Daily Speculations

The Web Site of  Victor Niederhoffer & Laurel Kenner

Dedicated to the scientific method, free markets, deflating ballyhoo, creating value, and laughter;  a forum for us to use our meager abilities to make the world of specinvestments a better place.

 

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The Chairman
Victor Niederhoffer

06/22/2004
Shorting Berkshire

Many years ago, when I was quite a horse's ass, I liked to finish my squash games with a non-percentage but difficult shot called a boast that hits the right side wall then the left sidewall and then grazes the front wall bouncing parallel to the front wall at the end. There are so many things wrong with this, not the least of which is that your opponent will dig for the ball at the end of the game, you have a great chance of missing the ball, it throws your rhythm off, and most of all it's humiliating to your opponent.

I hadn't done something like that too often in recent years, until the chairman of the Old Speculators Club, the Tennessean philosopher, reminded me that I had been bearish on Berkshire in the $80,000 handle a year ago. Out of shame, hubris and spite, I shorted some extra Berkshire even though it is even more self-destructive and wrong to short a conglomerate like Berkshire than to try for a boast in squash. I doubtless will be licking my wounds on this, as my plan is to wait until it goes below $85,500, take my 10% or so profit, and then hedge it with some S&P  futures.

What makes me wait for $85,500? A visit to Springfield, Mass., where I met the great John Magee in 1964 in his windowless offices and he introduced me to his draftsman drawing angular straight lines with calipers on charts of utility preferred stocks from the 1910s. "People's tendencies and behavior haven't changed," he assured me. And without the consonance of a break through its five-month low and the report of a second bad quarter, my personal attempt for one of the first times in my life to take a full profit on a short would not be complete.

In writing this I am fully conscious that I am making the same mistake that I made with my boasts in squash long ago, that it is not an economically viable trade, that the trade is not recommended for anybody, and I am motivated also by a Meyer Liben essay in New York City Street Games on a belt manufacturer's desire to emulate a sharp distress stationery wholesaler's fiery technique a la Hats Hallac next door. But that's another story.