Lecturing Myself On Shorting, Part II

This note was originally published at 8am this morning, October 26, 2010. INVESTOR and RISK MANAGER SUBSCRIBERS have access to the EARLY LOOK (published by 8am every trading day) and PORTFOLIO IDEAS in real-time.

“Learn to fail with pride and do so fast and cleanly. Maximize trial and error, by mastering the error part.”

-Nassim Taleb

 

Before I shorted the SP500 on October 13th, I wrote an Early Look note that was titled “Lecturing Myself On Shorting.” I shorted the SP500 again yesterday, so I figured I’d call this morning’s note Part Deux. Immediate term tops are processes, not points.

 

Chapter 1 of Pablo Triana’s “Lecturing Birds On Flying” provided some food for thought in my initial note and this morning I’ll review Chapter 2, “The Financial Economics Fiefdom” where Triana takes the ball right up the middle on the academic dogma that permeates the US economic system.

  1. On Milton Friedman – Triana argues that the heart of Friedman’s economic theory is that “theories should not be judged based on the realism of their assumptions.”
  2. On Business School – Triana writes on page 37 that, “In sum, B-schools discarded tangibly accurate knowledge and information while embracing what may be deemed as analytical make-believe.”
  3. On Herbert Simon – Triana reminds us that it was Simon who “held behavioral parapet, embracing observation-based empiricism and avoiding dogma-based economic theory.”

Most financial types know who Milton Friedman was but couldn’t tell you much about Herbert Simon. As I read Triana amplifying his point by calling out Simon’s name, I couldn’t help but smile.

 

Herbert Simon wrote one of my favorite multi-factor modeling books, “Models of My Life.” Charlie Munger recommended it at one of Berkshire’s annual meetings. As Triana points out, Simon was a Hedgeye kind of guy - he “ruthlessly ridiculed the financial economists’ assumptions about human action.”

 

My analytical team doesn’t wake-up every morning looking for someone to chirp. Keynesians are easy targets right now. They missed Jobless Stagflation in the 1970s too. Fed Chief Arthur Burns opted to monetize US Treasury debt and a Debauched Dollar was the result. Back then, the Nobel Prize in Economics was a new award. Today, some of the biggest risks in life are associated with investing alongside the academic premise of a Nobel winner.

 

This is where the likes of Simon, Soros, and real-time market practitioners of daily risk management take over the game. Anytime we see someone talking up an economic theory (QE2) that we’d have reserved seating for in the cheap seats, we’d just as soon call these wannabe market players out for who they really are. They travel in packs and are rarely accountable to their theories where it matters – on the tape.

 

On page 41, Triana offers a solution to this mess. He writes that “once you have mastered the analytical toolbox through your PhD training, churning out research output that may be simply the result of repeatedly applying well-worn techniques… the amount of true innovativeness may be limited. Much more creativity is required from those who can come up with applicable actionable breakthroughs and hard industry knowledge.”

 

Then on page 43, Triana supports his solution by quoting the former dean of MIT Sloan School of Business, Richard Schmalensee: “The academic system’s current methods for hiring and rewarding professors don’t necessarily attract or encourage the kind of practitioner-oriented faculty we need to make business-school research and MBA education much more attuned to meeting today’s and tomorrow’s management challenges.”

 

Point made, Mr. Triana. Point made.

 

Anytime you take a position in this game, measuring time and space is critical. When it comes to timing a short position, I don’t think I ever really had anyone teach me in real-life never mind at school. Maybe that’s what makes me better than bad at shorting stocks. I teach myself by doing. I learn to fail with pride. And, in most cases, I try to do so “fast and cleanly.”

 

My immediate term support and resistance lines for the SP500 are now 1178 and 1189, respectively. For now, by all of +0.10% my current short position in the SP500 (SPY) is in the black. I raised the Cash position in the Hedgeye Asset Allocation Model to 64% yesterday.

 

Best of luck out there today,

KM

 

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

 

Lecturing Myself On Shorting, Part II - lecture