Control your animal instinct that wants a piece of the action. Leave the action to the traders. You need to buy into under-valuation. Period.

Unfortunately, most long-term investors (myself included) miss action. Then they fool around with their long-term holdings to get some, and in the process mess up their big game.

The animal instinct in the long-term investor can be channelized and thus harnessed. One way to get action is to play the D-game. Of course with rules. The benefit can be huge. Action focuses elsewhere and doesn’t mess up your big game.

So, play the D-game if you wish, but play it small.

Secondly, be aware that you’re only doing this to take care of the action-instinct. Any profits are a bonus.

Thirdly, keep the D-game cordoned off from long-term investment strategies. No mixing, even on a sub-conscious level.

Then, take stop-losses. DO NOT ignore them.

Also, when anything is disturbing you, DO NOT play the D-game. It DOES NOT matter if you are out of the D-game for months. Remember, this is your small game. What matters is your big game.

Categorically DO NOT listen to tips.

If you are down a pre-defined level within a month, press STOP for the rest of the month.

Make your own rules for yourself. To give you some kind of a guide-line, I’ve listed some of mine above.

A D-game played with proper rules can even yield bombastic profits. 95% lose the D-game. 5% win. Derivatives are a zero-sum play-out. 5% of all players cash in on the losings of the other 95%.

So, play in a manner that you belong to the winning 5%.

Financial Academia and the Street – A Comprehensive Disconnect

1994 AD.

My friends in the Physics Department of the University of Konstanz, Germany, were busy trying to increase the number of holes on a silicon strip.

This was nanotech research in its advanced stage.

Nanotech saw successful implementation in the real world, though the explosion is yet to come. Nevertheless, the key words here are successful implementation.

Successful implementation on the street is only possible when a research model is practical.

Financial academia time and again delivers impractical models and is then surprised when they meet with failure on the street.

Let’s take the case of the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund. Nobel laureates ran it. They did not incorporate the possibility of a sovereign debt default in their model. So sure were they of themselves, that they went on to buy billions of dollars worth of derivatives, leveraging themselves to the hilt. Their total leverage in the end stood at 250:1. The sovereign debt default by the Russian government in 1998 triggered the LTCM fund to go belly up, and with it disappeared the life-savings of thousands of trusting investors. The ripple effects of this disaster almost knocked the world’s financial system off its platform. Talk about disconnect.

Currently, we are seeing the effects of another disconnect in action.

The Euro was conceived on the basis of hundreds of PhD theses and tons of post-doctoral research. What the researchers couldn’t possibly incorporate in their models were some basic human and emotional facts.

For starters, let’s try the Greeks. They like to retire early and work lesser than their Eurozone colleagues. Their bankers are gullible and not too street-smart, and have made some really bad bets.

Italians like to take short-cuts. They like to over-price and under-cut.

Germans like to go the whole hog. They are punctual and more environment-conscious. They do not like subsidizing those who don’t work for it.

French farmers want to sell their milk for its proper price. They and the majority of their nation dislikes subsidizing others who might not deserve subsidy.

One could go on. The list is endless.

How does one incorporate such realistic “human” stuff in mathematical models?

One can’t.

Mathematics doesn’t possess the language to reflect such human and emotional factors.

So what do these theses contain, upon which the Euro has been built. Other, disconnected stuff, no realistic, street-related emotional / human factors of value.

What we’re seeing is real disconnect in action. Financial academia is way out of its depth on the European street or for that matter on any other street. It should lay off from the street so that further disasters are prevented.

Let’s hope and pray that the Euro-chapter does not meet with a harmful end.

Are you a Pig?

Pigs get slaughtered.

Are you a pig?

Don’t know the answer?

See if you fit into what the market defines as a pig. Be honest to yourself.

A pig is a crowd-follower. He (for convenience purposes, I’m using “he”) doesn’t use his God-given brain. A pig generally enters into an investment in the late stages of a trend. What pushes him into entering is that nagging feeling of missing the bus.

The pig is most interested in knowing what others are doing, and gets swayed by flashy headlines. He doesn’t have a market outlook and blindly follows tips. He panics at the bottom and sells for maximum loss. The pig doesn’t exercise any holding power, even if he might possess it.

If you find yourself fitting into any of these patterns, please get a grip on the situation before it’s too late. Slow down. Start getting to know yourself. Do your own research. Slowly build a market-view. And then invest according to this newly found but solid perspective.

There are many ways to limit risk. The stop-loss and the systematic investment plan are two, for starters. Incorporate such risk-limiting factors into your trading style. Slowly build up an indestructable approach through trial and error.

Yes, make mistakes, because they are the only teachers in this game. Make mistakes with small amounts. A mistake should not be able to slaughter you, because now you are not a pig anymore.

Is Silver in a Bubble?

When the chauffeur or even the doorman has an opinion, the underlying asset-class is in a bubble.

That’s my definition of a bubble.

And that’s not the case for Silver yet.

A bubble is something psychological. The mind gets twisted into believing that one’s found the holy grail. And then one can’t get enough of it.

Bill Bonner predicted in the year 2000, that Silver and Gold would be the trades of then commencing decade. What a prediction! He went on to say that in the last stages of its run, Gold would rise at the rate of 100$ an hour. You can proportionate that for Silver. That’s how a real bubble behaves. Just go back to first quarter of 2000 and observe the financial behaviour of dotcoms.

This is not a bubble yet. We are nowhere near bubble behaviour. The common households have not started selling off their household Silver. The man on the streets is not obsessed with Silver as of now. (I still look at common-man behaviour, even for Silver, because in a bubble, one forgets affordability. Apart from that, Silver can be bought by the gram).

So, where does one go from here?

Simple.

The trader keeps trading with the flow and an appropriate, risk-profile-tuned stop. For heavens sake, he or she needs to be long.

And the investor keeps buying small stakes on dips.

Nothing fancy or complicated. A simple, common-sense strategy is all that’s required.

The Difference between Investment & Speculation

Investment is the low to medium risk art of conserving capital and protecting it against inflation, such that in the long run, capital appreciates. Speculation is the high risk art of trying to turn a small amount of money into a large amount.

Investment banks upon the power of compounding. It is an amalgamation of human, monetary and product capital, a combination that favours appreciation in the long run, not linear, but exponential appreciation, owing to the power of compounding. The key requirements are intelligence during scrip selection, patience and tolerance to allow multi-baggers to develop and blossom, and common-sense in handling one’s portfolio. Also, one needs to weed one’s portfolio at times, to remove poisonous scrips.

Speculation banks upon the power of leverage. This construct of finance is a double-edged sword. It can compound one’s profits, but also one’s losses. The speculator tries to cut losses and let profits run. This is easier said than done, because it goes against our natural instincts.

In the end, there are both successful and unsuccessful investors and speculators.

The key to deciding what line one should pursue here is a recognition of one’s own risk profile and appetite. What gives one sleepless nights? What is one’s pain threshold? How much loss can one bear without any effect on family life?

Such questions need to be answered before embarking upon either investment or speculation.