Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interesting Trading Idea

The reformed broker has a great post on ten things not to do as an individual investor. Here is one that I think is worth keeping in mind in a more general sense:

"The market is all betting one way so of course I'm betting the other way." This works very well at major turning points, which are very rare. In truth, the herd usually outsmarts the remnant and you're much better off being an ordinary zebra in the middle of the pack than straying off on your own into a deep ravine where predators lurk. If there is a turning point you see coming and you want to exploit it, fine - just don't bet your life on it and deploy all your capital at once. Also, keep in mind that not everything mean-reverts, some things simply trend - some investments will simply never come back to where you wish to buy or sell them regardless of historic price points that might make sense to you. And being contrarian just for the sake of being different is not the same as being contrarian because you see something that others don't.

You see this tendency in a lot of fields. It is psychologically fulfilling to see oneself as the loner, who can see the truth that the rest of the herd so blindly overlooks. Unfortunately, there can be a very good reason that the herd is stampeding away from the vicious lion!

I've personally watched people lose money with the notion of mean-reversion (do we still think that AOL will revert back to its tech bubble peak?). I think we see the same phenomenon in academic research programs. It seems so cool to find this interesting and counter-intuitive finding that nobody else has seen. Because they are idiots. Or, perhaps (just perhaps), because I've managed to overlook something crucial to the whole process.

So if the finding seems to explain a complex phenomenon in a simple way . . . beware. There might be a reason that the herd is off chasing the complex solution and ignoring the counter-intuitive position.

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