Livermore on knowing yourself

It is my conclusion that playing the market is partly an art form, it is not just pure reason. If it were pure reason, then somebody would have figured it out long ago. That’s why I believe every speculator must analyze his own emotions to find out just what stress level he can endure. Every speculator is different, every human psyche is unique, every personality exclusive to an individual. Learn your own emotional limits before attempting to speculate, that is my advice to any one who has ever asked me what makes a successful speculator. If you can’t sleep at night, because of your stock market position than you have gone too far, if this is the case then sell your position down to the sleeping level.

On the other hand, I believe everyone who is intelligent, conscientious and willing to put in the necessary time, can be successful on Wall Street. As long as they realize the market is a business like any other business – they have a good chance to prosper.

Livermore on Discipline

I believe that having the discipline to follow your rules is essential. Without specific, clear, and tested rules speculators do not have any real chance of success. Why, because speculators without a plan are like a  general without a strategy, and therefore witout an actionable battle plan. Speculators without a single clear plan can only act and react, act and ract, to the “slings and arrowws of stock market misfortune”, until finally they are defeated.

Step by step…

1. Create a clear, concise method that will serve you to find trading ideas. A method consist of simple to implement consecutive steps based on market anomalies. A method should be derived from your trading goals and it always incorporates in itself money management techniques for capital preservation.

2. Use those trading ideas to create a plan of action.

3. A plan of action usually consists of two or more scenarios. For example if X happens, I will go with trading idea A; if Y happens, I will go with trading idea B. We create different scenarious, because we can’t control the market. We forecast what might happen and plan how we will react if certain event or a process happens.

Having a clear method helps you to be consistent and disciplined in finding new trading ideas. Creating a plan helps you to profit from your trading ideas. It assist you to focus on your goals.

Livermore on speculation

Just remember, without a discipline, a clear strategy and a concise plan, the speculator will fall into all the emotional pitfalls of the market and jump from one stock to another, hold a losing position too long, cut-out of a winner too soon and for no reason other than fear of losing the profit. Greed, fear, impatience, ignorance and hope, will all fight for mental dominance over the speculator. Then after a few failures and catastrophes, the speculator may become demoralized, depressed, despondent, and abondon the market and the chance to make a fortune of what the market has to offer.

Develop your own strategy, discipline and approach to the market. I offer my suggestions as one, who has traveled the road before you. Perhaps I can act as a guide for you and save from falling in some of the pitfalls that befell me. But in the end the decisions must be your own”.

The curious case of crude oil

Last week’s production cuts and further weakening of the dollar were not able to offset the expectations for slump in demand and crude oil fall to four year lows. OPEC claims that the severe decline is not based on fundamentals and it is pure overreaction. If they truly believe that the current price of crude is unfairly cheap, let step up and start buying oil futures as every self-respected company would buy its shares in a similar situation. Such behavior might seem extreme, but it will have better appreciation impact on oil futures than production cut.

During the last three weeks we experienced a small rally in many commodity related industries. All, except oil. The demand was highest for Gold. If smart money is truly expecting an economic recovery in 2009, it would be buying crude, not gold. Bidding up gold and treasuries is a sign of fear and uncertainty. It reflects a perception of higher risk. It is a desperate move aiming to save some of the purchasing power of the current wealth, which is devastated by FED’s favorite sport – dollars printing.

In the end of last year I wrote a post about crude oil, trying to explain that too high price of the black gold will be devastating for oil producing countries in long-term perspective. First, an extreme price of oil gives people an incentive to invest in alternative, more energy efficient technology. If a human being is motivated to achieve something, sooner or later, it succeeds. Second, high oil price changes people’s habits. They find a way to consume less and tend to stick to this newly found behavior even when the economy starts to recover. At the brink of extremes, people change.

It is fair to point out that OPEC didn’t and doesn’t have a major impact on crude futures. It is well known fact that they were bid up by financial institutions. Disregarding that, oil producers liked the thickness of their wallets and said that they can’t impact the price of oil. Why do they think that they will be able to do it today? They became complacent and didn’t think about the long-term ramifications of high oil price for their economies. Oil was found about 100 years ago and it was adopted as energy source, because it was cheap and efficient. Once those variables change the whole equation changes. People go and find a better alternative.

Earlier this year Bank of Kuwait came up with a report, revealing the break-even price of crude for the different oil producers. It claims it is $17 per barrel for Kuwait, $30 for Saudi Arabia, $33 for Canada and much higher (in the lower 40s) for many others. All small numbers that should suggest that at the current level of crude, many countries should stop producing. I don’t believe these numbers. Oil producing nations have sold profitably its products at even lower prices during the last several decades, even when inflation is taken into account. I would like to see a similar report for break-even prices from an unbiased entity.

What strikes me the most is not the break-even prices, but the claims that many oil producing nations have based their 2009 budgets on $70, $80 and even $95 per barrel. If for a moment we assume that this is true, countries like Venezuela, Iran and Russia are in big trouble. Not only many projects will be postponed (scratched), but their cash reserves will evaporate faster than a glass of water in a dessert. Extreme budget deficits will affect substantially the living standards of their citizens and it won’t be surprising to witness cases of massive civil disobedience. Ironically, political destabilization in any of the major oil producers will lead to far more efficient appreciating shock on oil futures than any coordinated cuts. An extremely low price of oil will lay a solid foundation down for its fast appreciation in a 3-5 years horizon, as an extremely high oil price caused what we are currently witnessing. Remember that for the next 20 years oil will most likely remain the cheapest and most efficient source of energy.

Assuming that the current short-term trend of weakness in crude oil continues, which industries would be the biggest benefactors? The fist groups that come to mind are Airplane carriers and trucking companies, which bottom line should get a boost from cheaper oil. So far there is no sign of that happening. Oil is only one variable in their EPS equation. The current decline in their input cost is more than offset by a decline in their output – people travel less often, companies sell less; less packages need to be transported.

The only industry that currently should thrive in an environment of low oil price is Gold mining. Not only crude accounts for substantial part of its expenses, but gold has been outperforming everything else this year. If this trend continues, and there are no signs that it will end any time soon, gold mining companies’ EPS should get a nice boost. Higher EPS growth often leads to higher stock prices. Certainly EPS is not the only factor that affects price. It is actually of secondary importance when put next to investors’ confidence. A simple way to measure confidence is through P/E ratio. It is self-evident that recession hits investors’ confidence big time. Often a rise in bottom lines of solid companies is offset by general lack of confidence.