CMU: Don’t fall victim to binary thinking

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Apr 29

Cracked.Market University

The S&P 500 popped at the open, recovering all of yesterday’s midday fizzle and then some. We closed at the highest levels in nearly two months and the stock market is darn close to pushing this selloff’s losses back under 10%. What a turn of events that would be given how desperate and hopeless the situation appeared only a few weeks ago.

Yesterday’s failed breakout to recent highs was a big red flag (read about it here). That very easily could have been the start of a near-term pullback. But today’s price action decisively beat back all of those concerns (at least for the time being).

While a lot of inexperienced traders love to categorize the market in binary terms. Either you are a bull or a bear. Either you are right or wrong. Either you are successful or you are a failure. And they compound those naive categorizations by making such extreme judgment calls based on a single data point. An inexperienced trader would have called yesterday a top and another inexperienced trader would have ridiculed him for being wrong today.

Unfortunately, few things in the market are binary. If they were, this would be so much easier. There is a ton of nuisance in the market that most novices miss. Yesterday’s dreadful price action wasn’t a “top”, it was a big fat warning flag. If it was followed by similarly disappointing price action today or tomorrow, then we could start positioning for a possible top. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the market exploded higher and when it exceeded yesterday’s early highs, that strength invalidated yesterday’s warning and put the rebound firmly back on track.

That said, just because yesterday’s warning was invalidated doesn’t mean we are racing back to the highs anytime soon. Again, that is thinking in binary terms. Instead, things look good until we get the next warning flag. At which point we start looking for another flag to confirm the first. Maybe we get it and maybe we don’t.

If you want to survive in this game for a long time, get past that binary outlook. And if you need a reason, all of the money is made between those extremes. Bull or bear, right or wrong, who cares as long as we’re making money!

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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM $AAPL $AMZN


About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two children.