Thursday, August 04, 2011

Sitting on the sidelines, reading

"The worst thing you can do when you're having a hard time is flail. In trading, when there is nothing to do, the best thing to do is nothing." - Scott Bessent (Bessent Capital). 

Well, the damage is already done for those who were heavily long heading into this week's market decline. 

I look at the S&P 500 component data on freestockcharts.com and see that only 3 stocks in that index were up today. We saw a -4.78% decline in the S&P to go along with that. Here's an updated chart that shows the recent breakdown below the 1312 line we've fluctuated around in recent months.


There's been a lot of whipsaw in this news driven market of late, and it doesn't seem like the recent deficit/debt ceiling deal reached by Congress has quieted things much. Even gold and silver got whacked today. But just look at all that money piling into Treasury bonds.


At a time like this, perhaps it's best to step aside and watch the action from the sidelines. That may not be the proper stance for a short-term trader making hay from all this volatility, or a professional money manager tasked with managing positions on the long and short side, but for now it suits me fine. 

In July, I closed out a couple of losing stock trades and haven't put on any new trades since. I've mostly been pruning watchlists, reviewing my trading journals and trading mistakes, running through charts, and reading. A break from trading was needed, and this was the time to do it.

Today, while reading Steven Drobny's Inside the House of Money, I came across our intro quote in an interview with "stock operator" and hedge fund manager, Scott Bessent. On a day like today, you can really appreciate the time honored truths that: 1) being in cash is a position, and, 2) activity (trading) for the sake of activity can be a real hazard to your trading account and your emotional capital. 

By the way, the interview with Bessent is a great chapter from Drobny's book. Here is a guy who, amazingly, has worked for or trained under George Soros, Stan Druckenmiller, Nick Roditi, Jim Rogers, and Jim Chanos. It's quite something to not only read Bessent's thoughts on trading, but to hear what he's learned from some true all-stars of the hedge fund world. Check out this book if you're taking a late-summer break and keeping your powder dry as well.