Friday, December 31, 2004

The Greatest Wall Street Danger of All: You

Topic: Investing

re: Born Suckers - The greatest Wall Street danger of all: you by Henry Blodget.

Henry Blodget mentions two profoundly (though simple) important factors that lead to poor investment decisions: Prospect Theory and Outcome Bias. He lists 7 factors, I find two profound.

Prospect Theory (more details) essentially states people are eager to "lock in gains" (sell positions with profits to realize gains) and hold losses (deffer selling positions in which they have losses so as not to "realize" the loss). Like many profound ideas the simplicity of the idea undermines the importance. This factor can make a huge difference in investment results. Many of the most successful investors understand the importance of this idea. And they repeat the importance of taking action to avoid falling into the patterns prospect theory predicts.

William O'Neil (founder of Investors Business Daily) - "
Remember, 7% to 8% is your absolute loss limit. You must sell without hesitation - no waiting a few days to see what might happen or hoping the stock rallies back; no need to wait for the day's market close" page 90, How to Make Money in Stocks: a winning system in good times or bad, 3rd Edition, 2002.

From The New Market Wizards: Conversations With America's Top Traders by Jack Schwager
Schwager: "What else have you learned from Soros?"
Stanley Druckenmiller: "I've learned many things from him, but perhaps the most significant is that it's not whether you're right or wrong that's important, but how much money you make when you're right and how much you lose when you're wrong." (page 207)
This is obvious, so what value does it offer? As Prospect Theory states peole have a tendency to sell profits and hold losses. Often this means you make less when you are right. It can also mean you loss more when you are wrong (because you are reluctant to sell - I must admit I can still fall into this trap).

Outcome Bias - "We tend to evaluate decisions based on outcomes instead of probabilities. Thus, we congratulate ourselves for stupid choices that happen to turn out well and vow to never again make smart choices that happen to turn out badly." from Born Suckers. For example, I decide to thrown a dart at the newspaper and move all my portfolio into the one stock that is hit. If that stock is the best performer of the year I will have very good results, however, the that will not be due to my great decision but luck. Luck is a factor in investing, but the way to achieve exceptional performance is to developing investment strategies that give you an advantage in the market.

I have used an online portfolio management and performance tracking tool for several years: Marketocracy. It is a tool that helps me learn, by seeing the real results of my investing decisions. It is also a great way to provide others a view of how my ideas have played out as measured by Marketocracy. My marketocracy fund has beaten the S&P 500 by an average annual rate of 10.32% (as of this posting) since it was started in 2000.

One final thought on investing from Jesse Livermore (as remembered by his sons) - From page 141 How to Trade in Stocks: "the stock market must be studied, not casually either, but deeply, thoroughly. It's my conclusion that most people pay more care and attention to the purchase of an appliance for their house, or when buying a car, that they do to the purchase of stocks. The stock market, with its allure of easy money and fast action, induces people into foolishness and the careless handling of their hard-earned money, like no other entity."

Good investing to you in the new year.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Google Photo Management Software - Picasa

Topics: Freeware - Photos

I am a big fan of Google, the search engine, and the company. Google bought Picasa, digital photo management software, a few months ago and decided to give the software away as freeware. I just got around to downloading Picasa. My initial reaction is that this is a wonderful product. I suggest you give it a try. It can automatically inventory all the images on your computer and it does a great job of organizing the photos for you.

The only Google service I would not recommend at this time is their desktop search software. It is amazing powerful and seems like it could be a great help. But it seems to me to the possible security issues warrant holding off using it until they improve the software, which I am confident they will do.

This Blog, is run on Blogger, another Google purchase. Blogger is good but I sure hope they offer some enhancements fairly soon, especially the ability to assign topics to individual posts (like the labels they use in Gmail).

One one final Google not, if you would like an invitation to get a free Gmail account (Google's email service), just let me know and I can send you an invitation (until I run out of invitations).

Happy Holidays,

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Adventure Capitalist and China Wakes

Topic: Books - Economics

I recently read two books that offered perspectives I found worthwhile and were enjoyable to read.

Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers tracked his trip around the world by car. Previously he had documented his around the world motorcycle journey in Investment Biker. His views offer a worthwhile perspective that is often missed, in my opinion. That said I wouldn't accept his views as the final truth they are valuable as one perspective to shed light on areas that are often overlooked.

China Wakes, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn documents their time as Journalists in China (1988-1993) and again offers valuable insight into China. Obviously even gaining an incredibly oversimplified view of China would take a great deal more than one, or even ten books. Still the authors provide viewpoints that I found added, in a small way, to a picture of what China, was, is and may become. I plan to read their book:
Thunder from the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Big Cats in America

Topic: Miscellaneous

I found a recent Washington Post article interesting: Mountain Lions Move East, Breeding Fear on the Prairie. Many new realities are suprising. Some are historically important worldwide like the fall of the Berlin Wall. Others are not as significant but still something I would have thought extremely unlikely such as the return of Cougars to a wide range of the United States. I would have thought big cats would be found only in Zoos and in the remote West and in East Africa, of course.

I suppose I shouldn't be so suprised since for years I have heard we have far more deer today than ever before. Still I would not have predicted the wide spread return of big cats we seem to have experienced in the last few decades. I don't recall hearing about this before this year, when I started to read and hear about the increased human and big cat interactions resulting from the increased population of cougars (also known as pumas or mountain lions).

I would imagine we will have people overact when the inevitable problems are covered by the news media. "It is exceedingly rare for a mountain lion to kill a human being. In the past 110 years, the cats have attacked 66 people and killed 18 in the United States and Canada, according to figures compiled by Iowa's Department of Natural Resources. Fatal attacks are far less common than fatal bee stings or lightning strikes."

Related Links:
- Big Cat Comeback? 2004
- Cougar Reports on the Rise in Eastern U.S. - National Geographic 2003
- Mountain Lion Foundation
- Mountain Lion Attacks On People in the U.S. and Canada
- Outdoor Hazards - shows the number of human deaths annually in California (100 deaths from automobile collisions with deer, 86 from lightning strikes, 18 from dogs, 1/3 fom mountain lions [1 death every 3 years])

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Management Improvement Articles

Topic: Management - Library Additions

The articles added to our library this month are especially good, in my opinion. Recent additions to the Curious Cat Online Management Improvement Library include:

* A Brief Guide to Interactive Planning and Idealized Design by Russell L. Ackoff
* Improving Problem Solving by Ian Bradbury and Gipsie Ranney
* How To Compare Six Sigma, Lean and the Theory of Constraints by Dave Nave
* In the Beginning by A. Blanton Godfrey
* A Holistic View of Six Sigma by Roger Hoerl and Ronald Snee (this is a chapter from there excellent new book: Six Sigma Beyond the Factory Floor.

Find links to these, and other new additions, on the Curious Cat Management Improvement New Articles Page or search for management improvement articles. Please contact me, if you are interested in having us include your article in the library.

John Hunter