Finance and Stuff

Thoughts on finance and other stuff by Johan Lindén

Tag: stock market

Key Reversal

Last night we had a Key Reversal in the both the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ. If one is to believe in classical technical analysis and its followers that is a sign of exhaustion and means that we should go further down. But be aware! According to quantifiable analysis of similar patterns we have NEVER seen a major top forming this way. Statistical analysis shows that we are going to have new highs and that will be the way we will primarily bet until new evidence emerge.

Stock Market Analysis Follow-up

In my previous stock market analysis I thought the market would make a down turn before reaching multi-year highs and then make a false break up before a big downward trend.

What happened was, as you can see in the chart below, that the S&P500 index only made a minor move down (A), before it broke up (B) and giving a false buy signal so that people would buy, then continue down (C) tricking people it was a false buy signal so that they would sell. After shaking of some weak hands of their positions the years strongest rally started (D), which was followed by the years biggest correction (E) which again landed below the previous multi-year high.

The S&P 500 was trading at 1357 at the previous analysis, while todays futures indicate and opening at 1361 (+0,29% change) in over two months time. So although a lot has happened in volatility, nothing much has shifted when it comes to valuation.

So what can be learned from this? Well, we still see that the market trying to make the most amount of people to become losers. We also see that contrarian sentiment has been reliable. It showed us the bottoms at (C) and (E), when people quickly panicked and started talking about a bigger correction down. It also showed us that the tops at (B) and (D) were not likely to give stronger long-term trend changes since people had become skeptic about the market trend.

That is obviously the reason why the market did not continue down but instead made new multi-year highs.

S&P500 technical analysis stock market

What can we expect next?

Most statistical signals are indicating that the market will be higher in the coming months. The risk-averse person should be out of the market while the speculative person should be buying on short-term oversold conditions and selling on overbought conditions.

What we should look for before expecting a longer change of the trend is that sentiment gets increasingly bullish while hitting new highs or that it gets stubbornly bullish while making the next correction down.

My Ideal Scenario

It is said be many, and I agree, that the stock market is rigged so that as many people as possible will be wrong as often as possible. This contrarian thinking is also backed by many studies which show that strategies that work are counter-intuitive.

So far it worked well for me trying to figure out the route of the market since I got active analyzing the market again last fall.

Let us take a look at my favorite scenario that I think will fool most people getting in the stock market at the worst time.

The facts are as follows:

  • Since last fall we have had many difficulties all over the world
  •  The stock market has risen a lot
  • Most people have been afraid of getting in the market
  • Most ways of measuring the trend is pointing up, which is what many people like to see before entering the market
  • The last movement up has been almost without any big draw-downs.

So most people now are noticing that the trend is up, they also read all the positive things happening in the economy (the bad things aren’t shown so much in media when the stock market is going up). So now people are looking at a time to enter the market. Every big draw-down now will likely attract a lot of money.

When the market finally enters a multi year high, just 2% up from where we are now, then they will throw their last dollars in desperation not trying to miss the rally. They do not even realize that they just missed a 25% move from the bottom. When that happens I think we reached a new multi-year high, maybe for many years to come.

This is just an ideal scenario that I would like to see. Of course there could be other similar scenarios or I could be totally wrong, but this would fit my expectation of the psychology and knowledge of the market.

Also note that I will short the market at a time when most of the traditional type of technical analysis would scream buy.

bear bull trap stock market top

Stocks vs. Long and Short-term Bonds

The relative performance of long and short-term bonds vs. the S&P500 index for the last 5 years.

As one can see, even short-term bonds, the safest theoretically assets one can buy, have outperformed the S&P500 stock index.

bond comparison stock index s&p500

A Quick Look at the Stock Market

A quick look at a chart of the stock market movement since the October bottom. Annotations provided in the chart. Feel free to leave a comment!

stock market  contrarian rally

The Truth Behind Technical Analysis

Let us take a look at technical analysis, which is used by many to make a profit by predicting the stock market.

Technical analysis is a set of tools used to analyze the movement or behavior of a stock or index instead of the facts surrounding the company or the economy, which is usually used when trying to predict where stocks are heading.

trend channel technical analysis

Trend Channels

Some use trend lines or channels to figure out the trend, some use resistance and support lines to see where there will be a lot of buyers or sellers.

One of the problems with this approach is that in any given chart, even randomly produced, you will in hindsight easy spot a trend. Of course if a chart is randomly produced you will not be able to forecast the next move. So how come you can do that in the stock market?

People in the field of statistical analysis are often dogmatically blindfolded. They might claim that since so many people are using it, it cannot be wrong. Or they know successful people who are using it, or even use it successfully themselves.

technical analysis support resistanceHowever, this type of reasoning suffers from strong statistical bias, such as survival bias, where only the winners tell the story about how good it works. While the losers go back to their jobs and usually do not speak so much about their failure. It could also be that since some only use a long strategy only, in a rising market. In other words they would have done well be just buying and holding.

Scientific research

Now let us look at the scientific research in this field. Oh yes, there is quit a bit of research, but strangely enough it never reaches the believers.

In the research paper “On the Analogy Between Scientific Study of Technical Analysis and Ethnopharmacology” via CXO Advisory they write:

There are four areas of similarity between folk medicine and technical analysis:

  • Both have foundations in folk science, with most claims proving false when subjected to rigorous scientific testing;
  • Both have strong potentials for statistical bias, the placebo effect for folk medicine and data snooping for technical analysis;
  • Both boast commercial popularities that support large markets for products/services; and,
  • Both are possible sources of scientific knowledge (for pharmacology and financial economics, respectively).

The essential lessons from folk medicine for testing of technical analysis are:

  • The study of technical analysis should mirror the rigor of drug evaluation methodology (e.g., randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving homogeneous populations);
  • The study of technical analysis should include greater emphasis on explaining the behavioral mechanisms underlying hypothesized market inefficiencies; and,
  • There should be a independent peer-reviewed journal devoted to the rigorous testing of technical analysis.

In another scientific peer-reviewed paper, “Evidence-Based Technical Analysis: Applying the Scientific Method and Statistical Inference to Trading Signals” via CXO Advisory it says:

David Aronson opens with two contentions: (1) “much of the wisdom comprising the popular version of TA does not qualify as legitimate knowledge;” and, (2) “TA must evolve into a rigorous observational science if it is to deliver on its claims and remain relevant.”

None of the 6,402 rules tested on the S&P 500 index, after adjusting for data mining bias, generate statistically significant outperformance. More complex/nuanced rules, or other financial data sets, might indicate abnormal returns.

From the paper “Identifying Noise Traders: The Head-And-Shoulders Pattern in U.S. Equities”, where a commonly used technical pattern called “Head and Shoulder” the following is summed up by CXO Advisory:

The author determines that head-and-shoulders pattern trading exists but is on average unprofitable, mistakenly interpreting randomness as information.

Is technical analysis worthless?

Yes and no. It is if you do not have a quantifiable edge. That means that you must have a statistical edge before you trade or invest. A rigorous back-test of your hypothesis must be done. What most people seem to do is that they are guessing or using some false authorities providing them false information about what is supposed to give them an edge.

Not even if you are back-testing your strategies to gain a statistical edge you are guaranteed future winnings. In fact there will be long periods, minutes, hours, days, or a lifetime where a historically proven winning strategy will become a losing one. To avoid this, look over your strategies often and see if they are obsolete in the current environment, and use many different strategies to diminish the risk.

The human brain is not particularly well wired for finance and trading. That is the reason why not even central bankers or countries know how to run their economies.

Most of the argument on technical analysis above can also be applied to fundamental analysis such as P/E-ratios, the FED-model, dividends-yield, et cetera, but that is for another article.

I would say that probably more than 90% of the “knowledge” out there on trading and investing is bogus, so watch out. Maybe even this article is, so always use your most critical judgment, and if you cannot, staying out of the markets will win you do most in the long-run.

Good luck! (or rather stay out of the luck part and in to the field of competence instead)

Q-Ratio

q-ratio q-valueThe Q-ratio is one of the methods to estimate the fair value of the stock market. It is defined as the total price of the stock market divided by the replacement cost of all its companies.

To put it more simply, the Q-ratio shows how much do we have to pay to buy the stock market compared to how much it would cost to build it up from scratch.

The Q-ratio is a fairly simple concept, but timely to calculate; fortunately, the US Federal Reserve provides the data on a quarterly basis.

To compare how much the companies cost with how much it would cost to rebuild them seems like a clever and objective way to measure the fair value the stock market. And looking back at “Q:s” history it has been of great value for investors using it.

The basic logic behind the Q-ratio is that if the “Q” is above 1.0, then the market is valuing the present stocks more than it costs to reproduce them; making them overvalued. If it is below 1.0, then it cost less to invest in stocks than it cost to reproduce them, thus making it more profitable to invest in the stock market than creating new companies.

On contrast to the P/E-ratio, the Q-ratio, is independent from the interest yield for comparison analysis. This makes the “Q” an easy and objective way to measure markets.

One of the drawbacks with the Q-ratio is that you have to trust the FED releasing the correct data, unless you wanna calculate the replacement cost of every stock by yourself.

Most people would intuitively think that the value of Q would be around 1 or a bit above in long-run. But its long-term value is close to 0,7. This is probably due to the fact that most firms assets are generally booked too high.

It is a shame that most amateurs in the market does not prefer to use the Q-ratio instead of P/E-ratios or dividend yields, both of which need to be compared to interest rates and other measures to be understood in their context.

Today the Q-ratio is a bit above 1 making the stock market overvalued by 40-50%.

I hope you enjoyed this article! Feel free to leave a comment.

 

Chart below shown for a historical view and is not recently updated

q-ratio historical chart

Chart from: http://mla.homeunix.com/q-ratio/

Trading vs. Poker

Having been a full-time poker player for a few years before I started my recent venture in finance, I have found many similarities between the two occupations.

trading poker

When I read the book Poker Wizards, a book interviewing some of the best poker players of all time, I found it very interesting to see how the poker professionals reasoned and how it was related to the financial markets.

Let us look at what Daniel Negreanu, one of the most acclaimed and well-known poker players of all time, has to say about the traits of successful poker player:

  1. The one quality that I think is definitely the most important in being a successful player is having good people skills.
  2. The second most important quality is an aggressive personality.
  3. Third is discipline.
  4. The last quality is having a fundamental knowledge of the game, which is the easiest part.

I could not have agreed more about this list of qualities that makes a successful player. The interesting part though, is that the same thing goes for the players in the stock market or other financial markets. So let us look at these four qualities one by one when it comes to being a successful trader.

People Skills

Most definitely one of the most important qualities! A good poker player knows that when the table is tight and people hold onto their money he should be more involved and putting his money in the pot more often. But if many players are involved most of the time, then he plays fewer hands.

The same thing goes for the stock market. When everyone talks about how good it is to invest in stocks and you hear stock tips just by visiting your local coffee shop, you better stay out. But when people loathe the thought of owning stocks, that is a good time to own stocks.
stock market psychology behavioral economic

Another way of seeing why you need good people skill is to understand what drives the stock prices. In the long-run it is the earnings of a company that leads the way for stock prices, but in the long-run we might have gotten broke already.

In the short-run it is the hope and fear of people who decides where the stock prices moves. This is what we call market psychology or behavioral economics. Instead of fundamental analysis of the company itself, many successful traders try to measure and use people’s behaviour when analysing the outcome of a trade.

An Aggressive Personality

I prefer to call it an unafraid personality. If you assessed the risk of your strategy you must be willing to follow through your plan and not change it just because you are currently losing. When people panic they often take the wrong decision.

Discipline

Even if you have the best trading plan in the world and make money 95% av the time, you might lose all those winnings in the last 5% of your trades if you trade inconsistently. You must also have discipline and routines to look over your trading on a regular basis to optimize results, but also take care of your well-being to not lose focus due to stress and other factors.

Another very important aspect that many people fail to follow is the discipline of game selection. Both poker players and traders alike love their game so much so they often join a game where they do not have an edge instead of waiting for the right opportunity. To sit out and not take a position is many times the right decision. Or to put it another way, to not get involved in losing games makes you a winner in the long-run.

Fundamental Knowledge of the Game

It is easy to get a fundamental knowledge of poker. Anyone can get it by reading a few good poker books. In the stock market this is much harder since there is not much scientific evidence about doing the right investment. Are value companies better than growth companies? Is it better to buy a stock with a low P/E? Many people have an opinion but if you ask them for some statistical evidence they think you are a donkey not taking their word for granted.

It is a big leak for a trader or investor who is using his common sense to take decisions instead of finding a scientific measurable edge. But just as in poker, those bad traders might win in the short-run and complain about being unlucky in the long-run. Do not become one of those people!

Differences between Trading  and Poker

Finally I would like to point out two differences between trading and poker. In poker, many go with their gut-feeling when taking hard decisions. They might see something in their opponent, a tell, that looks suspicious, and take actions according to that. That is fine! People have had millions of years to evolve skills in reading other people’s subtle expressions. But traders usually do best in avoiding that gut-feeling that usually comes from fear or greed instead of the body language of their opponent.

The similarity, however, is that you should try switching of your emotional senses in both poker and trading to avoid taking emotionally driven decisions. So much money has been lost in both poker tables and in the stock market for those emotionally driven decision. But your own emotions are one of the toughest challenges to master no matter if you are a trader or poker player.

My last point regarding the dissimilarities between poker and trading is that trading and the financial markets is much tougher to master than poker. It is much harder to find an edge in trading than in poker. If you have two aces and get your money in before the flop, you are making a good investment. That is a fact. In trading you rarely find those facts.

I want to finish of with a quote:

“Poker is like sex. Everyone thinks they are the best, but most people don’t know what they are doing.” -Dutch Boyd

I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to comment!

Related posts:
Ten Characteristics of Successful Traders
Quotes of Market Wizards

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