Prospect Theory Wins

This note was originally published at 8am on April 08, 2014 for Hedgeye subscribers.

“One of the main tenets of prospect theory is that people don’t evaluate things in absolute terms.”

-Jonah Berger

Prospect Theory was originally developed by Dan Kahneman and Amos Tversky in 1979 (i.e. after all the Keynesian economic policy makers who worked for Nixon and Carter failed). But Kahneman didn’t win his Nobel Prize for #behavioral economics until 2002. And one of the most important books you’ll ever read, Thinking, Fast and Slow, wasn’t published until 2011.

All the while, this thing called the US economic and policy crisis happened. And linear (Keynesian) economic theorists working for Bush and Obama didn’t change a damn thing. There is no #behavioral or non-linear chaos theory embedded in what they do. Almost every lick of what comes out of the US Treasury and/or Federal Reserve deals in absolutes, on a lag – not forward looking rate of change.

While that is a national embarrassment for a country that hangs its entitled hat on meritocratic evolution and technological change, it remains your opportunity. Whether it’s Jonah Berger teaching social influence (marketing) at Wharton, or me ranting about macro every morning – it’s what happens on the margin that matters most. Prospect Theory is winning.

Back to the Global Macro Grind

Rate of change, or the accelerations/decelerations in the slope of a line measuring momentum, is easy to understand; especially when you show it in pictures. This is why a lot of people in our profession look at charts.

Prospect Theory Wins - Its not where you look that matters its what you see

But, as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” And, in a general sense, that is the Hedgeye Risk Management process when I talk about considering multiple factors and multiple durations, all at the same time.

In other words, it’s easier to see what’s going on in this globally interconnected macro marketplace of colliding factors, policies, and prices if you take a step back and look at the big picture. So let’s do that this morning, and take a look at 3 big places:

  1. JAPAN – on both our immediate-term TRADE and intermediate-term TREND durations the Japanese stock market remains bearish. From a GIP (Growth, Inflation, Policy) modeling perspective, Japanese #GrowthSlowing continues to be our call.
  2. EUROPE – mostly every major European stock market is still bullish on both our TRADE and TREND durations - in sharp contrast to the Dow (-2% YTD), the Italian stock market is +17% YTD (they don’t have social media or biotech bubble stocks). From a GIP modeling perspective, the Eurozone growth recovery is lagging what was the US one in 2013 by 6-18 months.
  3. USA – both the Nasdaq and the Russell 2000 have recently broken both @Hedgeye TRADE and TREND support levels. The SP500 is bearish on our immediate-term TRADE duration (1869 resistance) and barely bullish TREND (1830 support). In our GIP model, US #InflationAccelerating still sets up to slow US growth until at least the end of the 3rd quarter.

Accelerate and decelerate, fast and slow. That’s what centrally planned economies do. Get used to it.

Considering macro markets across multiple-factors also helps. I still can’t for the life of me understand how you’d have an informed opinion on multiple expansion or compression in stocks, if you don’t have a repeatable process considering:

  1. Currencies
  2. Commodities
  3. Interest Rates

But that’s just me. And to be crystal clear on this, I didn’t get that I needed to develop a process to consider all of the non-linear factors within the dynamic ecosystem that I invested in until I got run-over in my “best stock ideas.” Macro phase transitions can crush alpha, fast.

What is a phase transition?

  1. It’s a term used to explain thermodynamic systems
  2. “the transformation from one phase to another by heat transfer” (Wikipedia)

I realize that the alternative to considering market risk this way is using a 50-day moving monkey average. I also get that the guys who taught me about this business used to hold up pieces of paper to their trading screens trying to delineate higher-lows and higher-highs.

But guess what, without considering multi-factor, multi-duration global macro, they were still right in considering rate of change:

  1. Higher-lows + higher-highs = bullish momentum
  2. Lower-highs + lower-lows = bearish momentum

That said, that’s only considering 1-factor (price). And while it’s a good one to start with if only considering price momentum, you don’t have to stretch too far to start adding other factors, like volume and volatility, in order to front-run #OldWall’s behavior.

I’m not saying I have all the answers. I’ve made more mistakes with live ammo than almost anyone my age in this business. I have seen people lie, cheat, and lose. I have seen others evolve, learn, and win.

So I wanted to thank you for the opportunity to learn from all my mistakes out loud. Sometimes I learn fast; sometimes it’s slow. Building Hedgeye in an open, transparent, and accountable environment has helped us improve our process. I’m grateful for that.

We’ll be hosting our Q2 Global Macro Themes conference call this morning at 11AM EST. If you have time, we’re looking forward to your questions about what our risk management process is signaling next.

SPX 1830-1867

Nasdaq 4051-4166

Nikkei 14366-15083

VIX 14.11-16.52

Gold 1278-1322

Best of luck out there today,

KM

Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer

Prospect Theory Wins - Chart of the Day

Prospect Theory Wins - Virtual Portfolio