…..vs. the Strongest Hand Possibility
In the context of the recent posts I read here where some are saying possible US recessionary trends looming in 2013, it is useful to note that there will be winners during any part of the global economic cycle even for the US which is presumably, according to these views, dealt the weakest hand. As an example, I use metaphorical speak and leave you to interpret the poker “tells”…..
The game is Limit Texas Hold’em. There are three players left at the table. The Asian “rounder” sitting next to what is believed to be an “amateur” American. The “seasoned” European is sitting at the opposite of both of them.
The cards are dealt, Euro gets a Queen – Six, American looks down at his hand and sees a King – Three, the Asian is dealt a pair of Nines.
European comes out strong betting. The Asian & American stay in by following the aggressive play of the European.
Flop comes Ace, Three, Eight….the European comes out firing, the American calls, the Asian although having the strongest hand, reluctantly bets the amounts too.
The turn shows a Jack! The European without hesitation bets, the American raises, the Asian “rounder” folds!
The river card is a Ten. The European bets again, the American raises! The European calls.
The European reveals his dismal hand, Ace high! The American has won the pot with a pair of threes!
The Asian can’t believe it. I had a pair of nines and I folded, he says. Why did you fold the American asks. “Well you two were so aggressive at betting, I was sure I was beat”….
As the American is gathering his stacks of chips, the seasoned European furious turns to the American “if you play like this all night, all that money will soon be on my side of the table”…the American tips the dealer and cashes in his winnings…it’s getting late, I’ll see you guys again tomorrow!
Above I venture some imaginary story on likely trends for 2013 so the poker theme above serves more as a guide on various 2013 plays in the global economies, rather than pin-pointing bullish or bearish stock market scenarios….
My belief is that we are all exposed to, and have generally accepted, a certain line of “new era” industry bashing! The industry as a whole sits idly while the overall public sentiment has turned against us. Our inadequate communicational attempts have resulted in main-street having predetermined beliefs about the whole global financial system. There is now a widespread growth of mistrust towards the Federal Reserve, banks, financial analysts, system providers, financial advisors, regulatory agencies, economists, company executives, money managers etc…
Allied to this theme is our recent experience of being whipsawed by Mr. Market!
And with that, I am now going on a permanent hiatus…
The firemen on the ground are clearly having a hard time putting out the forest fire. The fire department sends a helicopter to help with the fire-fighting efforts. In just three attempts the helicopter has reduced the fire by two-thirds but the fire is still slowly spreading. Some are calling for more helicopter trips to put out the fire completely, others believe there is no longer the need for the helicopter and point out the dangers of potential floods if the fire department overdoes it. They prefer to continue fighting the fire on the ground.
I am not saying that the fire cannot be stopped on the ground, what I’m saying is: the danger of trying to control the fire, without the use of the helicopter, is that if the ground attempts are not successful there is a potential for the fire to spread again, faster than before!
To me, it is illogical to assume that the fire is now contained just because we got one good employment number or perhaps an OK GDP number.
The one sure thing is that the majority of analysts/economists now agree that the correlation of the helicopter use and reduced spread of the fire clearly implies causation!
The fallacy in their thinking is that we don’t need more helicopter attempts simply because we have already seen improvement. But the fire department’s goal is to put out the fire completely it’s not to listen to those who actually opposed the use of the helicopter from the start. Those “experts” were wrong, the fire department was right! So why listen to them now?
Although the majority of my posts are rich in secondary and tertiary layers of meaning, most verging on the mystical, however, the above is coldly pragmatic…
In my view, investing is a very complex process compared to most other forms of work in the world. Not only making money from investing, mind you, but the process in itself. So while the belief on the difficulties of deciphering a complex creature like the finance world still remains, new developments are making investing even more complex.
Perhaps it is best to visualize things in this way: at every point in time, there is a range of possible outcomes that could develop in the future. The executives of these financial firms have been assigned with the responsibility to understand all these possible outcomes. They then have to find the optimal approach to pick out the outcome that has the highest probability of happening, and then make decisions according to that outcome.
In other words, the executives of financial firms are building a competitive advantage based on superior knowledge, they identify key trends, what I call inevitabilities, that have a higher-than-average probability of materializing, and then focusing on them.
All this must be done while maintaining the best interests of the clients and shareholders, and not in a way that would harm the society overall. Furthermore, their success does not only depend on the structural issues discussed above, but also depends on the responses from governmental individuals, regulatory agencies and that most important of all, public sentiment. But that’s not all, they also have to manage all this while keeping with the employees’ expectations and do it in a way that maintains a balance and motivates them to continue working as hard.
Readers can read the same facts expressed here and come up with diametrically opposite conclusions. There is nothing definite here it all depends on your point of view. However, I do think that the message should be better communicated with more clear examples and not let these executives’ actions and words be misinterpreted.
So Dan Denning, the author of the Bull Hunter, back in 2005 was spot on regarding the bursting of the housing bubble, the multiplier effects of the unsustainable high oil prices and their impact to decreasing economic activity, the failure of the majority of the financial industry and many other predictions. So why did Denning get the dollar story so wrong? And why did his theory of money migration to emerging markets and other foreign markets also proven wrong?
To me, the answer is clear! His pro-Austrian economics/philosophical beliefs regarding monetary policy were flawed!
He could not foresee the impact of the central bank's decisions would have to investment psychology!! For me, there is no doubt that if the Fed had not acted so decisively, all of Denning's predictions would have been a reality today!
The Fed knows this and it also knows that it's actions carry the greatest weight in the economic reality of today. The Fed also knows that it needs to better communicate this reality in order to combat the growing skepticism arising mostly from the Republican party.
So although it appears in Denning's case the tea leaves could be read! However, the lack of understanding the power of behavioral finance in shaping economic outcomes, proved crucial in his most important call: the demise of the almighty dollar!
Confidence does matter! And the global investor feels confident in US's resolve to act and not sit idly hoping for a favorable outcome!!
There is a preview of a new show on Fox Channel this Wednesday. It’s called Touch. You should watch it.
The general premise of the show is that a kid can predict the future.
I posed a related question back in June 2011. The title: Can the Tea Leaves be Read? You might not be able to view those posts since they carry a ONE star rating! You’ll need to change the settings to “one star plus unrated” and look for it…
If you read those posts and try to make sense of them today, you might find proof of all things being interconnected or you might actually find proof that everything is random and uncorrelated. I tried to do my best to answer the question of whether tea leaves can be read, I’m now leaving it up to others to decide.
So if you read those posts and try to make sense of it all, you’ll find that if I was looking in the rearview mirror, I was clearly doing a lousy job because what I was describing never really occurred but if I was looking in my crystal ball, then my prediction back in June 2011 had many similarities on what actually transpired in the coming months.
Case in point, the market saw its largest yearly one day gain a week after the day I signed off, not on March 21st but on November 21st. As I had pointed out, the prediction would be early by just two days, since there was actually a larger gain than November 28th, it was on November 30th, 2011. As I had also pointed out, the prediction would actually be within 1% of the highest one day gains (we witnessed two days in August with slightly higher one day gains).
This begs the question: were the mistakes of the description of past events made purposely? And if there were made purposely, did the writer actually have some foresight or was it all a game of chance?
The skill/ability of reading tea leaves has been a bone of contention especially among stock market players. So how true is this, really?
The example I used to explain this was the well-known anecdote about opinions of experts being sought concerning the coordinates of a ship that had sunk. Yeah, I know, anyone reading this now is probably rolling their eyes. Jeez, one would say, we are just fooled by randomness here….
Following these posts, I cited examples from a not so well-known book called “the Bull Hunter.” I used a book written back in 2004-2005 to help describe current events. If you’re interested and start reading this book you’ll find that most of my ideas in the past few months have used this book as a reference point.
But the question will still remain, is all this an extremely well timed interpretation of the events unfolding in the financial, economic and geopolitical stage? Or is it just gibberish that you can derive to different conclusions depending on your viewpoint?
My attempts to prove whether one can accurately predict the future or whether we are just easily succumbed to our desire to accept supernatural abilities….is a continuous one….more to follow…
Almost two months ago, on November the 21st, the day I signed off (sign off: taking a break from weekly posts), I suggested there were going to be changes in investment fashions. I am not going to go into too much detail on whether my views have been proven correct or not, instead I’ll try to keep it simple. After all the conventional wisdom is that complex ideas are proof of a confused mind.
So here is my new simplified approach with less metaphorical language and more direct analogies than I’ve used in the past:
At the start of November, my analysis had shown that the US economy had a 0% rapid linear progression of sperms. What does this mean? It means that the US economy was shooting blanks! Subsequently meaning the domestic investor wasn’t going to get pregnant by sticking with him. I suggested we needed to consider artificial insemination with injections of more stimuli by the Fed.
Ultimately, I suggested, this lack of easing by the Fed would push the global investor to interact with other markets in order to conceive. As a natural Bull Hunter that’s exactly what the investor did. By practicing safe sex with more fertile counterparts the investor is now well positioned in international safe paper!
And to those suggesting that the economy through the recent stock market performance has shown signs of recovery, I’ll just mention two simple words: sperm count! The complete lack of volume (25% of what the count was just a few years ago) is not a sign of a healthy person……
I find a hard time convincing myself of the benefits and superior quality of US investments during the past few weeks of sideways movement. I see investors are not patient during these times of underperformance. And as a result, I have fewer reasons to be bullish and do not gain new ones.
I still think this has to do more with poorly executed monetary policies in the US, than other reasons expressed by mainstream media. I now believe, absent of a QE3-like intervention, a substantial underperformance in US stocks (whether it will be tomorrow or a week or a few months from now is less important).
I am now, more than ever, convinced of the benefits of geographical diversification. There are opportunities abroad, in Frontier Markets, Emerging Markets and yes, even in Developed Markets like Europe (Sweden, Netherlands, England, etc.)
Even though foreign markets are inferior to what our firms are offering, their plan is superior in terms of them pursuing more aggressive growth policies than we are. And I foresee they will attract more investors no matter what direction the US stock market is heading in.
The average US money market fund paying less than 1%, Government bond yields being at the lowest level in 50 years, all this don’t promise savers much in the way of passive income. Yet, investors are still not convinced US stocks is the way to go, no matter how cheap they look historically! Clearly, they want more to compensate for their risk exposure…
With all this going on, with the Fed believing the economy is stuck in a perpetual “recovery” but also believing that investors will likely stick around until the Fed decides whether to act or not…. Well, I am as impatient as the average investor is today. I believe that if we wait too long, we lose crucial investment assets and it would be very difficult to regain at a later date.
Many analysts suggest we should spread risk among different sectors, while waiting for signs of more economic growth policies (or as they see it, better news out of Southern Europe). But with stocks trading at R-Squared close to 1, how do you spread the risk (on the long side)?
To me, there is going to be more than just a change in investment fashions. The old answers to basic investment questions will not work anymore. And besides the tangibles, there are also the intangible reasons, like the sluggish job growth due to international outsourcing…With offshoring and outsourcing showing no signs of slowing down, clearly, no US based job is safe anymore. It won’t be long until US investors subsequently go with a more direct approach by following the job creation regions and try to avoid the risk of the indirect investment approach: the job creators…
After Note: I hope I am wrong on this but again, I will be very surprised if my suggestion above is proven wrong. Just My Honest Opinion...
In the past I've criticized financial blogs for their oversimplification of complex ideas and their unsubstantiated reports.
However, when compared to other financial news reports they seem to understand the issues better than most (perhaps with the exception of FT & WSJ)...
Mainstream financial media only report topics that they
are familiar with..If an issue arises in which they have no knowledge of, they will avoid reporting on it, all together.
But the market is not just reacting to headline news i.e. what the Fed members are saying. The market's focus is more in what actions are taken and what the chairman chooses to communicate...Market participants are now more aware of the underlining factors that could drive prices higher or lower.
The point is: The price action in August and September was troubling, it was a function of words, rather than
facts. I really like the market reaction the past few weeks! And these financial blogs might have also contributed to this by reporting more facts than just opinions of second ranking officials! The focus has clearly switched to a more analytical approach, than an unfiltered-reactionary one...
Fed Chairman Bernanke spoke about misconceptions and I agree. One of the misconceptions I see is this debate of Hayek vs. Keynes schools of thought.
You see these Occupy Wall Street people demonstrating outside big institutions, claiming these firms’ actions are the cause of the economic slowdown in the world.
I don’t know if I am the only one seeing a contradiction here, but the Austrian School of Economics believes that markets work better than governments. Their economic theory is that corporations should be allowed to make unique choices and take unregulated risks based on the advantage they have in the marketplace.
But it gets better. At the same time they target big corporations, they also target the Fed for the “monetary driven” economy, “let’s abolish the Fed”, they’ll claim!
Their view is that the Fed is responsible for financial economies’ bubbles and the culture of spending more than we earn. It is important to keep in mind that these are valid concerns here. It’s just that simplifying these ideas automatically is not one of them.
But if they simplify complex ideas to simple one line economic theories...then I also, could ask simple questions that require a one line answer:
Do we prefer people and corporations to save or channel savings into investments that would create more job opportunities?
After a financial bubble and burst cycle, aren’t the economic benefits on aggregate one that creates more money and wealth?
And isn’t the alternative to no financial bubbles one of less tangible outcomes, where finances become immobilized and people end up equally poor?
Lastly, hasn’t the private sector proven to be unable to stimulate the economy and shouldn’t the government step in since it has a more mechanical approach than the organic private sector?
I will let you know…
Here is the story:
One day in early November the chief of a Native American tribe was asked by his tribal elders if the winter of 2011/12 was going to be cold or mild. The chief asked his medicine man, but he too had lost touch with the reading signs from the natural world around the Great Lakes.
The chief decided to take a modern approach, and the chief rang the National Weather Service in Michigan.
'Yes, it is going to be a cold winter,' the meteorological officer told the chief.
Consequently, he went back to his tribe and told the men to collect plenty of firewood.
A fortnight later the chief called the Weather Service and asked for an update. 'Are you still forecasting a cold winter?' he asked.
'Yes, very cold', the weather officer told him.
As a result of this brief conversation the chief went back to the tribe and told his people to collect every bit of wood they could find.
A month later the chief called the National Weather Service once more and asked about the coming winter. 'Yes,' he was told, 'it is going to be one of the coldest winters ever.'
'How can you be so sure?' the chief asked.
The weatherman replied: 'Because the Native Americans of the Great Lakes are collecting wood like crazy.'
My point here is: the Fed using modern approaches has concluded that economic growth is frustratingly slow. They should thus make a decision now and stop relying on whether Americans are “collecting wood” or not….
So are we watching what Europe is doing and react to the news? Or is Europe and the rest of the world watching us, and more specifically the Fed?
Well the news out of Europe from Tuesday till Wednesday were unchanged. The market rallied on Tuesday and plummeted on Wednesday, so what caused this change?
Surely, gold, oil and other markets should have reacted to the same news but they didn't.
So why are equities' price action different?
The Fed has the option of more stimulus through QE or OT, which would help the equity markets, but it also can use another tool, that could potentially hurt equities...
In my opinion, the Fed's move today spooked the equity markets as they are now fearing it's next move.
If you watch the Fed and know where the Fed Chairman spoke this morning before the opening bell, you would know what I am referring to...
I am personally watching the Fed to gauge the next directional move of the stock market..
The realization that a European focused US market does not react in this manner, has finally forced market gurus to switch their attention to the new behavioral trends. This is a pragmatic approach, since historically we have not witnessed such sustained discipline and market inaction to negative headline news.
It is a nightmare to the trader and more significantly, the news reporter; a development completely transforming the typical market function.
And although the realization that stock market movements are now led by a new behavioral trend rather than old news, has changed most analysts' thinking, it has still not grabbed news reporters' attention!
As traditional behavioral trends are now transforming, reporters are still focusing on the NO NEW news coming out of Europe!
And when they can no longer justify their European thesis by watching market price reaction, simply because the price action is contrary to what they are reporting, they continue to try to link any news that will confirm their European obsession...
One might ask, how are you certain that market participants are not Europe focused? And if not, where is their focus now?
First, I have pointed this out a month ago. And the price action in October I believe should've been proof enough.
Second, I guess you can probably see where I'm going with this in applying the term OT, in todays message title, to the past few days’ stock market action.
It is clear to me that investors, despite the media's attempt to downplay "operation twist", have realized that OT is superior to QE and QE2 combined!!
And all this happened while the bears are being "trapped" in believing in the insufficiency of OT!
After Note: Absent of a singularity event, I will be very surprised if the price action does not prove my suggestion above to be true...and as always...
Just my humble opinion!
I think we both agree that an investor cannot jump to the end of the historical learning curve by watching Cramer on T.V. or by reading a financial blog.
So whether you decide to stick with a tactical play; the more conventional investment advice of the institutional investor or moving towards a more strategic play; a hedge fund manager that as you say, has skin in the investment, depends on your perspective. Everybody, I think, understands the trade-offs of each.
Thanks for your feedback.
Although I agree with you, I wouldn’t be so harsh. I personally respect Cramer’s attempt to make investing more entertaining. What I disagree with him on is his suggestion that paying for financial advice is unnecessary when all you have to do is watch his show. He claims he can coach you on how to make money, thus making financial professionals obsolete!
In the course of my involvement in the investing world, I have learned to appreciate the value of Financial Consultants in several aspects. In my opinion, what Cramer and others confuse is financial advice with market timing ability. A financial advisor is there to help you better plan for your future and help with your investment approach. Not on how to better time market moves.
Sure, an institutional advisor can assist you on improving market timing strategies with more detailed analyst reports and investing tools. But although these are important tools in the fundamental investor's arsenal, an advisor’s ultimate goal is helping supply the investor with additional facts about all aspects of one’s financial reality and help to aid his understanding and all possible options before making his final decisions.
There is no question that financial shows, as well as the internet and other media has reduced the information asymmetry between the do-it-yourself investor and the institutional investors like never before, but at the same time, I strongly believe that there is still a clear (or superior) advantage of having additional facts before hitting the buy/sell button.
More importantly, an investor can find an advisor useful for bouncing his views off an experienced individual, who knows his unique financial situation, and getting comments in return; the investor gets a different perspective. For some, it can also be considered as part of getting additional insights into an idea he has been developing about the markets.
In other words, to me, an experienced Financial Consultant acts as a sounding board to test the strength of one’s beliefs.
So although a TV show, like Mad Money, can be an extremely useful source of information, it is just unfiltered information. This investment advice might not apply to your unique financial situation and it might not be appropriate for your time horizon, risk tolerance or amount of investable assets.
In my opinion, the reason for the upward movement in stock prices is simply the realization that the stock market was able to sustain its momentum in the pessimistic conditions and the investor never threw in the towel on stocks no matter the negative outlook.
Sure, for me, stocks are now cheap, the European situation and economic conditions has changed in a way that moves a certain roadblock out of the way of higher stock prices. However, something else has not changed in the past few weeks.
We witnessed all trends pointing upward and they are still constantly in an attempt to discover what’s out there that could move stock prices down. This fact to me does not signal a top! Quite the opposite, this is the main driver of an upward functioned market. And as long as we witness some market dips along the way that will surface more bears again, this factor will fuel the markets’ next move!
I read all the bearish blogs, listen to all the pessimism out of the pundits on TV, I too, am trying to find a reason not to be bullish. Is productivity going to be sustained? Will earnings stop growing? Is there a potential recession in sight? Are we still Washington focused? Is there some troubling geopolitical event on the horizon? But the reality is, if the bears can’t answer these questions for me, simply and sensibly, well I just can’t switch sides, at least not yet.
Today, for the first time, I agreed on everything Jim Cramer had to say and thoroughly enjoyed the first segment of his show: "Don't try and out-think the market. Good things can happen,"
So what if the economy has not performed as well as leading indicators has shown?
The pundits’ obsession towards certain stocks is remarkable, to say the least. Their last chance to maintain any reliability to their viewership is a less than spectacular economic data this week that will prove their long-term bearish scenarios.
But stock market investing in the past few days of the upward break from the trading range of the past few months is mostly a function of reality, it’s no longer perception. And the reality is the firm’s decisions in these uncertain times have proven corporate management’s strong ability to maintain profitability regardless of the unfavorable environment.
And these decisions affect corporate results in a big way. We are talking about conditions that are changing the rules of the game….
So what happens if the economic figures released in the next few days turn out not backing up this bullish notion? Will the markets be able to sustain the upward momentum?
Unlike the pundits, I don't claim to know how well the U.S. economy has actually performed. There is no way one can gauge how the very low sentiment during the quarter affected actual economic activity.
What I do know, however, is that worse than expected economic data will only prove how well firms can adapt to the changing economic conditions, and how they are able to control costs while maintaining revenue growth. In other words, I believe the stock market will outperform regardless of any potential shortfallings in the economy.
The bottom line is that while the data might actually not be as robust as us bulls expect them to be, I believe the strong corporate profit margins and earnings show their potential to remain on a much higher plateau than historical figures and will prove how much more immune they are to any potential sour spots in the economic curve…
OK, so let’s not focus on where these financial-expert-bloggers have been blatantly wrong, instead let’s turn our focus to Europe & politics, right?
After all, whenever the stock market gets good news out of company earnings or domestic economic data, they always divert our attention to news outside of the U.S. It is amazing how quickly they find an article somewhere in the world.
Thanks to Google and other news search engines, all you have to do is copy and paste a key phrase (say….Europe resolution) in one of these search engines and you have instantaneously found the source of the stock market reaction! Amazing!
Or even when the stock market hits that sour spot of the trading cycle, they sometimes get lucky enough to find some third ranked officer in a country of Malta that believes that there will be no resolution!
I also like their political stance on things. They now believe in the right wing solution via a candidate who offers the idea of no taxation and no government spending!
But if you study the countries now in trouble in Europe, are the ones with no clear tax policy (such as no property taxes) and no enforcement of tax laws (if you add the underground economy it would probably result to 500bps to 600bps to GDP)!
The problem with Europe is that they are cutting government spending, while raising taxes. To me, government spending not only stimulates the economy but also indirectly increases tax revenues.
So although I love their utopian “tea party movement” views in theory, I hate them in practice…
Can we now just get back to predicting the future price movements of the U.S. markets based on domestic stock specific fundamentals?
Exactly, but investing in the market is not a Zero Sum Game, however, this is still not evident….it will be proven over time however…their tactics have failed in the past and although we are not out of the woods yet, all signs lead us to believe they will fail again…
Side Note: I had also correctly predicted on August 22nd that the market had not yet bottomed and it would go back to where it came from (see 2008-2011 close of 1099.23) and that bottom would come on a day that bad news comes out the stock market does not react and then move quickly higher. The Dexia news on October 3rd, was disregarded and later on that day we got the bounce we needed. Also, liquidity dried up and investors turned to other market favorites like bonds, to take profits…So not only did I correctly predict the direction of the stock market but I also provided the correct underlining reasons and events unfolding…