Oct 16

CMU: Are You a Victim of Beginner’s Luck?

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Welcome to the new Cracked.Market University educational series. Look for new articles every Monday and Wednesday.

CMU: Are You a Victim of Beginner’s Luck?

Hang around trading circles and you inevitably hear of a phenomena called beginner’s luck. This is where a new person experiences unusually good fortune. How can a new person be more lucky than the experienced traders around him? Let’s investigate.

Statistics make a compelling argument a beginner has no better odds of success in a game of chance than someone who has been doing it for a while. Let’s simplify it to a game of betting on a coin-flip. If he predicts heads and the coin lands heads, he wins. If the coin lands tails, he loses. Simple enough.

Assuming a fair coin and toss, we would expect the outcome to be totally random for both the novice and the experienced coin-flip guesser. If there is zero ability to predict the outcome, skill has nothing to do with it and the result is down to random luck. Under these rules, a beginner and an experienced coin-flip guesser will have same level of success, on average winning half the time. Despite superstitious beliefs to the contrary, in games of chance a beginner has no more opportunity to be lucky than the experienced coin-flip guesser.

In a game of skill, you would definitely expect a more experienced participant to do better than a novice. An 18-year-old who has been playing football since he was six would most likely enjoy more success in a pickup football game than another 18-year-old foreigner who has never seen a football game.

It doesn’t take a genius to know the more you practice something, the better you get. This makes sense and no doubt applies to trading. But the skill that comes from experience implies the exact opposite of beginner’s luck. In most instances the novice will vastly underperform the experienced professional.

So where does this notion of beginner’s luck come from? Is there a way it can still be true despite these logical and compelling arguments against beginner’s luck?

The one thing we haven’t considered yet is human nature. A person who loses a lot of money in their first handful of trades will most likely quit in disgust. After losing $5k, $10k, or $20k in their first handful of trades, they will most likely come to the conclusion the market is rigged and it cannot be won. They quit and never look back.

But the opposite is true for a person who experienced early success. If a person makes $5k, $10k, or $20k on their first few trades, they think they have a knack for trading and become addicted to the thrill of winning. Without a doubt the people who experience early success are far more likely to stick with it and keep coming back. That early success will even convince traders to stick with it after a period of losses because in their heart they know they are good at this. It is only a matter of time before their cold streak ends and their luck improves.

So while it is true a beginner has no better odds of success in a game of chance, and a worse odds of success in a game of skill, beginner’s luck is still a very real phenomena in trading circles. That is because of survivor’s bias. Early losers quit and only the traders who enjoyed early success stuck around. Tha means in any groups of experienced traders, most of them started with a hot streak.

Unfortunately beginner’s luck is not sustainable and all too often trader’s mistakenly believe their early good fortune was due to skill, not luck. Rather than dig in and learn from more experienced traders, they assume they have this game figured out and don’t need any help. Their early success convinced them they already know everything they need to know. Only after they lose their first stake do they start looking for outside guidance.

If you are reading this, most likely you experienced some early success and that encouraged you to keep at it. But now things have gotten harder and losses are more common than profits. While it hurts, realizing trading is not easy is actually a good thing. And if you figured this out early, count yourself lucky. Traders who experiences too much early success keep upping the size of their trades until inevitable fall goes from emotionally demoralizing, to financially ruinous.

I’m glad you found this blog and my goal is to help other traders learn from my years of struggles and successes. No matter what the late night infomercials claim, trading is hard and it takes work. The first step is educating yourself. The second step is gaining firsthand experience by trading smaller sizes. The goal isn’t to make money, but to learn how to trade. The best way to approach the market in the beginning is viewing your account as the amount you are willing to pay in tuition. If you have $100k, start trading $20k. If you have $10k, start trading $2k. This way when you get wiped out, you have the ability learn from your mistakes and start over. Give yourself enough time to learn from your mistakes and your chances of success go way up.

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Oct 06

Weekly Scorecard: Tread lightly

By Jani Ziedins | Scorecard

Welcome to Cracked.Market’s weekly scorecard:

This post includes a summary of the week’s market developments, links to the free posts I published, and analysis on how accurate each post was since I wrote it. 

Weekly Analysis

The S&P500 surged to record highs this week, breaking through 2,550 in Thursday’s trade. But the first employment losses in seven-years dampened the mood on Friday, giving us the first down day in nearly two-weeks.

As good as things feel, we must remember markets cannot go up every day. Thursday’s gains were the eighth in a row and sixteenth out of the last nineteen. A down day was inevitable, the question is if Friday’s 0.1% dip is enough to refresh the market and set the stage for a continuation higher.

A big chunk of this week’s enthusiasm stemmed from Republicans making progress toward tax reform. That was enough to put people in a buying mood and the early strength triggered a wave of reactive breakout buying and short-covering.

The thing we have to be careful of is Republicans are still in the brainstorming phase of crafting this bill. Next they need to figure out what compromises are required to make this thing work. That is where things get difficult. Healthcare reform went well….until it didn’t. There is a good chance the same will happen here and this week’s optimism could easily turn into next week’s pessimism.

At this point I don’t think there is a lot of upside left in this move. The only question is if we pullback to support, or we consolidate recent gains by trading sideways. There is no reason to sell long-term positions to avoid a near-term dip. Shorter-term traders should be thinking about taking profits. And those with cash should resist the temptation to chase prices higher. That said, the path of least resistance is still higher and every dip is buyable.

October 3rd: Is it finally safe to buy?

Without a doubt the path of least resistance is higher, but we know markets don’t move in straight lines. We need to mix in a few down days to keep this market healthy and sustainable. When a red-day happens, don’t freak out and start calling a top. If this market was going to crash, it would have happened weeks ago when headlines and sentiment were far more dire. Instead, expect the rate of gains to slow and for the market to spend a few weeks consolidating recent gains. We can keep going up for a few more days, but the higher we go, the harder we fall during the normal and healthy down wave. But either way, this is definitely a better place to be taking profits than adding new positions. Buy-and-hold investors can keep holding, but traders with profits should start thinking about locking them in, and those with cash should resist the temptation to chase.

Score 8/10: I knew momentum could carry us higher over the next few days and that is what happened. But this is still a better place to be taking profits than buying new positions. I docked myself a couple of points because we still don’t know how this trade will turn out. If the surge higher fizzles next week, then I can boost my score. If we keep surging higher, then I will take off a few points. The important thing to keep in mind is I am not calling a top, just saying the risk/reward has shifted against us. The upside remaining above us is far less than the downside below us.

October 5th: What smart money is doing here

To be brutally honest, only and idiot would buy the eighth consecutive up-day and seventeenth out of the last twenty. As I wrote in yesterday’s free educational piece, everyone knows markets move in waves, unfortunately most forget that fact when planning their next trade. Just as I knew August’s selloff was unsustainable, I also know this surge higher is not sustainable.

Over the last two-weeks the market has been wedging higher. This is the least sustainable price pattern. The shape is formed by desperate breakout buying and short-covering. Two of the most powerful, but least sustainable forces in the market. Once these smaller groups run out of money, most of the time there is no one left to fill the void. Big money hates chasing prices higher and almost always waits for a dip. In a self-fulfilling prophecy, big money’s reluctance to chase prices creates the lack of demand that causes prices to dip.

Without a doubt we can coast higher for a few more days, but dips are a normal and healthy part of every move higher. Without periodic pullbacks, foundations are weak and prone to failure. The higher we go over the near term, the harder we fall. I am in no way predicting a market crash and I still believe in this bull market, but I know what sustainable rallies look like and this is not it. At best we trade sideways for several weeks and consolidate recent gains. Worst case is we test 2,500 support and even dip a little under it. While not a big deal for most of us, that will be a painful ride or anyone who bought these record highs.

Score 8/10: Friday was technically a down day, but 0.1% really doesn’t count following such a large rally. The lack of profit-taking tells us most owners are confidently holding for higher prices. That keeps supply tight, but supply is only half the equation. Big money tends to fear heights and their lack of buying could cause us to drift lower. But don’t expect us to fall too far. There are a lot of managers desperate to get in this market and they buy any and all dips. It is still a little early to score this week’s analysis and next week’s trade will be a lot more insightful.

Cracked.Market University

Excerpts from my new educational series. Click the title to read the full post. Signup for Free Email Alerts to be notified when news posts are published.

CMU: The obvious trade everyone screws up

The problem is most traders convince themselves every move higher or lower will continue indefinitely. When the move goes the direction of their bias, their confidence swells as the market’s price-action confirms their ideas. This confidence causes them to rush headfirst into a big position before they miss the trade they have been waiting for. Unfortunately most of the time their confidence doesn’t come until the market has already made a sizable move in the direction of their bias. In the bull’s case, when the market is making a higher-high. The problem is confidence is highest just as the last of the buyers are rushing into the market and prices are about to slip back into the trading range.

When a new trade falls into the red so quickly, confidence is shattered and replaced by uncertainty and fear. Traders initially convince themselves they can hold through a brief pullback because they are still believe they are right. When that doesn’t happen, doubt grows until vulnerable traders bail out because the pain of regret grows too strong. This selling pressures prices further, causing more nervous owners to sell, further pressuring prices. The downward spiral continues until we exhaust the supply of nervous sellers. Unfortunately for these reactive sellers, prices rebound not long after they bailout.

Knowing what the market is going to do is the easy part. Getting the timing right is where all the money is made. Have insightful analysis like this delivered to your inbox every day during market hours while there is still time to act on it. Sign up for a free two-week trial.

Have a great weekend and I hope to see you again next week.


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