The Greatest Rally of All Time? The Day of 1987 Crash

Boris Schlossberg

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Howard Marks, the famed investor who runs more that 100 Billion at Oaktree Capital, tells a story of a phone call that changed his life. He had a conversation with Michael Milken who was just starting out as the king of junk bonds at the time. Milken told him that, “If you buy AAA or AA bonds they only have direction. If you buy single B bonds, and they survive, all the surprise will be on the upside.”

Out of that brief encounter Marks took away the lesson that all investments are about price. As he tells Business Insider, “There’s no such thing as a good investment idea, until you’ve discussed price.

Investing well is not a matter of buying good things, it’s about buying things well. And people have to understand the difference. And if you don’t understand the difference you are in big trouble.”

Mark’s observation made me think about the great stock market crash of 1987. I am embarrassed to admit that I am old enough to remember it. And ironically enough I was at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the very firm that Milken made infamous, when the crash occurred.

What very few people realize is that the 1987 crash was also the day of one of the greatest stock market rallies of all time. At around noon, after a vicious sell-off in the morning, stock staged a massive rally that brought the indices almost to breakeven. All in all, the move from the bottom to its apex was more that 200 Dow points or greater than 10% gain in matter or hours. Trader who bought the bottom and exited midday made a fortune. Of course, equities then faded into the afternoon and ended up down more than 500 points on the day or more than a 22% drop -- still the biggest one-day decline in US stock market history. But if you were a trader, there was almost as much money to be made from the long side as there was from the short side. All of which leads me to conclude that in trading just as in investing price entry is everything.

So as traders, we should banish the concept of oversold or overbought. We should stop worrying if we are aligned with trend or not. The only real question to ask whenever you make a trade is -- did I get a good entry or not? The answer to that query will determine your chance of success far more than any strategy you use.

How an Admiral Gave Me The Greatest Trading Advice Ever.

Boris Schlossberg

“Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed.

If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack- that’s Navy talk for bed.

It was a simple task. Mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that we were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle hardened SEALs but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.

If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”

So begins one the best commencement speeches ever written. It was delivered at the University of Texas last year, by Naval Adm. William H. McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that speech this week.

On Wednesday, a trader in my room took a big hit on an ill timed GBP/USD trade that wiped out 20% of his account. He is a great guy, loved by all, but I knew that just telling him to buck up move on wasn’t going to help him.

Instead, I didn’t even bother commiserating about failed trade and ordered him to do the following: for the next few days he had to trade with the smallest size available on the platform (in our case that’s 1000 units on MT4) and produce 100 pips before he could do anything else.

Like all good advice this idea was completely spontaneous. It literally went straight from my head to the keyboard. But it seemed to have had the intended impact. The trader quickly forgot about the losing trade and set to work on his given task. His feel for the market returned so fast that he was able to bank 100 pips in a day rather than in a week handily beating the goal I set for him.

From this I learned several things.

  1. We are far more resilient than we realize
  2. Having a well defined, hard target goal is the best antidote against wallowing in self pity
  3. Doing one small thing well is far more important for your self esteem and your skillset than any “self-analysis” you can muster

In fact, I liked this advice so much, that applied to myself. Today I woke up and just couldn’t get into the groove with the market. Everyone in my trading room was banking pips while I stared at the screen numbly missing setups left and right. So I started to trade the smallest size possible using our day trading strategy and just plunged into the market until I was back in sync with the flow.

Guess what?

Learn How to Make 100 Pips Per Day

It worked.