Is the average American investor an idiot? I found myself pondering that question yesterday as I tried not once, but twice (unsuccessfully, I might add), to edge myself into some DXD calls between the spread. This is a trade I've already been burned on three times in the past 9 months. And by burned, I mean the options expired worthless. 100% loss. Three times now. And I'm trying it again.
Paul Farrell wrote this piece a couple months ago, and it has rattled around inside my head since then. He says Wall Street looks at the investing public as a bunch of "predictably stupid losers" and has already factored the public's predictable irrationality into its quant models. Farrell believes Wall Street regards individual investors as little more than prey.
Recently I explained why the Wall Street banks must kill financial reform to preserve their multibillion dollar bonus pool. One reader commented: "I worked at the. . . every word written here is true. Fact is, bankers regard themselves as wolves and the public as prey, and speak about it openly among themselves." Then he added a sucker punch: "What is extraordinary to me is how willingly the sheep submit to this."
Back when I wasprofessionally, I remember viewing individual investors with derision. At the time, I thought it was because I was privy to resources, systems, and information that they couldn't possibly be, so I likened their strategies to throwing darts at a board. The game was already beginning to change at that point (late 90's), but today I have to believe that individual investors don't have a prayer.
I have a friend who is a legitimate day trader, working from his home. He tells me that freqhas all but put him out of business. Where he used to be able to scalp a quarter or even a half, he's now lucky if he sees a nickel. The risk is quickly outweighing the potential reward. And he's a pro.
So my question is, can individuals make a buck on purpose in the market? I know there are all sorts of happy accidents, and I don't count those. I'm talking about old-school value investing. I suppose it's possible for someone to buy a value stock and hang on to it for twenty years and make a handy profit, but in the interim thousands of short-term traders have taken money out of the stock a hundred times over.
The market opens in three and a half hours, and I know it's going to find me tilting at the windmill of a vastly overvalued Dow once again. Maybe I'll get a fill today, and maybe it'll work out this time. Incidentally, I wasn't wrong the last three times, I was just behind when the clock ran out (as the saying goes). The market had a mini-collapse each of the three times I bet against it - it just happened a day or two after my options expired. The last time would have been a four-bagger for me.
I'm wondering what you guys think. Is the game completely rigged? Is the Street having a good laugh at Johnny Lunchbucket's expense? Am I a complete moron for betting against another obvious bubble when the Fed is clearly committed to keeping it inflated? Are individual investors really predictably stupid?