Monday, January 11, 2016

Perception Trumps Reality and Why You Should Not Trade Stocks

A large part of investing consists of paying attention to details. It's not enough to know what a certain company or industry is experiencing over a short-term basis, but to examine the details and to put those details into historic perspective.

It is in this light that today's presentation will advise anyone and everyone to distrust the mainstream media reports of the economy in general, and often, even the specific.

Back in the early portion of this century, word began circulating about a mysterious group called the Plunge Protection Team (PPT for short), which had the extraordinary power of pulling the entire equity market out of a crash, thus restoring confidence to traders and investors.

For a long time, people who believed that the PPT existed at all and was causing the wild fluctuations seen in the summer of 2001 and 2002, were dismissed as conspiracy nuts and tin-foil hat wearers. However, the PPT had been exposed beforehand, and it was indeed real. Its true name was the Working Group on Financial Markets, and it was created via an executive order 12631, signed on March 18, 1988 by US President Ronald Reagan, largely in response to the market turmoil that resulted in a 22% drop on October 19, 1987.

The PPT is real, though current manipulators may not exactly match the same original cast of characters, there is still a shadowy group of government people making sure the equity markets don't crash, or, at the very least, they enter the market to manifest a desired outcome.

Just in case you still don't believe in the power of the PPT, or that the market can be massively manipulated on a short-term (leading to long-term) basis, consider that today from 3:17 to 3:38 pm ET, a span of a mere 21 minutes, the Dow Jones Industrials jumped from 16,261.93 to 16.444.04. That's 182.11 points, a number that would be exceptional (a better than 1% gain) for an entire session.

Thus, the Dow - and along with it, the S&P and NASDAQ - went from near the day's lows to modestly positive, nearing the close of the session. These heady days, as perception exceeds reality by a longshot, that result will be precisely ONLY what the mainstream media reports. Not that markets were in turmoil and extending losses from last week, or, that market conviction suddenly changed dramatically, but ONLY that stocks were up on the day. All is well. Nothing to see here. Move along.

That there are government entities meddling in what used to be fair, honest and open markets should be enough to discourage just about any thinking person to not only abhor the practice of manipulation, but to remove themselves and their money from the fraud that is Wall Street, because, if government operators can make the market go up, they have an equal power to make it go down, or up-then-down or whatever they wish it to be.

In essence, stock markets are not fair and open and free anymore, and haven't been for quite some time. Most stocks these days are wildly overvalued, and for good reason. The retirements of millions of Americans are tied to stocks. Not only that, but the entire economy of the planet is tethered, one way or another, to the US equity markets. There are sovereign wealth funds, trust funds, hedge funds, mutual funds and all other manner of funds, ETFs and investment vehicles that are inexorably tied to the success or failure of stocks.

Suppose there is a massive bear market in stocks, like we witnessed in 2000, and again in 2008. People panic. They sell. But that's old news. People don't move markets any more. Computers do, and those are controlled by the barons of Wall Street, the banks and brokerage firms.

Thus, the PPT does not have to exist at all anymore. There only needs to be a mechanism for all the main traders to move at once in the same direction, and that mechanism is probably already in place, has been used in the past, is being used presently and will be used in the future, either to make stocks cheaper (down) or more expensive (up). Either way, the trading firms will have the upper hand, advance notice and the blessing of the federal government.

US markets are not what they appear to be. For instance, they are much more thinly traded than ever, by fewer participants, many of whom are nefarious, criminal and immoral. Individual investors would likely be better off stuffing cash into a mattress, buying gold or silver, or trading comic books, baseball cards, Beanie Babies or other collectibles. Realistically, the collectible market is very robust and smart individuals can actually make a good living on places like eBay or Craigslist. The art market is also very good, especially for rarities.

Leave the stock market to professionals. If you like to gamble, try the lottery, the horses, or fantasy sports betting, because the Dow Jones Industrials, the S&P, the NASDAQ and the NYSE have become nothing more than sophisticated casinos, operating without gaming licenses, and the house always wins.


Today's closing quotes:
S&P 500: 1,923.67, +1.64 (0.09%)
Dow: 16,398.57, +52.12 (0.32%)
NASDAQ: 4,637.99, -5.64 (0.12%)

Crude Oil 31.31 -5.58% Gold 1,095.60 -0.21% EUR/USD 1.0855 -0.60% 10-Yr Bond 2.1580 +1.31% Corn 351.25 -1.61% Copper 1.97 -2.52% Silver 13.85 -0.49% Natural Gas 2.39 -3.16% Russell 2000 1,041.90 -0.41% VIX 24.30 -10.03% BATS 1000 20,518.11 -0.16% GBP/USD 1.4540 +0.22% USD/JPY 117.7050 +0.79%


John Moyer said...

This is well well written. I am glad i clicked on the link. And as someone whose hobby is selling lower end collectibles on Ebay and Craigslist the references are pertinent and accurate. Keep up the good work. I will continue to follow.

Rick said...

Thanks, John. I am not an economist or securities dealer by trade, but I have followed stocks, bonds, business and finance for years. While I may not have the most incisive commentary, I try to bring an honest assessment of money and markets to people who may not be professional traders or heavy investors, but rather, honest, good working people.

I try not to get too technical, so most people can understand and maybe learn a little.

Anonymous said...

There was a strange feeling just before 2PM EST that the XIV I was watching would drop no longer for the day. Simultaneous with a sizable VIX slam I haven't seen in awhile.