“You’ve surrounded yourself with one of the most advanced group of mentors possible…The people on your podcasts, and people in your life, all are people with strong opinions, all people that make you think and make you grow. You just have some kind of an affinity for people like that, and that’s part of what makes you good at what you do.” Ed Seykota, Market Wizard
Michael Covel is the voice behind Trend Following™ Radio. His podcast is the underground alternative hit that has ranked as high as #2 on iTunes investing channel (with 7M+ listens and counting).
Q: Michael, how did this podcast happen? A: During the production of my filminterview skills developed. And after my 4th book I decided on a whim to launch a trading podcast. It has gone far beyond trading to network TV-level-guest diversity. Nobel prize winners on my show? Never expected that, but I embrace it. Check out nice words from the Wall Street Journal:
“Michael Covel’s podcast has had over  million listeners and he’s completed [600+] episodes. He’s probably the most established podcaster on this list—and it shows. Mr. Covel’s podcast is great for those looking for alternative views on the market, those who are tired of hearing the same old stories told on CBNC and other traditional outlets. This is highly recommended if you are looking to expand your mind in investing. Mr. Covel has had some incredible guests, to include multiple Nobel Prize winners and world-famous investors. One of my favorite episodes was when Mr. Covel interviewed Annie Duke, a former professional poker player who has some incredible insights on decision making. Mr. Covel always has me thinking and Annie Duke only amplified my brain-wave activity.”
Phil Donahue and Ayn Rand are on the podcast today, but one of them is of course dead. Rand is best known for her two best selling novels, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” Michael plays two clips of Donahue interviewing Rand. Rand is controversial, but her thinking is accurate and clear. She breaks down altruism, government regulation, free market, monopoly, God, feminism, terrorism, and many more topics. You may not agree with her on all points, but there is inspiration to be taken away from her passion and to-the-point thinking.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
Acting on faith
Living by emotion, not reason
Spending money on the un-gifted minds rather than the gifted
Oh, how I show my age missing discourse like this. Besides Donahue, we had William Buckley, Dick Cavett, and, often, even Johnny Carson. Hearing liberal vs. conservative in an informative way was so, so nice. NOT screaming, NOT engaging in relentless raw ad hominem attacks, NOT being proud of ignorance, nor being illogical–and so smug about doing all this. Even the audiences back then were different. Civility is always welcome. I like to hear from the dead, because what they say is locked down, therefore, allowing a true evaluation of them.
There are back-to-back monologues on today’s episode. The two episodes consist of the same material, just said a little different. The first take Michael was told was too aggressive with too many F bombs, so he re-recorded but still left it up on the tail end of the podcast. The double header podcast today was inspired by a film Michael recently re-watched called, “Boom Bust Boom”.
Michael talks about Hyman Minsky’s “financial instability hypothesis”. Minsky said that there is instability in capitalism and if capitalism was eliminated, that would help eliminate bubbles. Minsky believed that offsetting the economy is how you eliminate instability. This is where the government came up with zero interest rates, and in some places, negative interest rates. Due to the Minsky mentality, economists think they can control the markets and stop human nature from happening.
Michael ties his documentary film into the discussion and describes the insight he got during ’08 when he happened to be filming. Trend following strategies and behavioral economics have these characteristics in common: 1. People will never be rational. 2. Markets will always trend up, down and sideways. 3. You can’t predict trends. 4. There are ways to make money even though numbers 1-3 are set in stone and will not change.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
The tulip bubble
Fall of 2008
Financial instability hypothesis
Trend following philosophy
“The only way to eliminate market bubble’s and crashes is to eliminate people.” – Michael Covel
“This has basically never happened before in my whole life. I can remember 1½ percent rates. It certainly surprised all the economists. It surprised the people who created the life insurance industry in Japan, who basically all went broke because they guaranteed to pay a 3% interest rate. I think everybody’s been surprised by it, including all the people who are in the economics profession who kind of pretend they knew it all along. But I think practically everybody was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted when they went low; when they went negative in Europe – I’m really flabbergasted. How many in this room would have predicted negative interest rates in Europe? Raise your hands. [No hands go up]. That’s exactly the way I feel. How can I be an expert in something I never even thought about that seems so unlikely. It’s new territory…
“I think something so strange and so important is likely to have consequences. I think it’s highly likely that the people who confidently think they know the consequences – none of whom predicted this – now they know what’s going to happen next? Again, the witch doctors. You ask me what’s going to happen? Hell, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I regard it all as very weird. If interest rates go to zero and all the governments in the world print money like crazy and prices go down – of course I’m confused. Anybody who is intelligent who is not confused doesn’t understand the situation very well. If you find it puzzling, your brain is working correctly.”
Shout out to Charles Munger, age 91, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway.
In 2013, the Nobel Prize in economics went to three men. One of the recipients, Robert Shiller, is a professor at Yale University known for showing that markets are inefficient. Another was Eugene Fama, a professor at the University of Chicago known for his advocacy of market efficiency. (The third was Lars Hansen, also at the University of Chicago.) This leads to the first point worth stressing: to be an active investor, you must believe in both inefficiency and efficiency. In other words, you have to think that both Shiller and Fama are right―just not at the same time. Naturally, if markets are perfectly efficient there’s no reason to try to beat them through active management. But it’s also true that there’s no reason to try to beat the market through active management if you think markets are always inefficient. That’s because even if you are savvy enough to buy a dollar for fifty cents, there’s no reason to believe that the price and value will ever converge in a perpetually inefficient market.
Michael starts off explaining how Trend Following Radio has morphed into the diverse podcast it is today. He started Trend Following Radio in 2012. It originally was all about trading, but with a Vernon Smith interview, then Gerd Gigerenzer and Dan Ariely interviews, he realized he could take it in a different direction. With those three interviews under the belt, he was able to secure Daniel Kahneman on the podcast which he believes was the real tipping point for the podcast.
For the rest of the episode Michael plays curated clips from the men mentioned above: Vernon Smith, Gerd Gigerenzer, Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman. He wraps up by playing a short clip from another brilliant mind in behavior finance, Nassim Taleb. The clips exemplify the spirit of behavioral finance. They range from helping people understand their behavior at a fundamental level to behavior in markets and what drives the average person to make particular risky moves in life and in their trading.
Michael finishes up talking about the enormous amount of misinformation in news and media. You need to do the reading and educate yourself. Absorb wisdom from the right people, do your homework and put in the work to get ahead. It will not just come intuitively or from “for profit” media outlets.
In this episode of Trend Following Radio:
Law of demand
How do you make bubbles go away
Using algorithms over emotions
Understanding the difference between risk and uncertainty
Unconscious things that make us fearful
At the beginning of the 20th century, the science fiction author Herbert H. Wells made the following prediction, ‘If we want efficient citizens in a modern technological society we need to teach them three things: Reading, writing and statistical thinking.’ That is, a good way to deal with risk and certainty. Now, today almost 100 years later we have taught in the investment world almost everyone to read and write, more or less, but not to think with risk and uncertainty. – Gerd Gigerenzer