Anatomy of a Losing Trade

Today, I lost approximately Rs.4000 in a Sun Pharma Options Trade. It is worth examining the trade, because I think it gives valuable trading lessons.

On the face of it, why am I even talking about this trade? It is only one among the hundreds that I do every month. The amount involved is trivial. Losses are the part of life of any trader. So why worry about it? Forget it, and move on, just like a bunch of other losing trades.

I think, however, that this particular trade contains valuable lessons on what not to do while trading. And therefore merits a deeper examination.

I consider myself an experienced and sucessful trader. One who has a track record of success, who is diversified across instruments, and someone with (at my risk levels) who has access to unlimited capital, and a proven capacity to bear tremendous losses. Why did I get this trade wrong?

First, the logic of the trade and the trade itself.

At a time (10 a.m on 22 Feb 2018, expiry day) when Sun Pharma was trading at 528-529 (up nearly 0.75% on a weak market day), I entered into a 530CE/540CE ratio trade in the ratio 1:3.

I got the idea for such trades from Jeff Augen’s excellent book on trading options at expiration. In this book, Augen talks about two peculiar behaviors in options on expiration day. The first is the propensity for stocks to exhibit pinning behavior (getting pinned to a strike price, and jumping discretely from one strike price to another), and the other is the dramatic collapse of IV (or a dramatic time value decay, in an Indian context, because we have no after market). Augen suggests therefore that it makes sense to enter into call ratio trades in heavily traded stocks. What he suggests is that one chooses the long strike of the call ratio where the underlying is just out of the money or just in the money. And then he suggest selling a ratio at the next higher strike, which just allows for a small net debit or credit (and which usually results also in the trade being roughly delta neutral to begin with). If the underlying falls, the both sides of the ratio expire worthless, and all you lose or gain is the small debit/credit one started with. If the underlying rises, but not too much, the long side of the ratio will expire in the money, and the short side will expire worthless, resulting in a nice gain. And if the underlying does get pinned to the higher strike, then the profits will be tremendous. Breakeven is when the underlying rises by [Strike Price Spread + Strike Price Spread/ratio], which is usually a 3.5% or so move, which is unlikely in most stocks.  So the risk:reward characteristics of the trade are excellent.

Unfortunately, I have still not been able to build conviction that stocks in India also exhibit pinning behavior. Unfortunately, I still don”t have a database of minute prices in stocks, and so I haven’t been able to backtest this (am in the process of correcting this)

In this particular Sun Pharma Trade, I purchased one Feb 530CE at 5.2 Rs, and sold 3  Feb 540 CE at 1.9 Rs. This resulted in an initial credit of Rs. 0.5 or on the lot, a credit of Rs. 550. Nice. I was a happy camper.

There was a lingering fear at the back of my mind. Sun Pharma was due for some news flow (the FDA inspection of one its plants was ongoing). The risk was positive news flow which would result in a sharp price increase.

The second problem, as I see it, was that while I entered into several similar trades on other stocks around the same time, I was entering into call ratio spreads on expiry for the first time. And I was quite personally excited to see this work.

The third issue I think was that I had a successful run at options trading for the first time in the Feb expiry, with practically no losing trades. So I was actually quite eager to retain my profits (though my options profits/losses are a  much smaller component of my overall trading position, and these losses/profits are not material).

 

 

Portfolio Disclosure January 2018

Portfolio Disclosure as on Jan 11, 2018

Pls see below my portfolio (limited to those stocks which constitute at least 1.5% of the portfolio):

Ticker % of Portfolio %Gain
OBEROIRLTY 9.90 132.74
BAJAJFINSV 4.03 764.79
BALKRISIND 3.60 728.33
IDFCBANK 3.50 38.26
IDFC 3.28 -14.19
HINDPETRO 3.06 295.64
ECLERX 2.87 98.13
NESCO 2.84 114.28
DCMSHRIRAM 2.84 339.78
PIIND 2.78 138.99
SPARC 2.14 246.60
INDHOTEL 2.13 82.36
MCDOWELL-N 2.09 41.59
RELIANCE 2.01 124.17
IBULHSGFIN 1.92 196.66
OCCL 1.91 1117.00
BAJAJELEC 1.89 145.80
CANFINHOME 1.81 1100.05
SHILPAMED 1.79 526.03
KRBL 1.78 1200.07
NMDC 1.75 19.26
BHARATFORG 1.74 313.36
MUNJALSHOW 1.72 85.35
AKZOINDIA 1.69 64.44
CUMMINSIND 1.69 127.08
TATAINVEST 1.67 71.89
LT 1.65 75.55
IRB 1.63 86.47
HMVL 1.57 29.40

As before, for Canfin Homes, KRBL, Shilpa and Bajaj Finserv, the % gain is after including profits on sales carried out.

The only sales since the last portfolio disclosure have been in EClerx. This has primarily to do with the rise in the price due to Buyback announcement. I fully intend to purchase back the stock once the buyback record date is over.

There has been a sharp rise in the price of Oberoi Realty, IDFC Bank and IDFC. This accounts for the relative percentage increase. Similarly, there has been muted performance in Balkrishna Tyres. All of these are long term stocks, so the relative performance is not, per se, especially interesting.

Trading Performance December 2017

Trading Performance December 2017

My trading performance since August 2017 has been nothing short of disastrous. While I am still ahead for the year, at this point, had the same capital been invested in stocks, I might well be ahead. However, that is in the nature of the trading game. Most of the time, the returns are below the peak returns, and in addition, there are often sharp drawdowns in this business. This is where mindset, stoicism and capital come into play. I like to think that I have these in abundance. Then it is only a game of waiting. Markets will give you a sharp break on either side, which will develop into a nice trend to capture profits. It just requires the patience to hold on, till the ride comes along. But I can see why many people don’t succeed here.

Here is a table of the returns:

Trading Returns
Table of portfolio returns and trading performance for December 2017

Investment Performance December 2017

December 2017 was a great month for markets, especially in the small and midcap segment. The portfolio as a whole continues with its underperformance of the small and midcap space, and its outperformance of the large cap space. Financials did not have a great time in December, and given the high weight of financials in the portfolio, some level of underperformance was to be expected.

The SBI Small and Midcap Fund has a complete blowout. Even the Centrum PMS had a blowout month, with the result that its performance almost caught up with my portfolio returns.

Here is a graphical representation of the monthly returns:

Portfolio Returns
Graphical Representation of the portfolio returns in December 2017, relative to different benchmarks

Following is the same thing in the form of a table:

Trading Returns
Table of portfolio returns and trading performance for December 2017

Portfolio Disclosure- Dec 2017

Portfolio Disclosure

See below a list of stocks held in the portfolio.

Porfolio of Stocks
Largest Holdings as on Dec 18, 2017

My current portfolio is extremely diversified, but the top holdings (which constitute approx 80% of the total portfolio) is disclosed here.

Pls note that the total return here does not include dividends. In a few stocks-NMDC, AkzoNobel and HindZinc, accounting for dividends would have changed the return considerably.

In a few stocks, the purchase value is reduced by the profit booked. This is true of CanFin Homes, Shilpa Medicare, Bajaj Finserve and KRBL. This is why the return seems absurd. In any case, each of the stocks has returned around 10-15X, even if I don’t account for profits booked.

Trading Performance November 2017

Trading Performance November 2017

Trading Performance in November 2017 was on the muted side. The last three months have not been great for my trading performance, which has actually been negative, and substantially so, even though markets have been positive. Over the year, returns are a fabulous 150% on my invested capital. These large fluctuations in trading returns are a function of the trading systems I use. In fact, in November, trading the stock markets has not been that bad, but commodities have given horrendous returns, which has led to a low performance overall.

I am now trying to introduce options into the mix, and in November, I had a profitable month trading options. I have still not deployed substantial capital for options trading, but I will over a period of time.

Here is a table of my trading performance(as well as investment performance) for the month of Nov 2017, and for longer periods:

Trading Performance
Table showing my trading performance(as well as investment performance) compared to different benchmarks

Investment Performance Nov 2017

Investment Performance Nov 2017

November was not a great month for markets. The Nifty actually declined slightly, while the broader indices were in the green, but just so. Portfolio investment  performance was similarly muted, with the portfolio having returned just 2.77%. It has been more than a year since I started keeping track, and the overall returns for the year till Nov 2017 have been 37.66%. It seems optically great till one considers that Nov 2016 had the demonetization even and subsequent sharp fall. So comparisions are bound to be favorable. Also, one has to consider that the SBI Small and Midcap Fund returned 61.12% during the same period. So good portfolio performance, but not great.

One swallow does not make a summer, and so also 1 year does not represent a lifetime of investment returns. It gives only a snapshot of lifetime performance, and it does not say anything about the risks taken to derive the investment returns. Nor does it say anything about the future course of returns. However, as we keep up this exercise of tabulating returns, month after month, for several years, hopefully, we will be able to derive some conclusions.

In the meantime, I am sticking to my general investment style. Low churn, buy low valuations, catch falling knives when the company’s survival is not at risk. Keep a trend towards concentration.

What can say about a year’s returns? My portfolio outperformed all the indices I track, as well as the HDFC Top 200 Fund. My portfolio also outperformed the two PMS schemes by a considerable margin. And the portfolio grossly underperformed the SBI Small and Midcap Fund. It has been a great run for small and midcap stocks. However, we will see how these perform as time passes.

Here is a graph of the returns:
Investment Returns
Investment performance of my portfolio, as well as those of several benchmarks

A table representing the same data is part of the next post, which will talk about trading returns.

 

Trading Performance-October 2017

Trading Performance-October 2017

October 2017 was not good for my trading activity. The market kept whipsawing between rises and falls, and though the Bank Nifty on which I primarily trade went up 4 % in the month, I suffered a considerable drawdown.

Here is a table showing my trading performance relative to other benchmarks.

TradingReturns
Table showing my Trading performance in relation to other benchmarks

As you can see, my trading performance has resulted in a nearly 25% fall in the overall return in the last 3 months, of which 14% was in October alone. I do hope the tide changes soon.

Overall though, I am still ahead of all other benchmarks for the year. This is the nature of the trend following trading game. Huge outperformance for brief periods, and then steady attrition in returns for long periods. Hopefully, it means that you come out ahead of the investment pack in the long run.

However this large volatality in trading returns makes me more and more inclined to include options strategies as part of the trading mix. i am currently engaged in developing the technical expertise to analyse and develop Options Trading Strategies. It will take a long time, perhaps as long as a year or two. But I convinced that that is the way to go.

Investment Performance-October 2016

Investment Performance-October 2017

Here I am with another edition of my investment performance. This was a month in which the market, especially, Small and Midcap Stocks went up considerably, after a relatively muted August and September.

While the markets were strong, my own stocks did only ok. IDFC and IDFC Bank continued to do poorly, while certain other stocks, like CanFin Homes, EClerx and Ajanta also did poorly. On the other hand, Oberoi Realty, which is by far my biggest holding, did fine, and so did Bajaj Finserve/ A whole host of smaller holdings, like DCM Shriram, BKT, Indiabulls Housing Finance also did well.

Overall, of all the benchmarks, my porfolio did marginally worse than the Midcap Index, and considerably worse than the SBI Small and Midcap Fund, which had a blowout performance. Otherwise, on both a monthly and yearly basis, my investment performance was marginally better than the performance of the HDFC Top 200 fund,  and was considerably better than the indices as well as both the PMS schemes I own, the MOSL “Value Strategy” fund, as well as the Centrum Deep Value Fund. One must wonder why anyone should invest in these PMS’s and give managers a fee, when one can have a reasonable portfolio and do considerably better.

Investment Returns
Graph showing my investment performance in relationship to other benchmarks

 

I have also tabulated the results:

Investment Returns
Table showing my investment performance in relation to other benchmarks

Trading Performance-September 2017

Trading Performance-September 2017

The Yo-Yo of markets during the month was not at all good for performance of my trading activity in September. I use mostly trend following strategies, across different time frames, and sideways markets did not do much for the returns from trading activities, and in fact, there was capital loss.

I am still up for the financial year, and quite well. But the whole situation is testing my patience now. These are the periods when stoicism is valuable as a philosophy, and I am as stoic as they come. So we will continue the same, no matter what the state of my patience.

Here is a tabular representation:

Investment and Trading Performance
Comparison of investment and trading performance of my portfolio and trading activity relative to various benchmarks