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Lessons From the Crash

by | Nov 30, 2023

The Front Page is a quaint DuPont Circle staple bar for nearly three decades in Washington D.C. It was right down the street from my graduate school, and I would frequently stop there after class before catching my trains back to Baltimore.  

What I liked about it was its simplicity. There weren’t many TVs, not much art on the wall. They only played music when the sun went down. This was a reporter’s bar – hence the name – a place where people went to talk… learn… listen… and hopefully heed warnings.  

In 2010, while studying the Great Financial Crisis, I sat down with a long-time money manager who took a job at a think tank after the crash. He said he’d had enough of the emotional swings dating back to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. He’d been beaten up badly on the backside of the dot-com crash, but determined that the Fed’s actions would help propel the markets higher leading into 2008. He sold everything in January 2008, three months before Bear Stearns collapsed. 

Then, he went to teach and cover policy.  

He knew what I was thinking, much like Michael Lewis does whenever someone reads the book “Liar’s Poker.” They warn and warn and warn about the perils of finance, yet everyone sees their falls and rises as “How To” guides.

So, on a cold night in early 2010, we went to the Front Page. I asked a large number of macroeconomic questions about the crash. I found them about a month ago, and I’ll give you the key takeaways that he shared from his experiences from 1997 to 2008. 

Rule 1: Risk Management Is Your Most Important Job  

If 2008 didn’t teach us anything about risk management, the rollercoaster of the last 18 months certainly has. What’s interesting about the downturn in 2008 is that people were completely thrown off by it. It wasn’t like 2008 didn’t have plenty of warning signs. Bear Stearns had collapsed, but for my colleague, he saw the writing on the wall when various mortgage brokers started going bust. 

The people who ignored risk management were the ones who lost the most — and the ones who didn’t bother learning about the risks they took, they were the greater fool. 

Ahead of every trade and every position, we must understand our risk-to-reward expectations. 

Otherwise, we are sitting ducks for those looking to sell us something that isn’t worth half its intrinsic price.  

Rule 2: See Rule 1

Yes, read it again, especially the part in bold. 

Rule 3: Never Underestimate Systemic Risk 

Now, this is where things get tough… How can someone anticipate systemic risk? Don’t these crashes only happen once every 80 years? Well, look at the results of the markets over the last 25 years alone. We have had major market tremors — largely fueled by liquidity, debt and instability — in 2001, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023. 

The financial markets are always threatened by systemic risk — it was just 2008 that woke some people up to it. This is the core reason why I built an Equity Strength Model with a focus on momentum. We can avoid such risk when our signals move red — just to get out of the way of any oncoming train that many people don’t see. This was the case in March during the regional banking crisis. 

Remember, Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy had a domino effect. It created a chain reaction across the globe. The same thing happened with COVID-19. The same thing happened with Silicon Valley Bank and trust in regional deposits. The same thing happened last year in England, where the nation’s economy nearly imploded due to a massive liquidity crisis around its bond market. These events are ALWAYS around the corner, and they’re way more common than you think. 

Rule 4: Cash is Bigger Than King 

Now, this is a big one… When our signal goes red, we like to be in cash — either in money markets or just sitting in a nice cash account giving us ample room to buy up stocks on the cheap. You need capital, and liquidity is essential to this. Having too much of your money locked up in illiquid assets like real estate, cars or things that don’t have a “liquid” market can create additional headaches for you. In addition, you need cash to weather the storm, both as a trader, but also as a consumer.  

Lesson 5: Learn Behavioral Finance 

This was the big one for me… This is how I cemented myself into finance. The key lesson in that bar was to understand the psychology of the markets. I hate to say it, but most experts are wrong, and a lot of the talking heads who are also fund managers are just talking about their book. Back in 2008, Jim Cramer was recommending Bear Stearns before it went under, while Goldman Sachs was ripping the face off its own customers and selling them worthless bonds.  

Fear and panic produced illogical thinking. People need to look out on the horizon and learn to develop a disciplined and rational mindset. Remember, the long-term bias is to the upside. The only way you’d know this is to study the long-term trends and see the behavior of the central banks over the last few decades. If you have cash, you can buy. If you’re a shareholder, you can weather the storm. Those losses only turn to losses when you hit the sell button.  

I’ll dig deeper into each category in the weeks ahead. I hope this gives you a deeper understanding of how I approach markets, and why I do so.

Chat soon,

Garrett signature



Garrett Baldwin

*This is for informational and educational purposes only. There is an inherent risk in trading, so trade at your own risk. 

P.S. Tesla Is on a Tear

In the last 20 days, Tesla’s rallied about 20%…

I don’t think most people expected that!

Especially considering the company bombed on earnings in late October…

That said, on Nov. 1, Lance Ippolito’s indicator turned bullish for Tesla.

You can see how it flipped from red to green right here.

That told him the momentum in Tesla had turned bullish. And for his traders, it opened up brand-new opportunities…

If you want to see how this indicator works and how his guys and girls have been using it to trade in and out of Tesla over the last few weeks… 

Go Check This Out

WRITTEN BY<br>Garrett Baldwin

Garrett Baldwin

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