Asset management, Behavioral finance, Bitcoin, Commodity price, Market psychology, Market trends, Psychology, Risk management, trading, trend following

Of Bitcoins and bubbles

In my book, “Mastering Uncertainty in Commodities Trading” I argued that security prices “are driven by human psychology and its self-stoking collective action that can sustain major trends spanning many years.” Tat’s because in speculative decision making, our views about the actions of others can entirely override our rational appraisal of the underlying asset value.

The most recent example of this is the price of Bitcoin that has surged from below $400 in January of this year to $4,300 this week. When at Altana Wealth we set up the Altana Digital Currency Fund several years ago, many people thought that digital currencies were just a strange fad and investors continued to show little interest in them – until very recently. Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity risk, Complexity, Hedging, Market psychology, Market research, Market trends, Psychology, Risk management, Something completely different, trading, trend following, Uncategorized

Speculation in the natural world

Nature has … some sort of arithmetical-geometrical coordinate system, because nature has all kinds of models. What we experience of nature is in models, and all of nature’s models are so beautiful. – R. Buckminster Fuller

Nature’s survival strategies that bear the most similarities to activities of market speculators are those of predators. To live, predators must hunt and this activity includes elements of speculation. Like trading, predation requires knowledge, skills, judgment and decision-making. It also entails risk and uncertainty. A predator can’t be sure where her next meal is coming from. Each hunt is an investment of resources; it involves the risk of injury and loss of energy expended in failed hunts, which tend to be more frequent than successful ones. To survive and procreate, predators must consistently generate a positive return on this investment. Too much of a losing streak could turn out to be fatal. In his book, “The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations” George B. Schaller painstakingly documented the details of hundreds of hunts by large cats in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. We have all seen wildlife television programs showing lions and cheetahs hunting, but Schaller’s work offers a much richer account of the life of predatory cats including their hunting behavior.

The anatomy of a hunt Continue reading

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Asset management, Behavioral finance, Commodity price, Complexity, Economics, Expertise, Hedging, Market psychology, Psychology, Stock market, trading, trend following

The illusion of expertise in financial markets

Participants in financial markets have to deal with uncertainty on a daily basis. Their need to research and understand markets has given rise to a massive industry delivering security prices, reports and expert analyses to traders and investors seeking to make sense of the markets and predict how they might unfold in the future.

The need to understand stuff is innate to our psychology: when something happens, we almost reflexively want to know why it happened. But the compulsion to pair an effect with its cause sometimes gets us jumping to conclusions. If such conclusions turn out to be mistaken or irrelevant, they could prove useless – or something worse. Consider two recent titles from the ZeroHedge blog, published 89 minutes apart: Continue reading

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Media, Policy, Politics, Psychology, Truth

Zika hype and how the media fail to serve us

Noam Chomsky wrote that, “Citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for meaningful democracy.”

Any time the mainstream media latch onto an issue and make it a big story you can be sure that it’ll be spun, doctored and distorted so that the public can’t take a well-informed position on the subject. Examples of this are countless and pervasive. About a year ago, the Zika virus story suddenly burst forth, seemingly out of nowhere, linking the mosquito-borne virus with frightful birth deformities in infants of affected mothers, including microcephaly. The story led to mass trip cancellations, abortions, unnecessary carpet-spraying against mosquitoes (which killed millions of bees), and much hysteria in general. As it turns out, the virus is harmless. Continue reading

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Psychology, Something completely different

Deep reading – a gratifying routine for a better living

Before I became a parent I used to wake up around 6 AM every morning, made myself some coffee and spent at least an hour or two reading – not news or fiction but a book about something interesting and of consequence on psychology, history, economics, philosophy… This practice almost invariably charged up my batteries with ideas, energy and enthusiasm and each day started with excitement about what I could accomplish that day. I’ve recently come across an article that distinguished this kind of reading from the more casual kind (newspapers, magazines, e-mail stack…) calling it “deep reading,” which explained, sort of, why I so enjoyed this routine. Continue reading

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Expertise, Psychology, Something completely different

In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities…

State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.” Thomas Jefferson wrote this in 1787, but his words remain relevant. Advanced education often narrows our perspective, obstructing our ability to fully evaluate new information or to adapt well to life’s changing circumstances. What we think we know may keep us from grasping new things we need to understand. Zen masters of old likened our capacity to understand to a water bowl: its purpose may be to hold water, but it is only useful to the extent that it is empty. Here’s a real-life example of this metaphor…

Continue reading

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Complexity, Energy crisis, Policy, Psychology, Social development, Truth

Dear Leonardo, …about that 97% consensus…

Yesterday I saw a brief speech by Leonardo di Caprio imploring people to vote – not for the candidate who ignores science. He was talking about the scientific consensus on global warming and mentioned that 97% of all scientists agree that global warming climate change is a man-made phenomenon. This 97% consensus figure is so compelling, it is only fair to explore where it came from.

Where “97% consensus” comes from

One Margaret Zimmerman conducted an opinion survey in 2008. The “survey” consisted of a two-question online questionnaire sent to 10,257 “earth scientists” (?), of whom 3,146 responded. Continue reading

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