This note was originally published at 8am on April 09, 2015 for Hedgeye subscribers.
“Don’t let your emotions hijack your thinking.”
While we’d all love to be as objective as we can be in this profession, being human often challenges us on that front. Especially if we’re not running a purely rules-based strategy (which has its risks), we’re always going to have a qualitative debate bouncing around in our heads.
In another solid chapter from Learn or Die titled “Emotions: The Myth of Rationality”, Ed Hess reminded me of this basic reality by asking a simple question:“If cognition and emotion are inherently integrated, is it possible to leave emotions out of the discussion?”
Probably not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t create a risk management process that subordinates our individual emotions during the debate. If you’re like me, and you choose to work on a research team, keeping everyone else’s emotions in check is a big challenge too.
Back to the Global Macro Grind…
If you’ve seen me play hockey (or look up my penalty minutes), you get that I can’t play the game without emotion. I get that – but I didn’t get how much that would affect me as a “stock picker” when I first became a buy-side analyst. It didn’t affect me in a good way.
Especially on the short side when you have a boss and/or a large audience of peers watching your position, when something is going against you, it’s doesn’t feel cool.
As I grew into a PM I used to tell my analysts: ‘you either fight it, or close it’ (as in the short position) – and depending on who I was talking to (and what their emotional state was that day), I’d get a wide array of reactions to a pretty basic ultimatum.
Eventually, I just stopped letting my analysts trade and size their positions. That made our discussions more objective. The analyst either wanted me to have it on or not. Other than mapping calendar catalysts, all of the timing and trading of positions was up to me.
With responsibility comes a repeatable process, so I built my multi-duration “risk range” model as a result.
At a very basic level, here’s how my decision making process works:
- Analysts are constantly picking securities and generating new ways to express their ideas
- In parallel, I run multi-duration, multi-factor risk metrics on their ideas
- Then I pick the highest probability ideas defined by a math-based (objective) process
Trust me, I don’t have any emotional affiliation with any of their ideas. They are all just tickers to me. And once I pick from what they’ve picked, the risk range #process has the following decision making tree from a timing/sizing perspective:
- Immediate-term TRADE risk range gives me a high and low end of price probability… and
- I try my best to make sales at the high-end of the range and buys/covers at the low-end… as I’m
- Constantly trying to contextualize the TRADE within my intermediate (TREND) and long-term (TAIL) durations
That’s it. That’s what I do. And I can tell you that it took a long time to get that this is the best way to keep my competitive (emotional) risk factor at bay. To each their own, eh.
Today’s note is more of a process one (let me know if you want more or less of these – there are many processes within The #Process – and processes are always evolving) but if you go back to yesterday’s Early Look on Oil, it explains what we signaled and why quite well:
- Analyst (Ben Ryan) doesn’t like Oil right now
- In parallel, my risk management process, which includes cross asset class correlation analysis with USD…
- Picks WTI (instead of Brent) as the best way to express that = SELL at the top-end of the risk range = $53.68
WTI Oil = down -5.6% on the day. So easy two hockey-heads (Ben was drafted by the Nashville Predators) can do it. And, fortunately, Ben is far less emotional than I can be – so we compliment one another as line-mates in decision making quite well.
For those of you who are new to evaluating our #process, every day (in our Daily Trading Ranges product) I give you A) the immediate-term TRADE risk range with B) our intermediate-term TREND research view in brackets. Here are all 12 of those big macros for today:
UST 10yr Yield 1.84-1.93% (bearish)
SPX 2070-2093 (bullish)
RUT 1243-1273 (bullish)
DAX 11805-12181 (bullish)
VIX 13.03-15.95 (bullish)
USD 96.95-98.99 (bullish)
EUR/USD 1.07-1.09 (bearish)
YEN 118.99-120.68 (bearish)
Oil (WTI) 46.53-53.68 (bearish)
Natural Gas 2.56-2.81 (bearish)
Gold 1180-1218 (bearish)
Copper 2.65-2.79 (bearish)
Best of luck out there today,
Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer