Wednesday, September 28, 2011

News - Trade'em or Fade'em?

Having commented lately on the influence the news flow from Europe has on the market and how sensitive this market is to those headlines, I received a very good question which made me think that I should have written on this topic long ago. Here is this, very valid, question:

"Vad, I am trying to reconcile these comments (on market sensitivity to Europe news - V.G.) you made in your trading log and on your Facebook page with the idea that you promoted many times before - that the news is usually priced in by the past movement and by the time the news is known to everyone it's too late to act on it, and a trader should start looking for info-price divergence to fade the news. Sure enough, I've seen many times that this idea worked like charm - and I do see now how market reacts on any peep from EU, just as you suggest. Could you comment on this contradiction?"

To be able to tell these situations apart, we must define two different kinds of news from the point of view of interaction between news and price.

First, and the most traditional for the "normal" market developments is what I call FSN - Fleece Sheep News. This is exactly what it sounds like. The scenario is old as the market itself. You've seen it 1000 times, and quite possibly were on a receiving end of it at some point early in your trading career. Smart Money starts buying while no one's even looking, it figures out the coming developments and accumulates before these developments become common knowledge. Price moves up slowly at first, then speeds up as an advance starts attracting attention and new passengers climb aboard. Finally the news comes, price spikes sharply and Smart Money feeds previously accumulated shares into such euphoric spike. No more buyers left, the last crop of late arrivals is left holding the bag as the price declines - and it does so against the background of a good news, with no single negative word, all to the amazement, resentment and accusations of manipulation by those who never bothered to study how the market really works... Examples of such news is introduction of a new technology, new product or drug, changes in demand, general industry trends, etc - things that keen observers can figure out with this or that degree of accuracy well before they become obvious to the masses. FSN may be a cruel name somewhat for this phenomenon but can you think of a more precise one?

Second, and more rare kind is what I call GN - Genuine News. This is an event that is either a) a surprise for everyone or b) known to come but with an outcome impossible to predict. This is where Smart Money has little if any advantage. More than that (although this is a somewhat side observation), often Big Money is at disadvantage here because of bigger exposure and lesser mobility in moving in and out... but this is separate topic. Example of the news catching everyone unprepared? Earthquake; fire; sudden death of a key figure... you get the idea. It's just "here is what happened," and no market participant could have taken the right position before the event other than by an accident or an unrelated reason. Thus, news is not discounted by the prior movement and causes genuine market reaction. Example of an event with unknown outcome? Why, EU latest developments... everyone knows something is going to happen, no one knows what. This is where some stay away and some bet on a certain outcome - counting on their opinion being correct, relying on their ability to calculate the most probable course of events or simply gambling.

In the former case (FSN), a trader uses price - information divergence as his most powerful weapon. I have written about this in the past (here and here for instance, not even speaking of here and here), to show how a trader takes position with Smart Money and stops being a part of the Crowd. As difficult as this concept may be for a layperson, for a trader FSN is a normal trading environment, like water for a fish.

GN on the other hand introduces huge uncertainty - instead of moving accordingly to street signs, traders have to wait for new and often temporary signs to be erected. In a news-driven market instead of smooth market flow we have lurching movements in stop-and-go fashion. Time frame shortens to "between the soundbites" - and those often come at unpredictable times.

Thus, in the latter case (GN) - be nimble. Be flexible. Keep your commitment light, do not form an opinion and do not let your Ego lock you in that opinion. Don't be afraid of missing the move by not being in before the move. Remember, newbies chase potential - professionals control risk.
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