Notes From The East: The 2016 Benzinga Awards

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Most of you know that it takes a Herculean effort to get me out of California. If someone’s not dying or getting married – often hard to tell the difference – the chances of seeing me east of Vegas are low.

So you know when I tell you I just got back from three days in the Big Apple, there must have been a good reason for the trip. That reason was the 2016 Benzinga Fintech Awards which I attended with members of the SparkFin team.

Though it was a quick trip, it was jam packed full of good people and great experiences. Since I had 5+ hours on the plane to killl, I thought I’d fill you in on some of the highlights of my journey to the not-too-far East.

Here they are, in no particular order.

*Note: Forgive the unusually high number of links in this post, but there was just so much goodness on this trip that I want to recognize. Pretty cool gangsta talk, huh?*

The Event

I’ve been to a lot of industry events. Some suck (think Money Show), but the vast majority fall into a category best described as “meh.” Few are great.

The Benzinga Awards were great.

It’s hard to define why it was such a good show. The location certainly didn’t hurt. As a fan of epic views, the sweeping 180-degree view of the Hudson that presented itself upon entering the venue set a perfect tone.

The food helped. The open bar (really) helped. The insanely evil dessert trays, including a mini-chocolate glazed donut with custard inside it for Christ sake, were a plus. But most of all, it was the attendee list that set this event apart.

Jason Raznick, the CEO of Benzinga, or J-raz as I call him, is one of those rare people whose gravitational pull attracts quality folks into his orbit. Fill up a room with those type of people, and you create a vibe that is nothing short of alchemy.

The MC (Brown)

Statistically speaking, there’s probably the same percentage of A-holes in the financial industry as in any other. However, those in ours are so extreme that at times it seems like we’re over-allocated.

Which is why I like seeing the good guys win, like my pal Josh Brown, he of CNBC’s Fast Money, Ritholtz Wealth Management, and more quality blog posts than any non-genetically modified human should be able to produce.

Watching Josh MC the award ceremony was the highlight of the night. His display of caustic wit – edgy, but always in good fun – was a sight to behold. Here’s just a taste;

After a brief intermission in which a professional mentalist amazed the crowd with feats of cognition I’m still trying to figure out, Josh casually walked back to the podium, paused for a beat, turned, and pointing towards the aforementioned performer who was still packing up his props, yelled….

BURN THE WITCH!!!

Pure JB.

Whether hucking Benzinga balls to the crowd, busting the balls of attendees, or suggesting that NAMBLA was an event sponsor (they weren’t this year), Josh took the event to another level.

On a personal note, Josh was any early supporter of this blog and continues to inspire me with his fearless point of view. Catching up with him is always a treat and I’m glad to call him a friend.

The Peeps

I’m the poster boy for anti-social behavior. If it was up to me, I’d live in a cave, far from the prying eyes of humanity. But I look forward to my rare trips to NYC because I know I’ll see a lot of friends – those I’ve met before – and those I’ve only known online.

Here are just a few of the ones I ran into;

Phil Pearlman – The doctor. My Yoda. The guy you can thank (or blame) for this blog even being here. Phil has a manic Zen quality that I love. The energy he exudes compels, not repels. Deep down I believe I’m his goyim kindred spirit, and it’s always a pleasure to see him in person.

Michael Batnick – A key part of the Ritholtz clan serving as Director of Research, Michael’s blog posts at The Irrelevant Investor are must reads. Smart, deep, and deceptively funny, I was finally glad to press the flesh on a guy who’s work I’ve long admired.

Joe Fahmy – When I was breaking into the online financial community, Joe was one of the first guys to reach out to me. He is such a solid guy, who has a deeper knowledge of the market than most “pros” I know. It doesn’t matter if it’s Cali, NYC, or Vegas, whenever I see Joe Fahmy, my day (or night) gets a little bit better.

The Brothers SwanAndy and Landon may be imposing figures physically, but everything about them is down to earth. Their company, LikeFolio, was one of the standout winners of the night and they celebrated in true Kentucky fashion by sipping – and sharing – a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, a premium bourbon that retails for $1000 (a price Andy made certain everyone knew they did not pay).

Nicole Sherrod – My pal Sean McLaughlin once tweeted to Nicole that he had an issue with an alert function on the TD Ameritrade platform. He wanted to know if she could “run it up the flagpole” and get his issue resolved. She replied, “I am the flagpole!” Smart, funny, and classy, the things she has done with the trading platform at TD are amazing. Full disclosure, I’m not biased because I write for TD Ameritrade, I write for TD Ameritrade because I am biased.

The Gardening Tips

Watching JC Parets and SparkFin CEO Jason Pang discuss gardening tips during the ‘networking session” was a thing to behold. (You had to be there).

Look for JC’s “Tomato Talk” newsletter coming to soon to Marketfy.

The Source

Three years in fintech is like 100 years in the real world. I don’t even know what eight years would equate to, but that is how long StockTwits has been around.

Once housed in non-consecutive units of a Coronado strip mall – with a massage parlor and nail salon in between – StockTwits is now headquartered where it should be, in the Flatiron District of NYC, complete with a view of the Empire State Building.

The SparkFin Team and I spent Monday morning in their offices, and it made me reflect on how far the company has come, and how early they were to the fintech game. Justin, Dave, Pierce, Sean in Colorado, the king of content, Stefan, in Boston, and the whole team have truly built the closest thing fintech has to an institution.

This fact was not lost on the presenters and attendees at the Benzinga awards who repeatedly invoked that company’s name throughout the night as not only a first mover, but one of the primary champions and supporters of the fintech space.

The Original Disruptors

Times Square may be the worst kind of tourist trap, but for me it also houses my own Mecca, the NASDAQ Marketsite.

For those of us who came of trading age in the 80’s and 90’s, NASDAQ were the original fintech disruptors – before the terms “fintech” and “disruptors” existed.

With an eye to the future and a focus on technology, they were the underdogs in the fight against the staid and stodgy old exchanges of my grandparent’s generation. They were my exchange.

30 years, and who knows how many trillions of dollars in transactions later, it wouldn’t be surprising to find them now fat, happy, and content to rest on their hard-won laurels. That is not the case. They still are my, and a whole new generation’s exchange.

Brandon Tepper, Senior Director at NASDAQ, took the SparkFin Team on a backstage tour of the facilities and introduced us to their team. Not only is their technology still cutting edge, but the team is bright, intuitive, and free from any of the clichés and tropes that are commonplace among those who work for venerable financial institutions.

NASADQ is now!

Watching Artic Cat (ACAT) launch their IPO live from the NASDAQ studios reminded me that a public offering is simultaneously the culmination of years of hard work by management and employees (past), as well as a new chapter in a company’s history, tied into a shared vision with the investing public (future).

For a boy from the mean streets of Huntington Beach who used up his allowance buying newspapers with day old stock quotes, this is was a dream come true.

The City

There is no place on earth like New York City. It fascinates me every time I go there.

From the never-ending construction, to the countless amount of people I see just hanging out on the street at 2:00am, to the evidence of New Yorker’s most human of traits – the need to cultivate even a square foot of greenery in a sea of concrete and steel.

With tight quarters, narrow streets, and constant traffic, I don’t know how anything ever gets done in this town. But it does. The city functions, and does so with an energy and a pulse like no other.

Riding through the streets I can’t wait to see what shop, what art gallery, park, restaurant, bar, or bodega lay around the next corner.

New York makes me curious. It’s the highest compliment I can give to a city.

The Nosh

It’s a cliché’ to say that the best food in the world is in NYC. From the Kogi trucks to Troi Mec, even the most respected food critics will tell you that Los Angeles is currently the golden boy in the world of cuisine.

But no matter which way the trendy foodie winds blow, there are timeless staples that can only be done to proletarian perfection in the cities from where their fame first sprung.

Just as Cali has its In n’ Out and Chicago its eponymous dog, NYC has its standard bearers as well.

Like the bagel. The one I ate at a non-descript deli was perfection, served with a cream cheese that had the consistency of paste, but sat in my stomach like air. They say it has to do with the water in NYC. I thought the Hudson was polluted, but if polluted water makes bagel like that, so be it.

Or the meatballs I had at The Meatball Shop, drenched in a tomato sauce so tasty, I wanted to drink it after the dipping bread regrettably ran out.

I tried a pepperoni square at the legendary Prince Street Pizza. I loved it, but loved more the fact that they didn’t give a shit about how they displayed the celebrity photos adorning their brick walls.

But the culinary highlight of my trip was the 1:00am, random corner pizza joint serving traditional New York style slices. It had the right amount of grease and a crust that folded but didn’t crack.

Heaven in triangular form.

It’s hard to believe that of the millions of Italian immigrants who passed through Ellis Island at the turn of the last century, not one master pizza maker made it out to Lotusland, because I admit…. there is nobody in California that makes New York style like they do in NYC.

(And if there is, somebody clue me in, please).

The Journey

I can’t say enough good stuff about Virgin America. If they would only get rid of the crappiest Wi-Fi in the sky, Gogo ($GOGO), the experience would be perfection. I’d short the shit out of that stock if it wasn’t already down 66% from its highs.

I’m not an elitist, but I am 6’4”. If you can upgrade to First Class, do it. If you can’t, pay for it. It’s worth it, and the only way a 5 ½ hour flight can be described as “pleasurable.”

The End

No matter how great the journey, the highlight is always coming home to the seven and ten-year-old waiting for me. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and if that means that your heart overruns with joy when you hold them in your arms after being away, then yeah, I agree.

No amount of Facetime or Skype can soothe the ache in my heart when I am apart from them. This time, it was particularly bad as I had to leave on the day of my youngest’s birthday.

I fully expect to be the winner of the “Worst Dad of the Year Award,” though I’ll only be awarding it in my own mind. Boy Lund is not yet the sentimental type and a (hard earned) Xbox will surely ease any pain he experienced by my temporary absence.

I will be back again next year to the Benzinga awards and wholeheartedly recommend anybody who works in the fintech industry – or even the fin, minus the tech, industry – attend. However, I will ask my friend J-raz to change the date. One week earlier or later will do the trick, because, hey, you only turn eight once.

Exit Carl, Enter Warren: The Apple Dilemma

Sunday nights are the worst for interns in charge of social media at the big financial outlets. They toss and turn in a sleepless cold sweat, dreading the dawn, when once again they’re forced to begin another mind numbing week writing headlines for an endless stream of listicles and articles – the journalistic equivalent of beige paint.

So imagine their joy when news broke Monday morning that Warren Buffett was taking a $1B position in Apple? That type of headline practically writes itself.

It didn’t matter that the buy was technically done by investment managers Todd Combs and Ted Weschler, both of whom joined Berkshire Hathaway in the last five years. Anything associated with the “Oracle of Omaha” is headline gold.

But take a moment to scratch below those headlines and this move creates a dilemma for traders and investors alike.

Theories abound as to who drove the decision to buy only the second technology stock, after IBM, that the famous holding company has ever owned. Ultimately, no matter who actually pulled the trigger, it’s likely a difference without a distinction.

The idea that Combs and Weschler would have joined Berkshire intending to veer away from Buffett’s massively successful and widely admired value investing approach, in favor or a more dynamic style of stock picking, seems far-fetched.

It’s more likely that the decision to buy Apple was less about it being a tech stock and more about where it is in its life cycle – a mature company with a predictable cash flow that enjoys a competitive advantage over its rivals. The type of stocks Buffett & Co. love to buy. The attractive valuation just sweetened the deal.

If true, it’s a sign that Apple is no longer your father’s trading stock. Something reinforced by the fact that Carl Icahn and David Tepper – both known as opportunistic, and compared to Buffett, short-term investors – recently announced that they no longer hold positions in the stock.

This makes Apple as an investment vehicle neither fish nor fowl.

Despite the knee-jerk reaction to news of Buffett’s stake, the volatility that traders love as well as the stock’s positive bias – which repeatedly bailed out “buy the dip” investors over the last 10 years – is likely gone.

But this isn’t a win for the retail value investor either. Unless your holding period and need to access invested cash is the same as Buffett’s – meaning forever and never – then putting on a long-term position in the stock might be a bad move.

AAPL

What is obvious in the monthly chart above is that Apple’s stock price is flattening out as trading volume dries up. This is the type of price-to-volume relationship that can hint at the possibility of a long-term sideways pattern forming

How long?

IBM is down about 14% from where Buffett bought it in 2011.  Cisco and Intel have been in a range for more than 15-years after transitioning from must have tech stocks to mature large-caps. Microsoft is just now barely breaking out of its own 15-years as a dead money stock.

It’s too early to tell if this is that fate that awaits Apple, but one thing is for sure. Both traders and investors better think twice before continuing to treat this stock with a “business as usual” attitude.

Quest For All-Time Highs

When last we met, the market, as represented by SPY, had completed a large “W” pattern and took off like a shot, breaking above the 200-day moving average. If you’ve followed The Lund Loop for any amount of time, this was expected.

I then drew one of my now famous boxes and suggested that some sideways action in that box would be what we wanted to see before attempting to move higher.

And that is pretty much what we got.

(click on any chart to embiggen)SPY

Technically we have some pros and cons.

We’re above the 200ma and have moved out of the box after taking a rest (pro).

But we have now stalled. And though the last three trading days don’t quite form a bearish Evening Star pattern, it looks look a potential reversal pattern (con).

Having said that, a reversal here would not be the worst thing in the world as we have come very far, very fast. If we do reverse, as long as we stay above the 200ma I would not worry.

But as you can see, we are potentially moving back into an uncertain market where the easy money has already been made.

One interesting note, the SPY formed an NR7 bar on Friday – meaning the narrowest range bar over the previous seven trading days. This type of bar usually indicates that buyers and sellers have reached equilibrium – both sides equally matched – for now.

When an NR7 bar presents itself, it doesn’t take much volume, either bullish or bearish, to create a big move. I suspect we will get our answer Monday or Tuesday as to whether we continue higher or come back into that consolidation range – and possibly test the 200ma.

Stay tuned…..

Why The Tech IPO Is Dead (Or At Least Very Sick)

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There was a time in this country when beer tasted like swill, Donald Trump only threatened to run for President, and tech IPO’s were rocket rides to the financial moon.

Now we have arguably the best beer in the world (good), The Coiffed One is actually running for President (yet to be determined, but probably bad), and tech IPO’s are dead money (definitely bad).

For me to write these words is almost incomprehensible given the incredible history of the tech IPO.

There are men out there to this day, on their third former nanny new wife, whose only problem in the world is deciding between the lobster and the cracked crab for lunch because they attached themselves to the right IPO in the 80’s.

In order to understand the tech IPO’s fall from grace, you first have to understand how the landscape of capital flow has changed in the last 20 years.

The original purpose of an IPO was to give up and coming companies access to public capital – on a scale not easily available in the private world – in order to grow their business. In essence, IPO’s were the first form of crowdfunding, raising money from thousands, if not millions, of individuals through share ownership.

Because of this, companies usually IPO’d relatively early in their growth cycle.  Take for example, Microsoft, which first went public in 1986 when their revenues were $196M (about $425M in today’s dollars) and they had 1,442 employees.

Not a small company by any means, but certainly not a monster.

Five years later they had revenues of $1.8B and 8,226 employees – a gain of over 900% and 500% respectively.

Five years more down the line and they were coming in at $8.6B – 4300% higher than when they went public 10 years earlier.

So, if you were an investor in their IPO, and held, you would have seen an exceptional return on your investment.

But nowadays, things are different.

Access to private capital has expanded on a scale that most would never have imagined.  And money always seeks the best return, even if it takes it a while to figure out where that return is. Thus, capital has naturally gone downstream to early stage tech – which should be a surprise to no one.

By the way, I make no value judgement on this phenomenon. It’s neither right or wrong, it’s just the way it is.

This early access to capital means that the majority of growth in tech companies previously seen post-IPO, is now taking place in private.

And when a company like Square goes public, it’s a liquidity event for private money, not a growth opportunity for retail investors like it once would have been.

Sure, you will still see a lot of hype on opening days, with bullish reports of shares of XYZ Company rising X% over their offering price, because it’s in Wall Street’s best interests to keep the air of opportunity wafting around the IPO market.  The more shares they place the more they can justify their underwriting fees.  They want you to keep thinking that Debbie Gibson is ruling the charts instead of Adele.

But in reality, most tech IPO’s will disappoint because they are too far down the road to grow at a rate high enough to justify their share price.

Even the most notable exception, Facebook, can’t keep up the pace of old school tech IPO’s.

When Facebook went IPO in 2012, their stock price was $38/share, giving them a market cap of $104B. Three and a half years later they trade at $107.32 with a market cap of $304B – about 300% growth since IPO’ing.

This is nothing to sneeze at, but will their stock price go on the same type of tear that that Microsoft – or any number of 80’s/90’s tech IPO’s – did back in the day? Will they be a $900B company in a year and a half, because that is the number they will have to hit in order to match Microsoft’s growth.

And Facebook is the gold standard of tech IPO’s. The only other company in their league yet to got public is Uber, which credible reports suggest might have as high as a $100B valuation by the time you and I can buy it.

The fact is, most tech IPO’s going forward are going to be busts – at least relative to how they used to perform – a trend that is already taking place.

Tech IPO's

So what is your takeaway?

In 1975, Paul Stanley, of the band KISS, is heard in the interstitials between songs on KISS Alive, addressing the crowd, and telling them that backstage, before the concert, somebody told him that the people in the audience liked Rock n’ Roll.

In 1996, I fulfilled one of my childhood dreams by seeing KISS in concert on their reunion tour. And on the night that I saw them, Paul Stanley, of the band KISS, told us that backstage, before the concert, somebody told him that the people in the audience liked Rock n’ Roll.

Point is, automaton-like behavior might work for venerable rock bands, but it won’t cut it in the market.

Times change, markets change, and you have to evolve with them if you want to be effective in your investing. You can’t just blindly buy a tech IPO and expect it to take you up a few tax brackets like it once did.  No matter how much you like Rock n’ Roll.

7 Takeaways From Stocktoberfest 2015

Stocktoberfest

This past week I spent three days on Coronado Island in So Cal, attending the fourth annual Stocktoberfest conference, hosted by Howard Lindzon.

Stocktoberfest attendees are an odd, but surprisingly complimentary mix of stock traders, venture capitalists, fin-tec entrepreneurs, and content creators, with a few traditional financial folks mixed in for good measure.

I think I can say – without any hyperbole – that the collective brain power in the main conference room on opening night was equal to that of a million of our suns.

With so much cranial juice flowing, there were bound to be some cool takeaways.

Nobody Acted like Their Photo 

It’s no secret that when you go to an event like this you spend half of your time saying to yourself, “Wow, [insert name] sure doesn’t look anything like their publicity photo.”  And Stocktoberfest is no different.

Nobody resembled their ten-year-old, auto softened, highly photoshopped image; well, except for Fox on Stocks, because she’s like twelve.

But more importantly, nobody acted like their photo.  The gallery of hard charging, leaning in, Type A personalities represented on the event’s website turned out to be just a bunch of down to earth, easily approachable guys and gals.

There are not too many times you can see a bond manager who runs a multi-billion dollar fund casually chatting with a retail trader, but that’s part of the magic of Stocktoberfest.

Facebook Is Just Getting Started

If there was one consistent theme that ran through the show, it was that Facebook is executing like crazy right now.

They have the vision, resources, the talent, and most importantly, the leadership in Mark Zuckerberg, to keep on growing at a rapid pace for the foreseeable future.

The real excitement though was over the separation of Messenger from Facebook proper, with speculation being that it will become the US version of WhatsApp – a monster in Asia – which hosts native third-party transaction-based apps.

If this turns out to be true, Facebook will add rev sharing to its current monetization model.

Twitter, Not so Much

The term that was bandied about quite a bit during the conference was “Peak Twitter,” as in, “Have we already seen peak Twitter?”

There was a real sense amongst the experts that Twitter has squandered its early momentum, and despite the recent return of their wayward founder Jack Dorsey, not many think it’s a given that he can right the ship.

Don’t Count out Yahoo

On a panel that included Goldman Sachs alum Michael Parekh, former Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn, and Raoul Pal of Real Vision Television, nobody was willing to write Yahoo off….yet.

Yahoo still has nearly a billion users and Yahoo Finance is an 800lb gorilla, and Pal made the point that all the company has to do is execute effectively on one major initiative and their fortunes (read: stock price), could reverse very quickly.

People Love to Take Psychedelic Drugs and Freak the Hell Out

Whoops, sorry.  That was from “7 Takeaways from the 2015 Electric Daisy Carnival.”

My bad.

Premium Information Is Now Free (or Really Cheap)

The days when you had to be an embedded analyst at a major Wall Street firm, or pay nosebleed subscription prices to get access to top shelf data and information are over.

Take, for example, Urban Carmel, who writes The Fat Pitch, was named after Pope Urban II by his papal loving parents, and sipped 18-year-old Scotch while Howard interviewed him.  His take on the market is informed, experienced, and insightful, and he gives it away for free.

Or Ben Thompson from Stratechery, who has the ear of Silicon Valley’s insiders, writes 10K words a week on the tech industry, and then gives it away for $10 a month.

Gregor Macdonald on energy. Dr. Brett Steenbarger and Chris Kimble on trading. Herb Greenberg and Eddy Elfenbein on markets.  These are just some of the great content providers who showed up at Stocktoberfest.

Forget about Location, Location, Location

Coronado is a tiny island that sits in the southwestern most corner of the US. (Well, technically there are 14 miles between it and Mexico, but trust me, there are no other cities worth mentioning in that space).

And it is here that Howard has carved out a successful home base built around trading and investing, all while enjoying 320+ days of sunshine and cool ocean breezes.

No longer are you forced to live in New York, Chicago, or Silicon Valley if you want to work in finance and technology.  As one NYC-based advisor told me, “I only live there because I’m a ridiculous New Yorker.”

This fact was not lost on the attendees, and probably why my contemporaneous, and only half-joking, tweet below was highly favorited.

The Cost of Scale Is Dropping like a Rock

The Platinum sponsor for Stocktoberfest was Amazon Web Services, a formerly not too well known component of the company that is now generating over two-billion in revenue per quarter.

It was a strategic choice for them as roughly 75% of the companies that attended use AWS as their technology backbone.  Any why not? Gone are the days when servers and IT infrastructure had to be co-located within a business.

Thanks to the increase in internet bandwidth over the past ten years, companies can now leverage Amazon’s massive server farms, using only what they need, and keeping costs manageable.  Servers can then be “spun up” on demand.

Amazon is making scale a commodity, which drives prices down, enabling more early stage company’s access to top quality technology at affordable prices.

There was actually an 8th takeaway, but I have been sworn to secrecy.  Sometimes you just have to attend to get the full benefit of Stocktoberfest.

See ya next year.

The Worst Thing That Can Happen To An Investor

Those of you who have followed me for any amount of time know that I am an unabashed fan of StockTwits. Recently I sat down with my friend and StockTwits’ Director of Community Sean McLaughlin for a wide ranging interview.

We covered a number of topics including how I got involved in the markets, what it’s like to be a West Coast trader, my experiences with “social trading,” as well as the worst thing that can happen to an investor.  I had a lot of fun doing it and I hope you enjoy it.

How To Get What You Want From The Stock Market

everything-you-want

Why are you here?  What do you want?

These are the questions I ask myself in order to find out how to give you the most value.

I would like to think you read my blog for a few reasons.

Maybe, like me, you are a market addict and enjoy reading anything and everything related to trading and investing?

Perhaps you like the fact that you can ask me ANY question you want about the markets, trading, or investing and know you’ll get a thoughtful and honest response.  (Don’t believe me?  Give it a try at Brian@TheLundLoop).

And maybe, just maybe, you are here for my rapier wit?  But probably not.

I hope these are at least some of the reasons you’re here, but ultimately I know you are here for one thing–to be more informed about the markets so you can be a better trader and investor.

And since we’re both adults, let’s just be honest about what that really means…..

You are here to make money.  As much money as you can.

That’s it, isn’t it?

Sure, like me you are probably fascinated by all aspects of the market, but also like me, this is not an academic endeavor.  As cool as it is to talk about and discuss the market, none of that matters unless it can make you cold hard cash.

Are you making money in the markets now?  If you are, could you be making more?

I love making money in the market, for a number of reasons.

First off, it allows me to do things for my family, friends, and loved ones.

I will never forget when I was in my early 20’s, struggling to build my first company, and trading on the side.  One day I caught a fantastic run in a stock called Pre-Paid Legal, which made me more money in a week than I made in a whole month in my business.  I still remember the symbol…PPD.

More awesome than making that money though was what I could do with it.

My dad died when I was 20, a loss that hit my family, and especially my mother, exceptionally hard.  After a number of years of grieving, her friends convinced her to take a trip with them to Europe, a trip she had always wanted to take with my father.  She saved up for six months in order to afford it, and out of necessity planned to be on a tight daily budget, watching every dollar she spent.

That is a crappy way to see Europe.  She deserved better.  So the night before she left I went over to her house to wish her bon voyage, and as I hugged her goodbye, I pressed a thousand dollars into her hand.

“Have a great time,” I said.  “Take this money.  It is for you.  I want you to relax, enjoy the trip, and treat yourself to some nice things.  You deserve it.  I love you.”

I can’t tell you how good that felt.  That I could, in some small way, make my mom’s life a little easier.  A little better.  Like all my friends at that time I was broke, and if it wasn’t for the money I made in the market, I wouldn’t have been able to do that for her.

Who is special in your life?  What would you like to do for them financially if you could?

As I got older I began to understand that being able to extract money from the market on a regular basis is great, but it’s what that money gives you that is the real prize.

Freedom.

Freedom from bosses.  From long commutes.  Annoying co-workers, clients, and employees.  Freedom to set your own schedule.  Live wherever you want.  Freedom to live your life in the way you see fit and to have self-determination.

When my first child was born I was a full-time trader, and I was able to be present, to experience every moment of her precious childhood, because I had the freedom to do it.

What would you do with complete freedom?  How would you spend the time that freedom gives you?

I hope that the content, insights, and accessibility I provide, in some small way, help you to get what you want from the market—because I know how great it is when you have it. But I can only do so much.

The number one question I get asked by readers is, “Do you mentor people and/or teach them how to trade?”  I wish I could.

Unfortunately, with two young kids, a writing career, and my own trading, I just don’t have the bandwidth to teach others.  And though I am always willing to help you out in any way I can when it comes to the market, I don’t think my personality lends itself to teaching.

That is why I have compiled a list of Quality Trading Services.

I am not affiliated with any of these services in the sense that I don’t get any compensation for mentioning them.  They are just services I personally have used or currently use, or traders whom I have interacted with for a long time and respect their skills and integrity.

Most offer a free trial, so check them out and start getting what you want from the stock market.

R.I.P. The StockTwits Blog Network: 5 Ways It Changed My Life

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Note: Last week, those of us who have been a part of the StockTwits Blog Network for the last few years were informed that our blogs were being sun-setted.  I don’t know, sun-setted, is that even a word?

Common wisdom says that we will know the days on which our lives will change.  Sadie Hawkins dance.  The Prom.  First date with someone outside of our religion.  First time we kiss with love in our hearts.  Wedding day.  Birth of our first child.  Blah, blah, blah, you get the point.

But that is bullshit.  The real days when your life does a full 180 degree pivot don’t come with a warning or a societally wrapped bow.  They hit you like a tacit 2×4 to the head and you don’t fully understand the impact until long after the fact.

Such a day happened to me back in June of 2011.  A mister Pearlman – make that Doctor Pearlman – called me up out of the blue to say, “Bubba, I like the stuff that you are writing. How would you like to join the StockTwits Blog Network?”

Me?  Join the network that had such luminaries as Josh Brown, Tadas Viskanta, Greg Harmon, Eddy Elfenbein, and that awesome neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie James Altucher?  What was going on in the good Dr. Phil’s head?  Baselining crack seemed to be the only explanation.

Let’s be frank.  I am a lazy, lazy man.  But I know that.  And I know that the only way to overcome my lazy gene is to overpromise.  You see, my overpromise gene can put my lazy gene in a full-nelson type headlock, and if necessary, snap its reluctant neck.

So, reluctantly, and with a voice cracking like that of Peter Brady, I said, “Sh-sh-shur.  I’ll join the team.”  And thus the course of my life was forever altered.

Let’s Get It On – When I first started blogging on the StockTwits Blog Network, forever to be referred to in future literature as “The Hammer of The God Thor Blog Network,” a funny thing happened….I got challenged.  A lot.

No longer could I just spout shit.  People – smart fucking people – weighed in with their counter-points.  And their point-counter-points.  And even their double super point-counter-points.

Their points made me think.  Made me re-check my thesis, my hypothesis, and my conclusions.  This, my friends, is a good thing.  Challenges temper your beliefs.  Refine them and make them complete.

Give Me The Crystal Method – After writing for a few weeks on the blog network, a strange sensation began to take hold.  I began to understand what I thought.  Sounds funny doesn’t it?  Everybody already knows what they think, right?

But do you really?

Here’s my challenge.  Take a few minutes.  Select a couple of topics and decide what you think about them. Now, spend a month writing about them.  I will bet you dollars to doughnuts that by the end of the month, you will forever spell doughnuts either “d-o-n-u-t-s” or “d-o-u-g-h-n-u-t-s.”

Point is, writing things down, on a regular basis, has a wonderful, crystalizing effect on your thought process.

The Broads Love a Guy Who Writes – Not too long after my stuff started getting published on StockTwits, I literally had to go incognito everywhere I went.

Chicks love guys that blog about inside baseball financial shit.  They can’t get enough of us.

Rock stars, British actors in independent films, and financial bloggers – I dare you to tell the three apart.

(Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit on this one, as after four years my mother still can’t seem to bookmark my blog, my wife says, “yeah, great, so where is the goddamn money?” and my daughter says, “can’t anyone just write a blog?”  Touché’).

The Old Man In The Cave – Previous to beginning my blog I was a bit of an insular character.  That is to say, I did not like venturing out and meeting people.  But in the last four years, thanks mostly to the opportunities brought about by my writing, I have met some of the greatest minds in finance.

Howard Lindzon, Dr. Phil, Joshy, Eddy, Tadas, G-to-the-Harmon, Todd Sullivan, Brian Shannon, Jeff Carter, Derek Hernquist, Joe Fahmy, that bourbon cherry making chartist JC Parets, Sean McLaughlin — I have met them all, and so many more.

The only two I have yet to meet in the flesh are the infamous Dinosaur Trader, and Barry Ritholtz, whom I suspect is a just a Long Island accented hologram anyway.

Show Me The Money – And perhaps the most outlandish, incomprehensible, and irrational side effect of being on the StockTwits Blog Network is that other platforms have actually asked me to write for them….

FOR MONEY!!!!!!!

If it were not for StockTwits, there is no way that I would now be writing for AOL’s Daily Finance, About.com, Yahoo Finance, and most recently, TD Ameritrade’s The Ticker Tape.

Being on the StockTwits Blog Network literally began an unlikely, but growing, second career for me.

And with that, we come full circle.  Thanks to the various platforms that StockTwits has opened up for me, I no longer need to write about the markets and finance on this blog.  Just as the ST Network is sun-setting, so too is this blog…at least in terms of finance and the stock market.

In the coming weeks you will see a transition and a re-branding of this blog.  Instead of talking about stocks, I am going to be talking about more personal issues.

My life.  My kids. That dipshit at Starbucks.  My hopes.  Fears.  Insecurities, Triumphs.  Failures.  And the universal struggle we all engage in on a daily basis.

In short, Life in Flux.

I hope you stick with me, but if raw, introspective, girlish-like self-examination is not your bag, man, then feel free to subscribe to The Lund Loop, where I will give you the best hand curated info about what I am writing, reading, and thinking about the markets.

It’s a once weekly newsletter that is completely free.  Click here to sign up.

And once again, thanks to the StockTwits Blog Network — especially Phil Pearlman and Howard Lindzon — as well as all those who have played a part in its legacy.  I am a better investor, writer, and person for having been associated with it.

Destroying The Myth Of The Intermediate-Term Investor

Just wait for it.
Wait for it….

A couple of weeks ago an email went out to select Virgin America customers, the important part of which went like this;

The LOYAL3 Social IPO™ Platform allows individuals to purchase shares in our IPO at the same price, and at the same time, as institutions and other large investors. Participation is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Individuals can elect to purchase shares in our IPO through LOYAL3 in amounts ranging from $100-$10,000, with no transaction fees. Please don’t forward. This invitation is intended only for you and is not transferable. Your Elevate Gold or Elevate Silver Status will need to be effective as of October 29, 2014 to be able to participate.

It was an interesting, but not completely original way to offer IPO access to loyal customers.  Usually I am suspect of approaches like this as the big boys on Wall Street don’t like to share with the proletariat. Opening it up to the average Joe made me suspect that the offering was under subscribed.

Nevertheless, when a friend asked me about it I put aside my reservations and asked him a few questions, including why he wanted to buy, and how long he intended to hold.

His reasoning was straightforward and reasonable — he liked the service.  This was to be a long-term hold he said, in the neighborhood of 5-10 years.  He is a young guy, with no family, who has yet to enter his best earning years, which from my perspective made for some simple advice.

“If you believe in this company and it is a long term-hold for you” I said, “just put in as much as you can afford right now.”

“Right” he replied.

Yesterday I got a message from him;

“I am the biggest idiot in the world.  I talked myself out of buying that Virgin stock.  I reasoned airlines are a bad business and I didn’t buy.  I could have gotten in at $23 and now the stock is at $33.  I am such an idiot.”

“So would you have sold it already?” I asked.

“I would have put in a stop-loss to protect profits.”

“Really? But I thought it was a 5-10 year hold?”

“Lol. Who knows.  Good point!”

What my confused friend was illustrating is that there is no such thing as intermediate-term investing.  In the quest to save investors from their greatest foe, themselves, their only chance is to focus on the “now” and the “forever” —  everything in between is death.  Black death.  A vortex of bad decisions and negative returns that very few investors ever come back from.  You don’t want to go there.  It’s the Jan Brady of investing.

The closer you are to a day trader or Warren Buffett, the better off you are.

The short-term investor has time on their side.  It is transcendent and objective. The minute, hour, day, or week — if obeyed — tells them when to stop.  When the game is over.  And when to start it back up again.

The long-term investor relieves themselves of the burden of themselves.  All they need is a drawer to put their investments in and they are good to go.

The rub is that humans don’t naturally work well in either of these times frames.  We are drawn impulsively and inextricably to the intermediate-term. The time frame between “It needs some time to work out, I’m holding” and “It will never come back, I’m selling.”

I saw how this time frame works, up close and personal, early in my investing career.

My great-aunt Geneva was the oldest of the Kelly girls from Fillmore, Utah.  Yes, those Kelly girls.  A fiery redhead, she had a passion for life as intense as her as the color of her hair.  Though not a woman of means, a series of familial bequests had snowballed in her favor, leaving her in possession of a decent sized portfolio of common stock.

With no children of her own, she decided to leave the stock to my sister and I once she had passed. But before that could happen my father got very ill, and knowing our family as a whole would need it more, changed her will and left it to him.  Shortly after her death he took possession of my former stock, walked straight into the crash of 87′, and sold it all not far from the bottom.

I remember the stocks well.  There was Bank of America, Ford, CSX, General Motors, and a host of other blue chip names.  I can only imagine what that stock would be worth today if it had been given to me instead of my father.  Imagine, of course, because as a naive 20-year-old, I would have sold it just as quickly as he did after the crash.  Maybe even quicker.

That’s how the intermediate-term gets you; it feels so right, and the alternatives feel so wrong.

Day trading is one of the toughest things you can do and swing trading is only easier by comparison.  And the long-term approach requires investors to maintain a state of active ignorance. Neither time frame feels natural.

In early 2000 I read an article about some of the “dellionaires,” men and women, well, really only men, who had bought Dell stock when it IPO’d and had become millionaires, some many times over. This necessitated holding the stock for over 12 years.  Who, other than Warren Buffett does that?

I bought a stock in 1992, after the girl I was in love with introduced me to some friends who were looking for a drummer to join their band. They were all biotech grad students who worked as interns in the lab of a new pharma company.  (I’m sure you can imagine what a rocking band that was).

The company was (is) Cortex Pharmaceuticals and according to my new band mates, had a blockbuster drug that was going to cure Alzheimer’s.  I am still a long-term investor in the company and on the days when the stock actually opens, it trades around a nickel. That’s how long-term investing has worked out for me.

And those dellionaires, did the intermediate-term claim them when less than a year after that article was published the market crashed, or were they able to hold the stock for another 12 years until Micheal Dell made their choice for them by taking the company private?

How To Win A Complete Trading Library

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There is an oft repeated expression – made famous in the Malcolm Gladwell book “Outliers” — that says you need 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery of any given field.  That’s a lot of time.

Take trading for example.  Even if you practiced for 6.5 hours every day the market was open, according to Gladwell, it would take you 6.15 years to get to the level of expertise where you could make a living at it.

As human beings we naturally want things faster.  As traders we want them now.  Unfortunately there is no short cut to becoming a master trader, but there are some hacks that can expedite the process somewhat.  And that’s where The Lund Loop giveaway comes in.

I am giving one lucky winner a complete trading library of books — my trading library in fact.  These are the same books I used to learn about the markets and trading, and if you are a novice, these are also the same books that can shave months, if not years off your learning curve.

Even if you are an advanced trader, these 25 books will be a great addition to your own library.  Here are the books I am giving away…

UPDATE:  The generous people over at McGraw-Hill have added 5 titles to the giveaway bringing the total number of books to 30;

  1. Market Wizards by Jack Schwager
  2. The New Market Wizards by Jack Schwager
  3. Stock Market Wizards – Interviews with America’s Top Stock Market Traders by Jack Schwager
  4. How to Make Money in Stocks (4th ed) by William O’Neil
  5. How to Make Money Selling Stocks Short by William O’Neil
  6. 24 Essential Lessons for Investment Success by William O’Neil
  7. The Successful Investor by William O’Neil
  8. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator  (Annotated w/ Foreward by Paul Tudor Jones) by Edwin Lefevre
  9. Trade Like a Hedge Fund by James Altucher
  10. Backstage Wallstreet by Josh Brown
  11. The StockTwits Edge by Howard Lindzon
  12. Trading Options Using Technical Analysis – Greg Harmon
  13. The Trading Book by Anne-Marie Baiynd
  14. The Trading Book Study Guide by Anne-Marie Baiynd
  15. The 5 Secrets To Highly Profitable Swing Trading by Ivaylo Ivanov
  16. Candlestick Charting Explained by Gregory Morris
  17. Getting Started in Chart Patterns by Thomas Bulkowski
  18. Millionaire Traders by Kathy Lien
  19. Techniques of Tape Reading by Vadym Graifer
  20. The Complete Turtle Trader by Michel Covel
  21. The Disciplined Trader by Mark Douglas
  22. Trading In The Zone by Ari Kiev
  23. How I Trade Options by Jon Najarian
  24. Laughing at Wall Street by Chris Camillo
  25. The Intelligent Option Investor by Erik Kobayashi-Solomon
  26. The Complete Guide to Option Selling by Michael Gross
  27. Dual Momentum Investing by Gary Antonocci
  28. Money by Steve Forbes
  29. No One Loves Your Money Like You Do by James Jackson
  30. Surprise Book #23 -TBD

That comes out to over $750 worth of trading and investing books.

So how can you win all 25 books?  It’s simple, just click the contest link below to enter.  And once you’ve entered you will have an opportunity to increase the odds of winning in your favor even more.  It’s all reward, no risk, the type of set up every trader dreams of.

ENTER THE CONTEST

Good Luck!