The other day after a workout I was sitting in the cafe that one of my gyms has enjoying my usual tea, toast and vegemite and at the table behind where a group of old blokes. These are the sought of old blokes who amble around the gym for an hour and then go and eat everything in sight. Still, they are better than the women who comes in sits on the massage chair and goes straight to sleep and the walks up towelling herself off as if she has just undergone some spartan style workout.
Anyway these old blokes were crapping on about various shares and one cant help but eavesdrop – stupidity seems to have a particularly strong sirens call. Each was talking about the shares they were interested in and the reasons why they were interested. The intriguing thing was that none actually had a reason for buying whatever they were buying but they had lots of feelings for things.
Once upon a time when I had a real job I used to tell my students that without data you are just an arsehole with an opinion – which of course makes every politician an arsehole by definition but thats a different story. The intriguing thing about trading irrespective of the instrument is that you are not short of data be it technical, fundamental or quantitative. Part of the problem in trading is trying to manage this information and some how generate a cohesive and cogent strategy from it.
Despite this surplus of information there seems to be a world of people who make decisions based upon their feelings. I understand the attraction of the narrative for people – we evolved with an oral rather than data based tradition. Hence this tendency to be absorbed stories has a strong hold over and in many ways it explains much of the magical thinking in the world. That and the fact that every second person you met is a functional moron.
The extraordinary amount of information that traders receive raises the question of what is relevant. The flippant answer would be to say none of it. Certainly anything that comes from either the mainstream media or the financial services industry is irrelevant. However, this is not a terribly helpful response and judging from the responses from those at the Melbourne trading expo it is one that meets the greatest pushback.
For the serious trader the most important thing to know is what is the overall trend. Are equities as a group moving up or down. Consider the chart below.
As you can see – for the past three years the All Ordinaries has been moving in a sideways band. This sort of data tells us something very important, it tells us that as a population the potential upside for a portfolio of equities is limited. It also tells us that if you have a portfolio that largely replicates the All Ordinaries then for the past three years you have found the going quite tough.
Even a simple picture tells us a great deal – the problem is most people do not listen to what they are being told. They dont listen because they are full of opinions; as if the market in some way cared about their opinion.
In looking at the market I think it is more important to ask the question what am i being told rather than what can I see. There is an important distinction between the two. Seeing involves a form of perception and you can see what you want to see. Listening to the market involves just that – you listen to what you are being told.