Five Market Insights from Tom Claugus

    1. The most difficult part of managing other people’s money

The responsibility of having other people’s money really weighed on me. If you have a 10-year time horizon, you can make good decisions and make a lot of money. If you have a three-year time horizon, you could probably still do well. But if you have only a three-month time horizon, anything can happen.

2. Claugus uses Bollinger Bands (2 standard deviations) on S&P 500, the Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000  to define his market exposure to indexes.

I am a reversion-to-the-mean thinker. We use standard deviation bands to define extreme readings.

At the lower band, we would be 130 percent long and 20 percent short. At the midpoint, we would be 100 percent long and 50 percent short. We are 50 percent net long at the midpoint rather than neutral because of the long-term secular uptrend in stock prices. At the upper band, we would be 90 percent short and 20 percent long, or 70 percent net short. Our net exposure will increase as the market goes down and decrease as the market goes up.

After determining the portfolio net exposure, we do a similar analysis by sector, trying to identify sectors that are cheap and sectors that are expensive.

3. Incentives matter. For many money managers, career risk trumps market risk. As the saying goes – it is better to fail conventionally than to succeed unconventionally.

During the fourth quarter of 1999, when the market was skyrocketing and I was net short, I was losing my ass at the same time most other hedge funds were making a ton of money. When your investors look around, and you’re losing money, while everyone else is making money, they are much more likely to pull their investment. Being short in a rising market is very difficult from an investor relations standpoint. In 2008, we were losing money, but so was everyone else. It’s a lot easier to keep your capital base in that type of scenario.

4. Bull markets are low-correlation markets of stocks. Bear markets are high-correlation stock markets.

When the market sells off really hard, as happened in late 2008 to early 2009, it is usually a matter of liquidity. There’s no place to hide in a liquidity sell-off; people sell everything because they have to, not because they want to. The reverse rarely happens on the upside. People don’t run out and buy everything. There are always some stocks that are going down. The interesting thing is that shorts are actually easier to find than longs. It is easier to spot a broken company than a good company. It is easier to identify bad management than good management.

5. The market is forward-looking and myopic at the same time. It does not look too far into the future because the further in time, the higher the uncertainty of cash flows. Some managers take advantage of this short-term nature of the market by being proactive and looking further than the market could see. The single most important concept in his stock selection process – look for future revenue generation that can be reasonably anticipated but that is not reflected by the current market price.

I often find that the market won’t pay anything for production potential that is more than a year away.

I look for anomalies. When I screen quarterly earnings, I look for quarterly earnings that are up more than 50 percent or down more than 30 percent.

One of Claugus’s major themes in selecting individual stocks is looking for companies that will benefit from a future development that is not being priced into the current market. The source of the improvement can take many forms including anticipated new sources of production, new technology, an expected increase in asset values, and so on. Claugus says that if a revenue source is more than a year away, the market will often fail to assign any significant value to it.

Sometimes, you will take a look at a momentum stock that is trading at a P/E of 50 and you will quickly dismiss it as richly valued. P/E reflects market expectations and a P/E of 50 is way too high. Well, if this stock continues to double revenue and triple earnings, trading at P/E of 50 could actually be cheap – a bargain. Context is really important.

Source: Schwager, Jack D. (2012-04-25). Hedge Fund Market Wizards. John Wiley and Sons.

Don’t forget to check out my newest book: Top 10 Trading Setups – How to find them, when to trade them, how to make money with them.

The Four Biggest Trading Challenges

People have issues with trading for four main reasons:

1.They trade the same setup in every market expecting similar results. Markets don’t work that way. Markets change all the time. Different setups work in different markets. For example, breakouts work amazingly during rising markets, but they will lose you money during range-bound, choppy and corrective markets. When your bread and butter setup stops working, you have two options – find a setup that works or sit on the sidelines until market conditions come back in your favor.

2. They expect to be right almost all the time. This doesn’t happen, even in a bull market. Having a 50% success rate is a very good hit rate. Think about that. If you can be profitable only 50% of the time, how big should your losses and gains be in order to achieve great returns? Not taking a small loss and letting it turn into a big loss has many consequences. The impact on the mind can be even worse than the impact on your account. A big loss influences your future position sizing – you trade small when you have to trade bigger because you are scared. A big drawdown can impact your objectivity and ability to spot and take great setups.

3. They expect regular income from trading. It doesn’t work this way.  Periods of making a lot of money are followed by periods of making no money and periods of losing money. The goal is to keep losses to a minimum and be aggressive only during the right circumstances. Twenty percent of your trades will account for most of your profits. The rest should be small wins and losses that cancel each other out.

4. They trade too big. Most aspiring traders are undercapitalized and they want to get rich quickly. This leads to trading too big, putting all of your money in one small-cap stock, trading illiquid penny stocks, trading options directionally. To sum things up, they trade crappy stocks with a lot of leverage and then they get wiped out quickly.

George Soros and Stanley Druckenmiller became famous for putting 50% or more of their capital into a single position. People assume that they can trade like Soros and Druckenmiller and this is a huge mistake. Never put yourself in a situation where a small market move could shake you out of a perfectly good position just because your sizing was too big. Never let a trade impact your sleep and overall happiness. You don’t want to be in a position where you own two stocks and they are the only two that are not moving with the rest of the market. You should never put more than 20% of your capital into a single stock.

Check out my newest book: Top 10 Trading Setups: How to Find them, When to Trade them, How to Make Money with them 


5 Insights for Aspiring Traders

1. The most important thing is to learn how to learn. Study past winners from different time frames and reverse engineer. Keep a journal, set goals, and work deliberately towards achieving them, one step a time. Improve yourself every week.

2. Less is more. First, learn everything about one great setup – how to find it, when to trade it, how to trade it, when not to trade it. Become a master in trading that setup. Understand that this one setup is not going to work in every market environment, so there will be a time when you will have to stay on the sidelines and do nothing. As you get better at trading your one setup, gradually start adding more setups to your arsenal until you have the right tool for any market environment.

3. Find a mentor who can accelerate your learning curve. There are two ways to learn – from your own mistakes and successes and from other people’s mistakes and successes. You can learn a lot by studying your past trades and reading practical and thought-provoking books and blogs. In most cases, those efforts are not enough. Most people need the help of an outside mentor on their journey to profitable trading.

There has never been a better time in financial history to find a good mentor. There are many tools that could help accelerate your learning and building of trading skills. Some of them are free sources like StockTwits, Twitter, Sparkfin, and various trading blogs. There are also many amazing paid trading services. Find one or two or three that best meet your personality and desired trading style. Try different services that can help you learn new skills and offer you new and insightful market perspectives.

Be honest with yourself. It takes a lot of time and efforts to properly prepare for the trading day/week. If you have a full-time job outside of trading, time is an extremely valuable resource. Becoming a fully independent trader and idea generation machine can be your ultimate goal, but to get there faster you can use the help of an outside mentor – someone who can share good trading ideas, teach you how to approach financial markets and manage risk.

As Christian Siva-Jothy says in “Inside the House of Money” – “ No one gets paid for originality. You get paid for making money. I am happy to take other people’s good ideas and run with them, as long as I understand why I am in a trade.”

4. Take the occasional mental breaks from trading. Trading could be very emotionally draining. Find a balance between work and life. Have a hobby outside of trading to occupy your mind. Trading can be a joyful and a profitable experience. If it is not, you are doing it wrong and you need to look for some help.

5. Take care of your health – physical, mental, and emotional. Your trading results depend on your overall well-being. Eat healthy, move a lot, sleep as much as you need to, practice empathy, travel to new destinations to nourish your creativity. Regular 2-minute meditation per day may help to improve your focus and alleviate your anxiety. Do you know what is three times better than meditation for reducing stress? – laughing. Watching some stand-up comedy every day can boost your immune system and make you a sharper thinker.

Check out my new book: Top 10 Trading Setups – How to find them, when to trade them, how to make money with them.

Different Setups Work In Different Markets

Top 10 Trading Setups
“The market plays the music. How you dance depends on the music played.” – Brett Steenbarger

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. If you do the same things over and over again in the stock market, you are guaranteed to get very different results. Do you know why? Because the market is constantly changing. This is the big secret of financial markets. Nothing works all the time.

Different setups work in different markets. Everyone makes money in a bull market. Not everyone keeps it when the market goes into correction or a range-bound, choppy mode. A good trader is able to adapt to changing markets.
Many get into trading with dreams of getting rich quickly and becoming financially independent. The problem is that most expect things to happen immediately. At the beginning of their career, most people are undercapitalized and have no idea what they are doing. When you are undercapitalized, you are likely to do at least one of the following five major mistakes:
• trade too big,
• trade without an edge or in other words – gamble,
• overtrade,
• trade low-priced junk stocks,
• use excessive leverage.

Some say that discipline and risk management are the solutions to all trading challenges, but they are not going to help you if you trade a setup without an edge in the current market.

Discipline + A losing setup = Consistent losses and frustration.

The one big thing that can improve your trading life is learning how to recognize changes in markets and being able to quickly adapt to them. Different setups work in different markets. Knowing what works and what doesn’t work in each environment is 80% of the battle.
There are four major types of markets and each of them requires a different method: Uptrend, Range-bound, Downtrend, and Bottoming Process. On these pages, I share my approach to each of them.
There are six main factors that have the biggest impact on stocks’ price action in a short-term perspective:
• the general market direction,
• price momentum,
• industry momentum,
• float and newness – is it a recent IPO,
• market reaction to a recent earnings surprise,
• and short interest.

In this book and in my personal trading, I focus on setups that have at least two of the above-mentioned catalysts going for them.

This is one of the most practical trading books ever written. It doesn’t waste your time with personal stories of grandeur. It is all about setups. I explain what setups to trade and when, why they work, how to find them, how to trade them, where to exit. It is a complete game plan for any market environment.

And since I believe a good picture is worth a thousand words, there are 140 annotated charts with examples for the ten major setups discussed in the book.

Here’s the table of contents for the book:

INTRODUCTION – The one thing that will make you a better trader.

Chapter 1. BREAKOUT SETUPS – How to profit from range expansion.

Chapter2. PULLBACK SETUPS – How to enter an established trend with low risk and for high reward.

Chapter 3. IPO SETUPS – How to find stocks that can go up 50% in a month.

Chapter 4. INDUSTRY MOMENTUM SETUPS – How to benefit from one of the most powerful market forces.

Chapter 5. EARNINGS GAP SETUPS – How to profit from post-earnings-announcement drift.

Chapter 6. SHORT SQUEEZE SETUPS – How high short interest might lead to explosive short-term moves.

Chapter 7. HUGE VOLUME SETUPS – How to quickly grow a small account.

Chapter 8. BEARISH SETUPS – How to make money during corrections.

Chapter 9. RELATIVE STRENGTH SETUPS – How to gain from the moves of big players.

Chapter 10. MEAN-REVERSION SETUPS – When is the right time to go against a trend.


It is available on Amazon.

Six Market Insights from Brett Steenbarger

Brett Steenbarger is a well-renowned market psychologist and trading coach. He is the author of numerous books including The Psychology of Trading (Wiley, 2003), Enhancing Trader Performance (Wiley, 2006), The Daily Trading Coach (Wiley, 2009), and Trading Psychology 2.0 (Wiley, 2015). He is one of the most influential thought leaders among traders. Dr. Steenbarger shares his thoughts on markets, trading patterns, and psychology on his website Traderfeed. He can be followed on StockTwits and Twitter @steenbab.

Here are some of his insightful thoughts on markets and life:

1. The right questions lead to better answers.

Every action we take is preceded by a question. If we ask the right questions, not only we’ll get the right answers, but we are also likely to sustain a positive change in behavior. Imagine, however, that we start the day by asking questions such as: “What one important thing am I going to achieve today?”
“How can I best contribute to my team today?”
“How can I maximize my energy level throughout the day?”
“What one special thing can I do for my spouse today?”
“What will I do today that will push my boundaries and make me grow?”

Notice that these questions are not implicit. They frame one’s use of time, and they begin with overarching priorities and values. When the implicit question is about “What can I get done now?”, we are pushed by the demands of the present. When the question is “What will make today special?”, we are pulled toward our priorities.

2. Can we really expect great results from a series of ordinary days?

Our daily experience is what we process each day, and that is what we internalize–for better or for worse. The work we perform, the people we interact with, the activities we engage in: that provide our psychological diet. 

What we do in life and who we do it with shapes our experience–and our experience shapes how we view ourselves. 

3. Don’t try to be perfect

As a psychologist, I’ve worked with many high-achieving perfectionists. They often accomplish a great deal but experience more than their share of stress and distress in the process.

When outcomes are less than ideal—and in financial markets, that’s a near-certainty—there is plenty of room for second-guessing and self-criticizing.

For the perfectionist, so much time can be spent focusing on the rear-view mirror of imperfect performance that opportunities are missed in the present.

4. Good judgment requires experience and experience requires bad judgment. Mistakes are lessons.

If everything in life either provides you with blessings or lessons, you will always profit, even when you lose money.

Viewing life through the lens of blessings and lessons means that you approach the world with a sense of gratitude.

Perhaps we don’t suffer because of losses; perhaps suffering results from an absence of gratitude. It’s the lessons that ultimately bring the blessings.

There are a number of emotional and health benefits associated with gratitude, but perhaps the greatest benefit is that it promotes resilience.

It is through adversity that we stretch our boundaries and discover hidden reserves and talents.

As long as we take risks prudently, whether in romance or in markets, losses can become gifts once we seek and uncover their educational value.

5. Most people believe that they’ll be happy only after a certain goal is achieved. The reality is that you are more likely to achieve success if you feel happy on a daily basis.

When we are feeling fulfilled and enjoying life, there’s no reason to place capital at risk for any reason other than genuine opportunity. If that fulfillment and joy are missing, however, it is tempting to reach for the trade as we reach for the ice cream.

When we feel down, we think that success will bring us happiness when in fact, the opposite is true – happiness will bring us success.

6. If you want to change your life, change your habits first.

I’m not sure people can make positive changes in their lives without first changing their internal dialogues. Can we really sustain new patterns of behavior if we’re sustaining the same old thought patterns?

We eat well, sleep well, exercise–do a lot of things to maintain our hardware. That won’t get us where we want, however, if we’re running faulty software.

Keeping a journal can be a structured method for changing our self-talk. Not many traders actually use journals that way. But we really can reprogram ourselves.

 Everything in life can be approached with intention and purpose or it can be approached mindlessly and routinely. In carrying out daily activities with self-direction, we strengthen our ability to stay mindful and purposeful for life’s greater goals.

Related reading: 15 Insights from Trading Psychology 2.0