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Ep. 468: Irrationality with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Irrationality with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio
Irrationality with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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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
  • Behavioral economics
  • Experimental economics
  • How do you make bubbles go away
  • Using algorithms over emotions
  • Noise reduction
  • Statistical thinking
  • Understanding the difference between risk and uncertainty
  • Probability theory
  • Risk Communication
  • 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

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Ep. 440: My Sins My Own with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

My Sins My Own with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio
My Sins My Own with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel talks about personal responsibility. Michael brings in basketball references from the Boston Celtics and their head coach Brad Stevens. He goes into the accomplishments of Stevens as a coach and as a quant. Stevens coaching is all about numbers and probabilities.

Michael plays a clip from Chris Mannix of the Vertical Podcast with Brad Stevens. Stevens explains how he uses statistical analysis in his coaching and how the “best of the best” like to be coached. Most don’t care about a numbers to numbers speech but everybody wants to know how they can best play and attack situations. Michael circles the conversation back to trading markets and trading on the numbers. Mannix then asks Stevens if coaching is just coaching being on an NBA sideline as opposed to other sidelines? He says that the longer he has been a coach the more he has been able to take emotion out of the game and it has become a job. By the time a game nears the end he isn’t even thinking of the game, he is thinking of the next practice, and how he can make the team better.

Michael ends with reading interview questions that were asked to Stevens; “Is your calm demeanor a part of your coaching philosophy?” He says that his philosophy is doing 99% percent of the work behind the scenes and hopefully that is enough to prepare him for the next game. He is always thinking about the next play, therefore you will not see him doing cartwheels on the sidelines very often. Stevens is also asked, “How is the style of play at the professional level evolving?” He says the game use to be about height and weight as opposed to skill. The game is now being flipped around.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Process vs. outcome
  • Sports and trading analogies
  • Statistical thinking

“Think through all the possibilities, know the probabilities and be ready.” – Michael Covel

“Progress was not in the result, the progress was in the poise.” – Brad Stevens

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Ep. 377: Annie Duke Interview with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Annie Duke
Annie Duke

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Today’s guest is author, entrepreneur and professional poker player Annie Duke. Michael Covel and Annie Duke discuss several of the countless ways in which the psychology of gambling overlaps with that of trading, investment and other aspects of business.

Annie explains the importance of thinking probabilistically for decision-makers. Gamblers, like investors, can sometimes become so focused on their losses that it begins to affect their decision-making process in a negative way. Annie calls this “tilt” and says it occurs when players put too much emphasis on outcome. She points out that so long as you are getting an overall return on your investment via a positive expectation, small losses should be both expected and absorbed.

Michael and Annie also discuss further in depth expectancy and how the top minds in both trading and gambling think about the long-term. When involved with risk, it is always important to think realistically. If there is a 90% chance of success, don’t round it up to 100% simply to boost your confidence. This way, if the venture fails, you won’t feel the need to discard your strategy since there was always that 10% chance of failure. Overall, your odds of success are still very good. This is why Annie’s thinking is so important for all of us.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Focusing on the process instead of the outcome
  • Understanding that it’s about your return, not you winning percentage
  • Recognizing that in investing, consistency is unnatural
  • Thinking probabilistically
  • Maximizing your expectancy
  • Understanding that a loss doesn’t necessarily reflect bad thinking

“When you focus on outcome over process you actually reduce innovation in your company.” – Annie Duke

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Ep. 375: Mark Sleeman Interview with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Mark Sleeman
Mark Sleeman

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Today’s guest is Mark Sleeman of MS Capital Management. Mark is a self-taught trend following trader who’s been trading since the late 80s.

Michael Covel asks Mark about the road that led him to trend following and his early experiences as an trader. Mark talks about how, in the beginning, he was only looking for a way to make money. But with his engineering background, when he happened upon systems trading, everything fell into place. So confident was Mark in both his system and his own abilities, in fact, that he was willing to sell his house to get started (to raise trading capital).

Mark points out that investing based on “bottoms and tops” alone is pointless since no one can predict where the market will turn. The key to smart investing is a diversified portfolio that can sustain small losses long enough to catch those big wins. Trend following is the only proven system with decades of empirical data to back it up, and it’s the only way to trade if you want to become a long term survivor.

Other areas of discussion include the psychology of trading, understanding that patience doesn’t come naturally (has to be learned), and the importance of maintaining a life outside the markets.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • The fallacy of “buy low, sell high”
  • The psychology of trading
  • Keeping your losses small
  • The importance of maintaining a life
  • Focusing on the strategy, not the instrument
  • Understanding that patience has to be learned

“You’ve gotta be robust because you’re gonna see good markets and you’re gonna see bad markets. I’ve certainly seen both, and expect to see more of both.” – Mark Sleeman

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Ep. 374: The Death Cross with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

The Death Cross with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio
The Death Cross with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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Today, Michael Covel reads a recent piece from Barry Ritholtz about the Death Cross: that foreboding moment when the 50 day MA falls below the 200 day MA. Then Michael looks at how a Twitter debate between Cliff Asness of AQR and Jerry Parker of Chesapeake Capital, sparked by the article, led to an examination of momentum v. trend following.

The so-called Death Cross is viewed by many to be an omen, a signal of dark days to come. And while that could be partly correct in the context of a complete system, the Death Cross is just a signal. It’s a mistake to think of it in apocalyptic terms that something will happen in 6 months time, etc. The Death Cross is the type of signal that can work for the investor with a robust, diversified portfolio within a system that doesn’t aim to predict the future. This is all about what’s happening in the present price, so you can take action now.

Michael also plays and comments on a Bloomberg interview with Barry Ritholtz, discusses the folly of predictive technical analysis, and hammers home the fact that trend following is the only proven form of quantitative trading.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • The importance of ignoring old concepts
  • Trend Following is about taking action
  • Why no one can predict where the market is headed
  • Incorporating the Death Cross into a diversified portfolio
  • Understanding momentum trading
  • The idea of “heuristics”

“Woe to the unwary trader who relies on the urban legends to inform an outlook.” – Barry Ritholtz

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Ep. 373: Lasse Pedersen interview with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

Lasse Pedersen
Lasse Pedersen

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Today’s guest is Lasse Pedersen, finance professor at Copenhagen Business School, principal at AQR Capital Management, and author of the new book “Efficiently Inefficient”. Pedersen earned his Ph.D. in finance from Stanford University and has over a decade of experience in the industry.

The conversation opens with an examination of the two opposing views on how markets operate. One view holds that markets are fully efficient and reflect real values, while the other contends that market prices are inefficient and tied more to investors’ emotions than anything else. Pedersen discusses his own interpretation — that markets are neither fully efficient nor fully inefficient, but rather a combination of the two — and that it’s this equilibrium that provides the stability needed for investors to make gains.

Michael Covel and Lasse Pedersen discuss the commonalities in the varied strategies of some of the most successful investors in the world, many of whom are interviewed in Lasse’s new book. One such commonality with these investors is their constant awareness of risk management, and the concept of gambler’s ruin. But at the same time, as Lasse is quick to point out, many of these financial legends freely admit that some of their greatest lessons were learned through their losing trades.

Other topics include the rise of quantitative investing, the role of hedge funds in the economy, and how leverage can effectively be used as an investment tool.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Discretionary vs. quantitative trading
  • The importance of sticking to your financial plan
  • The various investment styles of the successful
  • How reflexivity affects market prices
  • Backtesting to identify effective investment strategy
  • The role of hedge funds

“I think that good quant investment managers can really be thought of as financial economists who’ve codified their beliefs into a repeatable process. They are distinguished by their diversification, sticking to their process with discipline, and the ability to engineer portfolio characteristics.” – Cliff Asness

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The Truth: A Two-Edged Sword

The truth is, almost everything about superior investing is a two-edged sword:

-If you invest, you will lose money if the market declines.
-If you don’t invest, you will miss out on gains if the market rises.

-Market timing will add value if it can be done right.
-Buy-and-hold will produce better results if timing can’t be done right.

-Aggressiveness will help when the market rises but hurt when it falls.
-Defensiveness will help when the market falls but hurt when it rises.

-If you concentrate your portfolio, your mistakes will kill you.
-If you diversify, the payoff from your successes will be diminished.

-If you employ leverage, your successes will be magnified.
-If you employ leverage, your mistakes will be magnified.

HT Howard Marks.

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