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Trend Following with Michael Covel

Bestselling author Michael Covel is the host of Trend Following Radio with 5 million listens. Investments, economics, decision-making, human behavior & entrepreneurship--all passionately explored. Guests include Nobel Prize winners Robert Aumann, Angus Deaton, Daniel Kahneman, Harry Markowitz & Vernon Smith. Also: James Altucher, Dan Ariely, Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Marc Faber, Tim Ferriss, Jason Fried, Gerd Gigerenzer, Larry Hite, Sally Hogshead, Ryan Holiday, Jack Horner, Ewan Kirk, Steven Kotler, Michael Mauboussin, Tucker Max, Barry Ritholtz, Jim Rogers, Jack Schwager, Ed Seykota, Philip Tetlock & Walter Williams. All 500+ eps at www.trendfollowingradio.com/rss.
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Now displaying: January, 2016

Bestselling author Michael Covel is the host of Trend Following Radio with 5 million listens. Investments, economics, decision-making, human behavior & entrepreneurship--all passionately explored. Guests include Nobel Prize winners Robert Aumann, Angus Deaton, Daniel Kahneman, Harry Markowitz & Vernon Smith. Also: James Altucher, Dan Ariely, Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, Kathleen Eisenhardt, Marc Faber, Tim Ferriss, Jason Fried, Gerd Gigerenzer, Larry Hite, Sally Hogshead, Ryan Holiday, Jack Horner, Ewan Kirk, Steven Kotler, Michael Mauboussin, Tucker Max, Barry Ritholtz, Jim Rogers, Jack Schwager, Ed Seykota, Philip Tetlock & Walter Williams. All 500+ eps at www.trendfollowingradio.com/rss.

Jan 29, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Mebane Faber. Mebane is a noted author, blogger, and portfolio manager with Cambria Investment Management. His new book, “Invest with the House: Hacking the Top Hedge Funds” is out now. This is Mebane’s 4th appearance on Trend Following Radio. Michael and Mebane have a slightly different outlook on trading but they do align. The biggest similarity is that they both come at the markets from a quant way of thinking.

Michael starts the podcast off asking, “Why do some of the big name guys motivate you so much.” Mebane says he always loved investing. In his spare time during college he would explore finance. A fund manager named John Griffin, who was Julian Robertson’s right hand man, taught at Mebane’s school UVA. It was in this class that many famed hedge fund managers provided his first initiation. The managers would give examples of different kinds of research they would do. Mebane knew he would never have the resources to do that type of research, so he turned to studying the numbers instead.

Mebane’s new book is based on mimicking the trades of some of the most successful hedge funds. He says it isn’t too hard to identify the “Michael Jordan’s” of the finance world. The key, however, is to figure out who’s trades you could piggy back off of and be successful. You have to go into this believing markets aren’t efficient. Where do you find the best players? Mebane studied 10-12 managers that friends and colleagues suggested. The most obvious was Warren Buffett. Turns out, you still make amazing returns piggy backing off of Warren Buffett’s trades. You cannot trade futures in this way or trade shorts, you must be long only. Trading with this strategy, as opposed to buying straight into these big hedge funds, gets you away from paying huge fees and large taxes. In Mebane’s latest book he goes much more in depth into this topic.

Michael then goes into Twitter questions posted by listeners. The first question, “My market is too small? What should I do?” Mebane says there is a “home country bias” among people. People like to invest in their own markets. The Asian countries happen to have the worst of this bias. It is a terrible habit to have if you need proper asset allocation in your portfolio. You must look beyond your own country, be agnostic in your trading. Don’t let your emotions or irrationality rule.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Home country bias
  • Diversification
  • Different trading strategies
  • Finding the most successful hedge funds
  • Margin of safety
Jan 25, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel starts off quoting famed trader Stanley Druckenmiller. Stanley shares his views on betting big and diversification. Michael expands on Stanley’s views by stressing how crucial diversification is to a portfolio’s success. You must be open to many markets to handle your risk management. And when markets start to go your way, you have to “bet the ranch.” When one market in your portfolio takes off you need to go big and make the most of it. This is where your profits will come from. Note: Stanley Druckenmiller had two big mentors in his life. One of the two influences was George Soros. The two have been business partners for years now and have made a fortune trading trends. These men do not tout themselves as trend following traders but Michael describes them as “kissing cousins” to trend following.

Michael then reads an article from Josh Brown titled, “Everyone is a closet technician.” In the article, Josh claims everyone is a technician. What is a technician? Josh defines them as, “Someone who cuts right to the chase and studies actual prices and behavior instead of puzzling over the causes of prices and behavior like everyone else.” He says that investors only pay lip service to fundamentals. Technicians find truth and meaning in price and the action that is currently happening. They respect the idea of sentiment. Sentiment is how valuations come to be. Prices change and with that the truth is constantly changing. Technicians do not waste their time with the “Why” question. Hindsight bias is a slippery slope. Josh says, “Fundamentalists will share their reasons with anyone willing to listen. The technicians will take these reasons with stride and focus on what is happening, not ‘why.’ The ‘why’ will always be much more apparent after the fact. After it doesn’t matter.” Price will do its thing regardless of what people predict. Michael doesn’t believe the people on CNBC throwing out predictions are technicians. Trend followers are the only people who fit the mold of what Josh describes in the article.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • What is a technician?
  • Diversification
  • Risk management
  • Trading off price
Jan 22, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Robert Carver. Robert is author of “Systematic Trading: A unique new method for designing trading and investing systems.” He got his start in finance working at AHL. Robert started with AHL in 2001 during his final year of college. It was at this time that he was introduced to quantitative trading and began thinking of finance in a systematic way. He later went back to AHL, working there from 2006-2013.

Robert doesn’t tout systematic trading as the only way to trade. He says there are some great traders out there that aren’t systematic traders. However, the majority of people need a system to be successful. So how does Robert define a system? He says a system must be objective, repeatable, and transferable. If you can’t get the same results using a different person then it is not a true system. The rules must be transferable from one person to another and the results must be objective and repeatable. Most do not have a good understanding of statistics, and they get confused in thinking that the more complicated a system is, the better it must be.

Robert and Michael move on to discuss behavioral finance, prospect theory and the difference between trend following and high frequency trading. A high frequency trading system is harder for traders to meddle with than trend following systems. The trading time frames are much shorter in high frequency trading which lessens the opportunity for human intervention. Most traders fail because of their own meddling. If you can avoid the temptation to change your system then you will be more profitable in the long run.

Working for a company like AHL would have been interesting to see from the inside during 2008. Michael asks, “What were you seeing from the ground in 2008? How did that change you and how you viewed systems?” Robert says it showed him that people truly don’t know what is happening or going to happen. Systematic traders, including himself, were able to make money because their systems saved them. When their systems saw markets going down, stops helped them exit trades and even go short in some cases. This is where all the money was made. Robert does say there are rare times you should intervene with your trading system. For example, he was forced to modify one of his systems when he found out there was going to be a coup in Thailand and the currency was going to be suspended. It’s not that he thought he could forecast what the price was going to do better than the system, but he did know trading that market was going to be impossible. Robert says there has been maybe three other times when he has had to intervene with his system. They are rare and extreme circumstances.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Unpredictable risk vs. Predictable risk
  • Systematic trading
  • High frequency trading vs. Trend following trading
  • Black swans
  • When to intervene with your system
  • 2008 crash
Jan 18, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel talks prediction. He opens with an excerpt from Seth Godin on how he thinks 2016 will unfold. His predictions are based on events that have always happened and will always happen, poking fun at the idea of having a “crystal ball look” into the future.

Michael moves on to market timing and reads an excerpt from The Institutional Investor titled, “Market Timing is Back in the Hunt for Investors.” The article states that market timing can be done correctly if you use a combination of trend following and contrarian views. Michael disagrees with the article stating that you need diversification. You can’t pick one stock and try and predict the top or bottom. Making that kind of bet on one market will bankrupt you. You need a portfolio of diverse markets so your winners can pay for your losses.

Michael then plays three clips from Daniel Kahneman on overconfidence, playing odds, and why we make the choices we do when spending money. Most of what we read in the paper is about overconfidence. People put a lot more weight on negative events then on positive ones. However, many decisions people make are optimistic. Kahneman says it is good that we have a lot of optimism in society. Unfortunately, over confidence and loss aversion seem to work in opposite directions. Most do not know the odds when they take risks. People save and borrow at the same time. Investors tend to view each stock they buy as an individual account rather than part of a bigger picture. These are just a few examples of how society as a whole is generally narrow-minded. Kahneman shows how intricately trading and psychology are linked together throughout the three clips. Michael finishes up the podcast with Ed Seykota singing.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Diversification
  • Seth Godin’s 2016 predictions
  • Market timing
  • Understanding psychology in trading
  • Pitfalls of overconfidence
Jan 15, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Peter Gray. Peter is an American psychologist who currently occupies the position of research professor of psychology at Boston College. He is also a well known critic of standard learning systems, and calls himself an evolutionary developmental psychologist. He studies why children are the way they are by asking questions like: Why are children so playful? Why are they so willful? Why do children do what they do?

Peter starts the podcast off saying, “There is an issue with the resilience of young people today.” Since the 1950’s there has been an increase of psychological problems among youth. Counselors are being flooded with trivial issues that in earlier years students would have taken care of themselves. Roommate issues, bad grades, breakups, etc. are a few examples of issues students are now deciding they need to see psychotherapists for. It’s not that people are biologically different than previous generations, it’s that our world has become radically different than the past. Children used to spend a lot more time away from adults, where they have to make their own decisions. They used to learn how to deal with bully’s on their own or getting lost and having to find their own way home.

Peter argues that as long as we are overly protective of young people, they will never grow up. Kids need to have the time and opportunity to get out in the world and figure out what they really enjoy. We aren’t letting children experiment, take risks and fail. Even sports have been taken away from the kids. Adult directed sports don’t let kids have creativity to solve their own problems. Children learn the most from playing with other children and taking adults out of the equation. Kids who are “play deprived” have real social consequences. Peter shares an experiment done with young monkeys. One group of monkeys got to play with other monkeys their own age, the other group of monkeys were only around their parents, not other adolescents to play with. The ones who were not able to play were socially incompetent. They would either get overly aggressive or nervous around others their own age. Over the past 50 years there has been a continuous decline of play between young children. Hence, you can see the rapid increase in social and emotional disorders among youth. Michael and Peter finish up discussing ways of implicating free play back into society.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Hunter gatherer cultures
  • Self-reliance
  • Evolution of development in youth
  • Pros and cons of video games
  • Ways of implicating free play back into society
Jan 11, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel starts off talking about goal setting for 2016. He reads a 100 day fitness regimen for 2016. The challenge clearly lays out what is expected, and has concrete rules in place. In contrast, he plays a clip form CNBC with a headline that reads, “Stocks to buy and hold for 50 Years.” Michael tears their predictions apart. He says betting on others “current flavor of the day” stock picks are not how you want to plan your next 50 years.

“Top Stock Picks from 2016” is the next article Michael reads from. “Pro Michael Farr shares his best bets for the market next year including oil stocks, healthcare and consumer staples.” Farr starts off by giving an overwhelming amount of fundamental data to back up his stock picks. In the middle of giving his fundamental data however, he acknowledges that he does not have a crystal ball (and is guessing). He then goes on to guess oil prices will be higher rather than lower three years from now. Michael uses his statement as an example of prediction without foundation.

Michael moves on to diversification. If you trade in the direction of the stock pickers he brought on today, then where is your diversification? Research has shown that you need diversification. If you put all your money into Facebook or Chevron, as his market guru examples have told you to do, then where will you be in 10 years if those companies go the wrong way? Put together a diversified portfolio with rules for entering and exiting. Know how much you are going to trade. Have a plan in place so you can be successful.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Diversification
  • Goal setting for 2016
  • Crystal ball prediction
  • The importance of rules in goal setting
Jan 8, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Ron Friedman. Ron is an award winning social psychologist that specializes in human motivation. He is author of “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Work Place.” His book consists of over 1,000 academic studies that have been boiled down.

Michael and Ron start talking about factors that contribute to employee dissatisfaction. Ron says there are three main needs that we, as humans, need fulfilled: Competence, relatedness, and autonomy. There is clear evidence showing that when you have happy workers, you have a much more productive company. Free snacks and coffee, for example, make workers feel more at ease and productive in their workplace. Michael then asks, “How do you define a ‘workplace’.” Ron says that work use to be just confined to an office. Now a workplace could be anywhere you have a cellphone connection. Michael then asks, “How do you create success in the workplace?” Giving employees the opportunity to fail is one way to create success. However, it is the risk taking chances that are encouraged, not failure due to incompetence or laziness. Failure helps you learn and to improve for the next time. That is how you get a creative and innovative team. Getting in the habit of physically writing down what you learned from your failures is a great exercise to help you move forward and grow.

Michael and Ron then move on to the idea of flow in the workplace. Flow is the moment where you are so enthralled with the work you are doing that you forget time. Flow is more common in work then we realize. Video games are a great example of providing a flow experience. Video games give us immediate feedback, immediate recognition, and they provide progressive difficulty. Unfortunately most work environments are structured opposite of this thinking. 80% of people are not engaged at their work. Not being properly challenged is one reason for lack of engagement.

Michael and Ron talk about actionable steps to make a workplace better. Ron says that our physical surroundings affect our mindset greatly. Ceiling height affects your level of creativity, and personalizing your work space makes you more comfortable. He discovered that employees that sit by a window focus better and do better at their job. You can predict how satisfied employees are by the amount of daylight they are exposed to. Afternoon naps are another great tool. We have a biological need for rest that is just as pressing as our need for food or water. If we re-stock our brains with a 20 minute nap, it increases productivity. On the same note, the food you take in and how much you exercise affects how you think. It puts you in a better mood, helps you collaborate better with others, and go home feeling more satisfied. This is critical to employees long-term engagement. Michael and Ron finish up asking “How do you see the workplace unfolding into the future?”

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Flow in the Workplace
  • Creating a good work space
  • Disconnecting from work after hours
  • Creating balance in your life
  • Importance of exercise and naps
Jan 4, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel begins with a clip from the creator of the psychological concept of flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The first question Mihaly asks is, “What is the meaning of happiness? If each one of us is responsible and in control of our happiness, then how do you obtain happiness?” People feel the most happy when they are able to express who they really are. When people express their strengths, they are able to say, “Yes, this is who I am.” It makes life suddenly matter and creates happiness. Mihaly came up with the term “flow” from people he would interview and study. When they would describe being truly happy, they would describe the feeling as being carried by a current and floating along.

Mihaly brings up a personal experience from fighting in WWII. He said when people lost their property and personal belongings, most would crumble. This is when he became interested in the differences between people who were able to be strong internally as opposed to those who needed to lean on society and what it could provide for them. He says, “Everyone is the master of their own destiny and should not allow themselves to be pulled by the strings of fortune or fame.”

Mihaly then goes into how to gain flow in your own life. The first step is to be totally focused on an intention. How can you organize your life so you can have that focus everyday? Flow rarely just happens. You have to work at it and prepare yourself mentally, but you can get to the point where you don’t have to think about what you are doing. It just flows naturally. Mihaly uses surgeons and rock climbers as examples. Both disciplines require great concentration and muscle coordination. Once you are in the zone, you aren’t aware of anything else such as being a father, husband or what you are having for dinner. You are there simply as a surgeon or rock climber, present in the moment, flowing from one task to another in order to accomplish the end goal.

Michael then goes on to play another clip from Csikszentmihalyi where he talks about the “struggling artist.” He makes the point that you don’t have to be tortured to be creative. He goes into a study he did that showed extraordinary people mostly come from lower class or upper class families. He found that people who came from a fairly comfortable childhood didn’t seem to find the need to stretch and challenge themselves. Michael brings it all together with a thought provoking excerpt from Alan Watts.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • What is flow
  • How does flow happen
  • Dealing with worry
  • Addiction to thoughts
  • How to obtain happiness
Jan 1, 2016

Today on Trend Following Radio Michael Covel interviews Dr. Jason Williams. Jason is author of “The Mental Edge in Trading.” While going to medical school Jason fell in love with the brain and psychiatry. He was fascinated with figuring out all the different ways the brain worked. While finishing his psychiatry degree at John Hopkins he started working on a research project giving psychology tests to traders. The goal was to see if they could find any common themes among traders and how they think during trading. There are many similarities and he has built up a side business helping traders get in touch with their mental game.

Jason uses a test called the NEO PI-R. He explains the differences between the NEO PI-R and other personality tests such as Myers Briggs. He says that if you take Myers Briggs, and take it again a week later, the results are different 50% of the time. Myers Briggs gives extreme generalizations. It simply says if you are an extrovert or introvert and doesn’t go much deeper. Jason brings up horse jockeys and basketball players as examples. You can be tall, but not tall enough to be a pro basketball player. On the same note, you can be short, but not short enough to be a horse jockey. Looking at the extremes is critical. You need to look at not just if you are tall or short, but actually ask, “How tall are you? How short are you?”

“Once I know my personality, then what?” Jason says you need to ask yourself: What are my traits? Where am I on the scale? How can I use these to my advantage? How are they getting in my way? The NEO is a 5 factor model; neuroticism, extroversion, openness, agreeableness, and consciousness. Each trait has six sub-traits. Jason goes into depth with examples for all of the personality traits. For the most part, everyone has a personality and is unique. Sometimes the test will show you some “A-ha” surprise moments that give you a little more self-awareness. However, most people are in the middle of a personality trait scale. According to the laws of evolutionary psychology you don’t want to be too high or too low on the scales. It could drown out the logical or rational side of the brain.

One common thread Jason found between traders was that most have very low anxiety levels. Knowing when you are feeling anxious in the markets but not having the anxiety be so overwhelming that you are not executing correctly is important. Anxiety is what pushes you on and is somewhat of a barometer. The successful traders are able to adapt a trading strategy to their personality. He says it took his father, Larry Williams, some time to realize that it was better to create systems himself and let others execute. Sometimes it is better to adapt to your personality than try and change it.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Using your personality to your advantage
  • Psychology of trading
  • What is the NEO PI-R test?
  • Why anxiety is important in trading
  • Commonalities among traders
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