Thursday, September 11, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
A nice writeup from a fellow blogger...Read it even though its long...A good insightful post
PS: dont miss weekly analysis post below this!
As a trader I have always been fascinated by market psychology. By its definition the process of ‘price discovery’ is intrinsically a large experiment in human emotion which is driven by greed and fear. Although the former is what brings people to the market in the first place, in 9 of 10 cases it is the latter that proves to be the basis of their financial demise. As Peter Lynch put it: “The real key to making money in stocks is not to get scared out of them.”
Of course things change profoundly when you find yourself in an ensuing bear market - but in a way things remain exactly the same. Only that the dynamics now switch into reverse, in that the ‘upside’ is the continuous slide down and that the ‘downside’ are the various episodes of corrective bull rallies. Nevertheless, many investors seem to have a psychological barrier towards ’shorting’ stock and it is probably fair to say that an overwhelming majority have never shortened a single stock in their life. After all, it is a bit ‘unnatural’ for Joe/Jane Sixpack to grasp the concept of selling something now just to buy it back later, hopefully at a lower price. I have tried to explain this idea to some of my friends and most of the time they just give me a polite smile and hastily proceed to change the topic of conversation. As I enjoy getting invited back (especially since the food is free and the women are hot) I don’t press the issue. And finally, as I am an evil speculator I am aware of the fact that for every penny I wrest out of the market someone else out there has to lose it. It’s a zero sum game, no matter what anyone tells you.
The other aspect of investors losing money in a bear (and also bull) market is that they fall prey to their own cognitive biases. Let me suggest a few of my favorites - you can find the full list in Curtis Faith’s ‘Way Of The Turtle’ - a most excellent read:
- Loss Aversion - The tendency for people to have a strong preference for avoiding losses over acquiring gains.
- Sunk Cost Effect - The tendency to treat money that has already been committed or spent as more valuable than money that may be spent in the future.
- Recency Bias - The tendency to weigh recent data or experience more than earlier data or experience.
- Bandwagon Effect - The tendency to believe things because many other people believe them.
- Low of Small Numbers - The tendency to draw unjustified conclusions from too little information.
I guess you get the picture - people often (if not most of the time) make decisions which are driven by human emotion, not by rational analysis. The natural instincts of our deeply ingrained reptilian brain might be well equipped to staving off natural enemies and surviving a cold winter, but are completely orthogonal to the skills needed in making money in the market. Yes, we all like to believe that we are stone cold traders who can press the buy button when our instincts scream at us to start selling everything now! But evidence points quite to the contrary - most traders fail because they sooner or later fall prey to their own fears. Of course there is a good portion of people who have a trading system without a statistically reliable edge or have no trading system at all, but this is not today’s topic.
Reducing the ‘Noise’
The Internet and modern information technology as a whole has given small time investors/traders access to a wealth of data and tools that was reserved to a wealthy elite just a decade ago. I should know - I was there and remember paying top Dollar for a trading platform that does not even come close to what I am now able to enjoy for free today. On top of that I am able to access a vast amount of information and news at the push of a button, right from the convenience of my home. I can also watch financial networks covering the market pretty much 24×7 (not that I personally ever do, but it’s there). For the fundamental trader I can only guess that this is pure heaven, however for the technical trend trader (yours truly) all that data in some ways may be more of a curse than a blessing. You see, the human brain is not very good at absorbing vast amounts of information. We are good at averaging - some call that ‘fuzzy logic’, and most of us are very visual. Which is why man traders eventually embrace technical analysis. As the thinking goes - all that vast amount of fundamental data which we could not possibly hope to digest is simply reflected by one main denominator, the actual market price of the underlying equity or commodity as depicted by a price chart (remember, I was talking about ‘price discovery’ at the beginning). Add to that some time tested chart patterns like ‘triangles’, ‘head and shoulder formation’, ‘double tops/bottoms’, etc. and you’d think that trading should actually be fairly easy, right?
Well, as you probably have learned from the tribulations of life as a trader - the answer is no. We just can help ourselves it seems and sometimes - and I actually dare to say most of the times - the majority of us are unable to see the forest for the trees.
Overall the charts and news are quite bullish for this week. But longer term, we remain bearish...Short term and maybe medium term(1-2 months?)...We can turn bullish...Watch out for more bullishness coming from the new channels and public...This will be our signal to be more careful...For now, things start to look rosy again...But dont be fooled into longer term investments...This is still an upward correction to all the downmoves we had so far.