The best that can be said for 2009 is that it could have been worse, that we pulled back from the precipice on which we seemed to be perched in late 2008, and that 2010 will almost surely be better for most countries around the world. The world has also learned some valuable lessons, though at great cost both to current and future prosperity – costs that were unnecessarily high given that we should already have learned them.
The first lesson is that markets are not self-correcting. Indeed, without adequate regulation, they are prone to excess. In 2009, we again saw why Adam Smith’s invisible hand often appeared invisible: it is not there. The bankers’ pursuit of self-interest (greed) did not lead to the well-being of society; it did not even serve their shareholders and bondholders well. It certainly did not serve homeowners who are losing their homes, workers who have lost their jobs, retirees who have seen their retirement funds vanish, or taxpayers who paid hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the banks.
Livermore was wealthy and broke several times over during his tumultuous life, which ended in his suicide. His ability to make and lose millions garnered him many lessons which the trading community have enshrined over the decades since his death. Yet these lessons and rules remain as pertinent today as they were in the early twentieth century.
We’ll take a look at several of his trading rules to remind us why we must have a plan in place before trading a dollar of our hard-earned money.
(I must give credit to the Lefevre book mentioned above, as well as Jesse Livermore: World’s Greatest Stock Trader by Richard Smitten, for the following ideas.)
Lesson Number One: Cut your losses quickly.
Nowhere is this rule more apparent than in the modern-day crash our markets experienced in the fall of 2008. For those market participants who “bought, held, and hoped,” the gut-wrenching drop left them paralyzed, disillusioned, and angry at the market. They felt like they had no control and no choice as the losses spiraled down the rabbit hole. The primary culprits of this death trap are hopeful thinking and fearful paranoia.
As a market slides lower, a trader will rationalize his losing position by either doubling down (buying more at these now-cheaper prices) or at the very least, holding on because “there’s just no way this market can go lower.” If merely this one simple rule was implemented to “cut your losses,” the vast majority of traders would be light years ahead of the crowd.
As soon as a trade is contemplated, a trader must know at what point in time he’ll be proven wrong and exit a position. If a trader doesn’t know his exit before he takes the entry, he might as well go to the racetrack or casino where at least the odds can be quantified. Trading without an exit plan is like driving a car without insurance. You might go years without a major crash, but when the crash occurs (and…
Vitaliy: "This article I’ve shared before and will share it again; it is by far my favorite article I’ve ever written as it really highlights what investing is about – the investment process. It is a true story, with very few magnifications on my part. I hope you enjoy it."
“Any time you make a bet with the best of it, where the odds are in your favor, you have earned something on that bet, whether you actually win or lose the bet. By the same token, when you make a bet with the worst of it, where the odds are not in your favor, you have lost something, whether you actually win or lose the bet.” – David Sklansky, ‘The Theory of Poker’
Over a lifetime, active investors will make hundreds, often thousands of investment decisions. Not all of those decisions will work out for the better. Some will lose and some will make us money. As humans we tend to focus on the outcome of the decision rather than on the process.
On a behavioral level, this makes sense. The outcome is binary to us – good or bad, we can observe with ease. But the process is more complex and is often hidden from us.
One of two things (sometimes a bit of both) can unite great investors: process and randomness (luck). Unfortunately, there is not much we can learn from randomness, as it has no predictive power. But the process we should study and learn from.
To be a successful investor, all you need is a successful process and the ability (or mental strength) to stick to it. Several years ago, I was on a business trip. I had some time to kill so I went to a casino to play blackjack. Aware that the odds were stacked against me, I set a $40 limit on how much I was willing to lose in the game.
I figured a couple hours of entertainment, plus the free drinks provided by the casino, were worth it. I was never a big gambler (as I never won much). However, several days before the trip I had picked up a book on blackjack on the deep discount rack in a local bookstore. All the dos and don’ts from the book were still fresh in…
The S&P 500 closed June with a monthly gain of 0.09% which follows a gain of 1.53% last month. All three S&P 500 MAs are signaling "invested" and all five Ivy Portfolio ETF MAs are signaling "invested". In the table, monthly closes that are within 2% of a signal are highlighted in yellow.
The Ivy Portfolio
The above table shows the current 10-month simple moving average (SMA) signal for each of the five ETFs featured in The Ivy Portfolio. We've also included a table of 12-month SMAs for the same ETFs for this popular alternative stra...
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I have mixed feelings about Brexit today. Clearly the European institution need reforming. The addition of so many countries in the last 20 years has created a top heavy administration. The Euro adds more complexities to the equation as the ECB policies cannot fit every country's problem. On the other hand, a unified Europe has advantages as well – some countries have benefited from the integration.
For Britain, it's hard to say what the final price will be. My guess is that Scotland might now vote for independence as they supported staying in Europe overwhelmingly. Northern Ireland might be tempted to leave as well so possibly RIP UK in the long run. I was talking to some French people and they were saying that now there might be no incentive for France to stop immigrants from crossing over to the UK like they do now and simply allow for travel there and let the UK deal with them. The end game is not clear to anyone at the moment....
One week ago, when bitcoin first crossed above $700 on the seemingly insatiable Chinese buying which we forecast last September (when bitcoin was trading at $230) would take place as a result of China's capital controls (to much pushback by the "mainstream" financial media), we tried to predict what may happen next. We said that "it could go much higher. That said, anyone who bought last September when the digital currency was trading at $230 may be advised to take some profits, and at least make...
After a three-year bull run that more than quadrupled its value by its peak last July, IBD’s Medical-Biomed/Biotech Industry Group plunged 50% by early February, hurt by backlashes against high drug prices and mergers that seek to lower corporate taxes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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