Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Situation is BOSS

One business maxim of mine is that “the situation is boss.” High pressure, quick changing environments need decision makers who are flexible and adaptable. The situation is always the boss. Sometimes we want to impose our own ideas onto the situation in order to bring things under control. This may work; but I believe that most of the time the situation dominates and our decisions tend to be reactive. In other words, it is not what occurs that is important, but rather how we react to it, that is more important.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Climbing the Wall of Worry

There is the saying that strong markets climb the “wall of worry.” It sure feels like that nowadays. Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and Libya are rumbling to various degrees. The US has just entered into yet another war in the Middle East. Japan is glowing and no one seems to give a damn. Oil is over a $100 bucks a barrel. The US Government is negotiating to stay open for business a little bit longer. States are finding that they are facing critical shortages of something really important--money! Workers cannot find jobs. Greece, Ireland, and Portugal are desperate. The list seems to go on and on, yet the market seems to be acting pretty well…hmmmm…

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Red Queen Rules Europe

It seems to me that the European debt problem can be best understood from the standpoint of the Red Queen hypothesis. This evolutionary hypothesis states that continuing adaptation is needed in order for a species to maintain its relative fitness among the systems that it is evolving with. The Red Queen hypothesis comes from the line in Lewis Carroll’s book, Through the Looking Glass, "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."

It seems to me that Greece, Ireland, and now Portugal, are running and going nowhere fast. These countries must evolve relative to their European counterparts or else they will reach a point where their economic, political, and social systems will breakdown. In my opinion, the European debt problem is evolving to outright defaults and bigger problems.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


One of Mr.Warren Buffett's business tenets is to "Never Suck Your Thumb." That means that, at a certain point, you've got to stop thinking — and start acting.

In his 1989 annual report, Buffett explained how he learned the thumb-sucking lesson the hard way: "It's no sin to miss a great opportunity outside one's area of competence. But I have passed on a couple of really big purchases that were served up to me on a platter and that I was fully capable of understanding. For Berkshire's shareholders, myself included, the cost of this thumb-sucking has been huge."

The only way to make money is by pulling your thumb out …

Monday, March 21, 2011


Plotinus, the ancient Greek philosopher, did not have the creation of trading models in mind when he wrote this. Nonetheless, I think there are similarities between the creation of our trading models (our “statues”) and creating ourselves…

Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smoothes there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown upon his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labour to make all one glow of beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shine out on you from it the godlike splendour of virtue, until you shall see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine.

When you know that that you have become this perfect work, when you are self-gathered in the purity of your being, nothing now remaining that can shatter that inner unity, nothing from without clinging to the authentic man, when you find yourself wholly true to your essential nature, wholly that only veritable Light which is not measured by space, not narrowed to any circumscribed form nor again diffused as a thing void of term, but ever unmeasurable as something greater than all measure and more than all quantity—when you perceive that you have grown to this, you are now become very vision: now call up all your confidence, strike forward yet a step—you need a guide no longer—strain, and see. This is the only eye that sees the mighty beauty…

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Myth of Sisyphus

Mr. Albert Camus, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957, wrote The Myth of Sisyphus. I recently read a part of it. Sisyphus was a character from Greek mythology who was condemned to live life in a vicious circle; push a rock up the hill, watch the rock roll down the hill, push a rock up the hill, forever. Sounds like fun.

Mr. Camus believed that Sisyphus was an absurd hero. I think traders are absurd heroes. We try to make money trading a dynamic thing called the market. We can have our great runs, only to see the market roll our accounts right back to where we started. We push onward and upward again, only to once again see the market roll us back down. This cycle can be vicious and can make us feel that what we are doing is absurd. Nonetheless, faith, persistence, and determination is what allows us to face absurdity and uncertainty each day; just like Sisyphus.

Cheers to all you absurd heroes out there, keep pushing your rocks…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Favorite Guru

Another favorite guru of mine, Mr. Barton Biggs...


One of my favorite gurus over the years has been Mr. Birinyi. He recently gave a long term bullish outlook on the US stock market. Check it out.


If oil prices stay high for a prolonged period of time it will be put incredible pressure on the Greek, Irish, and Portuguese economies. The risk of default increases as the price of oil rises. European leaders will need to be more proactive. Mr. Trichet is talking about raising interest rates, while here in the United States, Mr. Bernanke is giving indications that rates will not be raised. Why is Europe jumping so quickly to raise interest rates? Yes, I know the inflation fear is present, but default fears need to be addressed. I believe the US stock market is starting to smell it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Global Misallocation of Capital

Nowadays, global capital flows rapidly in and out of assets around the world. Investment managers, hedge funds, and traders of all types seek to make a buck wherever they can. Today it is oil; tomorrow it will be something else. The point is that greed and profit moves the prices of assets probably more than they are worth, just as fear and losses move prices lower than their “true” value (if you believe in intrinsic and fundamental value).

As the price of oil becomes more volatile, and as trading firms move their capital in a herd like, stampeding fashion, oil will pull in global capital. This will inevitably create a worldwide misallocation of capital. One has to wonder how the global misallocation of capital will affect our future. Companies around the world will have to consider how the recent moves in oil will affect their business. Government policy makers will have to consider the possibility of a slowdown in economic growth, how this will affect interest rates and inflation, and consumers will think twice before purchasing any goods and services. The problem is that the speed which capital moves and the increase in the volatility of prices it brings, will exaggerate the consequences and effects of all the decisions being made today.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I recently watched a NOVA special entitled “Mind Over Money.” I thought it was pretty good. It discussed the two leading and opposing theories regarding markets and economic behavior. On one side there are the rational, self-interested market participants. These types were first defined by Mr. Invisible Hand himself, Adam Smith. On the other side are the behaviorists. The behavioral school of economic thought predominantly concerns itself with the idiotic decisions and non-understandable side of irrational human beings making decisions. The argument basically boils down to whether we are smart and rational people, making sound economic decisions, or that we are idiots and irrational, who make stupid decisions based on our thoughts and feelings, etc.

The show touched upon efficient markets, with Mr. Eugene Fama leading the charge for the smart and rational people creating efficient markets. Got May 6, 2010? Mr. Robert Shiller, aka. Mr. Irrational Exuberance, led the charge for those on the behavioral side. “By the way Robert, got a house to buy or sell?

It was worth watching for an hour, I especially enjoyed the bidding for a $20 bill that some fool was willing to pay $27 to 28 for…genius…maybe Mr. Shiller would like to sell his home to that guy…everyone knows that home prices never go down…

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The Wall Street Journal recently reported that banks and hedge funds are trading credit default swaps on General Motors bonds that do not exist. All I can say is here we go again. How can these kinds of things go on? I am all for free market capitalism, but when my money and yours is being used to keep these guys operating when they F*up, then something has to give. The value of derivatives is linked to some sort of “underlying” asset. It now seems that the underlying security can be a concept and an idea. Wow, got to give credit to the genius that brought this about….