February 28, 2018

The staircase chart

There is a chart pattern which can either cause dread or euphoria in the hearts of investors.

There may be no formal name for it from technical analysts, so let me call it the stair case chart.This is either a stock hitting the upper or lower circuit continuously for days at end. The pattern looks like a staircase in a particular direction. More than the pattern, the investor psychology during this period is instructive

We had several stocks on the ascending staircase last year. Whenever such an event occurred, it was fascinating to read the comments of investors on social media. Everyone was patting each other on the back, congratulating the management and generally puffed up about their brilliance. The more intellectual types threw terms like moat, great management and large opportunity size to sound rational.

Of course, a rising price tends to obscure all risks and this occurred often in 2017.

The current year has been the reverse. We are now seeing the dreaded descending staircase chart pattern for a lot of companies. In these cases, the stock price is locked in the lower circuit and a lot of investors who want to get out of the stock, are not able to do so.

It is again fascinating to watch a different set of investors (it’s never the same) now talking of the dishonest management, bear conspiracy and the lack of liquidity.
It is tempting to make fun of others in either of the two scenarios, but I would caution you from doing so. It is not difficult to find yourself in one of these camps in the future. On the contrary, if you invest long enough, one of these patterns will hit you.

I track and study such events to understand the psychology and see what I can learn from it. This is my short summary
-        Do not mistake correlation for causation. People invent reasons for quality or lack of it based on the price action. The time to evaluate quality is before the price action starts and not after it. Once the trend begins, it is not easy to avoid the emotional contagion
-        You will never know everything there is to know about a company and its management. There are always unknowns and it’s important to stay humble – that is acknowledge your ignorance. Once you do that, you will respect risk and size your positions accordingly.
-        Always have an estimate of fair value in mind. When the market goes crazy on the upside, reduce the position size to manage the risk of over concentration.
          Have a downside plan in place. If you invest long enough, one of your position will eventually hit a wall. Know what you will do in advance as it is not possible to react rationally at that time.
-        If you have bought into a speculative position, acknowledge that you are riding a tiger. As long you are in control, you are fine. If the table turns, be ready to be eaten (figuratively speaking). Position size and risk management is critical in such cases, so that you live to see another day (in terms of investing)
-        Finally keep an open mind. This is of course easier said than done. The most common reaction for almost everyone is to attack someone who is arguing against your view point. In my case, whenever I read an opposing view, I take a deep breath and do nothing at that time, other than make a note of it. This allows me to calm down.
I usually come back to the argument after a few days and try to dig into the points being made against the thesis. In my case, I will note down these points and try to separate facts from opinion. Facts can be easily validated and disposed off. If there are opinions, then the best option is to analyze the reasoning and look for evidence to support it. Even if you don’t find the evidence right away, be on a look out. If you do see the evidence supporting the counter argument, then you know the other person is right.

Investing is all about betting on the future of a company and the best of us will be wrong from time to time. The key is to be on the lookout, acknowledge your mistake as soon as possible and fix it. The ones who make lesser mistakes on average do better than others over time.

Stocks discussed in this post are for educational purpose only and not recommendations to buy or sell. Please contact a certified investment adviser for your investment decisions. Please read disclaimer towards the end of blog.


Vikas Rana said...

Great post Sir..very well said.

I can see you putting some key takeaways/points in practice.

Thank you!!

Rajagopal Ramanathan said...

Good piece of advice.