There are times when deciding not to trade is the best trade you can make and right now appears to be one of those times. I know, I know, there are a certain number of you guys out there who claim to be very nimble when the market is moving sideways (as it has been over the past 6 weeks or so) but for the vast majority of traders (me included), sideways movement is just too hard to deal with. The problem is that staying on the sidelines is difficult for many to do because they develop a syndrome I call ‘trader’s finger,’ which means your finger gets itchy to push the buy or sell button.
It’s very important to resist the urge to trade just for trading’s sake or because you feel you have to “do something” like earn a certain amount of pips each week. I haven’t taken a trade since I saw the markets moving sideways weeks ago and I’m feeling better about my decision every day.
I can’t feel comfortable in a trade if I don’t have a clear idea of where the market will be in a few weeks or months and what’s even more important is that I’ve avoided putting myself through the mental anguish of making bad trading decisions and losing money, which I hate to do and which I know is inevitable when markets get choppy.
Basically, I have the same goal in trading that I have when I get in my car, which is to not get into an accident. The way I look at it, as long as I avoid crashing, the odds are a lot higher that I’ll eventually get to my destination.
What’s interesting is that over the past few weeks I’ve seen so many “professional” opinions on Bloomberg or wherever turn out to be totally wrong. Even good ‘ole Marc Faber, one of my favorite people, appears to have gotten things incorrect when he said 2 weeks again that the dollar was set to gain over the next two months or so. Since then, he might be ahead a little bit but what’s more likely is that all the back and forth movement has caused him a lot of aggravation.
Now, Marc Faber is probably one of the world’s great traders but even he looked to be suffering from trader’s finger during his last Bloomberg interview. Back in March when markets were really crashing, he seemed to go out of his way to say that stocks were set to rally-and that turned out to be one of the year’s great calls. He didn’t have quite the same confidence 2 weeks ago however-in fact, it looked more like he was saying something in order to justify being interviewed. After all, it’s hard to get in front of the cameras and advise people to stay on the sidelines!
But when you think about it, why should that be so? I know that I put just as much effort into making a judgment not to trade as I did when I called a 1000 pip short trade on the pound last summer (my “Four Figure Trade” article), or when I went long on GBP/JPY and AUD/JPY in May (see twitter) and made about 900 pips over 4 days, or when I made about 400% on some A$ options (twitter again) between April and May.
Now, what am I looking for that could start a trend? Simple really if you use some logic. Let me ask you a question.
Is it not true that all of the fiscal and monetary policies have been put in place because the economy is in an emergency situation? Of course it is. So then doesn’t it follow that if and when the signs are given that these extraordinary policies can begin to be withdrawn it indicates that conditions are improving and will continue to do so? I would think so. In fact, I was hoping against hope that the G8 might signal just that last week but unfortunately, they did just the opposite when they said that now is not the time to begin withdrawing liquidity. Apparently, they weren’t in a “green shoots’ mood in Italy (although we did learn that Obama has a preference for satin-clad booty…lol).
Likewise, when economists like Paul Krugman are talking about the need for a second stimulus, that doesn’t exactly instill much confidence in me that the economy is set to improve in a meaningful way any time soon. And when I hear Nouriel Roubini talking about unemployment going to 11%, an anemic recovery and the chance of a double dip recession along with housing prices falling another 20%, somehow it just doesn’t put me in the mood to buy and hold for the long term.
In fact, I think that professor Roubini helped put the kibosh on the spring rally, so what we need to see is some data proving his opinions on the economy are wrong (a tall order, I know). So, it would be great to see new unemployment claims fall below 500K per week and for the number of continuing claims to stop making fresh records with each report. Stabilization of housing prices as measured by the S&P/Case-Schiller Home Price Index would be helpful. The ISM’s above 50 would be very significant.
Obviously it’s going to take some time to see these data points materialize but what I’m also going to be looking for are any surprises like Bernanke announcing the Fed was “electronically” printing dollars. Listening to what’s being said at Jackson Hole next month could prove to be valuable.
Also, check the Fed’s H.4.1 report each week, specifically the line regarding the amount of deposits commercial banks are holding at the Fed banks under liabilities. In normal times there’s about $14B or so on deposit being kept there because of reserve requirements but at the height of the crisis banks were hoarding nearly $1T .
All that money sitting at the Fed means the banks aren’t lending (or doing very little lending). We need to see that trend towards normalization because as the amount on deposit decreases, the velocity of money increases as banks make more and more loans. The amount kept on deposit decreased to about $625B just before stocks took in March but increased to about $900B during the stress tests, so I would like to see it get at least to that level (and decrease further) again.