Devil’s Dictionary for Financial Markets
There is nothing like a good dose of humor to cheer one up from the otherwise depressing economic situation. The honors go to Norgate Investor Services who compiled the amusing Devil’s Dictionary for Financial Markets. The title was borrowed from Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary – a great work of diabolical appetites published in 1906.
Enjoy the A to Z of satirical investment definitions.
Arbitrageurs: large traders who feed on plankton.
Averaging down: lowering the average price of entry by adding to a losing position. Averaging down should only be attempted when you are really angry at a market.
Back-testing: the art of adjusting trading system parameters so as to ensure maximum profit in the past and zero profit in the future.
Black-box system: a trading system that is available for sale, but is so good that its rules can’t be disclosed. Black-box systems are generally only available for sale because the vendors have a sense of philanthropy.
Cancel-if-close: a limit order that is cancelled if it appears likely to be hit. Some brokers do not accept cancel-if-close orders.
Charting: “join-the-dots” for adults.
Central banks: big market players, with no stop-losses. The Bank of Thailand once bet 40% of its foreign reserves in a day. It lost.
Computerised system testing: torturing the data until it confesses. See: back-testing.
Contrary opinion: the idea that when the market dumps a security, you should look to buy it. The trick appears to be to make sure that the market has finished doing the dumping, and is not just waiting for you to buy so that it can really start dumping. See: Institutional investor.
Cycle analysis: a method of analysis that allows losing trades to be organised into regular patterns.
Derivatives: securities that are identified by acronyms – CHIPS, COBRAS, LEAPS, PERQS, STEERS, TRIPS, ZEPOS – all of these things are derivatives. Unfortunately, little else is known about them.
Daytrading: an activity that takes place in between meaningful periods of employment.
Dot.com bubble: tulip-mania for the X-generation.
Dow Jones Industrial Average: a widely reported stock index that was designed in the late 11th century and has stood the test of time.
Drawdown: a figure that immediately grows when a trading system transitions from paper trading to real trading.
Eurodollars: US dollars, of course.
False break: an actual break of a trendline that triggers a losing trade. False breaks confirm the usefulness of trendline analysis. Only those breaks that are false cause problems, and those breaks don’t count, because they are false.
Fast market: an official market condition, during which floor brokers may scalp you with impunity. At other times, they have to be careful about it. See: slippage.
Figures: market-sensitive measures of economic activity, such as “Non-Farm Payrolls” and “Durable Goods Orders”, that are published every day in the US, much to the annoyance of players on the other side of the world, who can’t get to sleep.
Float (initial public offering): stock that is offered to you because other people have turned it down. The guiding principle in relation to floats is as follows: “never participate in a float that you are able to participate in.”
Forex market: a private casino, which is run by large international banks, mainly so that they can have some fun.
Fundmental analysis: a method of analysis that provides compelling reasons for why a stock shouldn’t fall in price when it does.
“Fundamentally sound”: the condition in which an economy finds itself immediately after a stock market collapse.
Gold carry trade: in the gold carry trade, institutions called gold banks borrow gold from the central bank at the gold lease rate, which may be 1%. They can then sell this gold and invest the proceeds in Treasury Bills, which may yield 4%. The central bank keeps the gold on its books, figuring that it can trust a gold bank. Of course, the gold bank is “short” the gold until it pays it back, and it must take care that the gold price doesn’t get away from it. This may, or may not, explain a lot about the gold market of the 1990s.
Greeks, the: Delta, Gamma, Rho, Theta and Vega. In option pricing models, the Greeks are partial derivatives that express local sensitivities. Just remember the names of about three of them, and then slip them into the conversation occasionally. No one will pick you up on it.
Hedge fund: a fund that pools money from rich investors, in order to play with it. Hedge Funds are private concerns, which means that they can play wherever they like. Mutual funds, on the other hand, accept money from the public, and can only play where they are supervised.
Hedger: a guy you can’t beat when you’re playing him at futures. When a hedger loses a bet in the futures market, he makes up for it in the cash market. When a speculator loses a bet in the futures market, he really loses it.
Index funds: funds with no sense of fun.
In-house analyst: an employee of a broking house who dresses mutton up as lamb and advertises it on special.
Institutional investor: someone who dumps a stock big-time, a day or two after you’ve bought it, for no apparent reason.
Limit moves: an unexpected but welcome holiday for pit traders invariably caused by fat-finger-syndrome-suffering Japanese traders.
Live feed: a technology that enables the instant incorporation of bad ticks into a charting program.
Long Term Capital Management: a large hedge fund, whose capital only managed to last for a short time.
Lunch: when you ring your broker on a Friday afternoon to be told he’s still at lunch, it means he’s still drinking.
Market depth: a trading screen that shows orders queued up on both sides of a market. Unfortunately, it doesn’t show the orders belonging to people who don’t like to queue.
Market report: a concise explanation of why a market traded up or down. 99% of market reports are drawn from other market reports. The remainder are whimsical.
Maximum adverse execution: the employment status of a trader at Société Générale in January 2008 after losing the bank €4.9 billion.
Money management: the art of hiding trading losses from a spouse.
Non-executive director: a person who’s job it is to fill a chair at a board meeting, so that no chairs are empty.
Option pricing model: a mathematical model, that can calculate the fair price of an option. If the market price differs from the fair price, you can bet accordingly. If the market price then moves further away from the fair price, you can say: “Hey, that’s not fair!”
Overbought: a market is considered to be in an overbought condition when everyone else appears to have bought it, but you haven’t.
Peak oil: the point in time at which your highly leveraged long crude oil position enters an impossibly steep downtrend.
Personal computer: an indispensable aid to the modern investor. Investors who are new to computers should consider the following advice: Always approach your PC in a confident manner. Computers can sense fear and indecision. Remember – you are in charge! You can always shut the thing down (unless you’re using Win98).
Position trade: a short-term trade that is in deficit, and will be closed out as soon as it breaks even, however long that takes.
Price/earnings ratio: a ratio that indicates whether the price of a stock is attractive in relation to last year’s earnings. A low number indicates a bargain. However a low number can also indicate a lemon. If a company starts going down the tube, its stock price will appear very attractive in relation to last year’s earnings. The P/E ratio is a versatile indicator.
Random walk theory: the theory that market prices follow a random walk, much like that of a drunken sailor. The weakness of the theory lies in the fact that little scientific research has been done into drunken sailors.
Rumours: the time-honoured basis for the making of trading decisions. Rumours about stocks tend to get thicker as they are spread.
Seasonal analysis: the assumption that other people who trade heating oil futures know nothing about winter.
Slippage: the difference between the price at which you expect a market order to be filled and the price at which it is actually filled.
Stochastics: a technical indicator so-named because the name sounds technical.
Stop-loss: the trader’s equivalent of a condom. It’s something you know you should have used after it’s too late.
Support: a line drawn on a chart, the breaking of which is deemed extremely significant, even if the only people trading the stock at the time are two of three ladies at the tennis club.
Support/resistance: supposed allies that flee at the first sign of trouble.
Tankan index: a closely watched figure, that measures the extent to which the Japanese economy is tanking.
Technical analysis: subjective analysis of the markets dressed up in a lab coat.
Technical indicator: a transformation of a price series that contains less information than the series itself. Different technical indicators throw away information in different ways.
Tech wreck: the end of the dot.com bubble. Surprisingly enough, many observers predicted the wreck accurately. As time goes on, more and more of these observers come forward.
They: the members of a powerful international conspiracy who target small, private traders in order to make their lives miserable. For instance, “they ran the market to my stop and then turned it around.”
Trading floor: the traditional venue for the negotiation of securities, now made redundant by screen trading. Trading floors that remain open serve a valuable purpose as colorful backdrops to market reports on television.
Trading genius: a reckless spirit in a bull market.
Trendline analysis: a form of analysis that works best on a computer screen, where lines can be erased and re-drawn without trace.
Zero-sum game: a game in which the players slug it out and the broker wins.
Source: Norgate Investor Services
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