Random Thoughts on a Summer Friday

Market Psychology, Short-Selling and Sci-Fi
Random observations, thoughts and brain-ticklers as a midsummer weekend approaches.
Bloomberg, July 21, 2017



Rather than bury you on this midsummer day in a column full of opinion and data, I want to offer some interesting ideas worth exploring. Some of these may eventually become columns, while others will persist on my things-to-do list, until I either delete them or die. But all of these are, in a word, fascinating.

Quote of the Day: Let’s start off with a quote from Meir Statman, finance professor at Santa Clara University. He is the author of “What Investors Really Want,” and made the following observation: “Markets may be crazy, but this does not make you a psychiatrist.” So true.

Another lead lost by America: Japan and other countries want to put a man on the moon. The battle to commercially exploit space begins in earnest, with the U.S. having squandered a half-century lead — just at the country did in infrastructure, mobile telecommunications and broadband.

Not Wrong, Just Early: Here is the thing about selling stocks short: so many things must come together and at just the right time for it to work out well. You need 1) a fundamental reason to dislike a company; 2) a technical reason to dislike its stock; 3) some sort of catalyst to generate momentum to the downside, which can be a long and expensive time in coming and; 4) patience to wait it out. And although short trades can only go down by 100 percent, savvy long-short traders often juice potential reward by marrying a put 1  to a short trade. The added expense of that option trade’s time decay can be expensive in case you are early, otherwise known as being wrong.

Friday Follow: Speaking of which, if you are not following AQR’s Cliff Asness on Twitter, you should be disqualified from working in finance. He thinks with both sides of his brain, having mastered both doing the math and communicating in plain English. He frequently bests me on Twitter, shows endless patience with detractors, is a sci-fi nerd and is hilarious to boot.

The Fourth EstateWe all know we are living during the golden age of television via Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO. Some of us know it’s also the golden age of podcasts, which have become an embarrassment of riches. But you may not have noticed that this is also the golden age of investigative journalism. The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg News, Christian Science Monitor, McClatchy, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal have been amazing in their commitment to hard-hitting, high-quality reporting. The fourth estate may not be a great business, but it is an amazing craft, essential to any democracy, and it is operating at the highest levels we have seen in a long time. I can’t speak to #MAGA, but Trump has made journalism great again.

Reports: I have two longish reports to plow through this weekend that look very interesting and that you might enjoy: The first is by David Rosenberg, the former Merrill Lynch chief economist now with Gluskin Sheff & Associates, who dives into demographics in “Lower for Longer Lingers”; the second is a behemoth from Torsten Slok of Deutsche Bank titled “U.S. labor market: Expansion continues, no recession in sight.”

Fake News: I know the president thinks its “fake news” but Brian Stelter’s daily “Reliable Sources” email is my guilty pleasure. It’s filled with lots of inside baseball stuff about the goings on in Washington, palace intrigue and other meaningless salacious items. It may not be actionable, but it is interesting.

This Time Is Different: There seems to be some misunderstanding about what the expression “this time is different” means. When you say stocks are in a 1990s-like bubble and the rebuttal is that these companies make lots of money and are profitablethat isn’t what “this time is different” means. Recall the bubble-era stocks, companies that were devoid of credible business plans and had no prospect of ever making money. When people blindly purchased the shares, and then rationalized those shortcomings as signifying a new investment paradigm, that is what “this time is different” means.

It’s Greek to Me: Does anyone remember Grexit? When was the last time you heard a discussion about the Greek financial crisis? It dominated the financial news for several years. So where is it now? It has fallen off of our collective radar. I was reminded of this today via this deep dive, “The Greek Financial Crisis (2009–2016).”

Even Money: I have made several bets around town (at even money) that on Jan. 19, 2020, Donald J. Trump will not be president. Not many takers without at least 2-to-1 odds. Disclosure: I lost my bet with my colleague Josh Brown that Trump wouldn’t win the 2016 general election, believing I was hedged via a can’t lose tax cut. So far, was I wrong about that, too.

Change: Two words that should scare liberals: “President Pence.” Genuinely conservative, more or less competent, shrewdly awaiting his opportunity to be most powerful person in the world, something he was highly unlikely to achieve on his own.

Valerian: Of course, I plan to see the film, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” this weekend. I am a “Fifth Element” devotee and love pretty much everything Luc Besson has done — and while it might be an epic mess, it looks spectacular: One part “Fifth Element,” one part “Avatar.”


1. I know that’s not what a married put is, but I love the language of it.


Originally:  Market Psychology, Short-Selling and Sci-Fi


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