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April 17, 2019 | How Bull-Market Swings Challenge the Risk-Averse

Rick Ackerman

Rick Ackerman is the editor of Rick’s Picks, an online service geared to traders of stocks, options, index futures and commodities. His detailed trading strategies have appeared since the early 1990s in Black Box Forecasts, a newsletter he founded that originally was geared to professional option traders. Barron’s once labeled him an “intrepid trader” in a headline that alluded to his key role in solving a notorious pill-tampering case. He received a $200,000 reward when a conviction resulted, and the story was retold on TV’s FBI: The Untold Story. His professional background includes 12 years as a market maker in the pits of the Pacific Coast Exchange, three as an investigator with renowned San Francisco private eye Hal Lipset, seven as a reporter and newspaper editor, three as a columnist for the Sunday San Francisco Examiner, and two decades as a contributor to publications ranging from Barron’s to The Antiquarian Bookman to Fleet Street Letter and Utne Reader.

Today’s chart shows why it can be so difficult to make money in a bull market, even when one “knows” how high a stock is headed.  We’ve been confident that Facebook (click on inset) will eventually hit 190, a Hidden Pivot target first aired here more than three weeks ago when the stock was trading around 167.  We still think it’ll get there, come hell or high water. But what an agony it has been to simply go with the flow!

As the chart shows, the stock has made a series of marginal new highs, each followed by a relatively stiff pullback. If you’d been long the stock at April 3’s 177.96 peak, you’d have needed to weather a $5 swing against you just to net a four-cent gain at the next peak.  The 179.19 peak that  followed that one, making you $119 richer on 100 shares, required sitting tight on a dive that at its low would have made you $373 poorer.

Rewarding the Faithful

Although Rick’s Picks tries to keep risk/reward in a 1:3 ratio at all times, a buy-and hold strategy in Facebook, as you can see, subjects one to an effective risk:reward greater than 3:1. Risking $3 to make $1 is no way for a trader to make a living. Tesla shares, incidentally, come out far worse on the risk:reward scale. If you’d held a single share from the September 2017 record high at 389, you’re out $118 at the moment and would need a 43% rally just to break even. Ultimately, it is only the enduringly faithful — in this case, institutional geniuses who have held just a handful of one-decision FAANG stocks for years — who can withstand such horrendous short-term odds.

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April 17th, 2019

Posted In: Rick's Picks

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