About Bulls, Bears and Pigs

There’s a popular Druckenmiller’s quote circling the Internet as of late:

The first thing I heard when I got in the business, not from my mentor, was bulls make money, bears make money, and pigs get slaughtered. I’m here to tell you I was a pig. And I strongly believe the only way to make long-term returns in our business that are superior is by being a pig. I think diversification and all the stuff they’re teaching at business school today is probably the most misguided concept everywhere. And if you look at all the great investors that are as different as Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, Ken Langone, they tend to be very, very concentrated bets. They see something, they bet it, and they bet the ranch on it. And that’s kind of the way my philosophy evolved, which was if you see – only maybe one or two times a year do you see something that really, really excites you… The mistake I’d say 98% of money managers and individuals make is they feel like they got to be playing in a bunch of stuff. And if you really see it, put all your eggs in one basket and then watch the basket very carefully.

If you don’t look at it from different perspectives, you might get disillusioned that Druckenmiller recommends to always take very concentrated bets. There are some nuances that you have to consider:

1. He always has an exit strategy. When Soros and Druckenmiller made their famous bet against the British Pound, the knew exactly how much they could lose – their entire YTD gain of 12%.

Soros is also the best loss taker I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t care whether he wins or loses on a trade. If a trade doesn’t work, he’s confident enough about his ability to win on other trades that he can easily walk away from the position. There are a lot of shoes on the shelf; wear only the ones that fit. If you’re extremely confident, taking a loss doesn’t bother you.

2. He says that the right conditions to make a concentrated bet happen only once or twice a year. Not everyone is able to recognize those conditions. Proper Timing is Everything when you trade big. A good entry point allows you to go through normal market reactions.  An amazing entry point allows to use tighter stop and therefore bigger position size. Here’s hedge fund manager Scott Bessent on Stan Druckenmiller:

One of the things that I learned from Stan Druckenmiller is how to enter a trade. The great thing about Stan is that he can be wrong, but he rarely loses money because his entry point is so good.

3. You have to earn your right to bet big first.

It’s my philosophy, which has been reinforced by Mr. Soros, that when you earn the right to be aggressive, you should be aggressive. The years that you start off with a large gain are the times that you should go for it.

The way to build long-term returns is through preservation of capital and home runs. You can be far more aggressive when you’re making good profits. Many managers, once they’re up 30 or 40 percent, will book their year [i.e., trade very cautiously for the remainder of the year so as not to jeopardize the very good return that has already been realized]. The way to attain truly superior long-term returns is to grind it out until you’re up 30 or 40 percent, and then if you have the convictions, go for a 100 percent year. If you can put together a few near-100 percent years and avoid down years, then you can achieve really outstanding long-term returns.

The True Nature Of Predicting

Jon Boorman has an interesting piece on the futility of making market predictions.

Long time ago, Phil Pearlman wrote an insightful post, pointing out the upside of making an outrageous prediction.

Here’s how it works.

If I make an outrageous prediction or label a prediction outrageous and I am wrong, I respond to criticism like this:

“Well, I said it was an outrageous prediction.”

This discounts my responsibility for being wrong to some degree. But if I am right, I will say,

“look how brilliant I am. I made an outrageous prediction and it was dead on.”

Outrageous predictions are used to manage impressions. One defers responsibility if wrong and gloats incessantly if right.

It is a manipulative gambit.

People, who make outrageous predictions know exactly what they are doing. Their potential reward is much bigger than the risk they are taking of being publicly laughed at. Many people have made a career by being right once about a major event that nobody expected (usually a big market correction).

Predicting and speculating have a lot in common, but they are also very different. By definition, predictions are about dealing with factors, you have no control over. When you speculate in the stock market, you also don’t have control over which one of your trades will be profitable and for the most part how profitable it will be. You could improve the odds, but you can’t impact the outcome of each individual trade. When you speculate, you put your own money at risk. You could be right for the wrong reasons and make money (lucky). You could also be wrong despite having an edge and still lose money (no approach has 100% success rate). Since you have very little control on some of the variables that impact your results, it doesn’t really make sense to speculate about only one outcome, because in this case you are getting prepared for only one outcome. The solution – You develop several different scenarios and you prepare for each of them.

A) You could be wrong

  • where is your stop loss?
  • How much of your capital are you going to risk?

B) You could be right

  • Where are you going to exit so you maximize not only your individual return on one particular trading idea, but your overall capital return, which takes into account opportunity cost.
  • Are you going to sell on strength, on weakness (when the trend for your time frame is invalidated).
  • Do you have a time stop in place – it assures that you don’t keep you capital in a non-performing assets.
  • Do you have a plan where to add to you position? One of my favorite market insights from George Soros says that “it doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong, but how much money you make when you are right and how much money you lose when you are wrong”.

Is Shake Shack The New Chipotle?

Everyone has been looking for the next Chipotle. From a strictly price action perspective, $SHAK’s trend has been a lot more smoother and powerful than CMG in the first few months after its IPO. I have no idea how they compare from a valuation and store growth perspective. I don’t own any of them at this point of time. Take a look: