Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fresh from the Desk of EWI

Efficient Market Hypothesis: True "Villain" of the Financial Crisis?

August 26, 2009

By Robert Folsom

Editor's Note: The following article discusses Robert Prechter's view of the Efficient Market Hypothesis. For more information, download this free 10-page issue of Prechter's Elliott Wave Theorist.

When a maverick idea becomes vindicated, there's a good story to tell. It usually involves a person (or small group of people) who courageously challenge the orthodoxy of the day -- and, over time, the unorthodox yet better idea prevails.

A "good story" of this sort has surfaced during the current financial crisis. A chapter of the story appeared in a recent New York Times article, "Poking Holes in a Theory on Markets." The theory in question is the efficient market hypothesis (EMH), which the article suggested is so hazardous that it "is more or less responsible for the financial crisis." This quote tells you most of what you need to know:

"In the last decade, the efficient market hypothesis, which had been near dogma since the early 1970s, has taken some serious body blows. First came the rise of the behavioral economists, like Richard H. Thaler at the University of Chicago and Robert J. Shiller at Yale, who convincingly showed that mass psychology, herd behavior and the like can have an enormous effect on stock prices — meaning that perhaps the market isn't quite so efficient after all. Then came a bit more tangible proof: the dot-com bubble, quickly followed by the housing bubble. Quod erat demonstrandum."

In case your Latin is rusty, Quod erat demonstrandum means "which was to be demonstrated." Its abbreviation (QED) appears at the conclusion of a mathematical proof. In this case, the massive financial bubbles of recent years are the proof that refutes the efficient market hypothesis, which argues that markets move in a "random walk" and are not patterned.
Similar articles in the financial press have reported the demise of the EMH. Just this week an Economist magazine blog included this bold declaration:

"No one has yet produced a version of the EMH which can be tested and fits the evidence. Thus, the EMH must logically be discarded, as a valid hypothesis must be testable."
QED, indeed -- I agreed years ago that the random walk was implausible. But I didn't come to this view because of behavioral economists, although their work over the past decade has certainly been valuable. Instead, I was persuaded by the work of someone who first challenged the financial orthodoxy more than three decades ago, specifically April 1977. As a young technical analyst at Merrill Lynch in New York, his research circulated among several of Merrill's clients. His name for these studies was the Elliott Wave Theorist: the April '77 study was a detailed analysis of the 1975-76 stock market, which offered this comment on the random walk model:

"If market moves are arbitrary (as the random walk proponents suggest), then internal components would rarely 'make sense' mathematically, and then only by statistically insignificant fluke occurrences. However, there seems to be enough evidence that mass psychology, as recorded in the Dow Jones Industrials, form patterns that are uncannily interrelated....At least this much can be fairly reliably stated as a result of this work: This idea that the market is a 'random walk' is probably false."

Robert Prechter left Merrill soon after; he has published the Elliott Wave Theorist in every month since. Every issue has, in one way or another, "convincingly showed that mass psychology, herd behavior and the like can have an enormous effect on stock prices."
So while there may be a good story to tell about behavioral economists, I trust you see why I believe there is a vastly better one to tell. The "enormous effect" of "mass psychology" and "herd behavior" is exactly what explains the financial downturn that began in late 2007.

Prechter's Elliott Wave Theorist anticipated the crisis and warned subscribers beforehand.

Likewise, he alerted them to the bear market rally that began last March.

For more information from Robert Prechter, download a FREE 10-page issue of The Elliott Wave Theorist.

It challenges current recovery hype with hard facts, independent analysis, and insightful charts. You'll find out why the worst is NOT over and what you can do to safeguard your financial future.

Robert Folsom is a financial writer and editor for Elliott Wave International. He has covered politics, popular culture, economics and the financial markets for two decades, via print, radio and the Internet. Robert earned his degree in political science from Columbia University in 1985.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Bounce is aging, But the Depression is Young

August 20, 2009

By Bob Prechter

The following is an excerpt from Robert Prechter's Elliott Wave Theorist. Elliott Wave International is currently offering Bob's recent Elliott Wave Theorist, free.

On February 23, EWT called for the S&P to bottom in the 600s and then begin a sharp rally, the biggest since the 2007 high. The S&P bottomed at 667 on March 6. Then the stock market and commodities went almost straight up for three months as the dollar fell.

On March 18, Treasury bonds had their biggest up day ever, thanks to the Fed’s initiating its T-bond buying program. The next day, EWT reiterated our bearish stance on Treasury bonds. T-bond futures declined relentlessly from the previous day’s high at 130-15 to a low of 111-21 on June 11.

That’s when there were indications of impending trend changes. The June 11 issue called for interim tops in stocks, metals and oil and a temporary bottom in the dollar. The Dow topped that day and fell nearly 800 points; silver reversed and fell from $16 to $12.45; gold slid about $90; and oil, which had just doubled, reversed and fell from $73.38 to $58.32. The dollar simultaneously rallied and traced out a triangle for wave 4. Bonds bounced as well. As far as I can tell, our scenarios at all degrees are all on track.

Corrective patterns can be complex, so we should hesitate to be too specific about the shape this bear market rally will take. But from lows on July 8 (intraday) and 10 (close), the stock market may have begun the second phase of advance that will fulfill our ideal scenario for a three-wave (up-down-up) rally. In concert with rising stocks, bonds have started another declining wave, and the dollar appears to have turned down in wave 5 (see chart in the June issue), heading toward its final low. Although commodities should bounce, their wave patterns suggest that many key commodities will fail to make new highs this year in this second and final phase of partial recovery in the overall financial markets.

Meanwhile, our forecast for a change in people’s attitudes to a less pessimistic outlook is proceeding apace. Here are some of the reports evidencing this change:
More than 90 percent of economists predict the recession will end this year. [The] vast majority pick 3rd quarter as the time. (AP, 5/27)Manufacturing and housing reports this week may offer signs that the recession-stricken U.S. economy is within months of hitting bottom, economists said. (USA, 6/15)

Fewer people say they’ve prospered over the past year than in decades, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds. Over the past two months, however, expectations for the future have brightened significantly amid rising optimism about a stock market rebound and economic turnaround. “I think the administration is going in the right direction,” says… Now 36% of those surveyed in the Gallup-Healthways well-being poll say the economy is getting better. That’s not exactly head-over-heels exuberance, but it is double the number who felt that way at the beginning of the year and a notable spike in the nation’s frame of mind. Thirty-three percent say they’re satisfied with the way things are going in the United States; in January, just 13% did. (USA, 6/23/09)

If only to confirm the socionomic causality at work, an economist quoted in the article above muses, “The one anomaly in the puzzle is that people shouldn’t be feeling better because the jobs market is so terrible and unemployment is likely to keep rising.” Of course it would be an anomaly, and people should not feel better, if mood were exogenously caused. But it is endogenously regulated, and it precedes social actions, which produce events such as job creation and elimination. That people feel better is evident in our rising sociometer, the stock market. If the rally continues, economists will soon agree that the Fed’s “quantitative easing” and Congress’ massive spending are “working.” Those predicting more inflation and hyperinflation will have the last seeming confirmation of their opinions. Then, a few months from now, some economists will probably express similar puzzlement when the stock market starts plummeting again despite the fact that the economy has improved.

But all of these considerations are temporary. Conditions are relative, and behind the scenes, the depression has been, and still is, grinding away.

For more information, download the FREE 10-page issue of Bob Prechter’s recent Elliott Wave Theorist. It challenges current recovery hype with hard facts, independent analysis, and insightful charts. You’ll find out why the worst is NOT over and what you can do to safeguard your financial future.

Robert Prechter, Chartered Market Technician, is the founder and CEO of Elliott Wave International, author of Wall Street best-sellers Conquer the Crash and Elliott Wave Principle and editor of The Elliott Wave Theorist monthly market letter since 1979.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Are These 4 Emotional Pitfalls Sabotaging Your Trading?

August 13, 2009
By Jeffrey Kennedy

The following is an excerpt from Jeffrey Kennedy’s Trader’s Classroom Collection. Now through August 17, Elliott Wave International is offering a special 45-page Best Of Trader’s Classroom eBook, free.

To be a consistently successful trader, the most important trait to learn is emotional discipline. I discovered this the hard way trading full-time a few years ago. I remember one day in particular. My analysis told me the NASDAQ was going to start a sizable third wave rally between 10:00-10:30 the next day... and it did. When I reviewed my trade log later, I saw that several of my positions were profitable, yet I exited each of them at a loss. My analysis was perfect. It was like having tomorrow’s newspaper today. Unfortunately, I wanted to hit a home run, so I ignored singles and doubles.

I now call this emotional pitfall the “Lottery Syndrome.” People buy lottery tickets to win a jackpot, not five or ten dollars. It is easy to pass up a small profit in hopes of scoring a larger one. Problem is, home runs are rare. My goal now is to hit a single or double, so I don’t let my profits slip away.

Since then, I’ve identified other emotional pitfalls that I would like to share. See if any of these sound familiar.

Have you ever held on to a losing position because you “felt” that the market was going to come back in your favor? This is the “Inability to Admit Failure.” No one likes being wrong and for traders, being wrong usually costs money. What I find interesting is that many of us would rather lose money than admit failure. I know now that being wrong is much less expensive than being hopeful.

Another emotional pitfall that was especially tough to overcome is what I call the “Fear of Missing the Party.” This one is responsible for more losing trades than any other. Besides overtrading, this pitfall also causes you to get in too early. How many of us have gone short after a five-wave rally just to watch wave five extend? The solution is to use a time filter, which is a fancy way of saying wait a few bars before you start to dance. If a trade is worth taking, waiting for prices to confirm your analysis will not affect your profit that much. Anyway, I would much rather miss an opportunity then suffer a loss, because their will always be another opportunity.

This emotional pitfall has yet another symptom that tons of people fall victim to chasing one seemingly hot market after another. For instance, metals have been moving the past few years so everyone wants to buy Gold and Silver. Of course, when everyone is talking about it is usually the worst time to get into a market. To avoid buying tops and selling bottoms, I have found that it’s best to look for a potential trade where (and when) no one else is paying attention.

My biggest, baddest emotional monster was being the “Systems Junkie.” Early in my career I believed that I could make my millions if I had just the right system. I bought every newsletter, book and tape series that I could find. None of them worked. I even went as far as becoming a professional analyst guaranteed success, or so I thought. Well, it didn’t guarantee anything really. Analysis and trading are two separate skills; one is a skill of observation, while the other, of emotional control. Being an expert auto mechanic does not mean you can drive like an expert, much less win the Daytona 500.

I am not a psychologist or an expert in the psychology of trading. These are just a few lessons I’ve learned along the way... at quite a cost most times. But if you are serious about trading, I strongly recommend that you spend as much time examining your emotions while you are in a trade as you do your charts before you place one. What you discover may surprise you.

For more trading lessons from Jeffrey Kennedy, visit Elliott Wave International to download the Best of Trader’s Classroom eBook. Normally priced at $59, it’s free until August 17.

Jeffrey Kennedy is the Chief Commodity Analyst at Elliott Wave International (EWI). With more than 15 years of experience as a technical analyst, he writes and edits Futures Junctures, EWI's premier commodity forecasting service.