March - 2019
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
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 S&P +20.25
 USB -0.20
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 S&P -13.25
 USB +0.16
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 S&P -0.25
 USB +0.01
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 S&P -20.25
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 S&P -21.50
 USB +0.29
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 S&P -3.00
 USB +0.02
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 S&P +37.00
 USB -0.11
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 S&P +8.00
 USB +0.25
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 S&P +22.50
 USB -0.09
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 S&P -7.50
 USB -0.20
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 S&P +17.50
 USB +0.22
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 S&P +10.75
 USB -0.02
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 S&P -4.50
 USB -0.12
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 S&P -12.75
 USB +1.09
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 S&P +35.50
 USB +0.05
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 S&P -51.75
 USB +1.13
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Mar

24

"If the best horse always won, this stuff would be so easy," the Old Frenchman used to tell me.

But it sure helps when the best horse is running against a field of nags. Similarly, I don't recall, in forty years, what appears to be a easier setup than right now in equities.

Not even close. Ever.

Let's start with the backdrop, which is decidedly negative at least in terms of recent news - global slowing, yield curve inverting, earnings trailing off etc.

Great.

Now, let's just look at the reality. In terms of what's going on with rates–a contrived situation on the short end, entirely inconsistent with quality spreads which have narrowed in the past couple of months, considerably, even with respect to junk.

Whatever global slowing was going on in 2018 has decidedly and abruptly turned. Since the first of the year, Shanghai is up 24%, Oil is up 27%. Global Slowdown?

To think we're still in a slowdown period is to miss what's already going on.

Employment in the US is very strong, evidenced again by this past week's jobless claims, and should be evermore evident after the next monthly jobs number where it should become clear the February number was a shutdown-induced aberration.

In fact, the basic indicator I keep (and many others do, of essentially the same thing, in various forms) of commodities prices relative to employment has again turned up–and at already high levels. This is very strong.

Earnings, here we are, end of Q1 and month-on-month S&P earnings are still growing. That;s right, despite the 21 1/2% growth in earnings on the S&P 500 last year, and the fact that they were to be contracting by now, are STILL growing, month-on-month.

The sentiment is still quite negative, and there are actually people out there who, for whatever natural-glass-half-empty they harbor, think the December lows will be challenged here. In December, we saw sentiment readings in surveys, in the press, in put/call ratios and in VIX futures that were negative along the lines of what we saw in late 2008! Such readings occur, typically, before protracted gains, bull runs that last many months. The following chart shows the 13 week rate-of-change of the S&P, as percentage, as of this Friday's close.

We haven't seen a move this vigorous, up and outta here, since 2009 Q2. Does this look like a market about to roll over? All of this backdrop, historically, set the stage for a prolonged bull run–which we are again in the early throes of it would appear.

"Roy's Red" –the six week coefficient of variance (I call it that after my late friend and fellow trader, Roy Klopper, who cooked it up with me years ago trading value line futures on hourly data) has again dipped below .10, indicating an imminent move (i.e. we're coming up and out of this congestion we've been in the past month or so–a congestion which has had an upward bias, indicative of strength coming when we break up out of it). The last time we had a reading this low in Roy's Red, this imminent of a move, of an impending and imminent trending move, was in early October last year.

The volume bars of Friday (tight, profitable-quarter-ending-stops being played) indicate one should be a buyer on weakness Monday - even if things collapse Monday, you gotta be a buyer. ESPECIALLY if you can be a buyer below Friday's close (I don't know if we'll get this chance, or if Monday is a further collapse, on heavier volume–I doubt it, the setup is such that Friday should be made up and then some in the coming week). Even if things work a little lower, the bigger picture is so strong right now, that backdrop story so counter to what's actually going on in the numbers, and the forecast so strong here, and the daily so set up for a buy I just don't recall things ever being easier than right now.

Could I be more unequivocal?

Alex Forshaw replies:

Ralph,

a few devil's advocate arguments:

1. Shanghai composite was trading at 10x forward earnings 3-4 months ago with aggressive supply side government stimulus. that has historically always been a good time for a trading bounce. There hasn't been a material shift in on the ground economic fundamentals in China.

2. By my math the SPX is trading at 17x 12m forward EPS. The range has been 15-18x in the past 3 years. The SPX traded over 18x forward earnings 4 times in the last 100 years — 1929, 1936, 1999, and january 2018. In each of those occasions, the SPX's sharpe ratio for the following 12-36 months ranged from quite bad to historically atrocious. so unless there's a massive expansion in earnings in the near term, the SPX is not valued attractively right now.

3. Earnings season just ended. There won't be material movement in the "E" for another month.

4. While the yield curve doesn't historically correlate with fwd 12m equity returns, how do forward 12-month returns look when we are at least 6 years into an economic expansion and the yield curve has flattened? It's one thing for the yield curve to flatten 2 or 3 years into a bull market. but 10 years? Seems like the context is materially different from a lot of the past contexts around this statistic, although I haven't studied it closely.

5. Employment is a coincident to very slightly leading economic indicator, but hasn't it decelerated very markedly recently?

6. Europe is clearly slowing down dramatically again. China has had a valuation bounce but economic activity there is still quite weak judging from company earnings reports and anecdotal. The US has managed 3.1% GDP growth with a 5% deficit/GDP that dwarfs the OECD average.

7. Why would you pay 17x ftm eps for 3-5% estimated earnings growth? 17x for 20% eps growth (12% organic), a la 1h18, is one thing…

8. Given the volume of corp borrowing and debt issuance, and the peaking of the current rate cycle, why wouldn't the next downturn be much worse than the 2008 one? I think the "next downturn" risk is maybe 20% in next 6-9 months, but even if it's 20%, why would you pay 17x for that?

Mar

24

A belated answer to the questions I have received about how "this time" can be different regarding the yield curve. My hopeless antiquarian bias tells me that the present trading in "fiat currencies" acts very much the way London, Paris and New York's exchanges behaved in the era of what academics call the gold standard. In actual commerce 150 years ago, "the money supply" was, as it is now, the amount of "good" credit that traders were happy to clip, shave and discount to each other. Gold and silver coin - what was, in the fantasy of Rothbardian history, the only money that mattered - had so little importance that it was shunted off into a room of its own away from the open trade and regular order spaces of the NYSE. Credit was all. Gold was not even the unit of account for the U.S. Prices for stocks, bonds and gold itself were quoted in "paper" dollars, not the dollar equivalent of sterling. The prices on the slate at the gold room were the premiums to be paid in greenbacks for an ounce of "real" money. Our present world does not have an absolute monetary standard; but it shares completely the circumstances of that period: all credit paper being used in trade and government borrowings was actively discounted against one another using prices set by an integrated foreign exchange market. In that period - the 40 years up to 1914, the term structure of U.S. dollar borrowings spent almost all of its time being "inverted". The commercial paper/call loan rate was equal to or higher than the railroad bond yields.

If, as is predicted, the world's extraordinary population growth of the last two centuries is coming to an end, then the primary driving force for what academics call inflation is being removed from the global political economy. If, because of the renewables and greatly improved drilling and transportation technologies, the supply of energy is expanding faster than its demand, the inescapable component cost of all goods and services is likely to decline - as it did in the last third of the 19th century. Quantitative easing and tightening matters to markets because "everybody knows" that central bank credit is the regulator of consumer borrowing and business investment, even though the correlation between the amounts of private borrowings and bank reserves has disappeared. In Europe government bond interest rates can be negative because the primary risk is not that governments will default but that government debt will be the only place where private savings can safely hide in plain sight without fear of tax collection amounting to confiscation. In Japan it is not the tax man savers fear but longevity itself. In a world of negative returns the incentive is to keep more and more money on hand. Against these deflationary forces, there is the threat of MMT, not theoretically but as practiced in China. But their credit expansions cannot be exported to the rest of the world; like QE in the West the lending is a perpetual motion swap of old bad debts for new never to be paid off ones.

If inversions were, in fact, a certain indicator of "recession" (in the 19th century they were not precise; declines were called "slumps" and "panics") the United States could hardly had managed a per capital economic growth that still outpaces China's remarkable record for the past quarter century (even if you take their numbers at face value).

Mar

24

The Atlanta Fed has done a very good job of explaining why "the poor" are literally trapped by the tax code. The marginal rate someone pays for leaving public assistance and working for a living is higher than the maximum "progressive" tax rate that a rich person pays on an extra dollar of income.

The Economic Report of the President (see Chapter 3) also makes this point.

If progressives really cared about "the poor", they would end this confiscation of the rewards of labor. Benefits would be taxed just like other incomes and the transition from public assistance to work incomes would be treated the same way retirees' incomes above the Social Security limit are taxed.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea of what the Brits call a "universal credit". In a system where everyone receives the same stipend and the stipend is subject to tax, "fairness" becomes a rhetorical question. What made Social Security and Medicare so attractive as a social program and what makes them the one part of the Federal budget that only a political fool talks about "cutting" was the fact that literally everyone with an income was treated the same way. In Stefan's magic system the universal tax rate would be 12%.

It would apply to all incomes people received of whatever kind, from whatever source. That one rate would replace all other Federal taxes, including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, et al. The maximum rate would be 32%. The brackets can be left to the whims of the CBO. This would eliminate the massive frauds of the current Earned Income Tax Credit and reduce the administrative costs of Federal public assistance to the levels of the Social Security benefit administration, which are an order of magnitude lower than all other programs' costs (HUD housing, WIC, et al.).

It would also eliminate unemployment insurance taxes and benefits because EVERYONE would be on the same dole. Most important, it would end the absurd posturing about "entitlements" - i.e. Social Security and Medicare - by having the society integrate the costs of the deserving with the undeserving instead of uselessly trying to separate them. If everyone is entitled to "universal" coverage, there is no incentive to try to separate society into categories of relative need. There is also an enormous incentive for people to save money so they can afford "more" than the universal minimum.

The greatest advantage of all would be that the rich - those evil people - would "pay more" even though their tax rates would be reduced. When societies genuinely honor people's rights equally and remove the threat of future confiscation, incomes literally soar. That explains the seeming illogic of PERMANENT reductions in tax rates producing PERMANENT increases in tax collections. It is truly amazing what risks people will take if they have confidence that they will, in fact, reap most of the rewards and have the government only collect on the same rate schedule that everyone has already agreed to pay.

Mar

22

 First, what Thucydides actually wrote (courtesy of someone who actually reads Greek):

The "aitia" (real cause) of the war was the Spartans' fear of the Athenians' growing power."

If Thucydides had wanted to make Allison's point for him, he would have used the word "aphourme", the excuse. He would also have substituted the word "Pericles" for "the Athenians". The Spartans were not the only Greeks who came to fear the Great Man's ambitions. Thucydides neglects to mention this; but then, he had already learned the first lesson of a popular historian: never, ever blaspheme the public saint. Thucydides does hint at the obvious - that Athens' democracy was very much like the Soviet Union's and China's today and "the people" were only allowed to have one voice; but he is careful to offer only praise for the Supreme leader. That survival tactic for a writer of history remains as valid as always. In a People's Republic only praise is worthy of being spoken. To this day, no one has published a biography of Stalin in Russian or one of Mao in Chinese that comes anywhere close to judging the men for what they did. If Thucydides had chosen to describe Pericles' follies in anything close to the painstakingly accurate detail with which German historians have now examined Hitler's, we would not have his history. It - and the historian - would have been destroyed; and Will Durant would have no hero for his saga of progressive civilization.

In his superficial comparisons Professor Allison is right: if one is looking for comparisons with the distant Greek past, it is appropriate to offer China as the analog to Athens. China's "Golden Age" is indisputable; its gleaming skyscrapers, high-speed trains and brand new airports are the modern equivalent of gleaming white marble buildings and heroic sculpture. But, contrary to Thucydides' narrative, the Spartans did not see themselves as being like the Kaiser and his General Staff in 1914 - who had to go to war before they were overtaken by the Russians' growing military strength. Having defeated Xerxes, they disagreed with the Athenians' belief that the Greeks could continue to occupy the western shores of Asia Minor. It was the Athenians who were determined to continue with military adventuring and Empire building.

In that regard, Trump's decision to change NATO into a hemispheric alliance and leave the Europeans and Russians to work out their coexistence and the Chinese to build their belt and road has a direct comparison with the Spartans' choosing to end their struggles against Persia.

Partisan footnote: One hopes, for the Republic's sake, that Trump's legacy has a happier outcome.

Mar

22

(Housing has higher returns than equity with half the variance)


The Rate of Return on Everything, 1870–2015

Oscar Jord, Katharina Knoll, Dmitry Kuvshinov, Moritz Schularick, Alan M. Taylor

November 2017

Abstract

This paper answers fundamental questions that have preoccupied modern economic thought since the 18th century. What is the aggregate real rate of return in the economy? Is it higher than the growth rate of the economy and, if so, by how much? Is there a tendency for returns to fall in the long-run? Which particular assets have the highest long-run returns? We answer these questions on the basis of a new and comprehensive dataset for all major asset classes, including—for the first time—total returns to the largest, but oft ignored, component of household wealth, housing. The annual data on total returns for equity, housing, bonds, and bills cover 16 advanced economies from 1870 to 2015, and our new evidence reveals many new insights and puzzles.

Mar

18

 Barry Lopez writes in his book Arctic Dreams about how eskimos hunt and perceive their environment and prey with different eyes, perception, and spirit than do Western scientists. They have an intimate relationship with their world and with their prey.

Chair opened my eyes to perceiving the spirit of the market. The public reads the news and looks at charts. We speculators see the natural spirit behind the market, more than the sum of the participants. It has a living spirit: Panicky, ebullient, overconfident, deceitful. Our tools go beyond math to see deeper meaning in the relationship between the market and our world.

Make no mistake about it: speculators are hunters, and to survive we must be one with our prey, know where it is, where it is going, and what its habits are. We must understand the interconnectedness of the markets as in the natural world. Hence the beauty of Chair's natural models.

Mar

15

India election commission today announced that India will go to polls between 11th April to 19th May with election results to be announced on 23rd May 2019.

Mar

15

"When You're Cold, You Make Decisions in the Heat of the Moment"

anonymous writes: 

Not the way SAC does it.

Mar

12

 Larry Sabato's Coven at UVA has released their first prediction for 2020. It is surprisingly rational. It predicts Arizona's 11, Wisconsin's 10, Pennsylvania's 20, New Hampshire's 4 and 2 Nebraska's 4 electoral votes as Toss-Ups; and assumes that Trump enters into the contest for those 5 states having 248 EVs in hand.

The challenge for the Democrats is to somehow duplicate the "black" turnout in the Midwest that won for President Obama. They have to recapture Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. The question is how.

After the Civil War, the Democrats were able to re-establish local and State political parity using the minority group identity grievance doctrine that has always been at the heart of their party's electoral appeal. But, with the exception of Grover Cleveland's hard money reform machine and Woodrow Wilson's luck in being able to run in a 3-way race, they were unable to find a candidate between 1868 and 1932 who could successfully appeal to every identity group within the coalition. The solution at the national level only came when they chose a candidate whose upbringing was patrician enough to allow him to be the ultimate minority.

If the Democrats can find another candidate as thoroughly and unashamedly preppy as Roosevelt, Kennedy and Obama were (and are), they will win. That is the key to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's appeal; she is without any doubt about her democratic superiority and the power of enlightened togetherness.

Mar

9

Since 2000, what is the return the next week (SPY):
One-Sample T: NXT WEEK 
Test of mu = 0 vs not = 0
Variable       N  Mean  StDev   SE Mean  95% CI            T
NXT WEEK  29  -0.00  0.019  0.003  (-0.007, 0.007)  -0.00

Mar

9

"In life the intelligent man looks beyond the immediate effect he desired to produce to the more and more results that are likely to follow and studies them calmly and dispassionately" -Ben Boland, Famous Positions in the Game of Checkers.

Very good advice for the market in establishing a position. What if things go wrong and you are cornered. The roach motel, etc.

Jeff Hirsch writes: 

"Moses Shapiro (of General Instrument) told me: "Son, this is Talmudic wisdom. Always ask the question 'If not?' Few people have good strategies for when their assumptions are wrong." That's the best business advice I ever got."

- John C. Malone (Liberty Media, TCI, Fortune, 2/16/98)

Mar

9

I theorize 50's are penumbral centers. 100's are attractors and not so much barriers.

Mar

6

 I see I can buy a 1924 mint condition GOLD double eagle for $1,300 on ebay.

Had I invested that $20 in 1924 until now at 5% I would have $2,060…at 7% 12,373.

Rocky Humbert writes: 

I rarely post these days, but I think Larry's post need a rebuttal.

On January 22, 1924, the constituents of the Dow Jones Industrial Average were: American Can, Anaconda Copper, Studebaker, American Car & Foundry, Baldwin Locomotive Works, US Rubber, American Locomotive, Central Leather, US Steel, American Smelting, GE, Utah Copper, American Sugar, Mack Trucks, Western Union, AT&T, Republic Iron, Westinghouse Electric, American Tobacco, Sears Roebuck.

There was no way to invest in the index in 1924, and commissions were fixed and were likely to be more than 2% of the investment value. So, the odds of investing in a company that went bankrupt over the ensuing 90 years was significantly more than 50%. Additionally, it was illegal to hold gold from about 1933 to 1974….

There is no doubt that violating Federal Law and holding gold would have underperformed a diversified portfolio of stocks. However, the appropriate comparison is what cash, net of income tax, would have returned over this period. And here again calculating that is trickier than one might expect, because hundreds of banks failed in the 1930's and there was no FDIC insurance. And the Treasury didn't begin auctioning Tbills until 1929!

My point is not that gold was a good investment. My point is that the actual realized after-tax return that you would have gotten with the alternatives is also entirely unclear — except with 20/20 hindsight!!! So the best comparison would be, what is today's purchasing power of a US $20 bill that you stuck in a drawer versus the purchasing power of that gold coin… and I suspect the answer is that the gold coin did better than the $20 bill.

There is only one free lunch and that is diversification.

What? I can't use hindsight?? You spoil sports.

My one assumption is I would have rolled into all the new DJIA 30 stocks as they were added and subracted

Feb

28

 Victor,

For month and months I've been meaning to email. I blame two books for the delay…

I've been posting on this year's debate topics since last summer (immigration, foreign aid, terrorism policy) at www.EconomicThinking.org.

Months ago I read Adam Minter's Junkyard Planet, and it's just a great tour of entrepreneurship and innovation in this important corner of the U.S. economy. I think you would enjoy it.

Shifting to the foreign aid topic, I've been trying to catch up on books and research. We had a foreign aid related debate topic ten years ago. Many new new books since (Nina Monk's The Idealist is great).

Someone in my town, Burien (south of Seattle, near Seatac airport), posted a link to a left-wing banana history video, claiming U.S. corporations like United Fruit destabilized Latin American countries, causing today's trouble with migrants at the border. (Plus claiming big corporations dominate the banana industry because U.S. consumers refuse to pay just 10 cents more for bananas from "family-owned" farms)

So… after some research I purchased The Fish That Ate the Whale, a book about the adventures of Sam "the banana man" Zemurrray. It's also a fascinating story of entrepreneurship and innovation. Banana entrepreneurs converted malarial tropical forests and swamps to flourishing banana production, plus built railroads to transport bananas fast to consumers. Politicians and crony capitalists replaced the mosquitos as parasites of the banana ecosystem.

Anyways, I've not managed to write by article or post on these books yet.

But I wanted to write anyway just to say hello.

Also, Economic Thinking programs continue. Lots of great students as usual.

Greg

Feb

28

 "The Hipster Effect: Why anti-conformists always end up looking the same"

People make a statement when they embrace individualism and oppose social mainstream, but still end up looking alike. Even with hundreds of styling choices, they still come out the same, with cookie cutter exactness. One would assume that this effect is present in the markets. How would one measure this?

A familiarity of this phenomenon might add value to any spec's operation. This is worth studying.

Feb

26

"Federal Trade Comission Oversight and the Need for Online Consumer Privacy Legislation"

However, if the idea is that "harder regulation" will somehow tame the big Silicon Valley platforms, the opposite has happened. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), along with similarly heavy-handed regimes such as California's Consumer Privacy Act, entrenches established platforms that have the resources to meet their onerous compliance requirements. Since the GDPR's implementation in May, the rank and market share of small- and medium-sized ad tech companies has declined by 18 to 32 percent in the EU, while these measures have increased for Google, Facebook, and Amazon. My new paper, "What the GDPR really does and how the US can chart a better course," documents these unintended consequences and argues for an innovation-based approach to data privacy and protection along with consumer education.

anonymous writes:

Thank you, Mr. Mabry, for sharing this fitting analysis of the EU Data law.

Regulation is always institutionalized corruption, collusion and state-sanctioned monopolization against small enterprises and citizens.

It is very hard not to rant about this topic; Hey Europe I recommend burning books next–surely books are more dangerous than allowing us to read American newspapers!

Feb

26

 Something with market implications: Significant Wave Height

And an interesting bio: Walter Munk

Jim Sogi writes: 

As a surfer, I expect at least one wave on any given day to be 10x the size of the smaller sized waves. The idea of the "rogue" wave is also misguided since in the open ocean there will be waves, 10x the smaller sized wave on any given day. We call it the wave of the day. Lucky is the guy who waits for it and doesn't get caught inside and thrashed and can ride the crest to the inside.

It's the holes created in the water, not just the peaks, that can be as dangerous as the breaking crest. I've been in rough water when the boat just drops below the surface in a terrifying moment as the water sucks out under the boat. Not intuitive at all. These can be terrifying market moments when it happens, but it's definitely part of the ocean and market physics. 

Feb

20

What are the scans like for the last 30 trading days with p near 50%? Is this predictive? Sam liked to compute regressions of current forward 3 and 6 month as dep compared to most recent 12 months as independent. The gist was that the change in the last 3 and 6 months was highly pos correlated with the dependent. He was a great man rivaling Osborne in his case his layman's contributions.

Feb

20

 Today, in 1852, the Michigan Southern completes the railroad connection from New York to Chicago.

As Jason Zweig notes: "Instead of more than two weeks by horse, coach and canal boat, it now takes just two days by rail to travel from New York City to Chicago."

.

.

Feb

16

"We often shorthand our explanation of AI bias by blaming it on biased training data. The reality is more nuanced: bias can creep in long before the data is collected as well as at many other stages of the deep-learning process. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll focus on three key stages."

"This is How AI Bias Really Happens–and Why it's so Hard to Fix"

Feb

16

 Specs,

Just wondering if any of you have been doing anything related to Machine Learning for modeling the markets?

Years ago, reading The Education Of A Speculator, I learned that Victor was not fond of Neural Networks and the like.

Anything changed?

Regards,

Newton

Mr. Isomorphisms writes: 

You're quite late to the party if just starting.

qplum.co was at a supposed quant conference claiming he had the greatest returns (at the youngest age) of any Tower partner. I was skeptical. For reference the same conference had a bloomberg guy claiming sharpe >5 to a twitter signal (whoops, trading costs not included. Wtf)

2-3 years ago finance bros were all over NLP looking to beat the market. Now the papers are out from that movement. arXiv has turned itself inside out with DL + markets nonsense. I feel like this (and even DL) jumped the shark several years ago. If you want to learn about NN, read Eugenio Culurciello's post (originally on his github) on neural net architectures. The big advances in image recognition were due to flickr users tagging massive amounts of data.

S Mallat and R Vershynin have done some good work in the last 5 years while everyone else is going crazy. Even N Matloff is apparently caught up in the eddy, making points about NN that L Wasserman published 20 years ago. Francois Chollet is moving on. You should too, unless you have a good reason not to. As someone else mentioned, tensorflow, caffe, model zoo, are good fun to play with, if that's your only goal. otoro.net made some fun video games with convnet.js. Think a little more creatively, like that, if you want to play this game.

Feb

16

 Remember Le Fevre's the "Turkey" in Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. The young guy told him, sell, take your profit. The Turkey says: "It's a bull market. I don't want to lose my position."

That's the problem with these bull markets: they keep going up and up, and you can't get back in if you lose your position. And they can keep on going for years. It's one thing to catch the bottom. It's another to hold for the bull run in size.

Feb

16

Worse than jealousy is envy. A good precis of its horrible tentacles is Helmut Schoeck's book: Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour.

Feb

14

This slowdown (actually, a reduction in the upward rate-of-chage of most measures) looks like it is more of a "touch-n-go" variety like we saw in 94-95. (And also comports to the extremes in negative sentiment seen in Dec).

Nothing would fuel a great equities run like higher commodity prices and energy costs, if it can muster. Even a hawkish Fed in 2019 has bullish implications if the long end rises as well.

Feb

13

 The first in the two volume autobiography of Asimov is perhaps the best I've read.

If you like to learn, or are from NY, this is a personal eyeopener.

The second book in the series, after he landed on Easy Street, is boring.

"In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954"

Feb

13

 I often say, "Nothing gets me in shape for skiing like skiing." I have an exercise regimen that is intended to keep me in shape in the off-season. Yet it often seems that no matter how much I run, bicycle, or lift weights during the summer, I still end up exhausted after a few runs on the first day I actually ski. I have learned to expect this and now make a point to ski on early-season days with poor snow quality in November or December. Mr. Sogi noted the importance of being "on it" in surfing in this 2007 post:  I believe a similar principle applies to trading. If I don't trade actively enough, I begin to lose my feel for the market. There is something very direct and personal about experiencing points up and points down in one's own bottom line.

Larry Williams adds: 

Oh yes, you have to stay in the flow of the wave to feel and read where it is most apt to go.
 

Feb

13

 On the way back from the Canadian Rockies we ran into the snowstorm of the century coming over the pass into Seattle. I noticed the difficulty people have in changing their mental models to fit a new situation. Despite icy roads, deep in snow, and blowing wind, many retained the old drive 70 in any conditions model of motoring. Soon we saw cars spinning out into the deep snow.

Traders also run into trouble when conditions change and there is a fat tail event. They keep the same low vol model in their heads and get into trouble. The same problem exists for fixed algos when conditions change and they use the same model.

The problem is when a new situation arises that has never occurred before. It happens quite often. It just did recently. Models built on experience may be deficient. It's clear one has to retain some sort of flexibility.

Feb

13

 Should billionaires be permitted? This question came up recently and reminded me how we fit uneasily with other animals of our world.

I admit to being jealous. I can probably beat them in target shooting, mountain biking, or maybe some arbitrary measure of decency. But whether we admit it or not, they are the winners of the big game we are all playing.

Someone close objected to the unfairness of many who live on very little because of genes or other involuntary factors. I told her that cheetahs are fast, and we have to accept that. And elephants are more powerful, and we can only stop them with tools of our minds.

Then I thought of birds. During recent storms here there were gulls soaring in roaring rain and whipping winds. They didn't have to. They want to because they can. Who doesn't wish they could fly?

Aren't we jealous? Why shouldn't we kill them away, so we don't have to see how they inexplicably achieve what we only dream about?

Reminds me of the Elton John song "High Flying Bird".

Leo Jia writes: 

Reminds me of "The Song of the Stormy Petrel" by Maxim Gorky

Up above the sea's grey flatland, wind is gathering the clouds. In between the sea and clouds proudly soaring the Petrel, reminiscent of black lightning.

Glancing a wave with his wingtip, like an arrow dashing cloudward, he cries out and the clouds hear his joy in the bird's cry of courage.In this cry — thirst for the tempest! Wrathful power, flame of passion, certainty of being victorious the clouds hear in that bird's cry.

Seagulls groan before the tempest, - groan, and race above the sea, and on its bottom they are ready to hide their fear of the storm.And the loons are also groaning, - they, the loons, they cannot access the delight of life in battle: the noise of the clashes scares them.

The dumb penguin shyly hiding his fat body in the crevice . . . It is only the proud Petrel who soars ever bold and freely over the sea grey with sea foam!Ever darker, clouds descending ever lower over the sea, and the waves are singing, racing to the sky to meet the thunder.

Thunder sounds. In foamy anger the waves groan, with wind in conflict. Now the wind firmly embraces flocks of waves and sends them crashing on the cliffs in wild fury, smashing into dust and seaspray all these mountains of emerald.

And the Petrel soars with warcries, reminiscent of black lightning, like an arrow piercing the clouds, with his wing rips foam from the waves.

So he dashes, like a demon, - proud, black demon of the tempest, - and he's laughing and he's weeping . . . it is at the clouds he's laughing, it is with his joy he's weeping!

In the fury of the thunder, the wise demon hears its weakness, and he's certain that the clouds will not hide the sun - won't hide it!The wind howls . . . the thunder rolls . . .Like a blue flame, flocks of clouds blaze up above the sea's abyss. The sea catches bolts of lightning drowning them beneath its waters. Just like serpents made of fire, they weave in the water, fading, the reflections of this lightning.

-Tempest! Soon will strike the tempest!

That is the courageous Petrel proudly soaring in the lightning over the sea's roar of fury; cries of victory the prophet:

-Let the tempest come strike harder!

Feb

13

 We have lots of trees here in the Virgin Islands and pursuant to our host's advice I have been studying them.

There are 2 types of trees here: those that survive hurricanes and those that don't. The more limber ones like the palm trees, Norfolk pines, coconut trees and bushy looking ones all came back. The big thick trunk trees had most the limbs snapped off. The shallower the roots the more apt they were to be uprooted and tumble over. Trees that had survived Hugo, a storm a little worse than Maira, did not make it this time. Because they were old? Or more exposed this time?

Trees of the same type grow to different heights. The more we fertilize our trees the healthier they are and the higher they grow…but none grow to the moon. We have 2 avocado trees close to each other…one bears fruit and one does not. Our well treated lime tree died while a Papaya Tree came from no where and gives us great breakfasts treats. Mangoes are too plentiful and many people—who love to eat them—can't touch them as the skin as a poison ivy like substance.

Locals are now making Vodka from the starch rich Bread fruit from the tree of the same name. Bread fruit is also a banned substance for athletes as it, like some yams, has natural steroids.

Before storms we cut back the tops of trees and loose branches etc…all that trimming back lasts about a month and then…Zingo! They grow right back

Feb

13

 My apologies for the most recent rant about Grant's being so virtuous on the question of "race". I have (finally) made it to the backstretch with my work of fiction (the two previous attempts pulled up lame without even making the quarter pole) and the horse and I are getting feverish. I do have the excuse of seeing a real parallel with the past through Grant's eyes. For me the present frictions very much mimic the shifts in diplomacy and commercial relations that occurred in the last quarter of the last third of the 19th century. Up until the Spanish American War, the greatest testiness in "international relations" (sic) had been between the U.S. and Britain. Germany, the China of the day, had approved of America and its culture. As the Chinese have become a primary audience for U.S. entertainment, the Germans devoured dime novels and were fascinated by the American West. When Grant went to Europe on his world tour, he found "ordinary" (sic) Germans delightfully democratic compared to the British; and he hoped that, having finally defeated their Napoleonic enemy France, they would have the sense to choose commerce over empire. He did not find Bismarck and the Prussian General Staff to be nearly as clever as they thought they were; but it appeared that Bismarck would be able to get the Kaiser and the generals to see the folly of choosing a war with the Russians, when they could have immensely profitable trade instead. Grant's hopes were disappointed. Instead of building a simple and inexpensive canal in Nicaragua in the 1880s, the U.S. waited a quarter century and built the aquatic equivalent of the space shuttle. The Germans chose empire instead of trade and then managed to turn the British into American allies by choosing Spain over the U.S. in the conflicts over the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Feb

10

 Like everyone, I've seen countless images of forests of high rise apartment buildings in China…but I'd not seen a single image from inside one of those buildings, until I hit this link: "Chinese New Year: Cultural Snapshots of Society".

Can someone "who's been there" comment on how typical what's portrayed is? I have no information on this and would value any insights.

Feb

10

 I wonder what Ralph, Larry, Bill and anyone with economic outlook have to say at this juncture. A quick 6-month drop from 1,800 to 600 is impressive: "Ocean Shipping Rates Plunge: Just a Blip or the End of Globalization".

Bill Rafter writes: 

Funny that you should ask, particularly today as I am writing a missive about that to clients.

The macroeconomic numbers show NO negativity. They look quite good. But of course, that's not the stock market.

This past week we have liquidated some individual equities that had given individual squirrelly signals, getting down to 75% long. They had been good longs and we were surprised when they had to go. We had not replaced them, mainly because the buy list was not impressive. But we were anticipating going back to 100% long Monday or Tuesday. That was before I reviewed the current situation today. Now we discover that we must liquidate another 5%.

The big surprise is that a number of the "lesser" indices have given good sell signals, meaning at the very least that a further rally is not imminent. In addition to those public indices, several of our own constructed indices suggest the market has overrun itself, meaning at least a pause. We may find ourselves liquidating our entire long position.

But to reiterate, the macroeconomic numbers are fine.

Feb

10

 It might help to think of money as the protein result of economic evolution. If one accepts that premise, then Crick's Central dogma of molecular biology tells us that wealth has no part in the determinism; it is an end result only. "The Central Dogma. This states that once 'information' has passed into protein it cannot get out again. In more detail, the transfer of information from nucleic acid to nucleic acid, or from nucleic acid to protein may be possible, but transfer from protein to protein, or from protein to nucleic acid is impossible. Information means here the precise determination of sequence, either of bases in the nucleic acid or of amino acid residues in the protein."

Feb

10

Mises wrote in 1940 what it is still difficult to say 80 years later: the "working class" in Germany were the Nazis most dedicated supporters precisely because Hitler offered "full employment" through public spending. Hitler's dilemma in 1939 was that the German central government had no more usable FX with which to pay for its imports. The only means of continuing the supplies from Scandinavia and the Baltic and Romania was to make German IOUs as good as cash in the same way Napoleon persuaded Continental Europe to accept the "reformed" (sic) French currency. The Soviets could not be so easily threatened, but they could be bribed with half of Poland, the Baltic and a slice of Finland. Even so, everything depended on the French and British believing that an invasion to the Rhine would only bolster Hitler's popularity, not destroy it. So, as Mises notes, leaflets were dropped instead of bombs.

Peter Ringel writes:

The left here always gets a little bit annoyed when one highlights, that NAZI stands for National SOCIALISM (A member of the National Socialist German Workers' Party NSDAP). It would be nice if more (in Germany) understand, that economics is the driving force of history–not political or religious "ideas".

Feb

4

 I keep hearing about this new green deal. And while that sounds like a lovely idea, I wonder how that grid would be holding up in Chicago right now.

I also wonder how exactly–after we ban petroleum–we're still going to be able to produce solvents, diesel fuel, motor oil, bearing grease, ink, floor wax, ballpoint pens, football cleats, upholstery, sweaters, boats, insecticides, bicycle tires, automobile bodies, nail polish, fishing lures, dresses, tires, golf bags, perfumes, cassettes, dishwasher parts, tool boxes, shoe polish, motorcycle helmets, caulking, petroleum jelly, transparent tape, faucet washers, antiseptics, clotheslines, curtains, food preservatives, basketballs, soap (which is why it's hard to get that motor oil off your hands, vitamin capsules, antihistamines, purses, shoes, dashboards, cortisone, deodorant, footballs, dyes, panty hose, life jackets , rubbing alcohol, linings, skis, TV cabinets, shag rugs, electrician's tape, tool racks, car battery cases, epoxy, paint, mops, slacks, insect repellent, umbrellas, fertilizers, hair coloring, fishing rods, lipstick, denture adhesives, ice cube trays, synthetic rubbers, plastic wood, electric blankets, glycerin, fishing boots, aspirin, balloons, parachutes, telephones, pillows, enamel, dentures, shaving cream, ammonia, fan belts, movie films, model cars, folding doors, cameras, iphones, golf balls and toothpaste.

The list is longer, but I have to get up and go to work. Unfortunately, my day doesn't consist of dreaming about the reversal of industrial revolutions.

Feb

4

I struggle to find an instance of equities being overvalued. This link shows not only my model for real-return adjusted earnings' linear relationship to the S&P ("model") but of particular interest the P/E of the S&P with respect to the P/E of the 30 year constant.

Gibbons Burke writes: 

What caused the quantum jump and return excursion of the SP_PE line (red) ~2010?

Earth Link writes: 

Earnings fell precipitously, particularly in the financial, energy, and materials sectors, during the 2007-8 financial crisis, and rebounded beginning in mid-late 2009. S&P GAAP earnings were negative in Q4 2008, and were also significantly lower than previous levels in Q3-2008 and Q1-2009, but by Q1-2011 had recovered to pre-crisis levels.

Feb

4

The AFC team wins the Super Bowl, and given the initial lopsided correlation of this nonsensical indicator, it is, if anything, bullish for stocks for 2019. This is not based on a ground hog's shadow, but on Borel's Law of Large Numbers.

I learned in 2013 to not fade this law in markets as well as to not trust any technical divergences in the face of good fundamentals.

Jan

30

All of my losses were caused by not turning the right shoulder on the backhand. I didn't lose that much, perhaps 10 times in 17 yrs. A handful of losses were caused by sex when at the outset.

Jan

30

 David Lillienfeld's marvelous (and sad) piece about Frank Robinson and the O's was a reminder of how much losses count more than wins. Decades later I still have memories in my sleep about pitches missed as a catcher; and I find myself jumping awake to turn and chase the imaginary ball as it skips away towards the boards of the backstop.

anonymous writes: 

I watched a documentary on Larry Bird and Magic Johnson yesterday. Bird mentioned that the losses haunted him years later. Even decades later, he is still haunted by the loss of Indiana State to Michigan State in 1979.

This made me think about my sports career. I, too remember the losses much more than the wins. The biggest one for me, was when I had the chance to win game from the free throw line for the league championship.

We were down by 1 and I got fouled with 1 second to play and went to the line for a 1 and 1 shot. Now, free throws were something that I prided myself on. I was a high 90% shooter. I once made 108 free throws in a row and had 75 and 50 in a row multiples times. Making 25 in a row was nothing to me.

There's a whole story and build up to this moment that I'll share with the group another time, but I can tell you that I went to the free line with supreme confidence that I was going to win that game in heroic fashion. I'll never forget that moment and that shot leaving my hands knowing with 100% certainty that it was going in…and I'll never forget the shocking disbelief when the ball bounced out.

It was a true turning point in my life and taught me a lesson that I have never and will never forget. In hindsight, it's clear to me that that miss and what happened just before and afterwards was one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.

So maybe if I've got some free time, I'll share the whole story with the group if there is an interest in hearing it.

anonymous writes: 

Behavioral finance studies suggest that pain of losses exceeds the joy of equivalent gains. This may help explain why the velocity of declines are often greater than equivalent gains.

Jan

30

 For those who did not live in Baltimore in the 1960s, it is difficult to adequately explain the significance of Frank Robinson's arrival in Charm City in 1966. Sure, Brooks Robinson, in his MVP season practically carried the Orioles into the post-season, before the Yanks saw fit to destroy that dream in the 1964 season. The Colts were the sports team of Baltimore. They were one of the powers of the NFL. Johnny Unitas was so revered by boys under 13 that half of them sported the same crew cut that Unitas wore. The Colts were in. The Orioles? Well, it was a fun afternoon with your dad in the bleachers.

Frank changed that. He taught the Birds how to win. The clubhouse loosened up as the 31 year old would demonstrate that he wasn't over the hill, that the Reds made what may have been the second worst trade in baseball history. The 1966 season put his talents—defensive as well as offensive—on display. Back when the Grey Lady on 33rd Street was still standing, aka Memorial Stadium, there was a pennant on the outer rim of the building somewhere just behind about the middle of left field, flapping in the breeze. It was black, and on it was "HERE" in orange. That's all it said. Nothing about the 586 feet shot that Frank hit clear out of the park—the only ball ever hit outside of the Stadium.

Robinson's career was tied up with the Orioles well beyond his playing days. He was the Bird's manager during one of the worst season starts in baseball history. He also did much in fostering the desegregation of Baltimore.

It seems that Frank Robinson, one of the great competitors of baseball through the ages, is ailing. The specifics are not, as yet, known. Let's hope that this baseball GOAT is still with us for many years to come.15 days until Orioles pitchers and catchers report.

Play ball!

Jan

30

"Caltech's Rocket Science: Shoot More 3-Pointers"

The school known for scientific innovation and embracing technology has its most successful basketball team in decades. Why? Because the 3-point revolution has come to Caltech.

Chris Cooper writes: 

I played 3 years on the Caltech varsity basketball team in the early 70s, and was captain and MVP. I never won a conference game in my career. I can't even imagine what it would be like to win 8 games in a season. In our defense, we didn't have a 3-point line then, and normally tried to work the ball inside, where of course we were over-matched.

Besides the fact that there are no athletic scholarships, a class size of only 200 made it pretty difficult to find players. It must be even more difficult now that the class is nearly half female, while only 10% in my day.
 

Jan

27

 "No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime" is a fascinating article you might want to take a look at. 

It expands by 10,000 times in a fraction of a second, it's 100,000 times softer than Jell-O, and it fends off sharks and Priuses alike.

Here is a direct link to the video from the article, showing hagfish using their slime for both defense and offense.

Jan

26

Here is a great brief documentary of the horrors of socialism in east-Germany.

Jan

26

The key thing about markets is that as soon as the algorithm "solves" the problem and big players start trading off that, the trading itself changes the nature of the problem. It's not just that markets have a much larger "game space" than chess or Go, but that every move in the game changes that game space.

Julian Rowberry writes: 

Machine Learning is just optimizing a solution to a problem, but with a lot of data. The solution still needs finite data and to be solvable. There's just too much data in markets to plug some data into an algorithm that optimises what you're feeding it to predict where it's going.

Useful for stuff with limited data like; where to route orders to which exchanges and when, setting a postal route, or self driving cars efficiency and safety. Perhaps the best way make money out of it in markets is to look at which companies are using it smartly with limited data sets and avoid those who are trying to use it for things it can't do, or using it as PR, and avoid them. There's something you could test.

Larry Williams writes: 

The take away from my efforts in this was there is too much randomness in the data for anything to be learned.
 

Jan

26

"AlphaStar won the games unfairly via unit control & mechanical actions with suprahuman actions per minute & vision of the battlefield."

-"DeepMind AI AlphaStar goes 10-1 against top 'StarCraft II' pros"

I wouldn't call it unfair, but I agree that this is a different class of game, where physical response time is an issue and an area where computers plugged directly into the game have a clear advantage. I always wondered what kind of advantage Watson had with button response time, playing Jeopardy.

Jan

21

Stan and Ollie is a beautifully wrought depiction of coping with changing times, how fleeting is success, and the perils of lasting friendship.

Jan

20

  I have renewed my acquaintance with checkers in the last 2 weeks. I find checkers much more a real exercise in logic than chess. The moves of a binary nature right or left duplicate the logic gates that go into all arithmetic operations of computers. The rules are very simple and thus correspond with extensions to all binary decisions in life. We all know that Tom Wiswell has written 5,000 proverbs covering the relations of checkers to life and they are invaluable and worth an extensive publication and study. However, what I have learned is quite rudimentary and not for all posterity like Tom's. Briefly, here are some lessons:

1. Prepare before you play

2. Don't move in haste

3. Play only certain lines and leave off playing when you don't know

4. There is high frequency playing in checkers same way there is in our our markets. Don't play against the high frequency but play for the 30 minutes games/ the high freq people have better equipment that you can't compete against

5. Only play lines that you know and don't wing it

6. Write your major plays down before hand and play them only

7. There are some players much better than you. Don't compete with them

8. Your wins and losses tend to form clusters, i.e longer runs than expected. So don't play after two losses in a row 8. Exercise before you play for at least 10 minutes

9. Study the play that was good 100 years ago and use it

10. Don't do things by rote as things are always changing and your opp

11. The play in the morning is very different from the play in the afternoon. The players are different. I find checkers a good antidote to loss of memory and a good hobby which for me is resonant as my father played much with 10 Scotties and it brings back the glory days with my dad and Tom. Hobby for the old age.

Jan

19

 Humility, without a doubt, is a celebrated value for speculators. Not just here on Dailyspec but anywhere trading is a means to self-actualization.

A humble man is a learner. Taking responsibility for mistakes is the attitude that allows the flowering of the virtue of humility on the tree of cognition. But what if humility is the antidote to ego? Is humility the absence of ego?

No! Humility is a sub-set of the Anti-ego or Un-ego (kindly allow this word as anti- is an extreme and un- only a nullification).

A humble mind has only adapted to overcome one of the three primary perils of the human mind (hard wired over the journey from chimpanzee to man). That one peril is that the human mind is coded to prove its superiority.

The other two primary perils are that the human mind loves to posess and control on one hand and loves to enjoy. Those amongst the humble who haven't been working on addressing these two default states of the human mind are the Humbly Egoistic.

To overcome the desire to possess & control it seems one good approach is to be the custodian of the risk capital at disposal. Even if one is 100% shareholder of his firm, such a person sees the firm as a distinct entity from himself.

Such a person will be able to accord due respect to risk, risk capital and the human resources around. This creates a greater shift from ego towards un-ego than being just one who is quick at accepting mistakes.

The devil however, is the primordial wiring in each mind to enjoy. The pursuit of joy is not the same as pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of joy then naturally has to keep meeting with agony, disastrous drawdowns and such things. If one can start working on ignoring the neural circuits that motivate one to find joy one lays a conjecture the same neural circuits are the ones that create a sense of being evaluated, being judged, producing suffering. Abandoning a path that is sub-optimal is the iterative process to seek the optimal. For such a mind then work is a responsibility & fulfillment of this responsibility the stepping stone to satisfaction.

All the three states of humility, state of custodianship and abandoning the path of self-judgements combine together to create the ego-free man. The unegoistic trader (it's an asymptote obviously, of an idea and not the absolute ever) is then the one closest to reason. Any other man not working at freeing himself from each of the three primordial hard-wirings is then at risk of not acknowledging the most potent idiosyncratic risk, i.e. the self or the origin of ego.

Getting back to the first couple of sentences in this note now, the whole idea of self-actualization is a powerful oxymoron then. In actuating excellence the whole crux is in leaving the self aside! Is that what the Chair does when he leaves shoes outside his trading room?

Nature hasn't designed a single variety among the species with vision that can see itself. At most we can see our transposed mirror images. That's the natural design. So ego is a perception derived from observing with our three primordial mental lenses how the universe is treating us. That explains why traders prefer to trade alone, replace phone ring tones with beeping lights, mute the #NB# tubes etc. etc. No, its not being alone. Unegoistic state of mind is being without the imaginary perceived notion of the self.

For all the accusations of selfishness on a trader, the truth stands placed well thus, a trader has to be self-less to remain in the game. Neither humble, nor humbly egoistic and certainly not egoistic a trader true to his grain is self less. A trader is a state of mind where only a responsibility to capital and a focus on risk exist. Rest is left with the shoes, outside the dealing room.

Laurence Glazier writes:

Thanks for posting this. The question of ego is interesting, because it normally relates to expectations of society and colleagues, and in this sense it is a diversion, but a sense of self-worth would preferably not depend on the opinions of others.

Every work of art is in some way a self-portrait, and every trade reflects the trader, which makes the activity very useful for self-observation. And humility, aside from the basic truth (that, from a distance, we are dots living on a dot), helps remove noise from the signal. But beyond the floating bubble freed from ego, there needs to be direction and force, and it is there that resistance to progress is very helpful in developing the core, for without resistance can there be growth?

In fact, resistance appears to home in on every nascent growth, and tests our mettle. Ayn Rand had many rejections from publishers before Atlas Shrugged saw the light of day, though it should have been evident to them all that here was a fabulous book.

Sushil Kedia writes: 

Laurence,

Thanks for the thanks. But why only art? Every human output has some reflection of the self. That precisely is the point that the human mind has become hard wired with the 3 perils enumerated in the post. Goal for reaching a state that produces excellence is to overcome & bypass these three default factory states we come packaged with.

For example, the necessity of counting is to bypass the self. If counting validates a theses, a trade is fired. There is no self in this. The self is so tightly coded into our personages, for example, that soon a counting based trader will brag "I do not let any trade happen here that are not validated by counting". The I has to be cut down to the size it deserves to be. Not sure if many here give credence to NLP, it works out well at this end of the world. So this sentence when changed to "without validation from counting trades do not happen" removes the I.

In fact, with my EQ trainer who I have accepted as my Guru in every way, the pact is to avoid using three words in any conversation with him, "I, Me, Mine". Instead he has approved sentences such as "Sir, would you care to meet Sushil" and not "Sir, would you care to meet me".

As we practice being less and less conscious of the illusory perceived image of the self by not giving it so much importance the mind shifts closer to higher EQ states.

If it is the "I" that suffers fear, greed, lust, anger an endless spectrum of idiosyncratic emotions then this "I" is the most vulnerable piece of code that hangs around without due acknowledgment on the trading desk. Once acknowledged that it is the I that is the biggest source of idiosyncratic risk a trader starts getting trained to ignore it and focus on the defined processes.

A trade or piece of art that doesn't carry the reflections of the self is super. Let us acknowledge the shades of grey and paraphrase this line. A trade or piece of art that reflects less of the self is superior. 

Laurence Glazier writes: 

I would agree with a lot of this, and we might indeed abandon use of the words me and I, and refer to ourselves by our names, and perhaps even them place them in quotation marks, like "Sushil" or "Laurence".

We live in an age of automation, which started long ago and develops now with AI. A trading system which is fully automated with signals for going in, adjusting, and coming out, can be done by a machine, and it is a special interest of mine to be less like a machine and be more essentially like a human.

Removing the I, if such a thing is truly possible, would create a tabula rasa. How much great art has come from such a state? If such a blank slate is achieved, one might prefer to inscribed it with new patterns, a new identity informed by inner qualities rather than influenced by the culture and education of our childhoods. But such a planned approach may not be as good as natural development. I am all for the "considered life", however.

While trading is for many people an art for its own sake, art - in the sense of painting, writing and composing - can be a transcending activity. Charles Rennie Mackintosh put it well:

"Art is the Flower - Life is the Green Leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing, something that will convince the world that there may be, there are, things more precious more beautiful - more lasting than life itself."

Picasso thought that every child is born an artist. A plant may flower in nutritious light and soil. Leonard Cohen wrote - there's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

Being in a comfort zone is not always a spur to creativity. Without resistance, how can the spirit progress? In my experience questions are of much more intrinsic value than answers. Some questions from me:

Would you rather buy a painting or paint it? In what sense can a painting be owned?

I'm always glad of the opportunity to reflect on these things!

Jan

19

The Mayor and other social journalists won't stop selling how bad good is.

"Wall Street Grows Antsy as Shutdown Threat to Stocks Intensifies"

Steve Ellison writes:

That's some antsiness: S&P 500 up 9 of 12 trading days for a 5% gain in 2019 to dfrate. Imagine what might happen if Wall Street ever calmed down.

Jan

17

It is wrong to think of the cryptospace uniformly, and I personally think the language is terrible - as very few are "currencies." Allow me to explain. One must think in terms of utility functions. I will start with the most basic.

1) Currency - there has always been a need for a stateless,reserve and neutral currency. Think gold, dollars, and Swiss franc until the gnomes recently lost their minds because of the Euro craziness.

Neutral State/Stateless/Reserve Currency Functions- Historically, the role has gone to the reserve currency and/or gold. You take dollars and if you don't want dollars you take gold - if you didn't want those you went to Switzerland and the private banks - until you couldn't. Just check the math of the compounded growth rate of gold over the last 119 years (3.6% per year). A inflation protection function but only over a generation. The issue now, however, is the relative size of China/US and the amount of free exchange of the currencies. There is once again a need for a neutral benchmark and gold is not really practical. The gold market today is roughly $7.5 trillion dollars. Crypto is $119 Billion. Even if it takes a generation, I don't think my kids will buy gold but they trade "VC" all day inside the video games and on the phone. Upload your neutral currency to the cloud then pick the country where you need to travel. Much better than diamonds or gold. It may take 30 years, but if it does nothing more than cannibalizes gold the crypto space would appreciate 14.6% per year at today's prices for the next 30 years. Amazon has compounded at 23% since its inception. Amazon is now 25 years old.

2) Software development supply chains - software code will do a certain amount of work (regardless of who programs it). The problem with state currencies is this - say I have sourced programmers in India and the Rupie value changes, I may shift the work to Latvia or Vietnam for no fault of the programmers. A stateless currency allows for a uniform means of payment for a uniform measure of work. It is much more democratic and free market.

3) Utility Coins - Smart contracting - if you have settled an estate lately, or own copywriters, IP, etc. I will let you figure out how to manage your digital property and deal with all your digital accounts - but a smart contract will be an executable. Practical law moved online. Title searches - $500 on a closing statement (a fraction of that a blockchain). These will trade more like commodities (up and down with supply and demand). Other way to think of these coins (software blocks that you pay to use) like a toll road, etc.

4) ICO crew - let's face it - this was securities fraud because the socialist have largely shut the public markets - in overprotecting investors capital markets are going dark to individuals (look at the number of public companies v. private equity back firms). Mr. Bogle passed today - active investors removed securities in part do to the free riding problem and over regulation. These will come back but as traditional equity positions.

5) Inflation Hedge - M1 = $4 trillion (2% inflation wipes out $100 billion a year in purchasing power). M2 = 14.5 Trillion (2%). In short, if crypto becomes the prefer inflation hedge (which once it is more mainstream accessible - watch out during the next inflation scare = I think people may be surprised at what happens.

6) Korea - crypto ran in part because S. Korea uploaded its money to the cloud - once the bombs stop - well the money came down - but you see the function and QE. The Fed got you back to neutral with the rate increases, but they won't only go up forever and they can go up when people loose confidence. Lots of foreign USD floating around out there. I foresee "official domestic currencies" and international currencies. Brexit night - British pound fell. This hurts import/export business depending on where one sits. Lots of volatility because of politicians - stateless currency pricing might become a preferred standard - like the old gold clauses.

7) Remember the forks - Google was not the first search engine. Bitcoin has forked - forks are code copies that then get developed differently - corporate spin-offs. Just something to remember.

8) Special word on Bitcoin - the price very much followed the Qualcomm pattern circa 1999. The reason I bring this up is that Qualcomm was a core technology set that the early internet, but other companies have subsequently written that infrastructure to greatness. Bitcoin might prove foundational, but others may one day surpass.

Final thought - if the top 1% hold roughly 38-40% of the wealth in the US and Crypto is $120 billion global market - you can be ultimately be in the top 1% of holders if it follows other asset patterns for roughly $1,500. You can be in the .1% for roughly 42x that or $63,000.

If the world decides dollars are not the standard - seems like a reasonably priced hedge.

Jan

16

 Conrad Leslie (d. 12/25/18) has been described as the nation's leading private crop/harvest forecaster. His numbers moved markets and were, in many cases, more accurate than those of the USDA.

1. Restrict your market position to those which are in keeping with sound basic market fundamentals. When season supplies are inadequate, relative to probable demand, trade only the long side of the market. When season supplies are excessive, trade only the short side. If you think the price level is correct, remain on the sidelines.

2. Never buck an established market trend. The market may know more than you know. Give up your opinion before you give up your money. Don't sell in an uptrend, don't buy in a downtrend.

3. Recognize that the greatest difficulty in trading is knowing when to liquidate. Most everyone knows when price moves are starting, but the point to identify is where they have stopped.

4. Mark price charts each day. Successful traders believe that visual pictures are an additional way to see and evaluate price.

5. Never establish a position in the market until you see the potential for a large profit as opposed to a small loss. Never trade in a situation where the possibilities are about in balance.

6. Be prepared mentally to make several attempts at boarding a major price move. A trader's major market approach should be that of carrying out probing attempts which will will result in his being on board during major price moves. Be prepared to take small losses. Avoid the common thought that to take a small loss will reflect poorly on your IQ.

7. Do not trade many commodities at any one time. Some traders have so many irons in the fire that they are unable to devote a reasonable amount of attention to any one of them. Two or three are enough.

8. Do not attempt to trade in commodities about which statistical information is vague or difficult to obtain. It is preferable to trade US commodities.

9. Do not develop an overextended market position. To take either an individual or total position larger than the risk of failure justifies is to invite disaster. Plungers trade rashly and usually self destruct.

10. Restrict your trading to commodities which consistently return profits. Confine your trading to those commodities at which you are a success.

11. Commodity traders who transact business through brokerage firms should direct their efforts towards capitalizing on major price moves. Professional traders earn their livelihood by capitalizing on hourly news developments. Anyone earning a living another way should not attempt to compete in this type of day-by-day trading.

12. Go with the market as it makes new highs or new lows. The act itself indicates a basic change is taking place. Though the reasons may not be clearly recognized by the public, they are of sufficient force to establish a new price record.

Jan

16

 I had a weird dream last night. The chair likes to compare the various commodities to picking horses on the day. We analyze the turf, weather and prior runs of each horse to speculate on the best pick. However the turf is flat and the markets are not a linear process.

For some reason I saw a lot of mountain goats climbing up the side of a very steep cliff. Some fell off, got back up but chose the wrong path to get back up and had a hard time returning to the herd. The ones who are up high are subject to winds and other predators like eagles or rifles.

I think the ecology here has some parallels to how prices move. Sometimes one goat falls and picks the wrong path, i.e like bonds are down a lot but crude has been up ten dollars in the past week. Or the stocks have climbed so high away from the pack that they are susceptible to predators. There seems to be some kind of harmonious equilibrium about the movement of a herd in my dream.

Jan

16

Professor Damodaran's updated date set for 2019 is now available.

Jan

16

400 free Ivy League university courses you can take online in 2019.

I sometimes explore online courses looking for interesting lecture videos that I can either watch or convert to mp3's and use as podcasts.

Mr. Isomorphisms writes:

Their list doesn't have a couple of my favourites. Aiken's compilers course at Stanford and MIT's xv6 lions commentary on unix.

Recent mathematical finds:

-a locus with 25920 linear transformations by H F Baker (archive.org)

-ikosahedron by Felix Klein (archive.org)

-slodowy: platonic solids, kleinian singularities, and lie groups

-Elie Cartan: theory of spinors (more readable than you might think; written in the autumn of his life)

-Park & Yang: yang-baxter equations. (on arXiv, written for an encyclopedia)

The A-D-E stuff is probably the most interesting mathematics ever found. (Mathematicians get to leverage the enormous and relatively obvious differences between platonic solids to make inferences about other structures.)

I'll say this, MIT OCW (started ~2002, no productivity gains so far) is higher quality than Sam's Teach Yourself C++ at Barnes & Noble.

Competition in general has benefits, but 30 cold medicines yet none of them work is just more confusing things to try. Speaking of cold medicines that don't work and competition/markets, I would contrast Guatemala to the U.S. in this way. Guatemala has genuine markets–small merchants who will negotiate on price–whereas the U.S. has CVS (posted-offer, negotiations behind the scenes by eg Procter & Gamble vis-a-vis CVS). CVS will carry fewer cold medicines but they will work.

Back to education and MOOC's: delivery of a higher-quality product happens online than Barnes & Noble (or public library), with youtube (Federico Ardila), PDF's hosted on someone's site (Andrew Ranicki), or Rails/post-Rails MOOC's. More people know about more stuff because of youtube documentaries; that's already happened. It just won't improve work output, other than–we've yet to see how this pans out–millennials deciding that programming is the only decent career, and that they can teach themselves (including 25-year-olds who have held 1-9 jobs teaching for General Assembly).

Jan

15

My view is that most algorithmic trading success is based on payment for order flow arrangements… meaning regulations have, as ever, dictated winners and losers. I point to the ratio of lit/dark trading (US, MiFID 2, Australia) as evidence.

Jan

9

In the appendix of Irving Sprague's Bailout, Sprague lists all FDIC bailouts up to Continental Illinois by size. Continental Illinois was the largest rescue at only $41 billion. Second largest was First Penn at $8.4 billion. Bank of the Commonwealth, near Detroit (a chapter about the shady dealers of that bank's ownership) required only $1.2 billion in 1972. Bailint out Farmers Bank of the State of Delaware cost $360 million in 1976. No other bailouts are tabulated, although 7 other kinds of action (assisted mergers and payoffs) are tabulated.The minimum size of a G-SIFI today is $100 billion.

Jan

7

There are 400 free Ivy League university courses you can take online in 2019

I sometimes explore online courses looking for interesting lecture videos that I can either watch or convert to mp3s and use as podcasts.

Mr. Isomorphisms writes: 

Their list doesn’t have a couple of my favorites, including Aiken’s compilers course at Stanford and MIT’s xv6 lions commentary on unix.

Recent mathematical finds:

-A locus with 25920 linear transformations by H F Baker (archive.org)

-Ikosahedron by Felix Klein (archive.org)

-Slodowy: platonic solids, kleinian singularities, and lie groups

-Elie Cartan: theory of spinors (more readable than you might think; written in the autumn of his life)

-Park & Yang: Yang-Baxter equations (on arXiv, written for an encyclopedia)

The A-D-E stuff is probably the most interesting mathematics ever found. (Mathematicians get to leverage the enormous and relatively obvious differences between platonic solids to make inferences about other structures.) 

Jan

5

 Quite a few of the richest people on earth have houses here in the Kona area.

Each year I like to count the number of private jets to get an idea of how the rich people are doing, and what they think of the the coming year.

This year I counted only 45 private jets, and there were a number of empty spots.

In prior years the parking lot was overflowing with over 75 jets and being sent to Maui.

This year the jets are mostly bigger jets like G5's or larger which leads me to believe that the poor guys flying the small lears are suffering.

According to this indicator things don't look so good.

Jan

5

 Just a follow up to see how this has tracked the past week to see if we're in a 'predictable' market regime. Sometimes when the media is flailing around saying markets are chaotic and unpredictable, I test to see if markets are behaving similarly to the way they have over the past 10 years or so. If not it can be prudent to reduce risk. I don't like taking risk down when vol goes up because my transaction cost to pnl ratio improves. How do other specs tend to size up/down? PNL? Market conditions? 

I just broke into Ralph Vince's book (which came highly recommended from my mentor) because my position sizing feels fairly novice.

If a risk unit is a 10 vol targeted unit and weights were as of the 24th and total capital is 14 units:

spy    0.02
xlu    0.66
eem    0.42
fxi    0.40
vxx    0.20
ief    1.29
shy    1.69
fxe   -0.27
fxb   -1.10
fxy    1.24
gld    0.89
gdx    1.20
uso   -0.87
ung   -1.92
 
- so you'd be short 2 risk units of UNG, so a $240 position on $1000 of capital whereas you'd need $2,900 of 10 year futures for a 1.29 unit posi

- Hit Rate: 71%
- When right, made avg of 1.4%
- When wrong, lost .36%
- Portfolio return of .86%
- Qualitative bets: long Gold, Yen (+1%) vs Sterling -.25% = Actual return of .75%

So despite media complaints we've been in a predictable market.

Jan

5

 Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. I'm re-reading it, and I'm glad I was, especially over Christmas eve, which was a survival situation. The book is a classic and must read for outdoors adventurers and investors.

Simply put, either stay out of trouble or find what it takes to survive.

Your amygdala and other hard wired parts can overcome your conscious and rational mind and get you into trouble or make a situation worse. They prevent you from perceiving the obvious. You do stupid things. Learn to understand and overcome the emotional pitfalls. Overcome fear, confusion, hesitation, and confusion.

Get skills to stay out of and get out of trouble. In trading maybe it's lowering your basis in a falling market or controlling your leverage. Have a plan, have a backup system and platform. Take decisive action, but avoid impulsive behavior and don't hurry. Know your odds, your niche, your market. Have the right information. Ignore the news. Learn from others mistakes. Be humble.

Bail out before dying.

When in trouble have a positive mental attitude. All survivors engage in a self talk dialog, as do traders. Get your self a good mantra and get yourself out of trouble. On Christmas eve my mantra was not, "you're stupid for getting into this mess", instead my mantra was, "you're smarter than the masses; you're doing the right thing and you'll make a good profit when this thing jumps back up". That helped a lot. Have fortitude.

Celebrate your successes. Believe in your success. Surrender to the pain.

Never give up.

Jan

5

Dec

27

 Has anyone analyzed these two moves:

Swiss Franc - 1/15/15 (Abrupt stance on decoupling from Euro) Pound - 10/6/16 (sterling flash crash)

I don't trade Swiss Franc Futures, but I do trade Pound Futures at times. (CME FX futures products, front month)

My question that I'm trying to get answered is what would a 50 or 100 lot Stop Loss look like as far as fill? Would it have even been filled? I'm typically using about 50 tick stop losses on those products, so if I placed the stop would I have been filled at a decent price.

Any insight would be appreciated.

Thank you

Jeff Watson writes: 

It would look like a very nice morsel to those hunter gatherers who trade the Swissie. 

John Netto replies: 

Call the Globex control center. What you're asking actually pertains to a banding issue and is something that can be a real factor in a fast market.

Jonathan Bower writes: 

I used to trade most CBOT/CME/ICE products using stops for entries and exits for a decent sized fund. Typically I would stagger the order with slightly different entry points with varying limits, typically a 5 to 10 tick backruns. But when we knew energy reports or economic releases were coming out those back runs would be extended and we'd drop a few of the limits on some portion of the order to guarantee to get some chunk executed.

All that to say is there were times in pretty much all markets, but especially energies, where it could move 100-200 ticks in a blink of an eye and I'd have partial and no fills on lots of orders. So very big slippage events. We found that most of the time that was actually preferable because the market would typically come back to original levels.

However, sometimes you would just know that you should puke and do so quickly…

When I filled orders on the CBOT floor we always told our customers to expect to get filled at the high or low tick… It was probably 50/50 to be the case in the pits. I'd say it's 80/20 now if you use a stop market.

anonymous writes:

There are horror stories about Swiss Franc stops, hundreds, hundreds of ticks away getting filled. I think any speculation about how you will get filled on your stops is just banter. Lets say the next 'black-swan' event is a malicious program inside the CME data center placed by CN hackers. You could have a situation 50x swiss franc debacle. You cant beat nanosecond market making with stops so the only solution is to broaden your risk and time horizon or accept the risks associated with leverage and short-termism. 

Dec

27

Looking at six different factors, Quarterly Changes (rolling) in

  1.  inflation (TIP vs IEF)
  2. risk (SPY)
  3. stimulus (IEF)
  4. leverage (HYG)
  5.  dollar (UUP)
  6. Oil (USO)
Our current market condition is:
 
Negative Inflation, Negative Risk, Positive Stimulus, Negative Leverage, Negative Oil
Notably, this happened in the financial crisis, but also happened in other periods: These are the number of market days in each year where we saw an environment like this one
2007-12-31      0.0
2008-12-31    103.0
2009-12-31      2.0
2010-12-31     28.0
2011-12-31     69.0
2012-12-31     19.0
2013-12-31      0.0
2014-12-31     16.0
2015-12-31     60.0
2016-12-31     39.0
2017-12-31      0.0
2018-12-31     15.0
Expectancy for major assets in this environment since 2007:
  • S&P (SPY):               .02 Sharpe, +1%
  • Utilities (XLU):          .66 Sharpe, +31%
  • EM Equities (EEM):    .42 Sharpe, +36%
  • China (FXI):              .4 Sharpe, +35%
  • Volatility (VXX):         .22 Sharpe, +19% 
  • 7-10 Treasuries (IEF): 1.29 sharpe, +16%
  • 2 Y Treasuries (SHY): 1.69 sharpe
  • Euro (FXE):               -.27 sharpe, -5%
  • Sterling (FXB):           -1.1 sharpe, -21%
  • Yen (FXY):                  1.24 sharpe, +23%
  • Gold (GLD):                  .89 sharpe,+35%
  • Gold Miners (GDX):      1.2 Sharpe, +117%
  • Oil (USO):                   -.87 sharpe, -64%
  • Natural Gas (UNG):      -1.92 sharpe. -124% 
I personally like the long yen and gold positions versus sterling currently as the most sensible given global politics.

Dec

27

The alarm goes off and I am in automatic.

Bathroom 
Drink of water
Put on 3 layers of clothing 
     with a ski mask and knit gloves
Head out the door.
It’s then, it hits me,
Time to run 
To beat the cold 
To chase the wind 
Breathe in, Breathe out 
Smell the clearness of the frozen air
Crunch through the grass
The sight of the gray trail stretches on 
As far as the cloudy darkness allows
But the path is worn 
Its depth goes beyond my hour allows
There’s pain, There’s strife 
No ones to save me, I am alone 
Stillness surrounds me
Yet I am never more alive 
There is balance in my full clip 
My heart goes to its top without tipping 
The cold air brings power to my legs 
The myriad of pains can be overcome by tapping fingers together to feel the soft knits web between them
Many lonelier pioneer than me risked all to laid down this path for me.
Today’s my day to keep my path from the wild.
The miles are all mine.
The cold, the wind, the darkness with the endless vast expanses 
There are always possibilities 
To go on.
When the long night is over and the sun is back
I’ll give it back to you.
When the flowers are in bloom 
The path will be shared by many others 
While most wait for dawn, it was all mine
To test me, to keep me going on this longest night.
Merry Christmas to all the lonely traders on this long night,
Russ

Dec

27

It's definitional that you only know the "low" in hindsight. I can't remember ever seeing a "one day bounce" after a puke of this sort–rather, the first green close produces additional up moves — since there are a ton of people waiting for the first green close to pile on (or cover shorts). All of this is short term stuff–but it will very likely result in a 4 to 8 percent rally off the low. Then you'll hear all of the pundits talking about the "retest". Blah blah blah.

I never own enough when it's going up. And I always own too much when it's going down. But I have my discipline and I stick to it. Kind of like always picking Choice B on a multiple choice exam. Always better to be consistent than to be smart. And it's only lunch time–so today's green could easily still fizzle.

Dec

26

Here’s a holiday gift, an hour-plus presentation from Carnegie Mellon on Libratus:

Superhuman AI for heads-up no-limit poker: Libratus beats top professionals

Wiki on Libratus

One interesting thing that is clear from human vs computer poker is that a key advantage the computer has is lack of emotional response to risk, i.e., the computer never goes on tilt.

Dec

25

 If there were ever a contrarian indicator of a down market in 2019, this may be it. The number of analysts predicting a down market in 2019: zero. (From Twitter)

Ralph Vince writes: 

My numbers call for at LEAST a 40% move from here (closer to 50% really, but even that sounds crazy to me), and no prospect of a recession until at least 2021 more likely at least 2022 at this point.

David Lillienfeld writes: 

With a tightening Fed (not the discount rate, the inventory)?

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Yes.

Sentiment, by any measure I keep, is as bad if not more so than it was in 08 — but the backdrop, not just in the credit markets but in terms of energy, corporate profits, etc., profoundly different than 08, and the drop is minor by comparison. Further, unlike '08, earnings continue to grow, even over this past week.

Capital must find a home, must seek a return. Cash is a temporary placeholder, cover for the rainstorm, and for liability-driven fiduciaries, a very temporary one when you have >4% annual liabilities. How would you manage a pension in Germany or Japan? The US capital markets, with our rich return on treasuries across the maturity spectrum and equities markets that have increasing earnings are the most viable place on the planet.

And all this has come about as QE has ended, ZIRP has snuck out of it's hole to viable, st rates, and a divided congress, who needs to spend and screech like a middle-aged woman who is about to cough up her gizzard, will only find common ground on a pending transportation bill (think QE4), so "yes," to your question.

Dec

21

 Last nail in the coffin kind of thing last month in California, with everything going full-on socialist. OK I get it: drive all the small businesses out, and all that's left is google, fakebook, apple, and other bigist lefties fulfilling their virtue-signalling duties while filling the state with illicit Mexicans who pull their levers.

As one small businessman it was sad until realizing they now own it. Every bit of the upcoming economic sh*tstorm debacle THEY OWN. Even Moonbeam knows it.

The land of fruits and nuts. Coming to your town soon.

Dec

21

  I hope everyone is alright in this another of this year's crashes and cane events. I want to send a thanks to R. Vince and his work on risk management, which is the most important part of trading and for his comments on the subject here on Dailyspec. While one always likes to buy near the bottom, it is too easy to get over leveraged, especially in these multiple sigma events, and get hurt before the inevitable bounce comes.

Jim Sogi writes: 

But you must, MUST be loading up here. You have to.

New highs will come and be well-exceeded, and likely in 2019. Every major market crack has been exceeded. This is pure emotion, Mr. Market making hay out of the imminent impeachment 6 months away.

This is not a game of brains but of patience and nerve. I hate it. I would have been happier as a bad priest.

Dec

19

I Suspect, from anonymous

December 19, 2018 | 1 Comment

 I suspect that a hard Brexit is likely for two reasons:

1. May's inability to get anyone completely on the same page as her;

2. German stubbornness. Brussels has become like Washington, where to paraphrase Kennedy "the efficiency of the French combines with the diplomatic skills and courtesy of the Germans." (For the record, my background is German)

It is not in Trumps best interest to have London fall out of bed from financial stress during this window of at least six months. Therefore, I expect serious back channel conversations between his team and the Fed to take the pressure off. That means focus on the front end curves for both countries.

If the Fed becomes tone deaf, look for back channels with the big banks and the ABA.

It's getting more pressing to do more than pause. It also gives May ammo to clean out MI5/MI6 of deadwood and clowns.

The U.K. needs to remember their place in the scheme of things.

anonymous writes: 

I subscribe to the following thought: There will be a trade deal–the mutual trade volumes are simply too big. A hard Brexit (an exit of the UK from the EU without a trade deal) will cause bilateral trade agreements, later. This would severely weaken the EU as a institution. This places UK in the stronger negotiation position today. The EU negotiates for its existence–the UK "only" negotiates for trade.

The British domestic debate dominates the news–because they have free exchange of thoughts. The media on the continent is brought into line–there is no Brexit debate. (How can a topic be so controversial within UK–and on other side of the channel–all are of the same opinion?)

For Germany the EU is very important–again this places the UK in the stronger position. As usual in Europe–the timing is the big question mark–most likely drawn out. It would be not unusual to first have a hard Brexit and later a UK-EU trade deal (again with the same power distribution) There is already an US-UK trade deal in the pipeline.

Dec

19

I've never seen so many under 100 bucks.

Dec

18

 One part of the Civil War that escapes almost all notice is how the United States paid for a war with a debt explosion that dwarfs everything done since 1940 - Congress and Roosevelt's first war budget. The current crisis is trivial by comparison. By 1861 year-end the Treasury was spending in a day what it had spent in two weeks the year before. But where did the money come from? Murray Rothbard and many other believers in whole number banking say Greenbacks and Jay Cooke. Er, not quite. The total issuance of Greenbacks was 8% of the total war cists, and Jay Cooke was the underwriter, not the final purchaser. The surprising answer is the people of the U.S. The public bought the bonds.

My wacky thesis is that we are seeing the beginnings of a similar event: U.S. savers will fund the Treasury's borrowings. They may, as Mr. Gundlach predicts, demand 6%; that was the peak rate for the 10/20s that Cooke sold. But, the demand will be there from domestic holders of dollars.

"Who Exactly Mopped up $1.33 Trillion of New Us Government Debt Over the Past 12 Months?"

Dec

18

With regard to fundamental (macroeconomic data), none suggest recession.  If there is any suggestion, it would be for a market correction.  That specific data (a longer-term view of Treasury tax revenues) is complicated because there are only four historical examples, not enough for reliability.  However even that data seems to have run its course, as a short-term view of Treasury payroll tax receipts has turned up, meaning that the December Jobs Report will be more positive than expected.  You might wonder how we know that when we are only halfway through December, but in reality the end date for that data collection is last Friday (the 14th), which is already available.  So, expect some bullish data.

A quasi-fundamental piece of data we examine is the relationship between debt and equity.  Specifically, we monitor the moving correlation of stocks with bonds.  We view this as a fundamental item rather than a technical one, although it originates within the markets.  The most bullish scenario is when both stocks and bonds are moving higher, which is not currently happening.  But it is not convincingly so; it could reverse in a heartbeat.

Our technical picture is weighted more on the bullish side.  Of particular interest is the calm being exhibited by the volume in options, both that of individual equities and indices, the latter being particularly used to hedge bets.  In short, there is no panic there.  So the players there are either foolishly complacent or simply not worried.  We also monitor the sentiment difference between professionals and amateurs.  It is quite clear that the amateurs are those who are in panic mode.  

If we were to go further and examine breadth, specifically the advance-decline series of both issues and volume, that data has turned upward.  

Our long-term experience is that whenever there is a disagreement between fundamental and technical factors, go with the technical.  The technical items measure decisions having been made by real players, which does not always describe the fundamental items.

The real problem is political.  We have a much different journalistic environment that we have ever experienced.  Not only does the press hope to bury the President, but also the economy.  Hence the rise of Socialist “stars”.  We do not know how to deal with that, other than it is wishful thinking on the part of the Fourth Estate, a group that historically never invests.  We would expect such wishful thinking to go unrewarded.  

My apologies for the lack of charts proving my points, but there is just too much data to represent.

Dec

18

"Investors Have Nowhere to Hide as Stocks, Bonds and Commodities All Tumble"

Certainly not our Mr Brush…bonds, grains and meats have rallied.

Ralph Vince writes: 

Several months ago, the major news organizations, in a fit of grotesque hubris, announced their joint commitment to intensifying their efforts to malign the current administration.

We have watched this play out in the realm of financial news as well (which has been further diminished in recent years by the loss of some greats, e.g. Abelson, etc., to be replaced with vaccuous amateurs). Specifically, the notion of "The longest expansion in US history," (the definition of which has never been provided despite my prodding, directly and personally and off-the-record), the recent yield curve "inversion" fallacy, etc.

Has anyone seen a comparative study of the years 1929-1940 and 2005-2016?

This makes it all-the-more imperative now to do one's own homework, maintain one's own statistics, disregard the shrill sirens and observe, distinguish and conclude.

anonymous writes: 

It's been slight loss of wealth YTD across all assets with real estate markets softening up. It's been an up market for 9 years straight and that failed inverse head and voodoo failure in the SPX after China gap fade in a time where most asset managers are down only fueled the frustration aggression theory which I think makes this year end tough but ultimately will manifest into a great opportunity. My two cents with no quantification.

Dec

18

India, Australia, Canada, Italy and France (and their banks) are coming off their rails:

"Australian House Prices Fall Most Since Global Financial Crisis"

Sydney's property downturn accelerated in November, propelling nationwide house prices to the biggest monthly drop since the global financial crisis, as credit curbs and buyer nerves continue to bite.

Nationwide home values fell 0.7 percent last month, led by a 1.4 percent drop in Sydney and 1 percent in Melbourne, according to CoreLogic Inc. data released Monday.

The drop takes the total decline in Sydney since the July 2017 peak to
9.5 percent, on the cusp of overtaking the 9.6 percent top-to-bottom decline recorded during the last recession 27 years ago. This decline is even steeper than the 1989-91 fall, showing how quickly sentiment has flipped.

Stefan Jovanovich comments:

The declines in the gold currency prices of wheat, coal, rail and water-born freight and lumber that were the "deflation" of the growth explosion of the 19th century came to be seen as "normal". They became so obviously the way things are that rising prices seemed not only the exception but also the product of conspiracy. How can urban land prices keep increasing–despite their recurring temporary panics–if it is not some kind of manipulation, asked Henry George. Even the prices of luxuries like diamonds (thank you, Mr. Rhodes) keep falling.

We are in an age in which credit has seen the same explosion of volumes that the steel industry saw with Carnegie and Krupp. The presumption has been that these loans were prudent for the same reason expansions in industrial capacity were willingly financed at fixed rates for as much as half a century. What called those industrial loans into question was the collapse in foreign exchange that was the financial carnage of WW 1. My presumption is that this crisis is not about the collapse in FX; Germans and Chinese will be able to pay for imports in 2019 in a way neither was able to do in 1919. But, what will collapse are the expected incomes of the civil service and other government pensioners (other than Social Security recipients) and their ability to borrow against their houses. It will be like the farming crisis of the industrial age–a devastation to the small holders that was unable to be softened because the political majorities would not pay for the bailout.


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