In This Episode
We have a very special interview segment this week – a “trader’s roundtable” with three Stansberry colleagues who have spent years trading stock options, here to show their strategies and takes on what 2020 could bring for investors.
As every year winds down, it’s natural to reflect on how the market’s done for the last 12 months. But Dan says there are only two specific situations where it actually pays off – and now is one of the times to take a hard look at the overall stock market.
With market valuations hitting new highs and leaving millions of investors both fearful of missing out on more upside, and frantic to protect themselves from what they know has to come eventually, you won’t want to miss this trio’s insights on preparing for 2020.
NOTES & LINKS
- To follow Dan’s most recent work at Extreme Value, click here.
1:49: Dan reflects on the state of the stock market at the end of 2019 – and what the right thing to do is when the market’s rising, flat or falling, at least most of the time.
5:15: Dan puts the stock market’s valuation in historical perspective, and what 2019 has in common with 1929. “Only ignore this if you think it’s different this time.”
10:09: Computing power has doubled roughly every 18 months since the 1960s, and this wave of AI-powered algorithms would threaten to dry up investing opportunities actual humans could stumble upon – except, Dan says, for one thing.
16:25: Dan introduces the Stansberry “trader’s roundtable” analysts here today – Ben Morris and Drew McConnell of DailyWealth Trader, and Greg Diamond of Ten Stock Trader.
21:56: Dan asks each of the three technical analysis traders for their views on where the market stands and what 2020 could bring, and each explains why they’re bullish.
30:48: Greg explains how he deviates in his technical analysis from most traders – including an assessment of where traders, and their cumulative billions of dollars, are “trapped” and create profit opportunities.
41:30: Ben reveals what he does as a trader when action seems out of place. “I think when you can see these things in the market that just don’t seem to make sense, the price action let’s you know there’s something there worth keeping an eye on.”
48:35: Dan asks the traders’ roundtable about specific opportunities they see in sectors today, and the trio expands on what they see, from health care to homebuilders.
53:30: Each of the traders gives their parting thoughts on the markets and tips to navigate the short term.
57:55: Brendan K. from the mailbag asks Dan about tax loss harvesting, and how to use positions he’s down on but still holds to reduce tax burdens.
Opening: Broadcasting from Baltimore, Maryland, and all around the world, you're listening to the Stansberry Investor Hour. Tune in each Thursday, on iTunes, for the latest episodes of the Stansberry Investor Hour. Sign up for the free show hour archive, at investorhour.com. Here is your host, Dan Ferris.
Dan Ferris: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Stansberry Investor Hour. I am your host, Dan Ferris. I'm also the editor of Extreme Value, a value-investing service published by Stansberry Research. We have a very, very special show, today. We have a really special interview segment, this week. We'll talk with not one, not two, but three – count them, three – of my Stansberry colleagues, all of whom have spent years trading stocks, options, and who knows what else. I'm really curious to get their three separate takes on the current overall market conditions, and to find out, you know, just what they do and how they do it. And if there are any pockets of opportunity that are especially attractive to them, right now.
Now, before we get to the interview, I have a couple things on my mind. First of all, thank you very much to everyone who wrote in with book and other reading recommendations. I went to Amazon and bought two of them right away: Street Freak, by Jared Dillian, and As You Wish, by Cary Elwes [and Joe Layden], both recommended by listener Joe M. Thanks Joe, can't wait to get started on those two. OK, so, besides what to read, I'm also thinking about the overall stock market this week – end of the year, making new highs – it just seemed like something that was drawing my attention. And I've done this often over the past couple of years, of course, and I'll just remind you, mostly, I think it's a big mistake, to spend a lot of [laughs] time thinking about the overall market.
I've learned, from experience, that it's a waste of time, in most years. You know, whether it's up or down 5, 10, or 20%, or totally flat, most years, you should just ignore it. Mostly, when the stock market falls, you should just buy it. That'll be the right thing to do most of the time. So it's not worth contemplating whether a particular, you know, 5% drop or something is the beginning of a full-blown-market route. Most of the time, all that is true.
However, when it is the right time to think about it, and if you get it right, or anywhere close to right, I think you'll wind up doing 10 times better than folks who either ignore it all together or get it wrong. So, it's really worth thinking about when it's worth thinking about. Now I contend that there are two times when it pays to think about the attractiveness of the overall stock market. One, when stocks are near historical valuation peaks, and two, when they're near historical valuation troughs. Right? So when they're more expensive, generally, than they've been in their history, and when they're cheaper, generally, than they've been in their history – at the real peaks and troughs, at the extremes.
So before I say one more word, yes, I'm aware that valuation is a lousy timing mechanism, and we'll be talking with our interview guests today about what makes a good timing mechanism. But it's not valuation, so don't write in about that [laughs] – I already know that, OK? But now is one of those times when I think you need to think about the overall stock market. We've been at or near historical valuation peaks for two years, so even though I continue to do bottom-up research and recommend individual equities for the Extreme Value newsletter, I also continue to counsel caution to investors doing the same. As I've said before, with the stock market making brand-new all-time highs, recently, _____ _____ it looks like the wrong viewpoint today, and except for a few unpleasant episodes the last two years, it has been wrong.
And I persist in finding these good bottom-up equity ideas. This year, Mike Barret and I in Extreme Value added 12 of them that I think are pretty good ideas. And my other Stansberry colleagues have found some really good ones, too. But I can't help noting what economist and asset manager John Hussman recently published. I don't follow all of his work, but his material on the valuation – the history of the valuation, I should say – of the overall stock market is unequaled. I believe it is the best work of its kind before the public today. And his work supports my thesis that you shouldn't worry about it most of the time – a mistake Hussman himself admits to making.
It also supports the idea that, right now, stocks are more expensive than at any time in history, including the 1929 peak. So, only if you believe that it's different this time should you ignore the valuation of the stock market today. And we all know what the answer to that is, right? It's never different this time. Hussman has chosen five metrics that correlate very well, historically, with the subsequent 10- and 12-year returns in U.S. stocks. So when stocks have gotten where they are today in terms of valuation, historically speaking, the 10- and 12-year returns have been awful. They've been, like, flat to negative.
It hasn't happened often, so you know, you can complain about the lack of enough datapoints to be statistically significant, and I hear ya. But you can't change history. And I understand that history doesn't repeat – it only rhymes. And you know, it doesn't always rhyme in ways that you can figure out beforehand, right? But the bottom line is really simple, I think: If you believe that the price you pay relative to the value you receive is an extremely important part of the investing equation, you have to conclude that there's more risk in U.S. stocks, today, than most of the time. Right? This is one of those two times.
Most of the time, you don't worry about it. Right now, you do. So you know, you've heard me say that a bunch of times, right? So I want to do something that I don't – you know, I always try to entertain sort of alternative viewpoints on things, and I do entertain ideas that might indicate I'm missing something very important in all my bearishness and worry about stocks making new highs and being more expensive than any time in history. For example, earlier this week, Joel Litman of Altmetry Research said equity market sentiment is in the doldrums, like it was in 2001 and 2003. And he noted that margin debt has fallen from its highs, leading him to believe the bull market has more room to run before you need to start getting worried. OK?
So, and another example that might indicate I'm missing something, listener Dan M. responded to my request, last week, for book and other reading ideas with a link to an article from Institutional Investor magazine, called "A Mysterious Force Took Over Investing. I Know What It Is," by former hedge-fund analyst Christopher Schelling. And Schelling notes that the decline and performance of actively managed stock and bond funds over the last couple decades or so – but especially since 2007, he noted that. And he also notes, like, Berkshire Hathaway's outperformance continued until 2008, and it's struggled since then, right along with all the other active managers, right?
And he says the cause of all this underperformance by the active managers is that 99% of all the data in existence has been created since 2007, and computers are much better at processing data than humans, if I read him correctly. Part of the point of the article is that growth has beaten value often, especially since 2007, but even longer than that because of the proliferation of the data and the ability of rapid advances in computer processing power, to make sense of a world increasingly awash in more and more data. And Schelling says, "Much has been written about how artificial intelligence and machine learning are expected to revolutionize investing. Frankly, a lot of that has been pure hype.
"But what has been lost in that noise is the undeniable fact that the massive, muscular increase in raw computing power has automated, and obviated, most of the previously manual aggregation and analysis of financial data." He uses the word "obviate." "Obviate" means to remove some difficulty, to make things easier. [Laughs] So, looking at the output of a stock screener on a computer is a lot easier and more efficient than what Warren Buffett used to do back in the day. Buffett said he used to find incredible bargains like really good companies trading for two times earnings, just by turning the pages of the Moody's Investor Guide. You know, one of those guides they used to publish, in the old days, where, like, there was one stock per page, and it was loaded with data on one page, and, you know, it just had stock after stock.
And Buffett, you know, used to thumb through these things, and found bargains. And you can't do that, anymore, really. I mean you know, maybe every now and then, but in general, it's just not that easy anymore. Computers could do that work and buy the cheap stocks in the market, [snaps] like that, in an instant. Schelling notes that computing power has doubled roughly every 18 months or so, since the 1960s, in accordance with Moore's law. And even though it's doubling at a slower rate today, it's still vastly outperforming the human brain. [Laughs] Right? He notes the human brain hasn't changed in 200,000 years.
Now computers can't do a lot of stuff humans can do, but they can do things like play games. They can beast humans at any boardgame, for example, including complex games like chess and go. Schelling concludes it's too easy for a computer to do things like basic value investing. Finding the cheapest stocks by price to book, price to cashflow, or other simple value metrics, is much easier than playing chess and go. So, there's not as much opportunity in those areas anymore, he says. I think all this is mostly true.
Except that one little thing, humans are the ones making all the decisions here. Humans are doing the buying and selling, not the computers. Right? Humans are telling the computers what to do, there's humans behind all of this. At the very least, you must concede that computers are doing the buying and selling at the behest of their human masters is what I'm saying. I'll never forget when Steve Sjuggerud and I, many years ago, went to visit one of the TurtleTrader companies – I won't say which one it was – and we had a little tour of the place, and we talked to one of the vice-presidents, and – and he told us, he said, "If a trader does not trade a signal put out by the computer, it's a fire-able offense." Right? You can get fired for not doing what the computer tells you, in other words.
OK, that was interesting. And we walk around a little more, and we walk into the trading floor, and he says, "Here's our head trader. I'm going to leave you in his hands for a few minutes." [Laughs] So, the head trader says – you know, they were very... you know, we signed an NDA, right? Nondisclosure... so they told us everything we wanted to know. And this is a long time ago, so I can tell you the story now without getting sued, right? And I'm not telling you what the firm was.
So he shows us this trade the computer spit out, like, minutes before, and it was cable, which is otherwise known as – the British pound is referred to as "cable." And it had gone down five days in a row, and the computer said to short it. And he showed us the chart, and it showed this thing dropping five days in a row, and he looked at us and he said, "But do you really want to sell it after five days of this?" Meaning, it's got to snap back before it falls any further, right? So at that moment, I was, like, "Well, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute, not trading the signal is a fire-able offense."
And I didn't say that because I didn't want to, you know, I didn't want to cause a problem [laughs] for the guy, but I walked away thinking, "There's a lot more going on, here, than mindlessly doing what the computer tells you." And I think that is still very much the case today. But of course, there are people who set up computers to do buying and selling, the high-frequency traders, right, they buy and sell in milliseconds. My bottom line on all of this is that humans will always be human, they'll always pour money into ideas that have worked well for a long time. And that money will eventually always turn those ideas into bad ideas, if they stick with them long enough – if they don't turn them into outright toxic waste.
Look, if you can turn the U.S. 30-year mortgage into toxic waste by putting too much money into it, and if you can turn the sovereign debt of developed Western nations into toxic waste – like they've done today with trillions of dollars of negative yielding debt – then I promise you, putting too much money into anything can turn anything into toxic waste. Humans will always be human... we'll never cure humans of their humanity. When they're in love with an investment idea, it still becomes a lousy idea, whether they bought it because a computer program told them to or not. And when humans ignore certain ideas because they performed poorly, or when the computers ignore certain ideas because they performed poorly, they'll become good ideas, no matter what any computers anywhere is programmed to do.
So, I think it's a big mistake to dismiss Schelling's insights out of hand, right? Because those computers are part of your competition in the market. But I also think it's a mistake to believe that the value effect, for example, is permanently gone from markets because computers can sweep the data for bargains faster than humans. As long as humans are humans, value investing will endure. Now my discussion about share repurchase, in the last three episodes, and my discussion today of why I'm still bearish, underscore – I hope they do, for you, I hope they underscore – my overall view that investing in stocks is difficult and complex, requiring investors to entertain, at times, multiple competing viewpoints. Like Charlie Munger says, "If you think it's easy, you're stupid."
Now we don't want to be stupid around here, and I think not being stupid is a much better thing to do than trying to be especially clever. But, you know, on the other hand, I don't want investing in stocks to seem undoable. I don't think it's undoable – it's just complicated and difficult, like everything else in this life that is worth doing.
All right, that's all I have to say about that. Let's talk with our three traders and see if they can help us get a handle on what's happening today. And I must warn you, these are three smart experienced guys. I seriously doubt they'll see things exactly the same way, so, hopefully, you'll get some more competing viewpoints to deal with. And that is a good thing.
Dan Ferris: OK, it's time for our interview. This week, I have something very special for you. I thought it would be really cool to have a little kind of a traders' roundtable, with not one, not two, but three of my Stansberry colleagues. And we have for you, today, Mr. Ben Morris and Mr. Drew McConnell, who take care of a publication called DailyWealth Trader for Stansberry Research. And we have Mr. Greg Diamond, who does the Ten Stock Trader publication for Stansberry Research.
So, I'm going to ask them some questions, and talk about their various views on things, at the moment. And I think we should start – if I could just – maybe we'll start in alphabetical order and we'll go like, Ben, Drew, Greg. If we could just start with you, Ben, and just – is it possible for you to sum up, briefly, what it is you're trying to do with each issue of the DailyWealth Trader?
Ben Morris: Yeah, sure Dan.
Dan Ferris: Is that too broad a question for you?
Ben Morris: No – I write it every day, so it's not an issue at all. Yeah, what Drew and I do with DailyWealth Trader – what our goal is – is first, to educate people and keep new traders safe in the world of trading that is often – often has a lot of people touting huge gains and, you know, taking enormous risks. So we try and put all that in context, and show people, really, how to create low downside, high-upside trades. That's No. 1. And then, No. 2, we provide people with a lot of trade ideas, so they can achieve their financial goals, safely. And you know, we're traders but we're not looking to take big risks.
Dan Ferris: OK, that sums it up really well. Drew, anything to add to that?
Drew McConnell: I would just add that we also do a lot of commentary on the market, so if there's something big that's going on, we usually cover it and provide our insights. And it's not always what you're going to see elsewhere in the media – we kind of look at things a little bit differently. So, that's the one other aspect I would say we cover in DailyWealth Trader.
Dan Ferris: OK, great. How about you, Greg, what do you try to do each time you put out an issue of the Ten Stock Trader?
Greg Diamond: Well, my service is a little different in the fact that I have an app, a Ten Stock Trader app, that you guys can download, those who are listening – and it's – I also do a weekly outlook as well. And basically, what I'm trying to do is, you know, [laughs] about a year-and-a-half ago, Porter kind of tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You know, I want you to be more on the aggressive side," meaning, options. So I trade naked long options, which tends to be very risky, but I stress, you know, as Ben said, you know, it can be risky, but I stress risk management in terms of position sizing. But basically, what I'm looking for are big moves in the market.
I'm looking for volatility. And that's where, you know, long option trading can get you some big gains. And so, that's the trading strategy around it, Ten Stock Trader, and then, you know, with the app, I'm continuously, throughout the day, updating subscribers on various levels, various setups, and looking at things that are happening in the market, which I'm sure we'll get to _____ there's no shortage of today. And so you know, it's kind of a constant, you know, almost like I was trading – I work for a hedge fund, I work for pension fund, I work for a bank – trading various asset classes. And you know, you're constantly in a battle, you know, you're in the weeds, every day. And so I try to take as much of that environment and put it into the service, Ten Stock Trader, here at Stansberry.
Dan Ferris: OK, so definitely two different perspectives on trading. And before we go any further, I just want to say a word about my own view on technical analysis. Because the three guys I'm talking to today, they actually do it and they actually know how to do it. And I don't know how to do it. And I think there's the belief – among at least one of the group – that I really think technical analysis is not a good thing, and that's not true, at all. Sometimes, I am critical of the way, you know, like, naïve beginning investors do technical analysis. You know, that's when I start talking about, you know, it's random.
They see these patterns, like seeing, you know, faces in clouds or Jesus on toast or whatever, and they think – I'm afraid that too many people think technical analysis is supposed to be easy. But nothing in life that's worth doing is easy, and these guys, you just heard Greg talking, you just heard Ben and Drew, I mean, this is not easy. They show up every day, and they have a lot of experience under their belts, and a lot of study, and – so, that's just the difference. And in case anybody thinks I'm against technical analysis, that's not it at all. I just think most people – most people look at it the wrong way, but not the three guys on our program, today. So with that said, guys, I want to get to the big enchilada, first.
And the big enchilada is your current view on where the stock market is headed, the overall equity market. And I just want to make sure I get it right, here. Ben and Drew, you guys are basically in a pretty bullish stance, right now.
Ben Morris: Yes.
Dan Ferris: I think, from what I've read? Yeah, and, Drew, you're looking for a pretty big downward move, correct?
Greg Diamond: You mean Greg?
Dan Ferris: I'm sorry, Greg. Greg, yeah.
Greg Diamond: That's all right. In the short term, I think we're going to see some volatility, but in the long term, I am bullish, just – [laughs] you know, maybe we'll get to it, but nothing else matters other than the Federal Reserve.
Dan Ferris: I see, OK, good to know. All right, so it's interesting to me, then, that I perceived it one way, and you're kind of correcting me a little bit there, Greg. Because you know, for example, you did put out a thing, recently, that I took it as kind of bearish, when you were talking about the [crosstalk].
Greg Diamond: Ah, are you talking about the semiconductors in Korea?
Dan Ferris: Yeah.
Greg Diamond: Sure. So again, you know, you can have these – and I think this is, you know, kind of going back to what trading is. You know, there's no difference between trading and investing, other than your time horizon. Trading is simply short-term investing. And so, you know, you look for, Dan, you know, Extreme Value, you look for longer, you know, five-, 10-, 20-year trends, and we look for five-day, five-minute, five-week trends. So, it just depends on your time horizon _____ try to extract that alpha, and using technical analysis, you know, you can kind of, you know, use different things to be able to tell you – or at least give a probability. Because we all deal in probability, no matter, you know, what kind of methodology you use.
So you use that probability to tell you, "OK, you know, I think at this point, you know, there is a five-day window where stocks are going to do x, y, z." And so yes, over, you know, some of those things that I pointed out, between the semiconductors and the Korean KOSPI? That told me that, you know, there is going to be some type of short-term pullback, and we're seeing that, this week. So, it just – it's a matter of time horizon for me.
Dan Ferris: I see. And Ben – I'll just go to you – you guys are decidedly bullish, and yet, it's –
Ben Morris: Yeah, so I'll just say, it's interesting that – Greg definitely operates on a much shorter timeframe than we do. Our trades generally last between one month and, say, six months. So, we are bullish in the six-month time horizon, even probably shorter than that. But over the next month, definitely cautious. I mean, we've seen a big run higher, and while we're not going short, here, we do think it's a great time to hold off on placing new trades. So, yeah, bullish longer -term, cautious short -term.
Greg Diamond: And if I could just jump in there, Dan, you know, Ben's comment just reminded me of something. So you know, you talk about different horizons, you talk about, you know, he says one to six months. And with myself trading long options, you know, you deal with something called theta, which is time decay. So not only, yes, I'm trying to create that volatility, or, not create that volatility, capture that volatility, but you're not just fighting against, you know, the direction of the market, you're also fighting against time. Now, when you get it right, you make a lot of money. When you get it wrong, you know, the good thing about naked long options is you know exactly what your loss is going to be, which is the initial investment.
But you know, again, it goes to the different views that, or the different methodologies that Ben and Drew use, as opposed to what I use, so there's different – you know, I think if subscribers out there are going to try to get into technical analysis, I think the combination of both products are really a great way to start.
Dan Ferris: Yeah, yeah, I would have to agree with that. I mean, it sounds very self-serving of us to say that, but it really makes a lot of sense. OK, so, time horizons are generally different between the two of you, and yet, longer-term, you both say, you know, you're probably on the bullish side, even if you're bearish in the shorter term.
Ben Morris: Yeah and for me, long-term is maybe the next year. I'm not looking out much past that.
Dan Ferris: I see. And, Greg, for you the same thing when you say longer-term, a year?
Greg Diamond: Yeah, I would say, you know, at least going into the next election, that would be my time, so, yeah, a year.
Dan Ferris: So, yeah, about a year. How about you, Drew, same thing?
Drew McConnell: Yeah, I would say the same thing, so I'm kind of leaning the same way that Greg is. In the shorter-term, we've turned a bit more cautious, because markets have had a huge rally, here, and sentiment got extremely stretched. And we like to look at a couple of different things, you know, there's put/call ratios, there's distance from moving averages, you know, you can look at whatever you want. But over the past couple weeks, almost all of them have reached extremely bullish territory, so we've kind of pulled in the reins a bit. But longer-term, the way that I see the market is that we had a huge run leading up into 2018, and then, really, we've had a sideways consolidation.
Yeah, it was very volatile and we had a lot of up and downs, but now we are just breaking out of this again to the upside, and that's bullish. So, over the next year or two years, I want to focus on finding longs on weakness, not trying to short this market.
Dan Ferris: I see, that makes a lot of sense. And if I could just start with you, Ben, I want to talk a little bit about technical analysis. Because like I said before, I'm afraid that too many people think of it as it should be an easy way, you know, like, a button you could push to make money come out of the machine or something. And I don't think that's what it is at all. [Laughs] So, maybe, I don't know, can you talk a little bit about, you know, how you learned to do this, and, you know, what the – you know, what is the core – what are the core ideas for understanding technical analysis?
Ben Morris: Yeah, so, that's a big question. I'd say – I learned from doing, and reading a lot of books, and just seeing what works, and looking at tons and tons of charts. Everybody has the things that they like to look at. For me, the trend is the most important thing. I use the 50- and 200-day moving averages as my primary trends, 50 being intermediate-term, 200 days long-term. To me, a bullish chart is trading above its rising moving averages, and bearish is trading below its falling moving averages. That's one thing. And I also like to look at volume, the amount of shares it trades in a day.
When there's a lot of shares traded in a day or a week when the stock is moving higher, it means that the buyers are in control, the buyers are pushing the price higher, and there are a lot of people interested. When there's a big volume spike on a day or a week when the asset is moving lower, the bears are in control, the sellers. So that provides a kind of context – I don't usually trade just on that, but it provides support for what I'm looking at. And then, the other thing is that I look at certain levels, old highs, old lows, and, again, the moving averages, as a way to define risk. So if you're buying a stock and you can get in near the old lows, that may mean you can set a really tight stop loss, without taking too much downside risk. And that can be a good thing for increasing your position size, potentially, with still limiting your risk. So yeah, that's the main things I look at.
Dan Ferris: So, the trend is my friend.
Ben Morris: That's right.
Dan Ferris: [Laughs] That's right. How about you, Drew, what – you know, how did you come to learn technical analysis, and what's – you know, is there, like, a core principle at the heart of it for you?
Drew Morris: So I think I look at technical analysis a little bit differently than other people, and you may be surprised to hear that. I'm actually not a huge fan of a lot of technical indicators. The basis for most of the things that I do in trading is really basic, basic technical analysis. I look at horizontal support and resistance, so [laughs] that's a real simple thing: just look at, you know, recent highs and lows like Ben said. And then, I like to try and look at where traders are trapped. So, are there places that people maybe sold short that was at a bad level, and then they're going to have to cover to get out of their positions?
Or vice-versa, are there places where people bought when prices were a little bit too high, and now they've got to sell to get out of their positions? Those types of moves are often based on emotion, and they create exaggerated moves where you can profit pretty quickly. So personally, I mean, I learned a lot of that through experience, unfortunately, [laughs] trying out a lot of different indicators, reading about different types of trading styles, and seeing things that worked and didn't work. And a lot of things just did not really work out for me, but there's – I mean, there's an infinite number of books or the Internet, where you can find pretty much everything you want to know about technical analysis.
Dan Ferris: OK, Greg, the same question.
Greg Diamond: I'll actually start with a story, and it's how it got me into technical analysis. So, my first trading job was with a commodity trading advisor called Campbell & Company in Baltimore. And my boss at the time had worked for a legend, Paul Tudor Jones, and, you know, I was young, I was 21, and I was actually studying for my CFA, which is the quintessential fundamental charter holder, or membership, whatever you want to call it, certificate. And he said, "What are you doing?" and I said, "Well, isn't this what everybody does?" And he said, "If you want to understand trading, if you want to understand how to make money, if you want to understand the ins and outs of how markets move, why markets move," he goes, "Burn that book, and learn – understand technical analysis. Understand why the markets do the way – why markets move the way that they do."
And so, that kind of set me on a whole different path I didn't think was possible, or just that I didn't even anticipate. And so I went on to get my CMT, which is the Chartered Market Technician's certificate, and, you know, that's kind of where my technical career took off. And I think what a lot of – and you kind of touched on this, earlier, Dan, in terms of, you know, the beginner, the Jesus on a toast, you know, the – people love to talk about different patterns and stuff like that, head and shoulders, double tops, double bottoms, stuff like that. And it's not that that doesn't matter. But what people need to understand about technical analysis is that there's nothing new under the sun.
And that when you're looking at a chart, you're really looking at the collective behavior of all the investors at one time, whatever time period you're looking at. And so, human behavior never changes, and if human behavior never changes, then guess what happens with, you know, price behavior. That never changes, either. It's not to say it's static. My point is, is that, it goes in different cycles, it goes in different trends, it happens over and over and over and over again. And the more you study that, the more you'll understand that, again, you deal in probabilities, but this is why I love technical analysis is because, it's not just telling you what's happening, but it also is a risk management tool.
So if I understand that a certain pattern, a certain setup, a certain indicator has done this before and it's going to do it again, and I put that trade on and then that fails, I get out immediately. Because I know that, you know, it's a failed signal, and sometimes that happens. But when it's true signal and you really hit it, you can make a lot of money. So I think there is a misconception about what technical analysis really is and what it means. And you know, I look at a lot of the stuff that Drew and Ben talked about, I also look at time cycles, I look Gann analysis, I look at Elliott Wave Theory.
So some, you know, a little more down the rabbit hole, but I encourage people to be more involved with technical analysis. And it's not to say that fundamental analysis doesn't matter, either – they both have their place. But just to add to your tool kit, I think technical analysis is a great thing to have.
Dan Ferris: Now, when you say add to your tool kit like that, I always wonder about that, Greg, because it's hard to do two things really well in this life. And if I'm a good fundamental bottom-up investor, I become skeptical – the more I do this, the more I become skeptical that I could sort of add technical analysis to my toolkit in that way. So, I mean, does that make sense?
Greg Diamond: No, I understand. I mean, from – look, you're a long-term fundamental guy, so take the long-term technical approach, you know, something like Drew would talk about with a long-term moving average. Or, you know, you're looking at a ten-year chart and you see that you have this volatility – 2018 was a perfect example – and you see some stocks that are, you know, approaching whatever trendline, whatever moving average, whatever oversold level. And you have a five-year horizon and you're, like, "Hey, this thing's on sale, the fundamentals are still in place, and this trendline," or support line or moving average, "is holding. Let's add to our position."
So it doesn't mean that you have to be an expert on it, but to recognize the fact that, you know, there's some type of price behavior occurring around a stock that you like, that has the fundamentals that you look for, I think that's something that you can add. It doesn't mean you have to be an expert.
Dan Ferris: OK, I'm going to start with you, Ben, on this next question. And Greg alluded to this question when he talked about, you know, the price and the market being the sum of what everyone's doing right now. I've heard it said that technical analysis is, in fact, just a way to gauge the psychology of the market. Do you think it's as simple as that? Or is that just kind of another way of looking at it? How do you feel about that view?
Ben Morris: I think that's a huge piece of it. Yeah, like Greg said, price action is the result of group behavior, and, yeah, I think that's the best way to look at it, really. When you see a huge selloff based on a headline, and you can understand that, "Oh, this is what people are feeling, right now. And here's what they're doing because of how they're feeling." If you can understand that, then you'll be able to be a little bit more objective and take a position based on your beliefs that don't necessarily line up with what the mass psychology is at that moment. Especially if it's, you know, something that you think is temporary.
Dan Ferris: OK, now, Drew and Greg, would you generally agree with what Ben just said?
Drew McConnell: Yeah, I think so, I mean, it's all, you know, a piece of the puzzle, and it helps to look at it through that lens. And then, we talked about this today, you know, you can get more things to line up. So when you get the fundamentals of technicals, when you have, right, a sentiment, when those things all come together, you know, that's when the picture is really clear, and that's when you want to invest.
Greg Diamond: Yeah, I would agree. And I would also add [laughs], I can't tell you how many times I've seen, in my career, where something is lining up and it's, "OK, this is a really big setup, but, you know, the media is talking about this, this headline is talking about that." You know, and then, boom, the price action has – it precedes the headline. You see this a lot, you know, the President Trump tweets, or, you know, China comes out with whatever around the trade, or whatever it might be. It's also – it happens a lot around economic data, especially payrolls, so – which is this Friday. Which I tend to love to trade, because I see these setups and I'm, like, "You know what, I think this is going to be a bad number," just based on the price action that I see.
And I know that it might sound weird, but I promise you, if you study technical analysis enough, you'll begin to see it. [Laughs] It doesn't work every time. Again, you know, we deal in probabilities. We're signal gatherers, not signal hunters, so we deal in the probability of the signals that we see. But I can tell you, just from, you know, the 15 years that I've been doing this, that the price action often leads what the headlines come in with afterwards.
Dan Ferris: Now, that is very, very interesting to me, it's very interesting you said that, Greg, because my next question for all of you would've been this: If this really is – if this price action that you guys spend your careers looking at every single day means, you know – is, essentially, a way of gauging the psychology of the market, like, before someone buys and sells something, presumably, they would have already thought and felt that thing. So I understand that we're going to see the headlines after the price action, because that's the way journalism works. But it would seem to me that there's something happening before that price moves, there's some trend at work, and it would be nice, wouldn't it, if there were a way of getting at that before the price moves, you know? I mean – [Laughter]
Drew McConnell: I mean, that's the goal, right? [Laughter]
Ben Morris: Get the newspaper, tomorrow's newspaper, today?
Greg Diamond: That's the goal. And look, it doesn't – you know, it's not that it's – people are, like, "Oh, you're a psychic or something." It has nothing to do with that. Again, it's about dealing in the probability. So, again, I'll go with the economic data, but, you know, if I see this setup and there is – again, you deal with the probability, there's an 80% probability, let's say. And I know that if it crosses x, y, z level, then I'm wrong. But if I'm right and that setup is big, you know, you can make a lot of money. So that's where I see it, and it just, again, it happens all the time, I see it all the time, and it just, it makes you a believer.
And there's nothing perfect, I mean, the old saying that the stock market's sole purpose is to embarrass mankind has some say, there. So you know, as you said at the beginning, you know, there's nothing easy in life, and it takes a lot of work, trust me. But you know, when you start to see these little intricacies within the market, and then around kind of the media and headlines, and what happens, you just begin to have an appreciation for it.
Ben Morris: Another thing to add to that is, you know, sometimes there's price action that just seems out of place, given the context of what's happening in the world. For example, I've noticed, over the last couple of months, steel stocks have been firming up. We recommended a trade on U.S. Steel, a while back, in DailyWealth Trader, and stopped out of it. But considering the whole commentary about slowdown and trade war and all that, you would think steel stocks would just be falling apart. And they've held up reasonably well, and they've climbed over the last month or so. And then there was a deal, announced, I think yesterday, to buy AK Steel – stock shot up about 10% or so, and it was already up probably 30% off its lows.
You know, why are steel stocks going up in this environment? I don't know, but it caught my eye. And then when AK Steel was taken out, you know, I wasn't surprised... there's something going on, there. So, I think when you can see these kind of little things in the market that just don't seem to make sense, and try and figure out what's going on, sometimes you can't figure out what's going on, but just the price action lets you now that there's something happening there, that's worth keeping an eye.
Dan Ferris: That's interesting to me in a couple ways. One of them is, as soon as I hear you say, you know, there's something going on there, my natural inclination is to find out what the heck is. Like, you know, is there some country that's building bridges or, you know, skyscrapers that I should know about, some huge country? But I guess the price action is all you need. Is that too simplified, Ben, or is that just about right?
Ben Morris: Well, it's not all I need. I mean, I'd love to find the fundamental reason for what's going on and look for it. I look for the headlines and look for changes, but a lot of times, like Greg said, the price action precedes the news. So, sometimes you see this weird thing that's going on, and then the news comes out later, so the price action is really helpful, there.
Drew McConnell: Yeah, and you've got to remember that the investors that you're trading against are the biggest banks with the smartest people with the most money and the best computers and the most, you know, developed research teams. They have way more information than we do, and yet, they are trading, you know, well ahead of us. So, they're going to move price action before smaller investors get that information. So the price action is showing you what's likely to happen ahead of time.
Greg Diamond: And I'll even add to that. So, going back to my days at Campbell, I said I was a CTA, commodity trading advisor. That is purely a quant fund – it is model-driven. Meaning we have some unbelievably talented, unbelievably intelligent people in the back – when I say in the back, they're in their own offices, but they're researching all the different price action that has happened throughout all of history and putting together math. That has nothing to do with the fundamentals of anything that you're talking about, right? So when people think quant, when people think that, that is technical analysis. They're researching past price behavior, to try to profit from future price behavior. So I think that, you know, again, just adds to the credibility of technical analysis and why it should be a part of anyone's toolkit, even yours, Dan.
Dan Ferris: Yeah, yeah... hey, I'm not saying you're wrong about that, especially considering what value has done for the last several years. [Laughter] I wish I'd ad some technical analysis. So, Drew brought up an interesting point, which is that your competition has more people and computers and information that, you know, you and I can ever hope to have. That should make what we do harder than what they do, right? Or no?
Drew McConnell: I mean, yeah, I think it does make it more challenging, so you've got to be – you got to mind your risk, and you have to, you know, follow some basic, you know, investing rules. You know, you want to control your downside and un-limit your upside, right? So you want to hold on to winners, and you want to make sure you don't lose too much when you're wrong, but you also want to make sure you cut those trades quickly when you're not right. Because, you know, an outcome in the market is not certain. So you know, these guys have been talking about risk management, at length, and it's critical to your success.
Greg Diamond: And I'll also say something around that in terms of, you know, there's a misnomer and a general misunderstanding about what professional trading actually is. And you talk about big gains, and you see these hedge-fund guys, and stuff like that. You know, in a professional environment – and I'll just give you a really small example – you know, there was a fund that I was looking at, and this is how professional trading works. They'll give you $10 million, and you keep 50% of everything that you make. Sounds pretty good, right?
But the moment you go below zero, they start cutting your book. So if you're down 2%, 3%, they're cutting your book $1, $2, $3, $4 million. Why do they do that? They want to do that because they don't want you taking on tremendous amounts of risk. I talked about how trading is just simply short-term investing. And what they want to see is, you know, $1,000 here, $5,000 there. You know, when you have a loss, it's $500... when you have a gain, it's $5,000 to $7,000. And at the end of the year, if you make 5 to 7% – let's say you make 7%, you can do the math, that's a pretty damn good living [laughs], right?
And you keep doing that year after year after year, yes, let's say every three years, you know, you're up 7 or 8%, maybe you're up 11, you go for that 20% year, you know, if it's September or October, you go for that. So, I think there's a misconception about what trading is, you know, "Oh, it's going to be this, it's going to be that." It's really about just that short-term investing and creating alpha, but it's absolute return. You're not worried about a benchmark... you're not worried about anything else other than extracting short-term gains out of the market. And technical analysis is definitely the way to do that.
Dan Ferris: "Extracting short-term gains from the market" just sounds so insanely difficult to a guy like me.
Greg Diamond: I mean, it's not easy, but it's – it can be done.
Dan Ferris: [Laughs] "It's not easy."
Ben Morris: But like you said, what is?
Dan Ferris: Right, what is? What is easy in life that's worth doing? All right, so, I wonder if we could talk, right now, about any specific – like, we've made your views on where stocks are probably going in the short-term, and then maybe over the next year. You're bearish short-term, bullish longer-term next year. So, are there any specific pockets of opportunity – and we'll start with you, Ben – that you guys are looking at right now. You don't have to give away your trade advice that you sell to people in the DailyWealth Trader, but maybe you can just generally tell us about pockets of opportunity that you've seen, you know, recently, Ben?
Ben Morris: Yeah, I'll mention one that's caught my eye, just – every month, at the start of the month in the DailyWealth Trader, we do a sector update. We look at the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500, and we look at their performance over the past month and past six months. And you know, a lot of people just look at what are the major indexes doing, but they don't look down at the sector level. And when you break it down to the sector level, you start to see which sectors are leading the market, which sectors are lagging, and the story is a lot more complete. So for a long time, healthcare had been lagging in the market.
And probably for the last – at least the last year, going back, I mean, a few months back, a year prior to that, healthcare had really been doing poorly. Over the last few months, it's started to do really well. And actually, I think last – our latest sector update, looking back at November, healthcare was the best or second-best, over both time frames. And to me, that says there's something changing, here, and I'm really interested in healthcare stocks. They've been really strong, lately. I'd like to see a pullback. And if we get a pullback, we're definitely looking to buy healthcare names. So, yeah, they've been lagging, now they're leading – that's a bullish sign.
Dan Ferris: Sounds good. Drew, do you have a different one than that?
Drew McConnell: I would agree with everything Ben just said, yeah, in the last, you know, couple of weeks, we've seen a ton of deals come through in biotech. So, that kind of matches up with that big theme. And then there's one other sector that I've been keeping an eye on, that's the homebuilders. They've been up about, or, they are up about 50%, this year, and they've just been incredibly strong. We've traded Toll Brothers a few times, which is a luxury homebuilder, and that's one that we don't have a position on, but we'll probably be looking at again, here, in the future. And yes, so that's a sector that we like a lot.
Dan Ferris: OK, sounds good. Greg, how about you, any specific pockets of opportunity you're finding, lately?
Greg Diamond: Give me some volatility, Dan. That's what I need, I need some volatility. Nah, it's – pockets, you know, I actually, I do like healthcare – you know, I put out a piece, a couple weeks ago. It hasn't been keeping up with the overall market, but over the last week or two, there has been incredible strength. So I agree with Ben and Drew on a pullback – that's probably a long-term buy. I'm also looking at retail, and in the short-term, I'm a little concerned about it. If you look at – and I'm going to actually talk about this next week a lot.
But if you look at the XRT, which is the retail ETF, it's really just been kind of a choppy consolidated mess, for the last, call it, 12 to 18 months. You know, and that speaks to the consumer. I mean, this is holiday season, you look at Black Friday, apparently there was just hardly anybody [laughs] in the brick-and-mortar stores, relative to past years. And you know, "Oh, well, everything is online." Well, then you look at Amazon, and that topped out in 2018, and hasn't been, you know, as strong as you would've thought.
Now, you know, some of that has to do with the cloud business and other things. But, you know, the retail side is something that I'm going to keep an eye on, because going out long-term, in terms of looking where pockets of opportunity are for long-term investments, you know, I think that as interest rates continue to go lower, and if the Fed keeps cutting, which I think they will, you know, that is just going to spur lower interest rates, more credit available, and that is the Fed's goal is to get people to spend money. So if that's the case, that's the long-term fundamental case, but, you know, in the short-term, the technical picture, you know, it's just kind of saying, you know, "There's not much here."
Dan Ferris: Interesting, OK. You know, that's just about all the time we have, but I do want to go to each one of you. This is like the standard way that I end all my interviews, because I think it really helps the listener a lot. So, I'd be grateful if you guys could do that, each. Ben, if we could start with you, if I could ask you just to leave our listener with one thought, what might that be?
Ben Morris: I'd say that even if you're skeptical that stocks are going higher, hold some stocks and kind of build your positions over time. I think that interest rates could – will, likely, stay lower for longer than people expect, I think stocks could rise for longer than people expect, and you don't want to be out of the stock market here. So start small if you're skeptical, cut your risk whenever you can, but definitely hold stocks.
Dan Ferris: OK, Drew, how about you, one thought to leave the listener with?
Drew McConnell: Yeah, I would echo Ben's thoughts and say that, you know, the market is in an uptrend, we're trading, you know, right near all-time highs, so you want to stay with stocks. You know, crashes are not that common, and everybody seems to want to predict one every other day. It's just better to mind the trend and to continue riding the stocks higher.
Dan Ferris: And you, Greg, one thought for our listener.
Greg Diamond: One thought is: control your risk. When it comes to trading, when it comes to investing, no matter what, control your risk. That means position sizing, get out when you're wrong. Control your risk.
Dan Ferris: I cannot think of a better place to leave us. Thank you for that. Listen, thank you, guys, for doing this. I've really enjoyed it, and maybe we can, you know, get back together in six months and do it again sometime. That'd be nice.
Drew McConnell: That would be nice.
Ben Morris: Yeah, sounds good, Dan.
Dan Ferris: All right, guys, thanks a lot, and we'll talk to you in six months. [Laughs]
Greg Diamond: Sounds good. Thanks, Dan.
Ben Morris: All right.
Dan Ferris: Thank you.
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Dan Ferris: All right, folks, it's time for the mailbag. This is where you and I get to have a conversation about investing. I read all of your e-mails, every week, so please keep sending them. You can write in to [email protected], with all of your comments, questions, and politely worded criticisms, and I will read every single one of them. No longer reading the Russian spam, but I'm reading everything you send me. And I have a couple, this week – it was kind of light, you know, around the holidays, kind of expect that.
But the first one brings up an interesting topic. It's from Brendan K., and he says, "Hi, Mr. Ferris. I wanted to get your opinion on tax loss harvesting, given we are at the end of the year. I have a couple of securities in my portfolio that I don't want to sell, but am interested in applying this method to save money on taxes." He says, "Take, for example, Altius Minerals, with which I have an unrealized loss of about 10 to 15%. Is this a good stock to sell and buy again in the new year? Or only buy more, since the price yields a better value and could double overnight? Which characteristics or underlying qualities of a stock would make you consider applying tax loss harvesting to a given security?
"Any advice or simply your opinion would be much appreciated. As always, thank you for all the value you provide us each and every week. I'm coming around to the new podcast [laughs] format. Best regards, Brendan K." Well, thank you, Brendan. This is an interesting topic. I cannot comment specifically on Altius, because I've recommended it in my newsletter, so this might be misconstrued as giving individual advice. But I can tell you generally how I feel about this.
It is mostly applicable to highly speculative – in my opinion, this is the way I see it. I see it as being mostly applicable to more speculative names like, you know, biotech and the really small cap mining stocks with, like, no revenue, and some of them even have no assets [laughs] to speak of, but, you know, the real fliers, right? If I intend on holding something for a long time, to me, it's not a candidate for tax loss harvesting, because I don't like the idea of buying something and – you know, selling something for tax loss, and then buying it back. Also, depending on – you should ask your accountant how much you can really expect to save on taxes.
Because overall, I've found that it ain't much. And for me, at this point in my life, it's not even worth thinking much about this. So, you know, there's that. I don't know what your situation is, but you should ask your accountant about it. And overall, too, I think – I think it's a mistake, in general, to prioritize tax considerations. You should prioritize, in my opinion, whether or not you really like the business and want to keep holding it, whether or not they're making lots of money, doing what you expect them to do. Rather than trying to save a few bucks on taxes, one year, by thinking that you're clever and, you know, selling and buying back.
So that's about all I can say, and I hope it's helpful. But what you should really do is check with a tax professional to find out what you should do, but those are my thoughts on how I think about what I do, OK?
And I just have one more of these, this week. This is from Paul E. I just have a portion of his – his was a longer one. But he says, "You are a gentleman and a scholar. I think most listeners would love to spend time with you. Keep just being you, and you will continue to be great at this. I do have one question for you. On a few of your podcasts, you have mentioned that the road ahead looks tough for bonds. I believe you were implying treasury bonds.
"I own corporate bonds via Stansberry Credit Opportunities. When you say bonds, are you typically talking about treasuries, or do you bucket both treasuries and corporate bonds together? Paul E." So, Paul, there's a difference – it's not whether it's treasuries or corporates, for me, although, in general, you know, the treasuries, they're – [laughs] you know, the interest is going to be paid and the principal is going to be paid back. They can print the money to do it, so, I think you're pretty safe, there. And you know, a lot of corporate bonds are pretty safe, too.
But to figure out whether they're safe, it's a bottom-up exercise. That's what they do in Stansberry Credit Opportunities, they do the same thing with bonds that we do in stocks in Extreme Value, they take them one at a time from the bottom up. So, whether or not a particular bond is a good idea is different than noticing that the bond market, globally, is valued more highly than it's ever been in history. It's hard to believe, right, it's hard to believe that, you know, even if you buy – say you buy a sovereign bond that's yielding, like, you know, just say 1%, you know, from some country like Japan. Now, I think a lot of those things are yielding negative, [laughs] so this 1% bond is a fantasy, right now.
But let's just say it's, you know, let's just say it's a five- or ten-year bond that yields 1%. I think you're going to get your 1% and you're going to get your principal back. What I have noticed that I think is crazy, is all the negative yielding debt in developed sovereign countries. And Japan's the biggest one, that's why the example makes it a fantasy. [Laughs] So, Japan's the biggest one, and Europe – most of the rest of them are in Europe, that are negative yielding. So to me, that's crazy. And you're guaranteed to get less out of it – you're guaranteed to lose money.
You're guaranteed to get less back than you put in. But people buy them because they're just so scared and – you know, we had Mark Dow on the program, several episodes ago, and he told us some reasons why people buy them. You know, they're currency hedges, and, you know, there's a fear of trade, too. So, I don't know if that makes it clear – to me, the bottom line is, the part that I hope is clear is that, saying the overall bond market is expensive is very different than assessing individual bonds one at a time. That's what I have to say about that. It's a very good question, though, Paul.
You know, when I say stocks are more expensive than ever in history, people write in and say, "And you still recommend stocks," right? And OK, that's a valid question, but they're two kind of totally different things. And we recognize, too, part of this is that we recognize that – I hate to refer to it as this, but – calling the top or – you know, it amounts to calling the top, which is something I don't want to have to admit to doing, because I think it's a fool's errand. But when you get cautious because you think things are too high, it's sort of like calling the top, I have to admit. And that's rare.
You probably won't do it. You may get within the neighborhood of it, and like I said earlier in the program, you know, if you even come close to it, if you even come close to recognizing that stocks are way, way overvalued, if you're within two years or it, or three years – in the year 2000, when that bear market finally hit, it took stocks back to, like, 1996 levels. So, you can be within a few years and still be right, even though it looks like you're wrong for a few years. You get what I'm saying, there? So, noticing these things, it's valuable but it's really difficult. I think it's easier to find a great business and buy their stock, or find a great business and buy their bond, actually.
I hope that helps. [Laughs] Thank you, Paul, it's a very good question. I feel like I could do half the program on that, sometimes – it's very good.
OK, folks, that's it for another episode of the Stansberry Investor Hour. I'm your host, Dan Ferris. I love being here. It's a privilege to come to you this week and every week. Please go to our website, www.investorhour.com, where you can listen to every episode we've ever done, and you can see a transcript of every episode we've ever done. You can also enter your e-mail for alerts about upcoming episodes. That's www.investorhour.com.
Also, go to the iTunes store and subscribe to the podcast, and give us a like while you're there. That'll help push us up in the rankings, we'll get more listeners, it'll improve the quality of the show, and improve the quality of this conversation that we get to have every week. OK? It'll be good for you, good for me, good for everybody. That's Stansberry Investor Hour at iTunes – subscribe and like.
Thanks so much for being here with me once again. Can't wait to talk to you next time. Bye-bye for now.
Closing: Thank you for listening to the Stansberry Investor Hour. To access today's notes and receive notice of upcoming episodes, go to investorhour.com, and enter your e-mail. Have a question for Dan? Send him an e-mail at [email protected]
This broadcast is provided for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered personalized investment advice. Trading stocks and all other financial instruments involves risk. You should not make any investment decision based solely on what you hear.
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