Posts filed under “Apprenticed Investor”

Lagging Psychology at Turning Points

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been debating the state of the economic recovery. The posts that have emphasized the shift in data towards the positive have generated a lot of pushback.

This is something that I want to discuss in general terms — I want readers to not only understand my perspective, but to grasp what typically occurs heading into recessions and recoveries, into new bull and bear markets. (Note I am speaking generally, and not referring tot he details of this cycle).

Over the next week, I will put together a broad overview of the positives and negatives of the economy, looking at the risks and opportunities presented. For now, let’s discuss the sentiment that typically accompanies oscillating phenomena,  such as markets or the economic cycle.

Today, I want to look at the big overview. Historically, the sentiment that occurs at inflection points are extremes. The are the result of the prior few years of economic/market activity. They lag the cycle — often quite significantly.

Consider:

• Humans have an unfortunate tendency of to overemphasize our most recent experiences. We draw from what has just happened, rather than deduce based on what is occurring right now.

• Following that idea, the analyst community is typically too bullish at tops, too bearish at bottoms. They extrapolate from the most recent data to infinity or zero. Hence, they miss the inflection points.

• Sentiment is a justification of recent actions. Very often, equity buyers describe themselves as bullish after their purchase. The comments they make can are often an attempt to reassure themselves.

• Changing viewpoints is a gradual process. Flipping from bullish to bearish and vice versa is difficult. We remember what most recently rewarded us, and internalize that. After a period of economic expansion, we are slow to grasp the change for the worse. At the tail end of an ugly recession, we find it hard to imagine an imminent improvement.

• Investors develop the equivalent of Muscle memory. During a bull market, every dip that was bought made us money. When the cycle changes, we are slow to perceive it. Bulls become out of phase with what is taking place, buying on the way down in a bear market.

• The reverse takes place after a long Bear market. Selling rallies made us money, preserved capital during the downturn. When the sell off ends and a new bull cycle begins, the bears have a similar hard time getting back into sync with the market. Since it was so rewarding to sell into prior rallies, it becomes difficult to flip towards the positive perspective.

• Excuse making rationalizing the missed turn becomes endemic. We get conspiracy theories (the Fed is buying SPX minis!), complaints about the artifice of the market, Fed bashing, etc. They all have their roots in the missed turn. I even suspect some of the Goldman bashing (deserved tho it may be) is also partly rooted in this issue.

Consider this chart, which I first showed back in 2005 — but its worth reviewing again:

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If you like these sorts of things, there are more psychology visualizations after the jump . . .

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Category: Apprenticed Investor, Cycles, Psychology

Apprenticed Investor: Bull or Bear? Neither

This was originally published ~5 years ago, on April 26, 20005 – 07:20 AM at  TheStreet.com.

In light of some of the pushback to Friday’s commentary, I thought it might be worthwhile trotting it out again. This is an unedited version of the original, typos and all. The only change was to add the links to the related Apprenticed Investor articles.

Enjoy.

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I had an entirely different column in mind for today. But the events of last week were so peculiar, and so revealing of another classic investor foible, that I shifted gears.

This will be one of the few Apprenticed Investor columns written in response to current events. I’m doing so because I feel it’s necessary to address last week’s topsy-turvy market action. More specifically, the investor reaction to it.

A brief background: In my day job, I advise institutional investors on the state of the markets. When risk, according to my metrics, has risen unacceptably relative to reward, I become cautious. When the reverse happens, I get more aggressive. This has been my style for some time, and it works for me. Once I explain the process, I’ll lay out the mistakes the public makes in reaction to these market calls.

‘Are You a Bull or a Bear?’

I’ve heard this question countless times the past few weeks. And I find it a stunning rejection of Darwinian logic that proponents of such blather have managed to evade extinction. Investors simply never get asked a more distracting and pointless question. Effective investors find their style, then read the market and adapt accordingly.

Of course, in discussions about Wall Street, the bull and bear are mesmerizing. How often do we hear a newscaster somberly intoning: “The bears got gored by the bulls on Wall Street today…” The very next day, we hear the same talking head reverse course: “On Wall Street, the bears came out of their caves to chase the bulls, as the Dow dropped…”

The markets we saw last Wednesday and Thursday are textbook examples of why the colorful imagery of the bulls and bears is magnetically attractive to copywriters and repellent to good investing.

Why is this such a problem? Because of the “folly of forecasting“: Once people commit to a position, there is an unfortunate tendency to root for that perspective. Even worse, people stick with their forecast, regardless of what is actually happening in the market. We addressed this in the very first Apprenticed Investor, Expect to be Wrong. But instead of preparing, people dig their heels in and cost themselves money by being more concerned with trying to be right rather than making money.

Surely, there are cheaper places to look for validation than the stock market.

Bull and Bear, a Matched Pair

In a firm I worked at during the bubble years, many of the brokers had bulls on their desks, but no bears. I used to take away their bulls, and refuse to return them unless they promised to display the bear also. I did this to prove a point: There are two sides to every market.

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Category: Apprenticed Investor, Psychology

10 Psychological, Valuation, Adapative Investing Rules

This morning’s post discussing Floyd Norris front page NYT column generated even more pushback than I expected. I am always trying to create rules to help make better investment decisions and fight against my own wetware.  The earlier comment stream led me to these ten ideas; ignore them at your own risk: • Whether a…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Markets, Psychology, Really, really bad calls, Valuation

“Facts Plain to Any Dispassionate Eye”

Funny how these things work: In a rant Friday morning, I wrote: “Regular readers know that I despise political parties, believe partisans suffer brain damage — literally, they have the same cognitive deficits that ardent sports fans suffer. I have trashed both Bush and Obama, but moved to a bullish posture when despite either’s incompetence,…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Psychology

Lessons from Merrill Lynch

While I am not a fan of most big firm fundamental analysts, over the years, Merrill Lynch has had some sharp guys in their Chief Strategist/Economist positions. Here are some lessons and rules from 3 of them. Richard Bernstein was “notoriously cautious on stocks for much of this decade” — and was very bearish on…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Investing, Markets, Rules

2009 Investing Mea Culpas

With 2010 underway, its important to look back at the year gone by to assess — what was done correctly can take care of its self, but the areas that need improvement require active intervention. All told, 2009 was a year rife with both risk and opportunity. If you avoided the risk and took advantage…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Investing

Ten Lessons (Not?) Learnt

When he was at Societe  Generale, I very much enjoyed the work of James Montier. He is now working with Jeremy Grantham at GMO. I have two of James’ books in my queue, Behavioural Finance: Insights into Irrational Minds and Markets (2002) and Behavioural Investing: A Practitioners Guide to Applying Behavioural Finance (2007). He hasn’t…Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Investing, Markets, Valuation

Bailout Nation Reviews (So Far)

Here are the full run of reviews of the book:

Mainstream Media Reviews

New York Times:
Rescues Unlimited: Government as Wall Street’s Enabler
By DEVIN LEONARD
NYT, August 2, 2009

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/business/economy/02shelf.html

Wall Street Journal:
… And Dave Has His Book List
DAVE KANSAS
WSJ, July 26, 2009

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124856712152681467.html

Bloomberg
Greenspan Flunks Test, Bush Falls Into $15 Trillion Pit: Books
Review by James Pressley
Bloomberg, May 27 2009

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=amoZezYyYwFA

Forbes:
Book Review: Rescue Fatigue
Michael Maiello, 07.16.09, 12:01 AM EDT
Barry Ritholtz’s ”Bailout Nation.”

http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/15/bailout-nation-aig-chrysler-opinions-book-review-barry-ritholtz.html

Asia Times
Named and shamed
Reviewed by Muhammad Cohen

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KJ03Dj01.html

Marketwatch:
The roots of ‘Bailout Nation’
Commentary: Ritholtz book dissects crisis and Greenspan
By Howard Gold

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ritholtz-gets-to-the-roots-of-bailout-nation-2009-08-04

Reuters
Bailout study widens the “Big Picture”
Thu Jun 11, 2009 3:47pm EDT
By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa

http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSTRE55A6CK20090611

Miami Herald
Economics stories can be unexciting, but recent books try to keep their readers awake.
RICHARD PACHTER
Miami Herald, Monday, 06.01.09

HTTP://WWW.MIAMIHERALD.COM/BUSINESS/STORY/1074231.HTML

Las Vegas Business Press
Big bailouts a perversion of capitalism, author argues
MATTHEW CROWLEY
October 05, 2009

http://www.lvbusinesspress.com/articles/2009/10/05/news/iq_31501104.txt

The Hindu
Faux capitalists look for the free lunch
D. Murali
September 19, 2009

http://beta.thehindu.com/business/article22388.ece

ABC News
‘Self-Inflicted Damage’: Highlights From ‘Bailout Nation’
New Book From Bailout Critic Barry Ritholtz Takes on Citigroup, Chrysler and More
ALICE GOMSTYN
ABC NEWS Business Unit, May 27, 2009

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Economy/story?id=7681437&page=1

See also First Amendment Award for Outstanding Journalism: Best Book Bailout Nation

Blog Reviews:
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Category: Apprenticed Investor, Bailout Nation, Books

Interview with a Financial Blogger

I did this interview with a financial site some time ago — Its as good a time to post it as any.

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How long have you been blogging?

About 5 or 10 years, depending upon your definition.

From a weekly email, I eventually moved to Geocities around 1998. That was kinda blog-like. I started “blogging proper” over the Summer of 2003 – I was a beta tester for Typepad. In late 2008, I moved to my own domain (Ritholtz.com) and Word Press.

What got your started blogging?

Its kinda funny – I originally wanted to access my most recent version of written work. Between the office and laptop and house, I always seemed to have an older version of whatever I was working on. It also find it a convenient way to track/bookmark certain pages and articles.

I was very much surprised when an audience showed up.

What is the focus of your blog, i.e. how does it set you apart from the other bloggers out there?

My focus is whatever interests me. I mean that quite literally – if I find it intriguing, it ends up on the blog. So while there is a lot of sophisticated, high level analysis and commentary, I also drop in lots of asides about cars, movies, music, gadgets, concerts, etc.

I think the combination of markets, economics, investing, and technology is what appeals to people — then the personal stuff lets them get to know me.

Its not a conscious marketing thing . . . I merely scratch whatever is itching.

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Category: Apprenticed Investor, Media, Weblogs

Wait a Second, Monkey Boy . . .

I did a long video interview with Steve Forbes — it should be posted later this week. Meanwhile, this is part of the pre-interview I did prior to that shoot: What is the greatest financial lesson you’ve ever learned? You’re a monkey. It all comes down to that. You are a slightly clever, pants-wearing primate….Read More

Category: Apprenticed Investor, Bailouts, Media