The Perils of Too Much Information

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The other day I was flipping through Tim Ferriss’ book “Tribe of Mentors” and came across this great section from Adam Robinson. For those of you not familiar with Adam, he’s a rated chess master, founder of the Princeton Review, and now a global macro advisor to some of the world’s most successful hedge funds and family offices — amongst many other impressive things.

What Adam writes about markets in the book is pure gold. It needs to be read by everybody, printed out and taped above your trading desks and then tattooed across your forearms. It gets at a central truth of markets and what we can do as traders (aka. professional uncertainty managers) to best exploit it.

Without further ado, here’s Adam:

“Virtually all investors have been told when they were younger—or implicitly believe, or have been tacitly encouraged to do so by the cookie-cutter curriculums of the business schools they all attend—that the more they understand the world, the better their investment results. It makes sense, doesn’t it? The more information we acquire and evaluate, the “better informed” we become, the better our decisions. Accumulating information, becoming “better informed,” is certainly an advantage in numerous, if not most, fields. But not in the counterintuitive world of investing, where accumulating information can hurt your investment results.

“In 1974, Paul Slovic—a world-class psychologist, and a peer of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman—decided to evaluate the effect of information on decision-making. This study should be taught at every business school in the country. Slovic gathered eight professional horse handicappers and announced, “I want to see how well you predict the winners of horse races.” Now, these handicappers were all seasoned professionals who made their livings solely on their gambling skills. Slovic told them the test would consist of predicting 40 horse races in four consecutive rounds. In the first round, each gambler would be given the five pieces of information he wanted on each horse, which would vary from handicapper to handicapper. One handicapper might want the years of experience the jockey had as one of his top five variables, while another might not care about that at all but want the fastest speed any given horse had achieved in the past year, or whatever.

“Finally, in addition to asking the handicappers to predict the winner of each race, he asked each one also to state how confident he was in his prediction. Now, as it turns out, there were an average of ten horses in each race, so we would expect by blind chance—random guessing—each handicapper would be right 10 percent of the time, and that their confidence with a blind guess to be 10 percent.

“So in round one, with just five pieces of information, the handicappers were 17 percent accurate, which is pretty good, 70 percent better than the 10 percent chance they started with when given zero pieces of information. And interestingly, their confidence was 19 percent—almost exactly as confident as they should have been. They were 17 percent accurate and 19 percent confident in their predictions.

“In round two, they were given ten pieces of information. In round three, 20 pieces of information. And in the fourth and final round, 40 pieces of information. That’s a whole lot more than the five pieces of information they started with. Surprisingly, their accuracy had flatlined at 17 percent; they were no more accurate with the additional 35 pieces of information. Unfortunately, their confidence nearly doubled—to 34 percent! So the additional information made them no more accurate but a whole lot more confident. Which would have led them to increase the size of their bets and lose money as a result.

“Beyond a certain minimum amount, additional information only feeds—leaving aside the considerable cost of and delay occasioned in acquiring it—what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” The information we gain that conflicts with our original assessment or conclusion, we conveniently ignore or dismiss, while the information that confirms our original decision makes us increasingly certain that our conclusion was correct.

“So, to return to investing, the second problem with trying to understand the world is that it is simply far too complex to grasp, and the more dogged our attempts to understand the world, the more we earnestly want to “explain” events and trends in it, the more we become attached to our resulting beliefs—which are always more or less mistaken—blinding us to the financial trends that are actually unfolding. Worse, we think we understand the world, giving investors a false sense of confidence, when in fact we always more or less misunderstand it. You hear it all the time from even the most seasoned investors and financial “experts” that this trend or that “doesn’t make sense.” “It doesn’t make sense that the dollar keeps going lower” or “it makes no sense that stocks keep going higher.” But what’s really going on when investors say that something makes no sense is that they have a dozen or whatever reasons why the trend should be moving in the opposite direction . . . yet it keeps moving in the current direction. So they believe the trend makes no sense. But what makes no sense is their model of the world. That’s what doesn’t make sense. The world always makes sense.

“In fact, because financial trends involve human behavior and human beliefs on a global scale, the most powerful trends won’t make sense until it becomes too late to profit from them. By the time investors formulate an understanding that gives them the confidence to invest, the investment opportunity has already passed.

“So when I hear sophisticated investors or financial commentators say, for example, that it makes no sense how energy stocks keep going lower, I know that energy stocks have a lot lower to go. Because all those investors are on the wrong side of the trade, in denial, probably doubling down on their original decision to buy energy stocks. Eventually, they will throw in the towel and have to sell those energy stocks, driving prices lower still.”

Stanley Druckenmiller’s first mentor Speros Drelles — the man Druck credits with teaching him the art of investing — would always say that “60 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong.

What Drelles meant by that is that the market is smarter than you. It’s smarter than me. It’s smart than all of us. This is why its message should always be heeded. 60 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong…

Markets are incredibly complex which is why there’s a measurable downside to accumulating too much information, as we saw with the horse bettors. It can lead to confirmation bias and overconfidence as Adam points out.

I read a study a couple of years ago. I want to say it was done by the shared research site SumZero. I’ll have to see if I can find the link and add it to this post when I get a chance. But what this study found was that there was a significant difference in performance between short sub-500 word stock pitches and long 10-page+ writeups.

The short and sweet stock pitches outperformed their longer-winded brethren by a country mile.

German psychologist, Gerd Gigerenzer, calls this “The less-is-more Effect”. If you’d like to really dive into this then I highly recommend picking up his book “Gut Feelings”. But, essentially what the less-is-more effect refers to is that heuristic decision strategies can yield more accurate judgments than strategies that utilize large amounts of information. The way I think about this in trading and investing is that if you need 20-pages of notes to convince you to put on a trade then you shouldn’t put on the trade.

Rather, a seasoned trader should have a framework for what constitutes a good trade and a bad one. This framework is focused on the key drivers — the few essential pieces of information needed to make an informed positive expectancy bet. This should be able to fit on the back of a napkin. Literally.

Remember this the next time your scrolling through a 334 slide deck on why Herbalife (HLF) is a zero or reading through a “Macro Strategists” 75-page report on what he thinks the market is going to do over the next 3-months.

Ruthless reductionism and Occam’s Razor may make for cold bedfellows but they’ll help keep you from shooting yourself in the foot. Which, if you can avoid doing, will put you a few steps ahead of your peers.

So remember… Respect the market, seek to get just enough information, and keep things simple but no simpler (to bastardize a popular Einstein quote).

Be Fire and Wish for the Wind

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“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.

“Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos; you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind. This summarizes this author’s non-meek attitude to randomness and uncertainty.

“We don’t just want to survive uncertainty, to just about make it. We want to survive uncertainty and, in addition — like a certain class of aggressive Roman Stoics — have the last word. The mission is how to domesticate, even dominate, even conquer, the unseen, the opaque, and the inexplicable.”

– Nassim Taleb, Antifragile

AB Comments:

What does it mean to “be fire and wish for the wind” from a trading perspective?

First, consider the market strategies that get put out like candles. Selling naked puts against the S&P 500 index, for example, is a well-documented means of doing well temporarily, then extinguishing one’s trading account. So too with “reaching for yield” strategies in which steady-eddie returns are generated in periods of quiet via the use of questionable leverage. Volatility comes along and blows out the P&L candle.

Strategies that benefit from outlier moves, and thrive on the exploitation of tail risk, would be the fire in Taleb’s metaphor. Trend followers and other long gamma traders “wish for the wind” of heightened volatility and fat tail price movements.

Another way to wish for the wind (i.e. embrace volatility) is to develop trading capabilities, if not a full-scale methodology, that can profit in bearish environments. Because so many managers are long-only, it can be quite valuable, from both an OPM and absolute return perspective, to have the ability to thrive in bear markets (or at least to generate solidly positive returns, while the majority of investors get hammered).

This concept applies in life too. Some people are weakened substantially, or even see their candle “blown out” entirely, by the winds of adversity. Others get stronger — more resilient and powerful — in the presence of setbacks and challenges. The wind makes their inner fire burn hotter.

How resilient and robust is your approach to trading… and to life? Do you require idealized conditions to thrive… or can you burn almost anywhere? Are you the candle or are you fire?

Markets as a Banana: The MOST Important Fundamental Part 2

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Today’s note is the second part of a write-up I sent you earlier in the week titled The MOST Important Fundamental: The Global Shortage of Safe Assets. If you haven’t already, I suggest clicking the above link and giving the first section a read before diving into this one.

In the following collection of ordered words and well-timed punctuation marks, we’re going to layout the second piece of the all-important global asset shortage puzzle.

By the end, you’ll know why the market is a banana (yes, you read that right, I said banana). And we’ll finish with what this means for the market on both a longer-term as well as a near-term basis.


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Enough with the introduction… Let’s hop right in.

Everything in markets comes down to supply and demand. Our jobs as speculators is to figure out the two and see if there’s a mismatch that will lead to a change in prices (a trend). So let’s start by defining demand.

Investors can allocate their savings to three main assets: stocks, bonds, and cash. They make these allocation decisions based on desired returns and tolerance for risk to come up with a portfolio mix — the classic being 60% in stocks and 40% in bonds/cash. Recent price appreciation (not valuation or yield) and general risk appetites are the overwhelming drivers behind this allocation decision. Momentum is the bottom line. Investors are always chasing the trend — nobody likes sitting out of a rising market.

Savings — the amount of money available to invest — fluctuates according to the levels of cash + credit (money) in the system. Since credit is easier to create than cash (any two willing parties can create credit out of thin air with an IOU), credit largely drives the amount of investable money in the system.

Expanding credit equates to more savings to invest. This amount cycles up and down in accordance with our debt cycle framework.

The supply side of financial assets is comprised not just of the total amount of shares or bonds in existence, which is what many people mistakenly believe. But rather, it’s the aggregate market value — the total dollar amount in existence at current market prices — that makes up supply.

The equity market has a flexible supply. If demand for stocks goes up then equity flows will drive up prices,  increasing the total market cap thus creating more supply to equilibrate to demand. It’s a self-correcting system.

The basics of our equity supply and demand model is thus:

    • On the demand side we have:
      1. The amount of savings available to invest is driven by the credit cycle
      2. The allocation mix of investor portfolios is driven by performance chasing and general risk-appetite (both work on each other in a reflexive loop)
    • On the supply side we have:
      1. Supply consists of the total market cap of the asset and this market cap is equal to the number of shares + the price at which they trade
      2. Stocks have a flexible supply in that greater demand leads to a higher market cap and more supply

We can look back through time and see how this model correlates to market returns.

Historically, US corporate share issuance has rarely exceeded 2%. Over the last three and a half decades corporates have been reducing their share count through buybacks and M&A at an average annual rate of 2%.

While the number of shares available to trade has been steadily falling, the amount of money (cash+credit), has been steadily increasing.

Over the last 50 years, the money stock in the US has gone up at an average annual rate of 8% a year.

So…… over the last five decades the supply of equity (available shares) has been dropping at an average rate of 1-2% a year while the total money stock has gone up at an average rate of 8% a year.

Let’s disregard the total market value and investor allocation preferences for a second. Just taking this straight forward mismatch of supply and demand alone, we get a structural supply deficit of approximately 9.5% a year.

You want to guess what the average annual return of the stock market has been over this same period?

Banana…

No, sorry, I mispoke… the banana part comes later. The correct answer is 9.5%… 9.5% is the average annual return of the S&P 500 over the last 50 years. And it’s also the average yearly deficit of equity supply in our stock market supply and demand model.

Coincidence you may ask?

Not at all. It’s just math.

If investors keep their portfolio mix (their allocation preference between stocks, bonds, and cash) relatively constant, then the market value of stocks has to rise at the same level of the supply and demand mismatch caused by share reduction and money creation — 9.5% a year.

Eye-opening stuff, isn’t it?

I hope this changes the way you view the broader market cycle. The GOAT, Stanley Druckenmiller, instinctively figured this out, even if he gets the actual mechanisms at work wrong. But it’s this phenomenon he’s referencing when he says things like:

Earnings don’t move the overall market; it’s the Federal Reserve Board… focus on the central banks and focus on the movement of liquidity… most people in the market are looking for earnings and conventional measures. It’s liquidity that moves markets.

So to sum this section up… overtime, the market has to rise because we operate in an inflationary system. A system where the quantity of money is always going up (over the long-haul) and the corporate sector’s aversion to dilution keeps share growth at a minimum to a net negative.

The only way for the market to clear, for supply and demand to balance, is for the total market value to rise, increasing supply to meet demand.

If you were trading back in the early 80s and you understood this market supply and demand model, you would have known with absolute certainty that a massive secular bull was on the horizon. It was mathematically inevitable by that point… the supply/demand mismatch combined with the then-record low allocations to equity made for an unavoidable rally in stocks. And a massive rally at that, which is exactly what ended up happening.

This macro model has been a major reason behind my continued bullishness and definitely was when I first wrote the above report on the topic for members of our Collective back in mid-18’.

If you’d like to read up more on this idea then I highly recommend checking out this 2013 blog post on Philosophical Economics, which outlines in much greater detail, this very idea.

And finally, we can get to my original point which is that the market is a banana.

Not just any banana. But this very specific banana.

Remember this musa acuminata?

Last month some guy — who apparently refers to himself as “artist” — duck taped this ripening fruit to a wall at Art Basel Miami. This piece of “art” was then sold three consecutive times, first for $120,000 and finally for $150,000.

I know, what you’re thinking… what a steal right? Old Warren would surely be proud of that final buyer who most definitely resides in Graham and Doddsville.

Anywho… the banana art was shortly eaten thereafter by some other guy who also calls himself “artist”, and said the act of eating the artful banana was actually art itself.

When I first heard this I thought “my God, that poor banana buyer must be devastated.” Fortunately, I was mistaken — I confess…. I’m a total ignorant when it comes to the highfalutin world of Produce Art.

In fact, according to the Gray Lady, the performance artist’s “stunt did not actually destroy the artwork or whatever monetary value it might have had at that moment. The three buyers who collectively spent about $390,000 on the taped fruit had bought the concept of the piece, which comes with a certificate of authenticity from the artist, along with installation instructions. It is up to the owners to secure their own materials from hardware and grocery stores, and to replace the banana, if they wish, whenever it rots. After Mr. Datuna consumed the banana, the gallery taped another one to the wall.”

That makes perfect sense. Glad the Times could clear that up for us.

Well, anyway, I believe I have proven my point. The market is a banana… or rather a banana duck taped to a wall.

What’s that? You’re not fully convinced?

Okay, let me explain this a bit more.What I’m trying to say is that the same forces which drive the valuation of “banana stuck to wall” are the exact same ones that drive the valuation of the stock market.

“Banana on wall as a concept” sold for $150,000. I’m not certain but I think that’s in the higher valuations given to a ripe banana. It received this high valuation because there’s a low supply of concept banana art yet tons of demand for stupid… I’m sorry… unique works of art. Low supply, high demand, high price.

The stock market is trading at a record price to sales (chart via NDR).

It’s trading at record valuations because like banana-as-a-concept, there’s lots of money that needs to be invested and the supply of stocks keeps falling.

This chart of gross share issuance (new issues minus buybacks) shows how large the supply deficit is — and this isn’t even counting M&A which is running hot as well (Chart via Yardeni).

This is why market valuations are such a useless variable (over the intermediate-term at least) in gauging the sustainability of a market trend. Valuations can always go much higher or lower than you think. Because, as we discussed, multiples have nothing to do with the durability of the cycle.

Like the pricey banana, it has everything to do with your basic supply and demand. The model for which I have laid out in these pages here along with my earlier write-up. ‘

Where does this model of supply and demand leave us today? Well, with rates pinned low due to the shortage in safe assets globally. And buybacks set to continue unabated as financial conditions remain easy. We get, well, banana on wall selling for $150k… that is… stupidly high prices for stocks.

I think Five Minute Macro nailed the current zeitgeist in a recent tweet, writing:

There’s still plenty of risk premia spread to tighten should things get “fruit art as a concept” silly… which I very much believe they will.

I’m seeing lots of opportunities in this market; both on the long and short side. I’ll be putting out a report to Collective members next week where I’ll be sharing a handful of incredibly asymmetric plays that I’ve found in the small-cap space — I expect small-caps to outperform their larger siblings by a good amount this year.

There are two stocks in particular that I honestly believe have 10 bagger + potential. I can’t wait to share them and am really looking forward to getting the report out to the group.

If you’d be interested in receiving this report or any of our work along with the many other benefits that come from being a member of our Collective, then go ahead and sign up for our risk-free trial by clicking the link below. Enrollment ends this Sunday and won’t be opening up again until next quarter when prices will be 47% higher.


Click here to enroll in the Macro Ops Collective

Winter enrollment for the Macro Ops Collective is now open. This enrollment period will end on January 19th at 11:59PM. If you’re interested in joining our community make sure to sign up by this Sunday! This is the last enrollment till Spring when we’ll be raising our prices by 47%.

Click here to enroll in the Macro Ops Collective

I hope to see you in there.

“Unpleasant Truths” or “Comforting Lies” and The Path To Trading Mastery

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In trading and investing, the taste for “unpleasant truths” is slim.

This is human nature… it’s always been this way. And we at MO know something quite important. We know it with the certainty of gravity:

    • The millions who take the “comforting lies” approach to trading will fail.
    • A large portion of this group will quit in disgust, never to trade again.
    • Another portion will become “permanent dabblers,” screwing around forever.
    • But a small portion, a remnant, will tire of the lies and finally seek truth.

Simon and Garfunkel: “A man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”

Truer words were never spoken. What most people “want to hear” is that a trading method or system can make them successful, with a small amount of capital and minimal effort, in three to six months.

So when we come along and say nope, it’s more likely to take three to six YEARS minimum… with a LOT of effort and focus and sweat equity on your part… and by the way, your focus should be on training and growing your first few years, with the life-changing profits coming later (via scale)… how do you think that goes over?

Like a lead brick, that’s how. For those still hooked on comfort at least.

And yet, for those who have “taken their share of beatings” from markets… who have wrestled with the real pitfalls and challenges of trading… who have gained enough knowledge and seasoning as such that the “comforting lies” simply aren’t comforting anymore… the “unpleasant truths” become something different.

The unpleasant becomes pleasant after all.

How so? Because after passing through the “comforting lies” phase, for many (who are honest with themselves) there is a moment of confidence-shattering doubt. There is the question thrown out in despair: “Is it even possible to become a successful trader at all?”

We’ve seen it on Twitter and message boards. Maybe you have too: Call it “failure fatigue.” The trader who has burned up all his patience for the “comforting lies” stage, banged his head on the wall 500 times — or maybe 5,000 times — and has finally exploded, raging to anyone and everyone who comes across his posts that no, no, no, it can’t be done, you’re all full of shit, trading is all a bunch of lies…

Or they go and start a newsletter and spout eternal bearishness and rage against the machine. Maybe they call this trading service SouthmanTrader or something along those lines… but I digress….

Here’s the thing… It can be done. And there is ample empirical proof of this. And theoretical proof, and overwhelming data. (For those not emotionally bound to blindness that is.)

On progressing to a certain stage of maturity and readiness, the unpleasant truths become pleasant because they are revealed as the true path forward. The only path forward. Insanity has been defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” At a certain point in the struggle, for an honest few, the wake-up call comes. Then, with enough searching and questing, the path reveals itself.

And then comes the hard part. Morpheus to Neo: “There is a difference between knowing the path… and walking the path.”

    • First there is the false path (comforting lies).
    • Then there is discovery of the true path (unpleasant truths).
    • And then there is getting on it…

Becoming “the one”

There is a scene in The Matrix where, after questioning Neo on being “the one,” The Oracle tells him:

“Being the one is just like being in love. No one can tell you you’re in love, you just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones.”

You can have that feeling as a trader. Not at first, and not automatically (just as neo had to take some time, take some beatings, and learn to believe in himself).

But having progressed far enough down the path of knowledge and experience and training, you can know you are “the one”… in the sense of having made it as a trader.

You can wake up in the morning and know — not half-believe, or try to talk yourself into believing, but know — you are a master of your craft. That you have earned the right to call yourself a trader… and that the profit goals which you seek to achieve, will be achieved, short of a meteor striking you down.

But you don’t get to this place through wishing or hoping or ginning up lots of enthusiasm. You get there by walking the path. The path of training and knowledge and experience. The path is not months or weeks but years long… and in exchange provides freedom and benefits, financial and otherwise, that will last your entire life.

This is an important point so we will indulge all caps. Walking the path is a PHYSICAL FORWARD PROGRESSION. This is why enthusiasm is great as an ignition boost — a way to get started — but it won’t take you where you want to be. Progress along the path is NOT a self-esteem trick. It is NOT a “positive affirmation” thing. It is an actual physical progression.

Memories have a literal physical presence in your brain. Connections between memories have a physical presence in your brain, via the highways and byways of neurons and synapses. This means, as you progress along the path of knowledge and experience as a trader, you are ACTUALLY BUILDING SOMETHING. You are literally BUILDING NECESSARY CONNECTIONS within your PHYSICAL BRAIN.

I shout (the all caps) because this is another reason the “comforting lies” are so obnoxiously stupid. Someone who suggests you can have the seasoning and training of an experienced trader quickly and easily might as well tell you it’s possible to build a skyscraper in two weeks with your bare hands. It takes time to build a structure… including a knowledge and experience and emotional reference structure, with a physical three-dimensional presence within your own brain.

The Martial Arts Paradigm

In some ways, trading is comparable to a martial art. If someone said “my system will take you from zero to black belt in three weeks,” you would laugh out loud. (Or at least I hope you would).

The notion of becoming a trained martial artist (on par with becoming a trained trader) without requisite time and effort applied — with zero time and effort, really — is beyond ludicrous. In fact, it’s insulting. The prospect of becoming highly proficient and combat-trained over a period of years, however — via putting in the effort, with the high-quality feedback and instruction — has genuine merit. What you put in is what you get out.

The martial arts / trading comparison is also apt in respect to the above and beyond benefits acquired by training.

I’ve never heard of a serious martial arts practitioner who did it “just for the belt,” or solely to handle themselves in a fight, or to stay in good shape or some such thing. There are always reasons, and discovered benefits, that go much deeper, touching on things like personal philosophy… self-awareness and self-confidence… way of life.

And so it is with trading…

Attuning the subconscious

In the 1920s, a German philosopher named Eugen Herrigel went to Japan to study archery. Except he wasn’t really studying archery, he was studying Zen. Herrigel wanted to truly understand Zen from the inside out. He achieved his goal through a combination of theory and practice, over a six-year span of becoming proficient with the bow.

Years later Herrigel wrote the amazing little book “Zen in the Art of Archery,” which contains the following observation (in the 1953 introduction) from D.T. Suzuki:

“One of the most significant features we notice in the practice of archery, and in fact of all the arts as they are studied in Japan and probably also in other Far Eastern countries, is that they are not intended for utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind; indeed, to bring it into contact with the ultimate reality. Archery is, therefore, not practiced solely for hitting the target; the swordsman does not wield the sword simply for the sake of outdoing his opponent; the dancer does not dance just to perform certain rhythmical movements of the body. The mind has first to be attuned to the Unconscious.”

“In the case of archery, the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing objects, but are one reality. The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bulls-eye which confronts him. This state of unconsciousness is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill though there is something in it quite of a different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art.”

What Suzuki calls the Unconscious, we know as the subconscious. When Suzuki speaks of an element “which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art,” he speaks of training…. The actual practicing and doing of the thing.

This reveals another puzzle piece — more illumination as to why the 90 percent fail. Herrigel, based on his writings, was a devoted and attentive archery student. If it yet took Herrigel six years to fully master something as surface-level simple as “letting the arrow shoot itself” — i.e. gaining mastery-level proficiency at archery — can we expect less of trading?

Can we really expect to take a mastery path measured in years, and compress it down to weeks or months (or no time at all), or otherwise count “time served” via flipping through books on weekends? No.

This is another “unpleasant truth” to most ears, yet pleasant to those with ears to hear… because it highlights that the path, though extended and challenging, truly does exist.

When you think there is an easy road, you don’t want your delusion taken away. When you realize the easy road was a lie, if you still burn with desire to achieve your goal, then the confirmed existence of a hard road is good news, not bad. (The hard road reality further explains why most do not walk it. Too long! Too much effort!)

The ideal training scenario

But returning to the trading vs martial arts comparison… let us say, for theory’s sake, you wanted to attain a black belt in a certain martial art. And not just any black belt, but a ninth-degree black belt from a world-class teacher. How would you go about doing it? What would the ideal scenario be?

The optimal setup, if you were dedicated enough, might be moving to a dojo in the rural wilderness of Japan — cut off from disturbances of the outside world — where you could train with a handful of fellow students.

This would provide access to the instructor, whose insights are vital… access to proper knowledge, without which you might stumble for years in the dark… structured routine and motivation to train… and access to your fellow students, who would provide friendship, encouragement, and comparative notes along the way.

In training to become a trader, something similar might be ideal.

Going off to some remote setting, surrounded by fellow traders, wholly devoted on both an individual and group level to mastering the craft. If it’s going to be a long journey, you want guidance and friendship and shared milestones along the way.

The “dojo in the wilderness” isn’t’ realistic, of course.

But something comparable is…

The Macro Ops vision

At MO, community is central to our vision. But we want to do more than just attract excellent traders to our community. We want to create them.

To succeed in your ultimate growth path as a trader, you need training. And feedback. And camaraderie wouldn’t hurt either. Hardships go down easier when they are shared. Celebrations are better enjoyed in company too — the company of those who know the meaning of your victories and defeats, large or small, because they are fighting the same battles.

Man is a social animal. Standing together as a group is better than standing alone.

Ask yourself: Is it time to join Hernan Cortes, burn the f*cking ships, and commit to a path of mastery?

Die-hards only, need apply. We want those who are committed to the journey; regardless of current skill level. We want those who embrace the “Unpleasant Truths” and will stop at nothing to get what they want.

If that sounds like you, come join our Collective.


Click here to enroll in the Macro Ops Collective

Winter enrollment for the Macro Ops Collective is now open. This enrollment period will end on January 19th at 11:59PM. If you’re interested in joining our community make sure to sign up by this Sunday! This is the last enrollment till Spring when we’ll be raising our prices by 47%.

Click here to enroll in the Macro Ops Collective

Teachings From Commodities Corp (CC)

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Today I wanted to share a little nugget with you guys and gals that I pulled from our internal library that’s available to members of our Collective.

It’s about Commodities Corp. The training grounds for many of the best traders alive today. Inside, you’ll find some back story on CC along with a host of documents on market theory and practical trading tips that CC published internally and which you almost certainly haven’t seen before. There’s some great stuff in here, so enjoy…

For those of you not familiar with Commodities Corporation, I suggest giving this Fortune article from 1981 a quick read and then pick up a copy of Mallaby’s book More Money Than God, which does a good job detailing the story of this unique outfit, as well as that of many other early pioneers in the hedge fund industry.

CC was a trading operation founded by Helmut Weymar and Amos Hostetter during 1977 in Princeton, N.J. The firm was established to raise money which it would then use to trade in the commodities market and hopefully profit.

In many ways, CC was one of the very first hedge funds. Its story is so incredibly impressive not just because of the unbelievable returns the fund produced (which were astronomical) but even more so because of the long list of legendary traders who came out of it. The CC alumni list reads like a 20th-century trader hall of fame inductee roll. Some of these names include:

Anyways, the other day I was going down the internet rabbit hole and came across some pretty unbelievable finds.

The first one is a short (43 page) internal booklet prepared by another trader named Morry Markovitz at CC that summarizes Hostetter’s teachings and approach to trading. The booklet is titled Amos Hostetter; A Successful Speculators Approach to Commodities Trading. You can find the pdf link here.

The booklet is jam-packed with timeless trading wisdom from one of the greats. Paul Samuelson, Nobel Prize-winning economist and early backer of CC said Hostetter was “the most remarkable investor I know, he made money in commodities 50 years straight.” That’s tall praise coming from a man who was also one of the first investors in a young Buffett.

I suggest you read the booklet in full, but I’m going to share with you one of my favorite takeaways from the piece, which is fantastic in its simplicity and truth. If you were to follow this advice on every trade I guarantee you would see a significant amount of improvement.

To follow are the screenshots of Hostetter’s section on “questions to ask before entering and exiting a trade”:

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Now here’s the second trading nugget I found in the far-nether regions of the dark web. This one written by an unknown. I don’t think he ever gives his name, but apparently he worked at a broker that filled orders for traders at CC and may have even worked at CC itself for a time.

This one is a 10-page document titled Commodity Corporation: The Michael Marcus Tape. It’s apparently a compilation of some of Marcus’ trading notes along with the author’s commentary; including some of his stories about working with Marcus. The PDF link is here.

For those of you not familiar with Marcus, he was profiled in Schwager’s original Hedge Fund Market Wizards. He’s a legendary commodities trader who is said to have turned his initial $30,000 investment into over $80 million in under 20 years — not bad. He also got his start at CC and is part of the most famous mentor/trader lineage which started with Hostetter, who trained Seykota, who taught Marcus, and who then taught Kovner. Talk about having a mentor advantage — that’s just unfair. And who knows, Hostetter could’ve trained under Livermore and Baruch for all we know.

Again, read the entire document. It’s short and well worth your time. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the piece (bolding is mine):

Comm. Corp was essentially a trading university where traders learned to trade and perfect their skills. In the course of their employment, the traders were asked to prepare their trading philosophy which was archived. Commodities Corporation also made traders do write-ups when they lost money or “got knocked out-of-the-box.” These “knocked out-of-the-box” papers focused on how they failed and how they were going to correct their problems. All of these were archived and available to read or watch. In my opinion, these were an invaluable resource for all traders to learn from. I just wish they were now available on a website. I will discuss some of these in a later post.    

I think the “knocked out-of-the-box” papers are a great idea and “hot damn!” what I’d give to be able to go through those.

Somebody has to know where those docs are and side note: it’s really strange that a more in-depth book hasn’t been written about CC. I have Schwager’s number — I used to call him years and years ago under the guise that I was writing an interview style book and wanted to learn tips on how to give a proper interview, but I’d just end up pestering him for trading stories (he was cool about it) — I should phone him up and see if he knows anything… But I digress… here’s another one.

Trading has two types of capital that must be managed – financial capital and mental capital. In this case, losing a lot or being unsure of your system drains you of your mental capital. You don’t want to do that. Losing either your financial or mental capital will knock you out of business. So protect both equally well.

So true. Both are equally important and you have to protect one to protect the other. And finally:

Comm. Corp. taught me to see the signal, like the signal, follow the signal. If you follow your system /methodology then over time your edge will kick-in and you’ll end up ahead.

“See the signal, like the signal, follow the signal” was an oft used phrase amongst traders at CC, as well as “ride your winners and sell your losers” which was coined by Hostetter. Simple, yet powerful. There’s also some great stuff in there on adding at “danger points”, something we refer to as inflection points and a good discussion on the importance of developing market feel. Take 10 minutes and read through it.

Lastly, here’s a document (for you more wonkish types) that summarizes and advances Weymar’s original Ph.D. dissertation on forecasting cocoa prices (the theory was the primary reason for CC being created). Here’s the link. I used to have Weymar’s original dissertation, but I seemed to have misplaced it — but this is close enough.

If getting into the weeds of this stuff is your type of thing then I highly recommend you come and check out our Collective (it’s a risk-free highly asymmetric opportunity).

My teammates (Tyler, Chris, Brandon) and I started Macro Ops (MO) with the aim of creating the trading community and research service we always wanted, but which didn’t exist.

Our goal is to build a virtual Commodities Corp. We want a place where traders from all over the world can come together and share ideas, theories, trade approaches, knowledge and so on. A place where those who are committed to mastery and possess a deep respect for the game, can push each other to grow and improve — where iron can sharpen iron. The Collective contains the highest quality trading education, research, and discussion, all of which combine to create spontaneous developmental feedback loops leading to rapid evolution.

This is what we’ve done with The Macro Ops Collective. We’ve created a CC advantage for traders.

Similar to Bridgewater, the Collective is like an “intellectual Navy Seals” for those wanting to reach a deeper understanding of the markets and how to play them. Just click below to find out more.

Special Announcement: The Macro Ops Collective Now Open.

Winter enrollment for the Macro Ops Collective is now open. This enrollment period will end on January 19th at 11:59PM. If you’re interested in joining our community make sure to sign up by this Sunday!

Click here to enroll in the Macro Ops Collective

Every purchase comes with a 60-day money back guarantee no questions asked. That means you have a full two months to immerse yourself in our community, read through our research, see how we trade, and go through a huge library of educational material before committing your money. If the material isn’t a good fit, just send us an email and we will promptly return your funds in full.

Enrollment in the Collective will not open again for another 3-months and we will be raising our prices by 46% this next go around. So if you’re at all interested make sure to take advantage of this opportunity and check it out. Looking forward to seeing you in there.