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Thursday, 14 January 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

Increasing intelligence

What we call 'intelligence' is as much about virtues such as honesty, integrity, and bravery, as it is about 'raw intellect’.

Intelligent people simply aren’t willing to accept answers that they don’t understand — no matter how many other people try to convince them of it, or how many other people believe it, if they aren’t able to convince themselves of it, they won’t accept it.

It’s also so easy to think that you understand something, when you actually don’t. So even figuring out whether you understand something or not requires you to attack the thing from multiple angles and test your own understanding.

This requires a lot of intrinsic motivation, because it’s so hard; so most people simply don’t do it. 



Aging is mandatory, but senescence is optional

EVERYONE WANTS TO LIVE LONG, but no one wants to get old. So for centuries people have sought ways to slow aging and defer death. Not long ago, quacks would have tried to lure you to consume tobacco, mercury, or ground-up dog’s testicles to postpone your eternal rest; today’s peddlers of immortality hawk human growth hormone, melatonin, testosterone, mega-doses of vitamins, or alkaline food. For millennia, however, the most sensible advice has always included exercise. Just about everyone knows what countless studies confirm: regular physical activity slows the aging process and helps prolong life. I doubt anyone was astounded when Hippocrates wrote 2,500 years ago that “Eating alone will not make a man well; he must also take exercise.”

The more physically active women died at about one-third the rate of those who were unfit, and the fitter men had mortality rates about one-third to one-fourth lower than those who were least fit.

Aging is inexorable, but senescence, the deterioration of function associated with advancing years, correlates much less strongly with age. Instead, senescence is also influenced strongly by environmental factors like diet, physical activity, or radiation, and thus can be slowed, sometimes prevented, and even partly reversed.



The power of negative thinking

We should all spend more time thinking about the prospect of failure and what we might do about it. It is a useful mental habit but it is neither easy nor enjoyable. We humans thrive on optimism. We must be careful, then, when we allow ourselves to stare steadily at the prospect of failure. Stare too long, or with eyes too wide, and we will be so paralysed with anxiety that success, too, becomes impossible. Care is also needed in the steps we take to prevent disaster. Some precautions cause more trouble than they prevent.

But just because it is hard to think productively about the risk of failure does not mean we should give up. One gain is that of contingency planning: if you anticipate possible problems, you have the opportunity to prevent them or to prepare the ideal response.

A second advantage is the possibility of rapid learning. The third advantage of thinking seriously about failure is that we may turn away from projects that are doomed from the outset.

All around us are failures — of business models, of pandemic planning, even of our democratic institutions. It is fanciful to imagine designing slip bases for everything. Still: most things fail, sooner or later. Some fail gracefully, some disgracefully. It is worth giving that some thought.



You can beat the fund manager

Investing is one of those rare pursuits where amateurs can have an advantage over the professionals.

It happens in almost no other field. If I competed against any professional sports person, I’d lose every time. If I was asked to perform dentistry or heart surgery, I wouldn’t know where to start. I don’t have the years of training needed to perform these highly specialised tasks.

However, good private investors, who know what they’re doing, out-perform the pros on a regular basis.

Professional investors bump up against liquidity restraints all the time. This is why most professional investors tend to steer clear of very small businesses, or they run excessively diverse portfolios to avoid owning too much of any one business. The limitations of this approach should be evident.

Most professional fund managers can’t afford to have long time horizons. A year or two of poor performance and they risk the sack. This problem is compounded by the short-term behaviour of many private investors, who pile in to funds that have recently performed well and sell those that are having a tougher time. Short-termism is further fuelled by the incentive structures of professional investors, which often do little to encourage long-term thinking.



Learning compounds due to memory

Memories are never an exact representation of a moment in the past. They are not copied with perfect fidelity, and they change over time. Some of our memories may not even be ours, but rather something we saw in a film or a story someone else told to us. We mix and combine memories, especially older ones, all the time. It can be hard to accept the malleable nature of memories and the fact that they are not just sitting in our brains waiting to be retrieved.

When we learn something new, it’s against the backdrop of what we already know. All knowledge that we pick up over the years is stored in memory. The authors suggest that “how much you know in a broad sense determines what you understand of the new things you learn.” Because it’s easier to remember something if it can hook into context you already have, then the more you know, the more a new memory can attach to. Thus, what we already know, what we remember, impacts what we learn.


For building a solid long term portfolio, look at subscribing to www.intelsense.in long term advisory.


For technofunda investing and positional trading, subscribe to our Hitpicks advisory service on www.intelsense.in


For momentum trend following systematic trading, subscribe to Quantamental at www.quantamental.in

Friday, 8 January 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.

2021 - The year of the Stockdale Paradox

The Stockdale Paradox is a concept that author Jim Collins found a perfect example of in James Stockdale, former vice-presidential candidate, who, during the Vietnam War, was held captive as a prisoner of war for over seven years. He was one of the highest-ranking naval officers at the time.

During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured and had no reason to believe he'd make it out alive. Held in the clutches of the grim reality of his hell world, he found a way to stay alive by embracing both the harshness of his situation with a balance of healthy optimism.

Stockdale explained this idea as the following: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

In the most simplest explanation of this paradox, it's the idea of hoping for the best, but acknowledging and preparing for the worst.



How to make decisions - By Barack Obama

I think you should read the whole article and not just the below snippet.


In just a few short weeks on the job, I had already realized that because every tough decision came down to a probability, then certainty was an impossibility — which could leave me encumbered by the sense that I could never get it quite right. So rather than let myself get paralyzed in the quest for a perfect solution, or succumb to the temptation to just go with my gut every time, I created a sound decision-making process — one where I really listened to the experts, followed the facts, considered my goals and weighed all of that against my principles. Then, no matter how things turned out, I would at least know I had done my level best with the information in front of me.

Even in situations where you have to act relatively quickly, as was frequently the case during the financial crisis, it helps to build in time to let your thoughts marinate.

It’s not always clean and straightforward. But as my mother would say to me, “The world is complicated, Bar. That’s why it’s interesting.”




The Amazon fake reviews racket

Fake reviews have been an issue for Amazon since its inception, but the problem appears to have intensified in 2015, when Amazon.com began to court Chinese sellers.

But the ensuing rush to the marketplace has spawned thousands of indistinguishable goods (chargers, cables, batteries, etc.). And it has prompted sellers to game the system.

“It’s a lot harder to sell on Amazon than it was 2 or 3 years ago,” adds Naim. “A lot of sellers are trying to find shortcuts.”

Steve Lee, a Los Angeles-based vendor, is among them: “You have to play the game to sell now,” he says. “And that game is cheating and breaking the law.”

A recent ReviewMeta analysis determined that in March of 2019 alone, Amazon was hit with a flurry of more than 2 million unverified reviews (that is, reviews that can’t be confirmed as purchases made through Amazon) — 99.6% of which were 5 stars.

“They’re almost all for these off-brand, cheap electronic products: Phone chargers, headphones, cables,” says Noonan. “Generic things that are super cheap to manufacture, have good margins, and get a ton of searches.”



Zoom background books for shelves available for wholesale!!

Books by the Foot, a service run by the Maryland-based bookseller Wonder Book, has become a go-to curator of Washington bookshelves, offering precisely what its name sounds like it does. The Wonder Book staff doesn’t pry too much into which objective a particular client is after. If an order were to come in for, say, 12 feet of books about politics, specifically with a progressive or liberal tilt—as one did in August—Wonder Book’s manager, Jessica Bowman, would simply send one of her more politics-savvy staffers to the enormous box labeled “Politically Incorrect” (the name of Books by the Foot’s politics package) to select about 120 books by authors like Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Al Franken and Bob Woodward. The books would then be “staged,” or arranged with the same care a florist might extend to a bouquet of flowers, on a library cart; double-checked by a second staffer; and then shipped off to the residence or commercial space where they would eventually be shelved and displayed (or shelved and taken down to read).



First principles in thinking

First principles thinking, which is sometimes called reasoning from first principles, is one of the most effective strategies you can employ for breaking down complicated problems and generating original solutions.

“I tend to approach things from a physics framework,” Musk said in an interview. “Physics teaches you to reason from first principles rather than by analogy. So I said, okay, let’s look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminium alloys, plus some titanium, copper, and carbon fibre. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around two per cent of the typical price.”

Instead of buying a finished rocket for tens of millions, Musk decided to create his own company, purchase the raw materials for cheap, and build the rockets himself. SpaceX was born.

Within a few years, SpaceX had cut the price of launching a rocket by nearly 10x while still making a profit. Musk used first principles thinking to break the situation down to the fundamentals, bypass the high prices of the aerospace industry, and create a more effective solution.


For building a solid long term portfolio, look at subscribing to www.intelsense.in long term advisory.


For technofunda investing and positional trading, subscribe to our Hitpicks advisory service on www.intelsense.in


For momentum trend following systematic trading, subscribe to Quantamental at www.quantamental.in

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Annual Investor Letter - 2020

You can download this as pdf from here.

As we bid farewell to a year, we would all like to forget but likely never will, here is a short note of some of the thoughts going on in my mind at this time.

The long term portfolio continued to perform as expected. It is comprised of strong businesses and our investment into the Pharma sector early in 2019. So, we were able to participate quite nicely in the pharma rally. As I have said many times, I believe the pharma and chemical sectors are in a secular growth phase and are likely to perform well for the next 2-3 years or more. So, the objective is to buy prudently and then sit and wait. The most important aspect in a long term portfolio is to wait patiently for the compounding to work its magic over time. The constant urge to do something is one of the worst enemies for an investor. It pays to always remember that investment return and frequent activity are not correlated in any way.

The markets today are overvalued by any methodology you care to use. The future continues to be uncertain, as always. The only thing that is keeping the markets flying high is the global liquidity flows. But the counterpoint is, the tap does not look to be stopping anytime soon.

Sometime this year, we are likely to see a sharp correction. Unfortunately, investors across the world have probably taken the wrong idea from both the global financial crisis in 2008 and the Covid crisis in 2020. That the central banks will bail them out always. What people seem to forget is that money printing can never be a long term solution. It is a kick-the-can down the road kind of approach. The more debt-ridden the global economies become, the longer and harder it will be to get back on to real prosperity. The new investors who have never really seen a prolonged bear market, which includes people like me, who have been in Indian markets for only about 20 odd years, cannot really fathom the outcome of a long drawn bear market. In fact, to be fair, we Indians have never really seen a long drawn bear market which also coincided with a recession or prolonged phase of low growth in the real economy, the likes of which Japan has seen for 30 years from the late 80s till about a few years back.

There has been a lot of global changes in socio-politico-economic structures which have made macro analysis a very interesting but utterly worthless exercise to do!! Nevertheless, as investors, we need to be aware of the context of our investments.

The next decade is more likely to focus on themes around technology adoption in different industries, climate change, supply chain redundancy creation, nearshoring or insourcing of manufacturing, more social-focused spending led by ESG. The more adoption of technology we see, the more jobs moves away from the unskilled to the skilled and the more social and economic divide increases, the more social and political strife we will see. It is a vicious cycle and I don’t know how it will play out. But the global socio-political situation is what really scares me. Emerging countries in Asia and Africa are better placed for economic growth with their young populations for the next 2-3 decades. And we are likely to see this slowly playing out. With the backs to the wall for all central banks, the flow of cheap money is unlikely to abate anytime soon. It’s like being on drugs. Once you get started on it, you can’t really get off it that easily without going through an enormous amount of pain.

This year I launched two different advisory services in addition to the long term advisory that I had started last year. The first one was Quantamental which was started in March and then Hitpicks, based on technofunda principles, in July. Both were to add to the different needs and mindsets of investors and also to address my need to diversify my style of investing.

Quant was a result of a couple of years of delving into quantitative, systematic and trend-following techniques. All this started as a result of trying to fill my own lacunae in investing that I could identify. Being a quality-focused long term investor, I was realising that I could not capitalise on short term strong business and stock price momentum. In addition, due to my interest in behavioural psychology, I was convinced that the biggest determinant investment result is the mindset. Any system that could capture these short term bursts and also codify the big decisions required during an investment would be beneficial in getting better results than otherwise possible. As I keep learning, I intend to refine and improve the current Q30 system. I also keep exploring other types of systems. Primarily there are three types of systems possible - momentum, mean-reversion and shorting. The final objective, at some future point in time, is to be able to have these three types of systems running concurrently or a single system which blends all three.

The second advisory I started was Hitpicks with Hitesh Patel. Hitesh has been a friend a mentor in technical analysis for me over the last couple of years. It is an exploration into the world of technofunda. Hitpicks is not intended to be a short term trading advisory, where one gets "calls" to day trade or swing trade. As in the long term advisory, here also, our focus is on identifying good businesses which have some interesting technical chart pattern. The usual timeframe for a recommendation to play out is about 3-4 months. Like in any trading system, we have had a fair share of good and wrong picks. But, overall, I think we are on our way to meet our objective of good compounded returns over the next 2-3 years.

The focus for me continues to be able to generate above-market returns without taking a great deal of risk.  I am happy making less money than the next person, but I am not willing to take any undue risk which will jeopardise my capital. So, the focus on quality first will continue.

As always, do keep sending in your thoughts, comments and questions. They do help me immensely in thinking about different aspects that I may not have focused on.

Wishing you a healthy, happy and enriching 2021.



You can download this as pdf from here.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Hitpicks Advisory - UPDATE

The main idea about the Hitpicks advisory service is to provide good entry points for entry into fundamentally good companies. We are not in the day-trading or very short term trading game. Neither are we much interested in F&O. 

We focus on stocks with good quality that have a good technical structure and that can provide a good risk to reward ratio for us. The typical holding period is 2-6 months for a stock.

Some stats below (you can see this anytime by clicking on Hitpicks Performance Tracker):

Currently Open Recommendations
Num of Gainers6
Num of Losers0
Total Num of Calls6
Avg of Gains / Loss13.48%
Win Ratio100.00%
Recommendations (Since Inception 01-Jul-2020)
Num of Gainers10
Num of Losers5
Total Num of Calls15
Avg of Gains / Loss11.00%
Win Ratio67%
Max Gainer80.20%
Max Loser-15.21%

For further details, visit Intelsense - Hitpicks

Some Interesting Technical Charts

Here are this week's interesting technical charts. You can download the document from here

Disclaimer: These charts are for educational purposes only. It could be used to idea generation for both trading and investing purposes.