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Heuristics: Decision-Making Keys for Trend Traders

Market Commentary that addresses heuristics:

…We often get the recurring question: why is your method successful? This is especially the case when there is so much fundamental information available to use in making decisions. We think that our success has been based on simplicity; nevertheless, there often is a bias by some investors away from the simple manager in favor of those who discuss and try to account for the complexity of markets. To some, simple means unsophisticated; but there is a growing body of research work which suggests that simple methods of decision-making actually outperform their more complex alternatives. This certainly may seem counter-intuitive; but in a complex world where decisions have to be made with limited information and face real world time constraints, there may not be the ability to optimize over all possible alternatives. Under the real life situations faced by a trading firm, there is a premium on “fast and frugal” decision-making or heuristics. Fast decision-making is often based on just a few cues or inputs that may seem relevant. There is actually value in not using too much information. Researchers have found through testing that simple decision rules often can perform as well or better than more sophisticated forms of decision-making – especially when there is a high degree of uncertainty… There is a constant barrage of information; but often this information can be conflicting and, in some cases, does not come out with the frequency that we would like. For example, monetary policy can serve as a simple case. There are only a limited number of Fed meetings a year; however, this is supposed to help us infer the direction of interest rates and help us manage risk on a daily basis. How do you manage risk in markets that move 24 hours a day, when the fundamental inputs do not come frequently? In the grain markets, crop reports are fairly limited, and demand information comes with significant lags, if at all. How can this information be best incorporated in the daily price action? Under these types of conditions, simple approaches, such as following prices, may be better. In reality, our desire for effective decision-making is based on a simpler cue. Is the market going up or down? Has each position lost a predetermined amount of capital on a trade? We do not worry about trying to decipher all of the particulars of the market when action is required. In that case, the trend may be more than sufficient as a cue of what to do. It may actually be preferred to other information. Something to think about the next time you listen to a manager talking about the complexity of his thought processes as the indicator of his expertise as a manager. Signals are built into the market price…

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