George Costanza: "My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every part of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong."
In a classic episode of Seinfeld called The Opposite, perma-loser George Costanza comes to the realization that if he would just act completely contrarily to his own instincts, things would begin to go his way.
Jerry Seinfeld: "If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right."
One cannot help but see the parallels between George’s epiphany and the paradox of the high beta market rally that has left even the most experienced players in utter disbelief.
Think about how rewarding it’s been for traders who have completely violated any sense of prudence or market savvy:
*AIG ($AIG) barely avoids liquidation – buy it and enjoy percentage gains in the thousands!
*Unemployment remains at around 10%, inital jobless claims are still climbing – so buy some specialty or even luxury retailers!
*Mortgage rates are inching higher and housing has not truly bottomed – so snag some Hovnanian ($HOV), some lumber names and why not a little Home Depot ($HD).
*Oil breaks out above $85 – and the airlines go wild!
*Congress passes a de facto takeover of Healthcare – OMG! Healthcare stocks are rallying on the news of their newly subjugated status!
*Commercial RE is a time bomb – REITs! I gotta have more REITs!
We can document dozens of these types of paradoxical setups. Investors are taking almost any opportunity to do the opposite of what they’d normally be expected to do. If everyone in the market is a contrarian, is the true contrarian the non-contrarian? Heh – "Whaaaaat is the deeeeaal with contrarians?" Thanks, Jerry.
If Georgie was running a hedge fund right now and abiding by his counterintuitive life strategy, he’d be absolutely killing it.
George Costanza: "I tell you this, something is happening in my life. it’s all happening because I’m completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I’ve ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion. Jerry, this is my religion!"
The January Merrill Lynch Fund Managers Survey showed very optimistic expectations from the majority of money managers. This is a sharp change from last months survey when fund managers were entering 2009 with cautious optimism. The latest survey showed the highest surge in Merrill’s Risk & Liquidity (46%) indicator since May of 2006. In the past, this indicator has served as a fairly good contrarian indicator.
In terms of asset allocation, fund managers have turned substantially more aggressive. Cash levels are now at their lowest levels since 2007. Fund managers have aggressively deployed cash into the equity markets:
“Average cash balances have fallen to 3.4 percent, the lowest reading since mid 2007 and down significantly from 4.0 percent in December. Appetite for equities is strong. A net 52 percent of asset allocators are overweight equities, up sharply from a net 37 percent in December.”
Much of this cash has poured into commodities:
In terms of regions, the U.S. remains an underweight as investors continue to favor emerging markets:
This survey is showing some contrarian sell signals. Just 45% of fund managers are protecting themselves against a downturn versus 52% in December. The survey also shows a strong appetite for risk and high beta names. According to Merrill’s analysts the survey could be cause for alarm:
“This survey is one of the more bullish we have seen and suggests that investors buy into the idea that this recovery has legs,” said Gary Baker, head of European Equities strategy at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. “We are, however, seeing early signs that might alert contrarians looking for a selling opportunity – namely low cash allocations and possible complacency against a sell off in stocks,” said Michael Hartnett, chief Global Equities strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research.
The Bears, who are dead right about how bad the economy is or the Bulls who are dead right for being long virtually every asset class, the riskier the better? Perhaps the true contrarian is neutral right now, refusing to play either the economic weakness or the markets’ strength. My head hurts.
Anyway, I put together a few notable quotations on contrarianism itself while you ponder the above conundrum. Bon appetite…
The first gets to the very essence of contrarianism, from one of the most famous practitioners of this art, David Dreman:
“I paraphrase Lord Rothschild: ‘The time to buy is when there’s blood on the streets.’”
And the classic take from Warren Buffett:
“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy, and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”
One from Bernie Schaeffer:
“As contrarians, the only thing to fear is the lack of fear itself”
Perhaps the greatest contrarian investor of all time, Sir John Templeton, weighs in:
“Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on scepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria. The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy, and the time of maximum optimism is the best time to sell.”
Here’s a little-known contrarian gem from fund manager and legalized-heroin advocate George Soros:
“The worse a situation becomes the less it takes to turn it around, the bigger the upside.”
This one’s recent, but an instant classic nonetheless. Arthur Cuttensaid it yesterday on Jesse’s Cafe Americain:
“But being a contrarian requires a superior sense of what is real, and what is out of synch with reality. In general few amateurs possess this level of judgement and perspective, and end up just looking silly and eccentric after a few correct calls, taking the opposite position because it is the opposite, proclaiming night to be day, and the moon to be cheese.”
These are my favorite contrarian investing quotes, let me know if I missed any good ones.
An interesting article came my way from UBS analyst Julien Garran on the driver for gold. I do not have a link to share so excerpts will have to do.
Garran's article is one of the better one's I have seen. Unlike others, Garran does not cite jewelry, mining capacity, central bank purchases or sales or other similar (and wrong) notions that unfortunately are widespread among most analysts. Commodities & Mining Q&A (by Julien Garran)
Q1. What drives gold? A1. In the past, we’ve argued that international US$ liquidity is fundamental to calling first gold and then the industrial miners. In this note, we go a step deeper, arguing that gold is a call on excess returns in the US economy, the policy response and finally the impact on that policy on international US$ liquidity.
In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.
The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracki...
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Friday's release of the publicly available data from the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) puts its Weekly Leading Index (WLI) at 131.6, up slightly from 131.2 the previous week. The WLI annualized growth indicator (WLIg) is at -3.2, up from the previous week's -3.6 and off its interim low of -4.9 in mid-January.
"The Song Remains the Same"
As I type this, the featured article on the ECRI website remains the February 23rd piece, "The Song Remains the Same" (full report requires a subscription), which illustrates the shrinking GDP growth during the seven business cycle expansions since 1970:
Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene
The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below.
Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets)
Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies)
Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...
Well, it didn’t take long for the bulls to jump on their buying opportunity, with a little help from the bulls’ friend in the Fed. In fact, despite huge daily swings in the market averages driven by daily news regarding timing of interest rate hikes, the strength in the dollar, and oil prices, trading actually has been quite rational, honoring technical formations and support levels and dutifully selling overbought conditions and buying when oversold. Yes, the tried and true investing clichés continue to work -- “Don’t fight the Fed,” and “The trend is your friend.”
In this weekly update, I give my view of the cur...
While I'm not going to argue the point about the possibility that Bitcoin drops to $1, or less, (that could happen yet, but not for the reasons you propose) I felt it necessary to point out something you seem to have overlooked.
While it's likely that the US government watching Bitco...
Bullish trades abound in Cypress Semiconductor options today, most notably a massive bull call spread initiated in the July expiry contracts. One strategist appears to have purchased 30,000 of the Jul 16.0 strike calls at a premium of $0.89 each and sold the same number of Jul 19.0 strike calls at a premium of $0.22 apiece. Net premium paid to put on the spread amounts to $0.67 per contract, thus establishing a breakeven share price of $16.67 on the trade. Cypress shares reached a 52-week high of $16.25 back on Friday, March 13th, and would need to rally 4.6% over the current level to exceed the breakeven point of $16.25. The spread generates maximum potential profits of $2.33 per contract in the event that CY shares surge more than 20% in the next four months to reach $19.00 by July expiration. Shar...
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PSW Members - well, what a year for biotechs! The Biotech Index (IBB) is up a whopping 40%, beating the S&P hands down! The healthcare sector has had a number of high flying IPOs, and beat the Tech Sector in total nubmer of IPOs in the past 12 months. What could go wrong?
Phil has given his Secret Santa Inflation Hedges for 2015, and since I have been trying to keep my head above water between work, PSW, and baseball with my boys...it is time that something is put together for PSW on biotechs in 2015.
Cancer and fibrosis remain two of the hottest areas for VC backed biotechs to invest their monies. A number of companies have gone IPO which have drugs/technologies that fight cancer, includin...
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
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