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Day Trading for a Living?(papers.ssrn.com)

543 pointsak39 posted 6 months ago376 Comments
jhoutromundo said 6 months ago:

They have a reason to make that article: there is a lot of companies fooling the Brazilian people over this.

I'm a Brazilian software developer for the financial market. I also made some financial courses on the same university that the authors.

Brazilian stock exchange market has exploded in the last years and most of my friends decided to 'work' as traders. None of them with prior knowledge or experience in the market. All of the posts on Instagram every time they earn some money.

The cause for this fever was the marketing around 3 or 4 companies who sell the dream of financial independence through high-risk financial market lessons. Normally they offered courses to famous people for free and use their image to convince the rest of us.

One interesting thing: they normally sell the course with a private platform to trade the stocks included. I believe that they use that platform to collect data and operate against the traders that use that platform. They know the strategy that they are going to use (because they teach them), so it is easy to operate against.

amluto said 6 months ago:

> One interesting thing: they normally sell the course with a private platform to trade the stocks included. I believe that they use that platform to collect data and operate against the traders that use that platform. They know the strategy that they are going to use (because they teach them), so it is easy to operate against.

You’re assuming a complex strategy is needed when a simple one can easily suffice: simply pretend that you executed the trades, give the clients their profits, and keep the losses. In other words, the broker can take the opposite side of every deal and keep the spread and commissions. If, indeed, the client is trading based on no information whatsoever, then the broker wins and the client loses.

To improve this, the broker can throw out the best performing clients, since they might genuinely know what they’re doing.

I’m not suggesting that this is what any particular broker does, but it’s a strategy that works very well, at least in principle.

alexhutcheson said 6 months ago:

A business using this approach is called a Bucket Shop - it's both fairly well-known and explicitly illegal in most places: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucket_shop_(stock_market)

tim333 said 6 months ago:

It's also very similar to 'spread betting', explicitly legal in the UK and a large industry.

said 6 months ago:
ummonk said 6 months ago:

I have a hard time telling the difference between the “bucket shop” described in the lede there and a modern options trading market.

I guess the difference is that in a market third parties eat the spread by market making whereas in a bucket shop the market itself profits off the spread?

superfrank said 6 months ago:

I'm not sure if it's the only difference, but according to the wikipedia definition, in a bucket shop there is "no transfer or delivery of the stock or commodities nominally dealt in", which would be one difference from the option market.

gbronner said 6 months ago:

The bucket shops described in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reminiscences_of_a_Stock_Opera... operated by offering incredible leverage and using actual ticker tape quotes, which, at the time, were delayed slightly.

They offered the 'service' of being able to trade large nominal amounts at the last market price, without market impact, but had incredible levels of margin -- 50-1+ or something like that.

This meant that customers often hit margin limits, incurring additional 'commissions' to close out their positions.

Operationally, the bucket shop netted long and short positions, and either actually traded the residual or, occasionally, would use market orders (e.g. aggressive sells) to push the punters into margin calls, which they would then execute. They would then buy low and cover their earlier positions.

Jesse Livermore managed to beat them through astute technical analysis and through the installation of a direct telegraph line from the exchange, thus beating his 'brokers', who promptly kicked him out.

ummonk said 6 months ago:

I don’t think most commodities traders actually transfer or take delivery of the commodities though. Sure there are some firms that actually are engaged in the commodities business, and use the futures markets to offset price risk, but most traders in the commodities markets are basically just betting on commodities prices.

tialaramex said 6 months ago:

The nominal dealing on a future's market will be on some paper that entitles the holder to the commodity delivery at a future date. When you buy oil futures, you are NOT buying oil since the oil doesn't exist (well I guess it exists underground somewhere, maybe), you are buying a contract to deliver crude oil and that needs to really exist. If the contracts don't exist that's a Bucket Shop.

It matters when things go badly wrong, because with a Bucket Shop you're left penniless, it was all imaginary anyway. Whereas with a futures market even if the exchange blows up those are real contracts you can sell to somebody who wants the commodity you were trading in, at worst a mild inconvenience and a small haircut to your final profit.

amluto said 6 months ago:

You may be confusing the exchange with a broker. With a serious commodities broker, you’re using the services of the broker to trade on an exchange, e.g. the CME. The broker does not particularly care whether you make or lose money, so long as you don’t actually go negative.

In the US, securities brokers are very heavily regulated — see “regulation NMS”.

tialaramex said 6 months ago:

I don't think so (I am not an expert though so it's possible), my point was that even if the exchange, not just your broker, blows up, the thing you were buying and selling is a real thing anyway, unlike in a Bucket Shop.

debatem1 said 6 months ago:

Interesting, thanks for the link. I wish there were some comprehensive list or taxonomy on these kinds of scams.

Fr0styMatt88 said 6 months ago:

There was a really interesting talk I saw a few years back that dealt with this sort of thing. Very much worth watching:


said 6 months ago:
jdurham said 6 months ago:

When I worked in Forex (~1999-2003) this was common practice, at least where I worked. Bring in customers, teach them the bare minimum, and let them trade with 100:1 (and sometimes 200:1 leverage). Even better, because 99% of customers lose, we would "assume the risk" of most trades, accepting their trades but not offloading them to larger banks (ABN, Deutsche, etc), so their loss was all profit. If someone demonstrated they were a decent trader (very, very rare), we would set a special bit on their account and, from then on, offload their trades to major banks at better spreads than we offered to the customer, making 5-10 pips per transaction. Most of the "decent" traders traded in huge lots (10-100 millions), so making 5-10 pips per transaction was substantial. Long story short, you make money on the crappy traders and on the good traders, and the good traders were even better because they would keep coming back.

phillc73 said 6 months ago:

> To improve this, the broker can throw out the best performing clients, since they might genuinely know what they’re doing.

In a parallel space this is happening in the UK with bookmakers. Winning punters either have their accounts heavily restricted, i.e. only able to place small value bets, or their accounts closed entirely.

Certain states in Australia had to introduce legislation to guarantee a bet size the bookmakers must stand. From memory it was $500 on country race meetings and $1000 on metropolitan meetings.

spir said 6 months ago:

  To improve this, the broker can throw out the best
  performing clients, since they might genuinely
  know what they’re doing.
This practice is pervasive in sports betting. It's a common practice to ban winners, especially in the US and UK.

https://augur.net is an Ethereum-based betting market that will help traders/bettors avoid these kinds of malicious practices. Augur v2 is being developed now, you can expect it to be Really Cool by about April 2020. Millions of dollars will be wagered on Augur for the 2020 election.

Drdrdrq said 6 months ago:

Betting could very well be the killer feature for Ethereum.

ackbar03 said 6 months ago:

So far betting seems to be the ONLY feature for all things blockchain. In China quite a few of my friends went to make games on the blockchain during the wave of cryptocurrency mania. That didn't work out so they then went on to make (illegal) gambling games on the blockchain, although that didn't really workout quite as well either (apparently something to do with generating random numbers on the blockchain)

thefringthing said 5 months ago:

I worked on a Bitcoin sports betting site. Been there, done that.

lallysingh said 6 months ago:

You don't have to throw out the clients that perform well! You charge them fees and send their orders to market.

Maybe front-run them a bit if you're into that.

voldacar said 6 months ago:

>If, indeed, the client is trading based on no information whatsoever, then the broker wins and the client loses.

If this were the case, wouldnt both sides just make 0$ on average over a long period of time? (or whatever the avg growth of the market was during this period)

I guess the broker would earn fees, but that still doesn't exactly sound lucrative

amluto said 6 months ago:

For the kind of trader that clicks on a computer all day, fees and spreads (which are not always easy to tell apart) can easily dominate price movement.

chrisweekly said 6 months ago:

I urge people who care at all about how stock exchanges actually work -- it's substantially worse than what you describe -- to read 'Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt' by Michael Lewis.

bencollier49 said 6 months ago:

Presumably this strategy would land the operators in jail if enough of their traders successfully predicted a large enough market move.

Carpetsmoker said 6 months ago:

The best way to get rich in a gold rush is to sell shovels.

Every time someone comes up with a "get rich with this training/tool/etc." it's very unlikely to make you rich, because if it would work that great then why isn't the seller of the training/tool using it to get rich, instead of selling whatever they're selling?

ummonk said 6 months ago:

Well, I’ve seen a few people blogging about how they make money by blogging about how to make money.

WalterBright said 6 months ago:

There's a classic one where one places a classified ad that says: "How to make money at home! Send XXX $10 for information."

Send them $10, and you get a letter that says: "Place a classified ad that says: How to make money at home! Send XXX $10 for information."

jiscariot said 6 months ago:

This was probably 30 years ago--make $100's "Stuffing envelopes."

outworlder said 6 months ago:

Exactly. This goes double for when we are talking about investments.

If the proposed strategy really really works, then you would get investors and offer them a share of the pie. "Teaching" them accomplishes nothing and reduces your profits.

imtringued said 5 months ago:

Bitcoin ASIC manufacturers are known to mine Bitcoin before selling their machines.

brentis said 6 months ago:

Thats what i did.

ChuckMcM said 6 months ago:

Welcome to 1999 :-) Or China 2010 or so. It almost feels like there are people who look at these events, figure out who made the money, and then work to recreate them in a new environment where they can be in the position to make all the money.

My experience from the dot com day trading frenzy was that there were three kinds of investors;

Those that had no clue and just followed a bunch of investment "tip" sources and did what ever was the investment of the day (these people were essentially gamblers, and like gamblers were up one day and down the next, only to eventually bottom out).

Then there were the folks who had read up on how the markets worked, maybe taken a finance class or two, and read a bunch of Morningstar reports on various funds and their strategies and tried to create some sort of meta strategy that was a mix of the funds they found impressive. These people had good days and bad days and over the course of a couple of years basically matched the S&P500 or other widely diversified stock indexes in gains. What I learned from them is that if the market in general is up 9% and you're up 10% you are only doing slightly better than the market, even though you feel like "hey I'm getting 10% a year, I'll double my money in 7 years!"

Then there were the very serious folks, these folks read annual reports and 10-Q statements and prospectuses. They kept a databases of people who were executives, board members, and advisors of different companies. They consumed four or five different regional news streams (usually London, Tokyo, New York, Chicago, and Washington) They kept indexes and stock price histories in their own databases and mapped current events to stock motion. They broadly characterized every stock they watched closely by who managed the entity, what markets it was most effected by, and least effected by, and what government policies could help or hurt it. I'm sure if they could afford a Bloomberg Terminal subscription they had one of those too. They did well for themselves but they invested 80 hours a week into doing well.

Not surprisingly there are lots of people in the first group, fewer in the second, and fewer still in the hard core group. I personally see myself in the second group, and over the years my own portfolio has done slightly better than the market.

A unique strategy one person I knew took during the dot com bubble was to convert gains into "things" on a regular basis. At one time he had about a dozen different Porsche sports cars, two houses, and some acreage in the Livermore valley that he rented out as a vineyard. He did pretty well selling that stuff to recover losses from the crash.

WalterBright said 6 months ago:

Haha, I invested in the "shovel" companies that were making real profits (such as Cisco). They got caught in the secondary die-off, when the dot-bust companies stopped buying shovels.

ummonk said 6 months ago:

Yeah, I’m in the second group. I use a diversity of buy and hold strategies (picking individual stocks based on fundamentals or personal brand experience, buying certain sector ETFs, etc). The efficient market hypothesis index ETF promoters think I can’t beat the market, but if they’re right it doesn’t matter, since I make sure to keep my transaction costs low and only use low expense ratio ETFs, and I have a diversified portfolio so I’ll just end up matching the market on average.

ocschwar said 6 months ago:

So, let's see: we have a surge of stock market speculation driven by day traders seeking to get rich quick, in a country with a growing influence from Protestant Evangelicals preaching the prosperity gospel.

Brazillians, you can ask any American about this. We've been there. It does not end well.

djsumdog said 6 months ago:

It's no reason to discount this study of course. It just means it should try to be reproduced by following large samples of day traders in American, European and/or Japanese markets. My hypothesis is that you'd get pretty similar results. Day trading always seemed like gambling to me. It's just fancy Vegas.

opportune said 6 months ago:

What you believe the platforms are doing seems similar, if not the same, to “front running”, which is not allowed in the US

hellodetroit said 6 months ago:

Hey. Brazilian here too. How can I get in touch?

melling said 6 months ago:

For anyone interested in a great story about a world class mathematician who built a company that has used algorithms to beat the market for the last few decades, James Simons has an impressive record:




One other thing, the Simons Foundation funds Quanta Magazine, whose articles frequently appear on HN:


Kranar said 6 months ago:

Renaissance Technologies did not use algorithms to beat the market... they used tax schemes to do so:


When you factor in the money they saved from dodging taxes and how they managed to compound the growth on that money, their returns end up being no more impressive than any other hedge fund.

Even if it turns out that what they did wasn't illegal, the bulk of their profits beyond what would have been made just investing in an index fund came from their tax scheme rather than from any kind of insight into the financial markets.

mruts said 6 months ago:

You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. RenTec is the most profitable money making machine the world has ever seen (and likely will see). RenTec’s Medallion fund has an annualized return for over 30 years in excess of 35% net of fees. I’m not sure what their management fee is, but their performance fee is like 45%. This means they are making like 80% returns YoY before fees.

I suspect you don’t work in the industry, because what you’re saying is absolutely ludicrous. The S&P 500 lost like 40% in 2008. Meanwhile Medallion doubled up after fees. So a total return of 145%. What you’re saying is simply not possible with a tax loophole.

There’s not a single hedge fund analyst or PM on the Street who doesn’t think that RenTec is anything less than amazing. No one thinks they are as good as those guys, no one. If you want the real story about Simmons and RenTec, check out the MIT Sloan fireside chat with him on YouTube.

RandomBacon said 6 months ago:

I'm not in the industry, but I wonder: did people have the same kind of reverence for Madoff?

ivalm said 6 months ago:

Madoff was a ponzi scheme that relied on new investment (since it was simple pyramid). Medallion fund limits outside investment (so there is no outside source of money) and has operated for many decades (ie more money was withdrawn from it than put in).

esmi said 6 months ago:

I know nothing of Medallion, but I'm curious if only private insiders can invest, how do you know they're not just lying about how much they return?

tcbawo said 6 months ago:

Such returns would not be possible if they grew to a certain size. By closing the fund, they can keep it small enough to limit scaling issues.

imtringued said 5 months ago:

That's illogical because people don't get paid in ROI. They get paid in absolute dollars. Earning a 30% ROI on 200 billion dollars is better than earning a 30% ROI on 100 billion dollars.

tcbawo said 5 months ago:

My point is that once a fund grows to a certain size, ROI at that scale becomes impossible. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of their funds have investment restrictions and mandatory distributions.

ivalm said 5 months ago:

But they do have other funds. It's simply they want to keep their money in higher return fund and other people's money in the bigger, lower return fund.

ivalm said 6 months ago:

It allows family and former employees, so it is actually A LOT of people. Kind of hard to keep a conspiracy with 100+ people for 30+ years. Why would all these people lie?

rwmurrayVT said 5 months ago:

All the family, employees, and former employees have a maximum investment. Every year they withdraw funds so that the principle never exceeds a certain threshold.

imtringued said 5 months ago:

You can't just conjure a 45% ROI out of nothing.

It either means inflation is incredibly high, productivity growth is incredibly high, there is some exotic "dark market" that most investors cannot access (probably made out of dark matter) or other people are losing a lot of money.

Except inflation isn't high, productivity growth isn't high and I just made up the "dark market" so only one explanation remains.

mruts said 5 months ago:

Like they’re very very good at what they do? Simmons is a genius ans the people that work st RenTec are some of the best and brightest minds in the world.

Even so, I must admit, their profability and success is outstanding. But then again, so are Apple’s and Google’s. The only difference is thst no one knows how RenTec makes buttloads of money.

tim333 said 6 months ago:

This is another reason individual day traders lose - it's a zero sum game and in liquid markets you are competing against outfits like RenTec.

mruts said 6 months ago:

Beta (by definition) is not a zero sum game, but alpha is.

nickles said 6 months ago:

> Renaissance Technologies did not use algorithms to beat the market...

This is false. RenTec generated outsized returns for a decade prior to entering into the derivatives with Barclays and DB beginning in 2000.

> the bulk of their profits beyond what would have been made just investing in an index fund

This is also false. For example, RenTec generated 99% return in 2000 net of fees, while the S&P 500 lost ~8%.

blunte said 6 months ago:

From what has been published, secrecy within Renaissance is so extreme that perhaps only 2-3 people actually know what is going on. So for an outsider, I say it's pure speculation.

And I speculate that their outsized gains are due to market manipulation, front running, or other insider activities (as in, illegal/unfair).

No one is smart enough; no algorithm or model is future-proof; nobody gets returns like this unless they define the scenarios themselves.

ad said 6 months ago:

> their outsized gains are due to market manipulation, front running, or other insider activities (as in, illegal/unfair).

as a former insider at a different, less successful-than-rentec-but-still-successful firm, I doubt it. They have better data, technology, and employees than most other market participants. So then the question is how did they get there:

> No one is smart enough; no algorithm or model is future-proof

I agree with the sentiment, but the way it worked was in the early days, it was much easier for one person or a small team to get those advantages. Then, as the market matured and simple algorithms became less profitable, they made new, more complex ones. It became harder for new entrants to jump-start the whole process from scratch. Simons started rentech in 1982. Teleport that Simons to today and his fund probably wouldn't even get off the ground. He would still be a genius, but a billionaire? I don't think so. As you say, no one is smart enough. It was right place/right time, and they built on their advantages.

shostack said 6 months ago:

Question since you are informed about them and the space...

I had read this[1] and seen some other things about his activities.

Since Mercer and his family seem deeply wrapped up in something that has some worrying ties to hostile foreign nations, a company who has been recorded saying they've done REALLY shady things along those lines, etc...

How feasible is it that RenTech used similar technology and god knows what data to directly impact the geopolitical landscape, and traded off of that? If you can for example...create major disturbances in certain areas, or draw certain attention to various things at a certain scale, could that impact markets?

I want to clarify that I know absolutely nothing about the regulations and mechanisms in place to catch such a thing with the SEC, etc., and don't want this to come off as a conspiracy theory. It's just...with what's come out so far the conspiracy is kind of writing itself, so I wouldn't be surprised if something like this were at play.

[1] https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b17q91wjnnr68x...

ad said 5 months ago:

It is feasible, although I would be surprised if it something like this were at play. For one thing the other CEO Brown and Simons himself are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. That's not any guarantee but my point is that these organizations aren't monolithic...if there were geopolitical impacts hopefully someone would leak. But even if rentech were completely amoral, they probably still wouldn't do it just because the risk/reward asymmetry is too great. Sounds like it'd fall more to the FBI than SEC; much higher penalties. Too much of the rest of the business is profitable. These people have a lot to lose. And when hedge funds engage in bad behavior, it tends to look more like this [1]. Perfectly legal, yet still harming society, in my (less informed) opinion.

What keeps me up at night is not rentech but state actors, like you said, hostile foreign nations. They have the resources to pull it off and plenty of motivation...trading profits would just be icing on the cake, really.

Here's an amateur-level manipulation example you may find interesting [2]. Could rentech do this more subtly with 10x impact? Like I was saying, it may be feasible...still kinda doubt it. If this happens my guess it would be a fund that was no longer profitable, on it's way out, they have nothing left to lose, all this computing power laying around...

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-27/windst...

[2] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-21/german-so...

nickles said 6 months ago:

> So for an outsider, I say it's pure speculation.

And you assert this on what basis? There's enough that's been published to get some broad idea of what happens within the firm.

> And I speculate that their outsized gains are due to market manipulation, front running, or other insider activities (as in, illegal/unfair).

If they were engaging in illegal activities, it's very likely the firm, which is undoubtedly scrutinized by regulators, any such activities would have been discovered.

> No one is smart enough; no algorithm or model is future-proof; nobody gets returns like this unless they define the scenarios themselves.

RenTech constantly updates its algorithms. Alpha decay is a well known phenomenon. The firm utilizes sophisticated risk management techniques in order to avoid drawdowns, in all likelihood. Assuming this is the case, they're able to more effectively compound returns while simultaneously levering positions. Here's an example of a risk parity strategy [0], which may help explain how risk management works.

[0] https://towardsdatascience.com/ray-dalio-etf-900edfe64b05?_b...

tim333 said 6 months ago:

There was a video interview with the founder where he explained pretty much how they do it. The employ a lot of bright PhD maths/physics types, get them to come up with all the algorithmic strategies they can think of, run tests with historic data and live trading to see which ones work and then scale up those.

There isn't one smart guy or one great strategy - there are dozens of smart guys and loads of strategies and they can win because they outsmart the city types.

PorterDuff said 6 months ago:

That sounds too much like this:


As I remember, beaucoup back testing, hilarity ensues anyway.

simtel20 said 6 months ago:

The issue with LTCM wasn't just that they didn't test sufficiently - the problem is that traders could take positions without supervision and any accountability. My understanding is that any firms that survived that period (and I believe they were all pulling the same shenanigans as LTCM, just maybe to a lesser degree) now have risk management because unlike Lehman/Bear they can't just foist that risk off onto the public market. No one at the head of a multi-billion dollar hedge fund wants to stop being there if all they have to do to endure is pay for risk management.

*edit: I'm not a serious student of this aspect, but I recall that none of the top independent hedge funds took a bath in the 2007+ collapse (that is, those that weren't in-house funds from a major wall st. company). They all had their risk management in order and all did pretty well in buying distressed assets. Some like Bridgewater really managed to grow non-stop right through that.

PorterDuff said 6 months ago:

As I remember the book, they back tested quite a lot. It's just that whenever they went live with trading reality changed on 'em. Go figure.

simtel20 said 5 months ago:

They were exposed to a margin call. Trading reality changing or no, if you can get taken out by your prime broker at the end of the day, you need to account for that too and they didn't.

tim333 said 5 months ago:

One thing backtesting misses is the other market participants may see what you are up to in live trading and try to take advantage. That was a big factor with LTCM.

cheez said 6 months ago:

They could lie about that too and just use linear regression.

eximius said 6 months ago:

A linear model on a heretofore unknown predictor is basically how all hedge funds make money.

Coming up with the predictor is often the hard part. For example, take the tweets of a (sane) president and run sentiment analysis on it. If it is positively correlated with mentioning an equity, the sentiment of the tweet might be a good linear predictor of the stock price.

The math is simple once the feature is well defined.

Feature development is the current frontier, as I understand it.

cheez said 6 months ago:

That's my point. They hire the smart people so they can really abuse the simple stuff.

Dowwie said 6 months ago:

No mention of leverage?

tim333 said 5 months ago:

I'd take leverage for granted but it only works if the underlying bet you are leveraging is in your favour.

turk73 said 6 months ago:

I still don't buy it. There's no way that anyone can be that good for so many years running without having insider knowledge or somehow manipulating what is going on. It's not a matter of how many brilliant PhDs you have.

melling said 6 months ago:

The article says that this scheme occurred during specific years.

During the 1990’s they also beat the market.

“Medallion, which is open only to current and former Renaissance employees, has generated returns of about 40 percent after fees for decades by using computers to spot market patterns. It’s distinct from the funds Renaissance makes available to outsiders, such as the Institutional Equities Fund.

Medallion earns most of its money through short-term trading of securities and other assets. Such earnings typically get taxed at the same marginal rate as salary. The tax code rewards longer-term investments with a preferential, lower rate.

The dispute centers on transactions the firm carried out with Barclays Plc and Deutsche Bank AG between 2000 and 2015 that had the effect of transforming short-term trading gains into long-term returns. Rather than own securities directly, Renaissance instructed the banks to buy and sell them within a portfolio of assets. It then bought an option from the banks tied to the portfolio’s performance”

Scoundreller said 6 months ago:

I’m confused. Doesn’t the recipient pay these taxes, so it wouldn’t show up when comparing fund returns?

simtel20 said 6 months ago:

I'm not a finance guy, but I think the idea is this:

Ren says "we bought an option and held it for a year". The option's counterparty was a bank, I guess, so they just form a company to hold the bag, and the company that is created reports to the IRS that they don't have any assets, just a basket of assets to offset the option they're responsible for.

At the end of the contract (and there can be more than one of these going on at the same time) the assets can be sold, and would be sold, in order to pay for the option contract which was now held for a year. Some money would go to the broker for executing the trades over time, etc. but much less than the taxes that would otherwise be paid.

So, the part that has the tax man scratching his head is that if Ren was directing the buying and selling of the assets in the basket constantly, is that really holding on to an asset, or is it just a lie? They say they got a tax lawyer to sign off on it, so it goes to court to see if it's a defensible position. If not, they'll probably pay a slap on the wrist and won't get to do it again.

It's not done in isolation IIRC. This sounds a lot like how I understand swaps are done, so it may be that this is only slightly unusual.

kolbe said 6 months ago:

> When you factor in the money they saved from dodging taxes and how they managed to compound the growth on that money, their returns end up being no more impressive than any other hedge fund.

That's a bold claim that you should be prepared to defend. If not, you should remove it.

mlevental said 6 months ago:

you've been rightfully skewered by other people but I just want to point that this is what happens when someone reads one article about a controversial thing they don't otherwise know anything about and then goes around presenting that finding as if they're some kind of expert.

inerte said 6 months ago:

Someone will always beat the market, because that's what we're looking for.

I think it was on "Thinking Fast and Slow" that I read it's pointless to analyze the stock market winners, since it's a random process. Imagine there are 30 million entities that own stocks in the US - individual, companies, funds, etc... If on a given year half of them did better than average (with some rounding liberty):

  1st year: 15M better than average
  2nd year: 7.5M better than average
  3: 3.25M
  4: 1.6M
  5: 800k
  6: 400k
  7: 200k
  8: 100k
  9: 50k
  10: 25k
And so on... after 20 years, probably 25 traders will have beaten the market for 20 years straight. Next year, same thing, 25 traders will have beaten the market, and so on. In the US, there's always someone who has beaten the market over the last few decades - there's nothing special about them. Randomly picking stocks would give you the same end result. But since we're storytellers, we build an explanation and go with it.
mruts said 6 months ago:

Okay, let’s do the math buddy. Let’s assume the null hypothesis (the market) has a mean return of 10% and vol of 10%. RenTec’s Medallion Fund has made 80% annualized return before fees in the last 20 years. Assuming the market is a random walk (it’s not), the chance of RenTec making >50% (I don’t think they’ve ever made less than that in 20 years) every year for 20 years is...

3.486 x 10^(-91)

The actual probability is a lot smaller btw.

Why do people keep posting this tired argument over and over? It’s not true. There’s no evidence that it is true. The math strongly suggests (see above) that you can beat the market.

Macross8299 said 6 months ago:

>Why do people keep posting this tired argument over and over?

Sour grapes. Easier to pretend _nobody_ beats the market than honestly admit you're not willing to put in the effort to constantly discover new alpha. And it's fine to not be willing to do that -- it takes a lot of effort and skill to discover alpha and most people will be better off improving their skills in their day job and just tracking indexes.

Doesn't mean it's impossible to beat the market, especially as a small investor where you have some advantages over larger players (your orders aren't large enough to move markets and reveal valuable information)

said 5 months ago:
melling said 6 months ago:

Who said it’s a random process? Stock prices don’t go up randomly over the long term.

Joel Greenblatt had 50% yearly returns for a decade.

Renaissance Technologies uses algorithms.

Also, I don’t think you would expect someone to beat the market every year, but over a ten year period, for example.

neaden said 6 months ago:

An important difference. You would expect someone to beat the market every year for ten years just by chance alone, you wouldn't expect it to be any specific person. I expect someone is going to win the lottery, I just don't expect that someone to be me.

rebuilder said 6 months ago:

Yes, given enough traders, you very much would expect some of them to beat the market consistently, over a decade or more.

ryandrake said 6 months ago:

I’ve got a roulette “system” too. Trust me, it even has algorithms and machine learning. I’ll sell you the book.

The discussion reminds me of a fun exercise we did in one of my B-school classes: everyone stands up and flips a coin. If you flip heads you sit down and stop the game. Everyone who flipped heads flips again, with the new tails flippers sitting down. At the end when there’s one person left, the prof interviews him, asking “how did you become so skilled at flipping heads?” and “what advice can others take to get as good as you!”

This is what we are doing when we admire stock pickers and try to figure out what their secret is.

mruts said 6 months ago:

Well Claude Shannon and Ed Thorpe did figure out how to beat roullette. And BlackJack. And then Thorpe figured out Black Scholes and made a killing in the markets trading warrents.

See my above comment about how statistics does not bear out your fooled by randomness theory.

kasey_junk said 6 months ago:

I don’t have a dog in this fight but Ed Thorpe has one of his funds liquidated via RICO. He’s usually used as an example in the positive case for “only bad behavior gets outsized market returns” argument.

Scholes & Merton got famously wrecked in the markets.

bob_theslob646 said 6 months ago:

This is the perfect example of broken telephone. (If you don't know the full story and fail to post any source)

The reason why they got the RICO.

"From 1969 to the end of 1987 the amount invested rose from $1.4 million to $273 million. Its limited partners saw their wealth grow at 18.2 percent annualized after fees. PNP had no losing years — and not even a losing quarter."

The regulators thought that it was a Ponzi scheme based off that information or did they...

"But most knowledgeable observers believed that the charges — filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act — were also intended to get the Princeton Newport principals to testify against Michael Milken, the controversial “junk bond” trader who had upended Wall Street conventions and who had dealings with PNP."

The regulators thought that it was a Ponzi scheme, when in reality, they mastered the tax code and created losses via hedging, which was legal at the time.

"The resulting charges were related to trades that PNP had made to create losses that would offset corresponding gains that arose during the firm’s hedging maneuvers."

"The Princeton Newport attorney, Theodore Wells, a Harvard Law and Harvard Business School alumnus known for high-profile white collar criminal defense, argued that the trades were allowed under IRS regulations. They even had a former IRS commissioner, Donald Alexander, prepared to testify in their defense. The judge would not permit it."

>I don’t have a dog in this fight but Ed Thorpe has one of his funds liquidated via RICO.

First off, his name is Edward O. Thorp https://g.co/kgs/jfpjL1 not "Thorpe"

>Ed Thorpe has one of his funds liquidated via RICO.

Please post a source because almost all of the charges were overturned.

"Ed Thorp, who was not greatly affected by the criminal charges, was able to restart his hedge fund activity. In 2012 Thorp’s net worth was estimated at $800 million."

All of this information came from this source.


gbronner said 6 months ago:

See also the Eudaemonic Pie

kolbe said 6 months ago:

If you think everything is just random, you should educate yourself the impact of superior information sources or technology on producing returns. Are you telling me someone who runs the fastest market data feed between Chicago and New Jersey, doing arbitrages between S&P futures and S&P ETFs is just getting lucky over and over again, and it will eventually be revealed that they just won 30,000 coin tosses in a row?

inerte said 6 months ago:

Correct. There are numerous studies showing professional traders (individual or companies) are in fact no better than randomly picking stocks. Just the sheer number of players and variables will eventually produce winners, then we will justify why it happened in the first place.

kolbe said 6 months ago:

Do you understand that 'studies' are not necessarily reality? I know the "I fucking love science" crowd has replaced priests with professors, but professors, their data and their logic are also highly fallible.

How about you go ahead and mock up a probability model about how a company like Jump Trading can make 100s of market neutral bets every day for ten years, and end up being lucky to make money on 95% of those days. The probability of that happening due to randomness around a 50% probability on each trade is probably lower than 1 in the number of atoms in the universe.

lbotos said 6 months ago:

I just watched a video today via this thread talking about 10k SEC documents.

Pull up Goldman Sachs, go to page 95ish:

https://www.goldmansachs.com/investor-relations/financials/c... (p. 95)

https://www.goldmansachs.com/investor-relations/financials/c... (p. 94)

look at the distribution chart. That's days where rev was positive vs. days not.

In the video they covered 2014/2015/2016 which I why I went a looked at 2017/2018. They are right a LOT. And year over year.

I don't think it's magic. I think they are paying attention and using information to their advantage.

bowcoy said 6 months ago:

This is a contradiction. You first assume complete market efficiency (assets are priced in) to support that the market is random and unpredictable. Then you say that a hedge funds' payroll is no better than random guessing (something you could scale up without hiring anyone). This means that quants are grossly overpaid (assets don't reflect their true price) and that the trader's market is highly inefficient... That's having your cake and eating it too: a rational irrational market.

And it is a hypothesis that can't be disproven or proven, since, in a round-about way, it concerns non-computable concepts like Kolmogorov Complexity/Randomness (The efficient market hypothesis basically states that the stock market is an optimally compressed computer program, there are no discernible patterns left to reduce the "file" size).

There are numerous tried and tested ways to beat the market, including:

- Have more information than other players - Have better models than other players - Make faster decisions than other players - Have enough energy to perturb the system and predict the outcome (this is the big one that is out of reach of most individuals and non-Physics PhD's).

Survivor bias is of course a very real phenomenon, but like other incomplete information games that can be won, or even solved, algorithmically: Poker, international diplomacy, ..., we would not conflate pure luck with the real skills required to play those games consistently well.

justinmeiners said 6 months ago:

Think about how the underlying market works though. Is success or failure actually a random process? Or are cause and effect relationships happening? Isn't it possible to identify traits of a good business that others aren't recognizing.

downandout said 6 months ago:

The math, at least when it comes to the Medallion Fund, says that you are wrong. The odds of being able to achieve 40%+ returns (net of very steep fees) over 20+ years are astronomically low. In fact, the odds of simply being in the top 25% of hedge funds for 20 straight years, through “randomly picking stocks” as you put it, are 1/(4^20), which is roughly 1.09 in 1 trillion. There have been less than 25,000 hedge funds in US history.

Yours is the kind of folksy explanation that appeals to the masses. It seems like the kind of thing Bernie Sanders would say in a speech. But in this case it leads to an astoundingly inaccurate conclusion.

actually_trades said 6 months ago:

This is the correct response.

For whatever reason, people seem to think "50/50 chance of beating the market" = 50% chance of generating 40% return on any given year.

Try randomly picking stocks over the last 20 years, and run 1 billion simulations and see if you get anywhere near that (even letting you have survivorship bias for free)

simtel20 said 6 months ago:

> people seem to think "50/50 chance of beating the market" = 50% chance of generating 40% return on any given year

Yeah, quants like to coyly say they're figuring out where pennies might drop, and then they bring in leverage. Without the leverage, they'd be beating the market by less than a percent in so many cases.

said 6 months ago:
Guph said 6 months ago:

It's not really random, the value of stock has more to do with popularity of stock than the data people like to analyze.

As long as people keep buying a stock, it's price will continue to go up. Same thing the other way.

Now also keep in mind I can sell stock and you buy it, and we can both make money as I bought my stock lower than you.

4ntonius8lock said 6 months ago:

Also, the people I've known who call themselves day traders, were inevitably people who weren't too bright and were unemployed with independent income (mostly trust fund babies, but some others who had supplemental income) - From my own personal experience, these people don't even know what EBITDA adjusted earnings are.

If a world class mathematician says he will do something, I see the probability of success wildly higher.

It's like when you go to a writing class, and someone inevitably is admonished for doing run on sentences, and then they say "well Charles Dickens did it". Why yes, he did. But you probably aren't going to have Charles Dickens levels of talent.

Silhouette said 6 months ago:

In my entire life, as far as I know I've only ever met one person who played the stock market manually and did well at it. It was almost a hobby for him. He enjoyed analysing individual businesses very carefully, and would look for clearly financially sensible opportunities that were effective at relatively small scales but overlooked by the big players.

A favourite type of investment that came up now and then would be a stock that had seen a sudden sharp drop in share price triggered by some announcement that sounded scary but actually made perfect sense if you understood the industry, so it panicked investors who were only looking at the numbers and left the price-to-book low or sometimes even below 1 at the time he bought. That's probably as close to a certain profit as you're ever likely to find trading stocks.

In any case, he almost always invested in "real" businesses and for the long term. He would set stops to protect himself, but he wasn't really a day-trader in the sense we're talking about here.

The last I heard, his average annual returns were something like 15-20% before taxes and fees, which is a pretty impressive record given he'd maintained it for many years and through both bull and bear markets. I doubt most people could do what he did -- the amount of patience and discipline he had were extraordinary -- but it was fascinating discussing it with him, and strangely satisfying to watch him do well by going with common sense and considered choices against a market that was temporarily confused about something.

lbotos said 6 months ago:

This is warren buffet style value investing.

"Day Trading" is actively taking positions with the intent to sell in the "short-term".

Silhouette said 5 months ago:

Yes, exactly. My point was just that anecdotally, literally no-one I know who has attempted "day trading" style investing has made good money from it over the long term. In contrast, the one person I know who has attempted "value" style investing and done it seriously actually has made quite good money from it consistently. This is in line with the article's conclusions, but in another context: it looks like an individual trying to day-trade in today's markets is probably setting up to fail.

davidu said 6 months ago:

I don't doubt the headline, but "We observe all individuals who began to day trade between 2013 and 2015 in the Brazilian equity futures market" seems like a weird way to come to that conclusion.

rolltiide said 6 months ago:

20,000 people trading a broad based equity futures market over two years isnt a bad study

But yes a study of individual stocks and certain sectors would be better

Or following those individual accounts to see how they grew based on everything it traded would be interesting

soneca said 6 months ago:

Why weird?

DSingularity said 6 months ago:

Because that is not a representative sampling of the day trader population. Assuming the techniques of the study were sound, at best we can conclude whether or not day trading Brazilian futures is a sustainably profitable undertaking.

georgespencer said 6 months ago:

Wouldn't you need a basis for believing that day trading Brazilian futures has unique properties not present in other markets to assert this? E.g. the volatility or spread is significantly larger than European futures or the information flow is more tightly de/regulated etc.

Is there a basis for believing this?

teawrecks said 6 months ago:

Making an assumption about the population based on a small non-random sample is usually the belief that needs to be justified by evidence.

Retric said 6 months ago:

20,000 people is not a small sample. Sampling bias is still an issue with large populations, but generally significantly less important.

mlthoughts2018 said 6 months ago:

That belief seems like it would be obviously justified. The same would be true for pretty much any geographically restricted set of day traders on a specific exchange tied to the geography, likely even for huge exchanges. There are huge effects from correlation with that country’s equity markets, currency policy, political events, etc. to such a degree that it would be unreasonable to assume they aren’t present until they are proven present. That’s reversing the burden of proof in a terrible way.

The number of confounders you need to control for before you could confidently not make this assumption is staggering.

georgespencer said 5 months ago:

There is a distinction between structural confounders and the variables which you are literally backing yourself to predict when you're a day trader. You've mentioned two in the same sentence which I would consider to be polar opposites: political events and currency policy.

For example if market data operated on a significant lag in Brazil for amateur investors, but didn't in the UK, this would represent a structural disadvantage which might make it impossible to beat the market except through dumb luck in Brazil.

It wouldn't mean it's definitely possible to beat the market in the UK, but it would be something one would want to control for in a study which makes a global prediction based on data from a sample in one nation.

However political events, as I understand you to mean, are one of the things most traders are specifically backing themselves to predict in a futures market.

So my question is: what's the basis for believing that there are structural impediments to retail day traders which are present in Brazil but not present in the rest of the world? Everyone in this thread is absolutely certain they exist, but nobody seems to be able to outline what disadvantages are present for a retail Brazilian futures trader which are not present in the UK outside of red herrings like "Brazil is less stable".

mlthoughts2018 said 5 months ago:

You are making a large misunderstanding. The confounders are not about what the day traders themselves are using in their own models. The confounders are things that affect researchers studying whole cohorts of traders.

Day traders may well believe they can predict political events in Brazil effectively. And yet, there may be some quality about Brazilian political events that impacts the cohort of Brazilian day traders systematically differently than say Korean political events affect Korean day traders.

For example, maybe a new cabinet member was just appointed in Brazil who likes to leak new political announcements early to an old business partner with connections at several large banks and trading shops, and so regular day traders are at a significant disadvantage in just this one market.

Or maybe during the time period of the study, there were political protests that disproportionately involved young people, meaning the average age (and perhaps skill level) of the observed cohort of traders was artificially too high just in the window of time of the study. Or any number of possible things like this.

You can’t assume these effects don’t exist when looking at different cohorts that have real reasons why they might not be probabilistically equivalent to a more general population. You have to actually account for the possible sources of confounding (in this case the country of the exchange), either by proposing some prior counterfactual model, or by collecting data across different cohorts and explicitly controlling for the confounder with whatever type of model you are fitting.

To be clear: none of this requires you to know in advance what the confounders actually are, and indeed in most causal inference models you literally cannot know what they are. The best you can hope is that you measures things like, e.g. country of exchange or age of the traders, that correlates with the hidden confounders well enough that they allow you to control for the confounding effects in your model.

It is not a thing in professional statistics to expect researchers to already know the sources of confounding before postulating that there could be sources of confounding that need to be controlled prior to believing the results are generalizeable.

C1sc0cat said 6 months ago:

Kind of not all exchanges are equal, professional investors still don't trust the main Chinese exchange.

norswap said 6 months ago:

As per the top comment at the moment of writing, most of these day traders were likely to be clueless people roped in by scammy "day trading courses".

gbronner said 6 months ago:

Yes. Brazil is a relatively high-friction market, and you'd need to know the actual trading costs. The studies I've seen in the US are that most 'active' traders lose money, but 10-30% do well. There is an entire industry of day-trading hedge funds, so many people believe this.

tempsolution said 6 months ago:

Yeah what you are doing is nowadays known as the "Trump approach".

georgespencer said 5 months ago:

Asking what the basis is for disbelieving a scientific study with a statistically significant sample size cannot reasonably be described as analogous to anything Donald Trump does.

SilasX said 6 months ago:

Obligatory joke about the three scientists visiting Scotland in the first time:

Biologist: "Whoa, you see that in the distance? That's amazing! All cows in Scotland are brown!"

Physicist: "Hold on -- all we know at this point is that there's a population of cows in Scotland that's brown."

Mathematician: "No, all we know is, there exists at least one cow in Scotland such that this side is brown."


With that said, I agree that it's an excessively narrow sample for the kind of conclusion they're trying to draw.

chasd00 said 6 months ago:

wouldn't the Physicist first need to assume a perfectly spherical frictionless cow?

curiousgal said 6 months ago:

Isn't it the case for most studies that we read about online? Anything that ranges from "X can cure Cancer" to "Sleeping X hours is better for you" has a sample mostly consisting of American individuals. That doesn't stop them from generalizing nor does it make us question said generalization.

That being said, this seems like a double-standard.

airstrike said 6 months ago:

It's very informative for Brazilian traders, however ;-)

ineedasername said 6 months ago:

Because it would represent an extremely narrow slice of traders. It's possible traders of these equities find it quite hard to make a living but a larger number of other day traders do just fine.

Also it says "impossible" but the article actually shows it's difficult and rare.

bradshaw1965 said 6 months ago:

Glancing at the abstract it looks like 97% lose money, what larger number in a more suitable sample size would make a difference?

I've heard low single digits of traders and investors deliver Alpha. Impossible? no. Highly efficent? Yes

peteey said 6 months ago:

The paper's claim is "virtually impossible".

The post's title is click bait.

bryanrasmussen said 6 months ago:

lots of things are virtually impossible to do for a living and people still manage it though.

elephant_7 said 6 months ago:

Swing trading with baskets as opposed to daytrading seems to be a better way to go according to historical performance, for example https://www.elastic.co/blog/generating-and-visualizing-alpha...

nradov said 6 months ago:

Anything that worked consistently yesterday will no longer work tomorrow as the HFT's arbitrage that market inefficiency away. That's one of the reasons why even extensive back testing isn't a reliable indicator that a trading strategy will be successful.

short_sells_poo said 6 months ago:

HFTs don't arbitrage the single person day trader because those guys are are like a mouse farting in a hurricane. There is no point trying to identify and scalp someone who trades at most some $ millions a day, unless the person is doing it on really swampy stocks with no liquidity. Even then, the capacity in those markets for HFTs is also extremely limited.

HFTs will target big insitutional traders who have to shift a billion dollars at rebalancing time in a single day.

Even that is a dying business today because they themselves have been arbitraged away to a degree.

marketgod said 6 months ago:

That's not so simple because swing trading is not looking for Arbitrage. 90% of traders lose but a good portion of us make money. It is about building a system which works in bull and bear markets.

elephant_7 said 6 months ago:

My firm uses a similar system that hedges long and short baskets and can confirm that hedging is really the only way to swing trade profitably in the long term.

marketgod said 6 months ago:

I do well with options trading for a fairly long time now. Anything over 25% a year is good for me but I aim for 100% per year. I am a hit over that this year at this point. Firms have a huge amount of money so they have to use other strategies. For someone with less than $1M to trade with going long or short depending on the market conditions is adequate. Also money management is a large factor.

nodesocket said 6 months ago:

I assume you trading US markets? The US markets have been very volatile the last 1.5 years which makes for more optimal swing trading. If the market was either going down or up in a linear line, most hedge funds underperform in that scenario.

marketgod said 6 months ago:

Not for me. Volatile is bad as I made more money the years before. End of last year sucked and parts of this year had unusual losses. I prefer trending markets.

I only trade US equities and in particular large caps or soon to be large caps.

elephant_7 said 6 months ago:

That document shows that as algorithms might decay, you can swap out the datasets to out-perform. They also conducted a year long study on the results.

wtvanhest said 6 months ago:

If you take Jan 1, 2013 to Dec 31st, 2015, the Brazillian stock market did very, very poorly. That probably explains why it was nearly impossible since most traders are probably long, not short the market. So even taking 1 day positions in stocks, still on average over 3 years will experience signifigant downward price pressure.

That said, the fact that the market is bad, is just randomness and shows one of the major difficulties with relying on investment income to support your life. Sometimes stuff just sucks, for very long periods of time. Meanwhile you must pay your bills.

That doesn't even get in to whether or not these people dramatically underperformed the market. They very likely did, but I also bet some of them outperformed based on luck or skill.

Stock market investing is something everyone should try at somepoint in small doses just to understand how difficult it is. Its probably the hardest way to make money in the world and even the best investors usually have a bad few years which ends their careers.

pintxo said 6 months ago:

> Its probably the hardest way to make money in the world

Just no. Certainly it's not easy. But the hardest? I'd say there is a long list of occupations which most people would consider harder on various dimensions.

codetrotter said 6 months ago:

I think what parent commenter means is that it would be unlikely for almost anyone to make money that way, no matter how smart they are or how much time they put in.

I think they aren’t saying that it’s a hard profession by itself in the way that you are talking about — only that the expected returns are negative for almost anyone.

So in that case it’s not calling day traders smarter or harder working than others. It’s saying that no matter what your level of intelligence or other personal attributes there is likely some other job that would have much higher expected returns.

For person A it might be to be a firefighter, for person B, to be a gymnast, for person C, to be a brain surgeon, for person D to work as a maid. Etc etc.

At least that’s the way that I read it.

wtvanhest said 6 months ago:

Really well put.

agumonkey said 6 months ago:

I just left a 4am part time delivery job. The constant interruption and sitting then walking then sitting was hurting me more than daily half marathon or power tools injuries + full time car repair work. And it's slightly below minimum wage. So your health is torn, and you're not even able to plan long term because you earn so few. I can quit (it was a planned interim thing) but my colleagues can not. And they have two jobs.

Since that, I consider any job with a desk a god damn luxury. Bonus point: you have your own toilets.

waylandsmithers said 6 months ago:

Right, but the point was, day trading isn't a "job" -- a day on the tough job you described would never end with you needing to write a check to your employer.

agumonkey said 6 months ago:

Isn't it just a matter of discipline to avoid too large losses ?

mattbreeden said 6 months ago:

Even if you can avoid too large losses, you can't avoid the possibility of lots of little losses.

bklyn11201 said 6 months ago:

Agreed. If the sample was California-based day traders specializing in SAAS software stocks between 2016 and 2018, would the sub-headline be that 97% of traders made great profits?

asdf333 said 5 months ago:

agreed. i noticed that as well. however, it says started between 13-15 so theoretically some of those on the tail end could have been in a up market.

not only that but futures can be shorted too so i don't think its unfair to use "are they profitable" as the criteria in a down or sideways market.

i do wish they showed a breakdown of under vs overperformance relative to the bovespa during their trading period.

outime said 6 months ago:

Putting aside the potential quality issues of the study, the headline here in HN isn't accurate and made a lot of people comment about how wrong it is.

The study doesn't literally say "impossible" but "virtually impossible" and they do say that a very small percentage was able to make about $310 a day which is about ~110k a year.

mumblemumble said 6 months ago:

0.0051% of the study group, to be precise.

The more interesting trend, which isn't covered in the abstract, is that profitability is inversely correlated with how long you stay at it. It was 30% of people who day traded for one day and gave up on it, and steadily dropped down to 3% for people who kept at it for more than 300 days.

As a stats person, that struck me as a very evocative distribution. The paper put it nicely: "This peculiar pattern is similar to what we would fi􏰄nd, for instance, in the casino roulette."

The next thing I would want to know is, if you model the stock market as a machine that simply gives random payouts drawn from some distribution, what is the probability that a set of 1,551 groups of 300 random draws from that distribution would contain at least one set that averages more than $310? If the paper ran such a model, I didn't see it.

dmurray said 6 months ago:

> if you model the stock market as a machine that simply gives random payouts drawn from some distribution, what is the probability that a set of 1,551 groups of 300 random draws from that distribution would contain at least one set that averages more than $310? If the paper ran such a model, I didn't see it.

The abstract says the trader who made $310/day had a standard deviation of $2560 (presumably per day). Over 300 samples, that's a standard deviation of 2560/sqrt(300) or $150/day. So if he really had a breakeven strategy and got lucky, he was 2 standard deviations from the mean, or in the top 2.5%, and you'd expect 40 other traders to have done just as well, and it would be vanishingly unlikely that nobody else did.

Not quite what you were asking, but I don't think there's enough information at least in the abstract to answer your question. The payout distribution will be largely dependent on the size of the traders' positions and riskiness of their strategies.

hn_throwaway_99 said 6 months ago:

Yes, it certainly looks like what would be dictated by statistics with random chance that eventually reverts to a slightly negative mean.

In the short term it's not that unusual to flip a coin and get 5 heads in a row, but the more you throw the closer to a 50-50 split you'll see.

mumblemumble said 6 months ago:

I'd also be very interested to see what would happened, hypothetically, if everyone just stopped trading after some fixed number of hours, held that position until the point when they decided to give up trading, and then liquidated it.

My hypothesis is that their average returns would end up being much higher than the returns they realized by day trading that whole time, due to less money being lost to fees.

Legogris said 6 months ago:

ICO bagholders disagree

mawburn said 6 months ago:

> which is about ~110k a year

$310 * 5 days a week * 52 weeks a year = $80,600

quaquaqua1 said 6 months ago:

110k pre tax in the USA is 80k post tax per year-- it is often helpful for us to think in terms of both numbers when comparing money making methods. That's my guess at least.

wastedhours said 6 months ago:

Probably more that they didn't account for weekends, $310 x 365 is $113k

marketgod said 6 months ago:

They are also trading on a small account most likely. If you have $500k to trade with making $300 a day is much easier.

outime said 6 months ago:

Yeah you’re right, I just multiplied by 7 days. Then again you don’t work 5 days every single week (depends of the location) but 80k is definitely closer to the actual figure.

EGreg said 6 months ago:

If for each of those people, there are dozens of long tail traders who lost their shirt and tapped out after a few thousand, the point stands. It could be just random chance.

Kranar said 6 months ago:

I mean you may as well say: Study shows it is impossible for an individual to build a tech start up as a living.

Just because something is hard doesn't mean it's impossible. Day trading, like many other risky ventures, is something that is very hard and unlikely but for the few who succeed ends up being very profitable.

kevin_nisbet said 6 months ago:

The abstract of the paper seems to suggest otherwise: We observe all individuals who began to day trade between 2013 and 2015 in the Brazilian equity futures market, the third in terms of volume in the world, and persisted for at least 300 days: 97% of them lost money, only 0.4% earned more than a bank teller (US$54 per day), and the top individual earned only US$310 per day with great risk (a standard deviation of US$2,560).

My interpretation of this, is that those they tracked in this study, it's not even all that profitable for the few that beat the odds while being exposed to significant risk.

Kranar said 6 months ago:

But what should we compare those odds, how are we supposed to interpret this?

Imagine we tracked a group of 1000 randomly picked individuals who wanted to be a brain surgeon. I don't know for sure but I wouldn't be surprised if of 1000 randomly chosen people, only 3 people managed to succeed at it after 4 years.

But no one would ever say "Study shows it's impossible for an individual to become a brain surgeon." or imply that it's just random luck to be a brain surgeon. Instead we conclude that being a brain surgeon must be very hard and require a great deal of dedication and commitment.

The reason day trading is singled out whereas brain surgeons are not is that the barrier to entry to become a day trader is very low, anyone can try to become a day trader and many people think they can succeed at it.

The proper conclusion to take from this is isn't that the stock market is pure luck or just a form of gambling... it's that one shouldn't be deceived by the low barrier to entry into thinking that they can succeed at it. It's really hard, soul crushing work to be a successful day trader in much the same way it's really hard work to do anything in life that pays well.

ofibrvev said 6 months ago:

One major flaw in this reasoning..

Some group of people are guaranteed to become brain surgeons.. the demand is there, the training is there, so it is a near certainty. In fact in the US at least, you can know very closely how many brain surgeons there can be per year. Who will fill those slots isn’t too kind to all takers. It is dedication, hard work, and luck (ie ovarian lottery).

Also the majority of those that “fail” at obtaining a neurosurgery training. If they were on the path to medical training will end up falling back to any number of high paying jobs in medicine or surgery.

This study found no one did terribly well at day trading. Random chance implies there will be some outlying outcomes, but that is a fundamentally different objective than having too many people for few slots.

kritiko said 6 months ago:

What would you say the difference is between trying to make money on short term investments and trying to make money betting on sports?

Also your final paragraph seems to imply a causal relationship between how hard you work and remuneration. Hard work doesn't hurt, but luck is very important.

munchbunny said 6 months ago:

There is definitely an edge to be found, but the game heavily favors players with structural (I am able to know things you don't) or institutional (I have hundreds of subject matter experts and deep pockets) advantages, and individual day traders have none of those things.

Which isn't to say day traders can't get those things, it's just that you stop calling yourself a day trader and start calling yourself an investor when you start to intentionally build up structural/institutional advantages.

seiferteric said 6 months ago:

Isn't it possible that there is simple not enough information in the system to successfully day trade (at least in this particular market). Considering that the daily movements of stocks are like a random walk, I don't find it hard to believe.

Kranar said 6 months ago:

It's often difficult for me to discuss this since I do automated trading. I've been doing this for over 10 years now, have grown a company out of it that has 30 employees, and I maybe lose money 2 or 3 days out of the entire year and often times due to technical reasons...

Either daily movements of stocks are not at all like a random walk, or I am just one heck of an astronomically lucky guy. Now I do consider myself fortunate and privileged, for sure... but the amount of luck it would take to repeatedly make money on the market day after day that can fund a decently sized team of high paying engineers, data center costs/hardware costs, so on so forth... it's unthinkable.

The stock market, at least to the degree that I am involved in it, very short term market microstructure, doesn't behave anything like what economists say it does.

flatline said 6 months ago:

I know people who made millions day trading commodities, for no one in that cohort to have made any real money over two years is surprising to the point of disbelief. This may be something particular to the Brazilian exchange.

melling said 6 months ago:

I’ve noticed a lot of successful traders trade commodities versus equities.

What makes commodities easier to trade?

Ed Seykota has been doing it for decades:


Kranar said 6 months ago:

Commodities are generally harder to trade compared to equities. The reason successful traders do it is because you get access to much greater leverage compared to equities.

reverend_gonzo said 6 months ago:


You’ll quickly get big or go home.

JackFr said 6 months ago:

No inside information on commodities.

(However trading on embargoed government press releases is illegal. Though rather than kidnapping Clarence Beeks on the train, you can just interview the Florida farmers yourself.)

Macross8299 said 6 months ago:

There is definitely inside information on commodities, it's just rare that insider trading on commodities is prosecuted.

You would definitely have an advantage in trading oil/gas futures if you had access to ExxonMobil's seismic exploration reports, for example.

boulos said 6 months ago:

Indeed! I found Matt Levine's post last Fall [1], particularly useful, as he believed you couldn't be prosecuted for insider trading of commodities (only securities). Then he received a nastygram from the CFTC :).

[1] https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/opinion/articles/2018-10-24/it...

JackFr said 6 months ago:

Wow. But if Matt Levine can get it wrong too I don’t feel so bad.

But the insider trading you suggest above, is predicated on having material non public information of ExxonMobil’s.

gnopgnip said 6 months ago:

Many who make millions are risky and lose it all, or more. How many of them are net positive over more than a year?

hn_throwaway_99 said 6 months ago:

While I don't necessarily agree with Kranar's conclusions, I think his point is that the same can be said for many highly risky endeavors, like building a startup.

IMO the main difference is that, while in both cases you'll see a small number of successes and a huge number of failures, in startup land the net expected value is positive while in day trader land it is negative.

cptaj said 6 months ago:

Playing the lottery is also very profitable for those who succeed.

vonmoltke said 6 months ago:

Correct, and the statement "it is impossible to become rich by playing the lottery" is absurd. It's part of an annoying tendency to conflate "extremely low probability of success" with "impossible".

firethief said 6 months ago:

Is that the original goalpost? Because I'd say it is impossible to make a living playing the lottery. To make a living doing something, it needs to provide enough positive cash flow.

vonmoltke said 6 months ago:

It's the goalpost of the post I was responding to. I may have misunderstood the point, though.

tobr said 6 months ago:

Ignore the link text here. They’re saying it’s “virtually impossible”, which would be true of the lottery as well.

vonmoltke said 6 months ago:

I'm on the fence about whether adding the weasel word "virtually" is any better.

ajscanlan said 6 months ago:

I think the term "for a living" is more important.

How would you interpret the phrase "It's impossible for an individual to play the lottery for a living"?

Technically we both know it IS possible, technically. But in the real world? I don't know, but I wouldn't be suggesting anyone out there try make a living playing the lotto.

tobr said 5 months ago:

It’s not a weasel word. A weasel word is used to mask a lack of sources or data, that’s not the case here.

mrandish said 6 months ago:

Yes, the title should have been something like "impossible for an individual to day trade stocks for a consistently reliable living".

said 6 months ago:
wasdfff said 6 months ago:

If you loose the lottery you end up with a piece of reciept paper, but if you buy a stock you have it for as long as you want.

The market always goes up. Even if right after this comment, if the sp500 tumbles and we enter a recession, your share of vix doesn’t go anywhere. Youd just wait for the market to recover and hit the price you bought it for.

However, day trading isn’t really viable unless you have a lot of money to take advantage of every dip and hill and get around day trading restrictions.

PopeDotNinja said 6 months ago:

The problem with day trading, and stock trading in general, is that you can't predict the future. No one can. You can diversify your risk by buying the market (e.g. S&P 500 index fund) & hope the trend of going up N% per year continues, but even that isn't guaranteed. Essentially if you try to time/guess/predict the market, you're going gambling & the fees you pay on trading on the rake taken by the broker. Some gamblers do well. Most don't.

arghwhat said 6 months ago:

This is not correct.

If we consider a tech startup a single gamble, then living off trading is a continuous stream of independent gambles.

While individual gambles may turn out better than the average (even many in a row), repeated gambling will always see the total outcome return to the normal.

This is why the house always wins.

tylerhou said 6 months ago:

> Day trading, like many other risky ventures, is something that is very hard and unlikely but for the few who succeed ends up being very profitable.

> the top individual earned only US$310 per day with great risk (a standard deviation of US$2,560).

The very best day trader made around the same as an entry-level SWE, which does not scream immense profit to me.

soneca said 6 months ago:

I agree with your point totally. But just to put in perspective that U$310/day in Brazil would be the equivalent of the top 10% software engineer salaries in Brazil.

said 6 months ago:
lm28469 said 6 months ago:

> an entry-level SWE

In a major tech hotspot, working 8 hours a day

adrianmonk said 6 months ago:

Or you could say: it's impossible to win the world championship at anything.

It would be easy to find data to show that 99.99% of people aren't the best tennis player or fastest runner or best Scrabble player in the world; therefore, nobody can be the best at it. According to this reasoning, at least.

kritiko said 6 months ago:

The point of the article is to dissuade people from pursuing careers in day trading based on marketing that it's an easy way to earn money (from people whose business is selling instructional materials... not day trading). If there were lots of people selling courses on "Become a WTA Tour Player, make millions winning tennis tournaments!" the same type of paper might be warranted for tennis playing.

adrianmonk said 6 months ago:

On a high level I agree. The way I see it, "impossible" is the wrong label. What you must do, though, is have a rational basis to believe you're in (making up a number) the top 0.01% of people skilled in that area. If that's true, then it might be a reasonable plan. For the other 99.99%, it's a bad plan.

And when I say rational basis, that's its own challenge. There is a huge potential for emotional thinking disguised as rational and for self-delusion. Everyone wants to believe they are the top 0.01%, and most of them are wrong.

ClumsyPilot said 6 months ago:

That would be a perfectly accurate statement. If none except world champions got paid, it would be an atrocious career choice

smt88 said 6 months ago:

A better way to put it is that day-trading is like gambling. You always lose money in the long run, even if you have spurts of success.

cardimart said 6 months ago:

The results are fairly obvious to anyone who has read "A Random Walk Down Wall Street".

Day traders rely on technical analysis which is the equivalent of astrology in the financial sector.

Macross8299 said 6 months ago:

"Random Walk Down Wall Street" is somewhat outdated and a lot of the evidence from behavioural finance doesn't really support its central thesis. It's more dogma than anything.

pembrook said 6 months ago:

The central thesis of short term market movements (say day to day or week to week or month to month) being a random walk is about 99.7% correct.

This is a statistical reality, you can literally crunch the numbers! Behavioral finance has nothing to do with it.

dbsights said 6 months ago:

about 99.7%?

I've always hated the argument of this book: yes the markets are chaotic and short term movements appear random, but the appearance of being random is not equivalent to being caused by a random process. The book makes a big deal about how technical analysts saw patterns in random data so it must be bunk, but this doesn't really say anything about the predictive power of technical analysis when the data is generated by the aggregate actions of thousands of traders instead of a coin toss.

Price action is not the result of investors literally buying or selling at random. Each action is undertaken in response to external conditions and it is far from absurd to believe that patterns can exist in the price.

linsomniac said 6 months ago:

"The easiest way to make a small fortune in the stock market is to start with a large one."

conanbatt said 6 months ago:

Man this one is wrong lol

taesu said 6 months ago:

With big enough equity and proper risk management, one can do so. Problem lies with low equity & high expectation which often leads to improper risk management and a sudden margin call. i.e. it's really easy to make $1 with $1 billion account size with risk nearing zero, but trying to make $1 with $100 is exponentially hard & risky. These so called day traders opt in for later b/c they are trained by the course & society & influences to do so.

HenryBemis said 6 months ago:

Every retail trader I've talked to, wants to start with $1000 or less and make $300-$400 per day. Literally everyone. After they lose their 50th $1k, they still aim for the same. It's like an addiction to gambling.

gwbas1c said 6 months ago:

I always thought the problem with day trading is an absence of information: How does a single individual know enough about about all the various entities they are trading to really know when one is going up or down?

Seems like an institution with dedicated employees performing due diligence will know much more than an individual day trader, and thus will be able to make better decision about when to buy and sell?

Anyway, my bias has always been that day trading is really gambling.

atourgates said 6 months ago:

All effective trading is, essentially, insider trading. Not in the legal definition, but in the sense that to beat the market, you have to know something that "the market" doesn't.

Or, just get lucky.

The only personal example I have is from buying NFLX stock about a decade ago. I saw a news (Slashdot I think) story that Netflix's servers were having an hours-long outage. I can't remember if it was mentioned in the story that their stocks took a dip, or I just happened to look. Either way, I noticed that their stocks were down about 30% on that news, which seemed silly to me. The market was treating this like it was some kind of disaster for the company, whereas I was pretty confident it was a temporary blip.

I bought the stock, just a few hundred worth since I was in my first barely-over-minimum wage job at the time. Netflix got their servers running again, and the stock recovered the next day. I decided to hold on to the stock because, why not? Today, it's worth about 20x what I bought at.

If only I'd bought more.

My point is, I knew that the market was wrong, and an hours-long server outage wasn't a reason for Netflix to suddenly be worth 30% less than it was the day before.

To successfully pick stocks, you have to have some kind of expertise or insider knowledge to know when the market's wrong, and you're right. Most of us, in most situations, don't have that kind of expertise or insider knowledge.

xivzgrev said 6 months ago:

It’s not impossible, there are many people who make decent money from day trading. It might be more accurate to say “study shows it is difficult to earn a living trading stocks”

steveklabnik said 6 months ago:

The abstract, of course, contains more detail than the headline regarding exactly what is claimed:

> We show that it is virtually impossible for an individual to day trade for a living, contrary to what course providers claim. We observe all individuals who began to day trade between 2013 and 2015 in the Brazilian equity futures market, the third in terms of volume in the world, and persisted for at least 300 days: 97% of them lost money, only 0.4% earned more than a bank teller (US$54 per day), and the top individual earned only US$310 per day with great risk (a standard deviation of US$2,560). Additionally, we find no evidence of learning by day trading.

ch4s3 said 6 months ago:

The interesting bit to me is, “we find no evidence of learning by day trading”. This implies to me that the top earners are merely lucky, and have no special knowledge or advantages.

helpPeople said 6 months ago:

Insider info?

The Longer I live, the more I see people profiting off knowledge.

A personal example I see of this is in Tech. If you understand tech, you can find areas people don't understand. Those are what's worth investing or shorting.

Although if you are limited to day trades I'm not sure this is relevant.

turk73 said 6 months ago:

But it isn't that easy. I understand all kinds of incredibly complex tech. There are many more variables than that. You would have to know all the C-level execs, too, and understand what makes them tick and what their foibles and vices are, who drinks too much, who snorts coke, all of it. Then you might know whether a tech company is worth backing or not.

esotericn said 6 months ago:

It could also imply that they simply have related experience or skills before starting.

It's difficult to, for example, learn how to become a brain surgeon on the job.

lazyasciiart said 6 months ago:

Medicine actually involves a significant amount of learning on the job in all specialties - https://www.verywellhealth.com/types-of-doctors-residents-in...

smt88 said 6 months ago:

We were taught explicitly in my (highly-ranked US) business school that stock performance is a random walk and success is luck.

tomatocracy said 6 months ago:

I assume this means you were taught a very strong form of the efficient market hypothesis.

I believe there’s some good evidence for weak form efficient markets hypothesis in the most liquid markets, which implies you can’t make money by trading only on ‘technical signals’ in the price. This is what you might expect day traders to try to do, so in that sense it’s not a particularly surprising result this paper demonstrates.

But the consensus is, I think, that the strong form of the efficient market hypothesis might not be true in real life - being good at fundamental analysis can lead you to outperform the market.

Illiquid markets are a bit different again - you can potentially get ‘paid’ a lot more just for providing liquidity to the market there, which is different again.

ones_and_zeros said 6 months ago:

This is an interesting concept to be teaching business school students.

Doesn't this amount to telling you your education is useless?

jmilloy said 6 months ago:

No, because running a business and stock trading are different things.

ones_and_zeros said 6 months ago:

running a business is just the opposite side of the stock trading coin.

If the stocks themselves are random walks, then the underlying company performance must be random walks. If your education does indeed improve the outcomes of the business you manage and run then that would mean stock performance can be influenced by things other than luck.

Unless of course you are operating under the premise that company performance and stock performance are unrelated.

jmilloy said 6 months ago:

I don't know. But a business may perform predictably from the insider's point of view ans unpredictably from the outside.

mattkrause said 6 months ago:

And the article even moreso:

> "We follow all individuals who day traded mini-Ibovespa futures contracts for their first time from 2013 to 2015, a total of 19,646 individuals."

I know nothing about the Brazilian equities market, but it seems like it might be harder to for individuals to reliably make a profit on something heavily traded and fungible (Ibovespa is an index), where you're competing with much bigger players. Smaller stuff might work better--for one person--because it doesn't scale.

PaulRobinson said 6 months ago:

I don't know much about the Brazilian equities market per se, but I do know about trading in other markets.

Liquidity is a very important aspect of any market. If you are the largest player in a small market (i.e. it has low liquidity), you are market making, and the problem with that is information asymmetry comes into play: you're trading against people who know stuff you don't know, and they will only trade against you when you're wrong.

If you are in a highly liquid market, the market represents all the information out there, so you need to think about where your informational edge comes from.

Most day traders seem to focus on technical analysis in the belief that there are underlying probabilities that drive market movement and this alone is enough to find an edge.

The linked paper is not one I have read completely yet, but it seems to align with my own experience and those observed elsewhere: that might be true, but you need to find the edge nobody else has seen yet, and that seems to be very difficult and carry some risk.

mattkrause said 6 months ago:

Exactly. The odds that any random person (or worse, those with <2 years of day trading experience), has a meaningful edge on an index covering 80% of the Brazilian stock market are....not great.

DennisP said 6 months ago:

The trick with a lot of smaller markets is that they're easily manipulated. You try to trend-follow and just get exploited by pump-and-dumps.

sverige said 6 months ago:

Probably very similar to results for people who try to make a living gambling in casinos.

eloff said 6 months ago:

Looking at how bad these results are, the career gamblers in the casino seem to have an edge. They have various strategies that actually do work to greater or lesser degree - e.g. Playing poker which is a game of skill against other people with a house rake instead of a house mathematical edge.

matwood said 6 months ago:

Poker isn't gambling, but a game of skill. Are there many people making a living actually gambling on something like craps or roulette.

LargeWu said 6 months ago:

Making a living on poker? Absolutely.

Making a living on craps or roulette? Not mathematically impossible, but highly improbable. How do they get their edge?

basseq said 6 months ago:

Roulette you just play the statistics: not really an edge. You run the Martingale system (double your bet after every loss), and my quick monte carlo simulation says I'd turn $1 into $2,250 after 5,000 iterations. But I'd need a bankroll of $8,200 to cover the 13 consecutive losses my model spit out. And if your bankroll is that big, there are easier ways to get the same return.

(Oh, and most tables have maximums, so you can't keep doubling your bet to infinity.)

eloff said 6 months ago:

Not likely. But there are some strategies that amount to exploiting casino promotions and perks. There used to be some tricks around slot machines - like those near the door had a payout ratio above 1.0. There are probably still tricks along those lines, but if they become well known the casino's change them. You'd be much better of sticking to games of skill.

LargeWu said 6 months ago:

Fair enough. I've heard of craps players teaming up to play huge on both sides of the pass/don't pass, which would still have a negative EV. But they racked up comps pretty quickly which supposedly gave them a slight overall return when factoring that in. This might be good for a while to accumulate free rooms and whatnot, but not sure how one would actually make a living doing this.

eloff said 6 months ago:

Yeah, seems like a bad bet, but still better than day trading judging by the study results.

jly said 6 months ago:

Not craps or roulette (without cheating), but certainly with blackjack. By finding favorable conditions and counting cards, it's possible to extract a slight advantage over the house (say 1% edge). Of course this is a grueling enterprise with an extremely high variance and thus requiring a large amount of capital.

stanski said 6 months ago:

Not impossible but highly unlikely probably means impossible, practically speaking.

Unfortunately this falls into the "too good to be true" category. A very unscientific categorization but surprisingly accurate in real life.

To me the worst conclusion is that "Additionally, we find no evidence of learning by day trading." Which leads me to believe that despite your best efforts at obtaining knowledge, luck in timing still plays too much of a role in the outcome. That doesn't add up to a viable alternative to a regular day job.

faet said 6 months ago:

"Making decent money" doesn't mean crap it's about risk, expected value, and opportunity cost.

If you've got a million dollars and put it into an index fund you'll make ~$100k/year. If you day trade and make "Decent money" of say $70k/year you're still at a loss vs if you took the less 'risky' approach. Even if you made $150k (50% over the index) it's still a loss due to lost opportunity cost. As the $100k index + a job at McDonalds making $30k/year still puts you ahead due to long term vs short term capital taxes. And if you've got the knowledge to day trade and earn more than 50% over an index you can probably command a better job than fast food.

If you don't have a million in capital it becomes harder and harder the less money you have.

Your friends would need to consistently beat the market by a percentage of their capital for it to be considered a 'win' imo.

hash872 said 6 months ago:

While I agree that day trading anything is an extremely poor idea- why is trading by banks/hedge funds/Goldman Sachs etc. consistently profitable? (Or if isn't profitable, why do they do it?) Is it just the massive informational advantage that they have? I'm not advocating for trading per se (I certainly don't do it!)- just curious about how large financial institutions presumably turn trading profits in light of EMH

pembrook said 6 months ago:

Goldman Sachs isn't profitable because of prop trading. They charge fees for services. It's that simple.

hash872 said 6 months ago:

So then why do they trade at all then? I'm not arguing for trading, I'm just curious.

It seems like the existence of 'trader' as a job at all of these financial institutions kind of disproves EMH if you have enough market data

pembrook said 6 months ago:

They don't.

After the Volcker rule the big banks had to close their prop trading groups: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proprietary_trading

The idea that investment banks are filled with human "traders" is Hollywood nonsense.

Most trading activity (and even filling of retail order flow) is now done by quant-driven funds.

hash872 said 6 months ago:

According to LinkedIn there are 573 people with the job title 'trader' at Goldman Sachs. I'm scanning through the list now- titles like Fixed Income Trader, Mortgage Trader, Rates Trader, Oil Trader, Equity Sales Trader, FX Trader, Emerging Markets Trader, Base Metals Trader, Interest Rates Trader, Investment Grade Bond Trader, Equity Derivatives Trader, Commodity Trader.... I found all of these on the first page of results (25 people)

pembrook said 6 months ago:

By contrast, about 37,000 people work at Goldman. Those people with the name “trader” in their title are simply executing client trades as a service for fees—-not speculating with the banks own money.

I stand by my point, the idea that Goldman is full of traders in the Hollywood sense is nonsense.

NovemberWhiskey said 6 months ago:

There are not a lot of equity cash traders left in Wall Street firms; but it's not like equity cash is the only thing to trade.

Macross8299 said 6 months ago:

Trump has undone the Volcker rule portion of Dodd-Frank [1], for what it's worth

Goldman Sachs, et al, would not lobby the government to get rid of a law that prevents them from doing something unprofitable.

[1]: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/20/volcker-rule-josep...

neaden said 6 months ago:

A big part of it is that on average the stock market goes up, so even if you are randomly buying stocks you'll come out ahead over the long run as long as fees don't eat it up. Another significant portion is that they have access to a lot of information you don't, and are able to buy stocks and derivatives that you cannot. This comes as a benefit of their size.

o_nate said 6 months ago:

The type of trading that is consistently profitable at banks is mostly market-making, which is not a strategy available to a day-trader.

Havoc said 6 months ago:

>why is trading by banks/hedge funds/Goldman Sachs etc. consistently profitable?

Not a level playing field. It's exactly because you're going up against guys like GS that's the reason for day trading being suicide.

dan_mctree said 6 months ago:

In addition to what the others said, stock trading fees often don't scale with the cost of these stocks. If you're investing with low amounts, these static fees eat up a lot of any potential gains of day trading

jacquesc said 6 months ago:

I have a couple friends that do day trading on "technical analysis". As in, they only trade on the chart movements. Both claim to make money consistently. I generally believe them, but it seems like black magic to me. Especially when they explain what they're doing in detail.

Not sure I understand this study tho, and whether or not it relates.

mumblemumble said 6 months ago:

One thing to keep in mind is that even a random number generator can trivially turn a profit when the market is trending up. It's when the market is volatile or going down that you get a real test of how well a strategy works.

Which isn't to say that technical analysis is unfounded. And I do believe that there are opportunities that exist for individuals that haven't been arbitrated out of the market by the professional quants simply because they don't represent enough money to be interesting on an institutional scale. But it takes something like a bear market to really know for sure if you've found those opportunities, or if you're just riding a rising tide that lifts all boats.

poooogles said 6 months ago:

>I have a couple friends that do day trading on "technical analysis".

As someone that trades on fundamentals I like to think of that as reading tea leaves. Literally non sensical. Oh yeah sure that pattern is the upside down elephant so we should go short...

No smoke without fire though so I assume some are making money with it. Just doesn't seem like a sound idea to me.

golover721 said 6 months ago:

I also have a few friends who do well day trading (which is usually done by mostly or only technical analysis). They have done well for themselves as they actually treat it like a job. Constantly trying to educate themselves, being at their computers paying attention to the market for the entire trading day.

Most folks who feel the allure of day trading don't realize that to make it work it has to be your full time job. You can't just make some trades, go off and do something else, and expect to make any money.

Paradigma11 said 5 months ago:

What i have seen this algos work mainly by having a high chance of winning a small payout and a very small chance of losing everything. So everything works fine for 1/2-1 year and ppl spread word of mouth how nice this steady income is. Meanwhile the owner of the algo/platform makes a nice commission. Then everything goes bust and starts anew somewhere else.

vasco said 6 months ago:

Technical analysis works the same way the weekly paper works to say that Virgo or Capricorn will have a good week at work.

factsaresacred said 6 months ago:

There are prop firms[1] filled with traders regularly making money hand over fist. Many of those traders also make a killing on their personal account.

So while certainly not easy, it's possible.

Trading suffers from some of the same problems of web development: few barriers to entry leading to an abundance of low-quality participants, and the mostly autodidactic nature of skill development.

Like 10x engineers, 10x traders exist. But getting there requires thousands of hours of deliberate practice, discipline and conscientiousness - traits typically not found among the get-rich-quick crowd who discovered trading after clicking a Youtube ad for forexbillionaredaytrader.scam


f00zz said 6 months ago:

Something that's probably not mentioned in the article is that it's really easy to get into day trading in Brazil. I think I read somewhere that in the US you need a US$ 25k account to day trade; in Brazil with a US$ 50 account you're in the game. There are many zero-fee brokers (though those are a recent development, I don't remember those in 2013), and capital gain taxes are 20%.

In fact I'm surprised that day trading in Brazil is not more popular than it already is. It's basically legalized gambling. I do remote work as a software developer in Brazil and I've been playing a bit with options swing trading on the side (which is even cheaper than day trading); I don't plan to make a living out of it, but it can be fun (and a bit addictive).

Bubbadoo said 5 months ago:

You see it on Instagram all the time... charlatans hawking 'trading systems' on equities, options, fx, etc. They're targeting people who want to 'take control of their lives.' Trading is like professional sports: once in the while a natural comes around, but for most, it's a great way to lose buckets of cash. Even for traders' with a gift, it takes about three years to develop a kind of market sense or intuition. Then there are the markets themselves: with low-latency and HFT, you're almost never in control. You can only hope your algo is close to one the other traders are using. I especially love those flim-flam artists--hawking FX futures trading as a way to financial independence--their own usually. FX markets are controlled largely by central banks who don't always let the market know what they're doing and includes some of the world's most capitalized banks. It's hard to know what to do in a market with all of these massive external forces. Most importantly, the markets have evolved over the last 15 years to a point where if you're not low-touch, you're going to lose. Having said this, last year I beat the S&P soundly. It was a good year. It did take a minimum of 60 hours a week and was a stressful roller coaster at times. This year... forget it. With one of the least stable administrations in place, the market can reverse direction multiple times in a day. You'd better be automated for that.

iliketosleep said 6 months ago:

This is akin to saying "it is impossible to gamble at the casino for a living", which for the overwhelming majority of people is true. Having said that, it's not impossible. People have beaten casinos before, and they have beaten markets, by finding an edge over the house (or market) - but it's never the typical Joe type. In day-trading, the typical Joe uses so-called "technical analysis", the same stuff you'll find in books and taught by course providers, which offers absolutely no edge over the market. It's simply cashing in on hope.

duxup said 6 months ago:

I think the "for a living" is really about beating it longer term and the income comes in a sustainable fashion.

Even someone beating a casino I would think would get some big payouts to live on long term... but that casnio is gonna notice and shut down that "living" or just ban you. In that sense you're not doing it "for a living" as much as hoping to make enough money in a short span to maybe last longer term.

Now maybe they find new ways to beat the casino but to do it sustainability is questionable.

So beating the casino seems different than "for a living" IMO.

iliketosleep said 6 months ago:

Large, irregular payouts can also constitute a living. In extreme cases, it might even be just one payout.

duxup said 6 months ago:

I think the study shows that even that didn't happen for anyone in the market.

smdz said 6 months ago:

That is so misleading! I have been day trading profitably for the last 6+ years. It is more than enough to cover my living expenses for a family of 4. But I also work (freelance dev), because it cannot cover my home EMIs.

My returns are not too high, but much better than bank interest rates and probably much below professional traders. The only thing stopping me from earning my EMIs or more income is the allocated capital, which is limited to stay in the game long term without losing my shirt. Even though I had a profitable strategy even before I started trading profitably, it took me 2.5 years to align my comfort/tolerance level with risk management. i.e. its not just about having a profitable strategy. I did minor tweaks on my strategy only 2 times in all those years.

I do not doubt that many fail with day trading. In my case, day trading is stressful and takes anywhere between 5-8 hours of my time daily including time spent outside market hours. It is stressful, exciting and frustratingly boring while waiting for opportunities. And to add to the stress I freelance too, mostly before trading hours and some after. Doing both feels like slogging everyday and on some days I have an internal struggle about increasing the trading risk. And there are times where other traders will (unintentionally) gaslight by telling me how their monthly returns are equal to my annual returns.

Kevin_S said 6 months ago:

Ok but the last 6 years the market has generally only gone up. If you are doing technical analysis, you would expect to actually be profitable in an expansionary period. The problem is if you trade the same way in a deflationary period you will lose all of your gains.

fouc said 6 months ago:

It'd be interesting if the trading interface could silently flip the chart & swap the puts & shorts during a deflationary period, so that you could keep trading the same way, while taking into account a bear market.

said 6 months ago:
asdfman123 said 6 months ago:

But this is directly in contrary to people who have told me they can make 20% a week day trading!

By my calculations, the guy who told me that a few years back should literally own the entire world by now.

osrec said 6 months ago:

I've done ok trading stocks and FX, probably enough to live off. There is a caveat however; you need to have a sizeable portfolio to begin with. Otherwise, the risks you'll need to take are simply too large.

If you think you're going to turn £5k into £500k in a year, forget it! But turning £5k into £5.3k is certainly doable.

Scale that initial portfolio to £5m, and you can take home £300k with relative ease in a good market- that's a very comfortable income for most people.

kace91 said 6 months ago:

But that's like 6% interest rate. The S&P 500's average anual return is 10%... So unless I've got something wrong, you'd be earning far more if you just let your 5m chill there and go watch Netflix for the whole year.

no_one_ever said 6 months ago:

The S&P 500's expected annual return is 10% except when it isn't.

S&P (and the rest of the market, really) can depreciate over a year and you'd just be losing your money.

codeplea said 6 months ago:

5k into 5.3k is 6%. You can get much more than that in the long run by just putting it in an index fund.

Why bother day trading?

osrec said 6 months ago:

Property is not a great option in the UK currently due to rather high stamp duty (i.e. property tax, payable by the buyer) - if stamp duty were lower, I would probably put my money in more property. Equities were a reasonable second choice - my portfolio is fairly diversified now, so I am not making trades on a daily basis but I do keep an eye on it all the time. I probably re-balance my holding about once a week.

Index funds can take quite a hit in a bad market. I am very careful to avoid big slumps in my portfolio value, even if it means not being invested for a month or two.

vpEfljFL said 6 months ago:

Why equity though? Could you please elaborate why you don't like bonds.

Because for me stocks look like a hot potato game. Literally the whole reasoning behind price is you can sell it higher to someone later.

The price is not supported by anything (book value is 10 to 100 times lower) and you don't get anything because liabilities come first on overvalued assets.

r00fus said 6 months ago:

But could you have turned £5m into £5.3m with purely passive investment? That's like a 6% return/year.

glitchc said 6 months ago:

I prefer property. 5% long-term annual returns, and you get a rent cheque every month. Best combination of short-term income and long-term equity that I've seen anywhere. Condos in downtown hubs of major cities are essentially recession-proof.

soVeryTired said 6 months ago:

You might just have been making money from a long bias there. Even if you try to balance your long/short exposure in monetary terms, you can still have beta to the market by e.g. buying $1k tech stocks and selling $1k utilities.

AdmiralAsshat said 6 months ago:

So basically, you need £5m to start with, which most people would consider pretty wealthy. Plus, it doesn't seem that much different from the old idea that the rich can just "live off the interest."

basseq said 6 months ago:

But I could also sock £5m into VBIAX, with 7% annualized returns, and clear an extra £50k. At that point, other than "I like day-trading", why would you want to do that?

danepowell said 6 months ago:

You can make that much and more by passively investing in index funds. What's the appeal in day trading then?

wbl said 6 months ago:

That's less then 10٪. Long term stock market returns are around 7% and considerably less riskier.

osrec said 6 months ago:

Yes, long term 7% is the quoted number, however that can be over a couple of decades (maybe more) and you may need to endure a recession or two.

With a bit of active management, I manage to achieve 6-8% each year, but I avoid large negative hits that an index fund might endure in a bad market.

So, I'm sort of returning similar returns to market, but with less volatility in the bad times. I'm sorta happy with that.

codeplea said 6 months ago:

5k to 5.3k is a 6% increase. It seems like day trading should be just about the riskiest/hardest way to get 6% a year.

The S&P 500 returns about 10%/year since its inception. (7% if you adjust for inflation.)

unicornmama said 6 months ago:

This reminds me of the joke: How do you make a small fortune? Start with a large fortune.

jedberg said 6 months ago:

Their title should really say "now" at the end. It was definitely possible before. I know people who did it, and they weren't just bragging about fake gains. I saw the accounts. I saw the rigs. And I saw them go from one small house to a bunch of rental houses and a big mansion using day trading profits.

And they all retired before 2008.

rvr_ said 6 months ago:

The article is very good, but there is another dimension to be evaluated: There are two futures contracts that attract a lot of trading volume in Brazil: ibovespa futures and dollar/real futures. Both contracts have two tickers each, the "full" and the "mini". So we have: INDFUT, DOLFUT, WINFUT and WDOFUT (those two last are the "minis").

The common lore (or myth) goes as follow: The average trader starts trading paper money in a demo account, then goes to the mini to "learn to feel the pain" and if successful migrates to the full contract.

So, to really have the bigger picture, the study must be expanded to include the four tickers. Them we can really now if the "pros" playing on the full contract are really making any money.

aj7 said 6 months ago:

Two axioms for small investors: 1. You can’t make money by day trading. 2. Technical analysis is bunk.

bob1029 said 6 months ago:

I would like to expand on this point because while it is true as stated above, there is more to the picture from my perspective. Day trading and technical analysis are certainly bunk, but the problem I see is people equating day trading with making intelligent stock picks which were NOT driven solely by technical analysis nonsense.

For instance, predicting that a certain company's product will steal market share from a competitor based upon personal experience in the same industry and then purchasing stocks based upon this is an extremely viable strategy. Especially, if your intentions are to hold for the long term (beyond 12 months). You just need to get comfortable with the boundaries of your own understanding and make rational decisions based on this. I always see this black and white discussion (put everything into a broad market EFT vs day trade on technical analysis) without much discussion of intermediate strategies that are based on actual concrete research and understanding of the relevant markets.

aj7 said 5 months ago:

I do the above, but I think it might be vanity. It’s not clear I shouldn’t spread risk via ETFs.

neves said 6 months ago:

Is it just me who thinks really weird the idea of "working" without producing anything?

hellodetroit said 6 months ago:

Think of a used car dealership. They buy cars and resell them later for (usually) a higher price. Are they not producing anything?

As the sibling comment pointed, participants in a market are producing and consuming liquidity.

waylandsmithers said 6 months ago:

Folks who do this sometimes say what they produce is liquidity in the markets where they participate in trading.

justinmeiners said 6 months ago:

They are providing a service, not a product.

docker_up said 6 months ago:

Impossible? Lol I have a handful of friends that do this. It's hard work but they make 5 to 6 figures consistently per year.

It's very very hard, and not everyone can do it. I tried and lost a lot of money. But it's definitely not impossible, that is simply a lie.

glitchc said 6 months ago:

Your friends are probably lying to you or themselves (or both) about the making money part. It's typical for gamblers to overstate their winnings and understate their losses in the long-haul to somehow convince themselves they're ahead when they're actually behind.

docker_up said 6 months ago:

They are lying because you've never made money daytrading? As per my other comment, this is absurd. Being a profitable daytrader is very hard, and it's not probable, but definitely possible.

glitchc said 6 months ago:

It's not a question of possibility, but a question of probability. Lots of things are possible with very tiny probabilities. That's why we do research, to estimate the probability of a phenomenon being true, in this case making money daytrading.

The research in the paper suggests that the probability that your friends are making more than a teller is 0.4%, therefore the probability that they are making less than a teller is 99.6%. So, if you have a hundred friends in daytrading, only one of them made more than minimum wage, two of them made money but at or below minimum wage, and ninety-seven of them lost money. Therefore, if they all told you they were making money, most (97%) of them were lying.

marketgod said 6 months ago:

Look at the 10-k filings of companies. Lot's of people beat the market and hedge funds in particular. The thing is it's a hard skill to attain. Day trading is probably not the best, but the study should have focused on Full-Time trading. If you trade reversal/swing it's definitely possible to beat the market.

Just this year, I am at 35% returns, however, September is not in my calculation and this month was probably the most profitable so I should be around 50% at the end of the month if not higher (and this is a bad year.) Also the market has been choppy lately, the last few months so harder to lock in gains.

brk said 6 months ago:

All things considered, "5 figures" seems like a pretty low income for something that is "very very hard", and risky. Seems like if you have the skills and tenacity to day trade like that you could find some other job to pay you high 5 figures with a more stability.

docker_up said 6 months ago:

$20,000 per year is livable in many areas of the US, especially if you have a lot of savings to back that up. The point is that saying it's "impossible" is a lie.

brk said 6 months ago:

Where is $20,000 ‘livable’? Savings or not, I don’t know of many places where you could live on a net income of ~$1,300/mo. what do you do for medical benefits alone in that income bracket?

aphextim said 6 months ago:

Upper Michigan:

If you have $20,000 you get MI Health plan, essentially free healthcare in the poor income bracket (for now anyway unless it gets taken away, sign up where you get food stamps).

Rent on a 2 bedroom apartment, as long as you are not in the "big" city of Marquette should be $400-$500.

Heck when I was younger we 'rented' an entire 5 bedroom house, two story with basement for $950 (split 4 ways with roommates).

Food and cost of living is cheap, especially if you go to farmers markets and buy stuff in season.

Winter can be tough as heating costs go up, however they do offer those 'locked' in plans where you pay more in summer month but less in winter as it averages out your price. Overall you always pay more this way, however if you have trouble managing money having a steady rate can be more beneficial.

If they took medical benefits away from low income bracket which I could see happening, well just hope you don't get sick, otherwise the rest is doable. As my dad once told me when I moved out at 18, as long as you got a roof over your head, and food in your stomach, the rest is details.

rongenre said 6 months ago:

Again - if you've got the talents to make $20k/yr day trading, you can do much better working remotely at far less risk. So higher sharpe ratio.

Also the UP is pretty much miserable.

aphextim said 6 months ago:

>Also the UP is pretty much miserable.

I feel that is subjective. I know many people in this area who live wonderful happy lives being self sufficient, living off the land and having a large community and frequent family gatherings. The area is beautiful if you like outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, bike trails and in the winter there is a lot of cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Worst thing here right now is the Opioid crises which sadly is happening in many rural areas across the nation.

I guess personally I would prefer the country life vs fast living in a big city, but again that's my opinion. Especially with the ability to work remote, and the ability to get things shipped up here via the internet it makes life easy.

Gone are the days of having to drive 3 hours for computer parts :)

ben_w said 6 months ago:

I make $10,000 per year while sitting on my backside and at almost zero risk. It’s called “collecting rent”, which is especially easy if you have a lot of savings.

pembrook said 6 months ago:

Sigh. Here's the truth, everybody knows a guy at work who claims they make money "day trading."

If you know more than 1 person who beats the market consistently by trading, you should open a fund-of-funds and start investing institutional money, ASAP. The Harvard endowment would love to speak with you.

docker_up said 6 months ago:

This is absurd. You don't know my friends, and you say they are lying?

Daytrading for a single account and managing a multi-billion dollar fund are completely different strategies and need completely different skillsets. You should educate yourself before talking authoritatively on subjects you don't know very much about.

VeninVidiaVicii said 6 months ago:

I mean... 10,000 is five figures.

matwood said 6 months ago:

> It's hard work but they make 5 to 6 figures consistently per year.

For how many years, and how much seed money did they start with? The problem with making a high percentage consistently is it requires taking on huge risks. Those huge risks mean at some point a trade will go bad and your friends will be done.

ectospheno said 6 months ago:

Your particular logical fallacy is "cherry picking".

docker_up said 6 months ago:

You only need one example to disprove that something is "impossible".

lallysingh said 6 months ago:

Not against "impossible."

sebastianconcpt said 6 months ago:

We show that it is virtually impossible for an individual to day trade for a living, contrary to what course providers claim. We observe all individuals who began to day trade between 2013 and 2015 in the Brazilian equity futures market, the third in terms of volume in the world, and persisted for at least 300 days: 97% of them lost money, only 0.4% earned more than a bank teller (US$54 per day), and the top individual earned only US$310 per day with great risk (a standard deviation of US$2,560). Additionally, we find no evidence of learning by day trading.

lamby said 5 months ago:

Reminds me of:

> It's said that most at home traders fail, but this is incorrect: they fail at making money, but they are successful at feeling like a trader. That is the goal; the money is secondary, which is why they fail at making it.

  — The Last Psychiatrist, Who Can Know How Much Randi Zuckerberg Is Worth?(http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2014/03/who_can_know_how_much_randi_zu.html)
mattkrause said 6 months ago:

Aren't futures contracts, by definition, zero-sum?

The average profit should be pretty damn close to zero (ignoring/averaging across trades with non-daytraders).

shoes_for_thee said 6 months ago:

Yeah, it's a zero-sum game. I guess the study was looking at individuals competing against institutions and market-makers.

nickles said 6 months ago:

This is a common misconception. Futures contracts are very often used for nonspeculative purposes (e.g. Starbucks locking in prices for buying milk or farmers locking in prices to sell wheat). This is a form of insurance. While the end users are ultimately may net with each other, the intermediaries who take risk matching these parties charge a fee (the spread) for doing so.

Why can't the end users trade with each other directly and avoid such fees then? Often they are not in the market at the same time or want to trade different quantities, relying on the intermediaries to resolve these problems.

mattkrause said 6 months ago:

I get that the insurance has a value of its own, but what about the trading of futures specifically?

Suppose I buy a biotech stock at $10/share. They make a breakthrough, and the stock shoots up to $110/share. I make +$100/share, but no one has lost the corresponding $100.

Suppose I agree to buy an ounce of silver from you for $20 in January. If silver is $21 then, you effectively lose a dollar , since you need to chip in a buck to get me my silver. If it's $19, you can slip a dollar into your own pocket before buying the silver on the spot market. Regardless of how it turns out, the total gain is zero.

What am I missing?

nickles said 6 months ago:

Suppose a farmer wants to lock in the price of milk produced the farmer's dairy. The farmer wants to sell futures and sees a market of 18.30 / 18.50. These prices are probably being shown by a market maker. The farmer sells the futures to the market maker at 18.30. A few minutes later, Starbucks would like to buy the same contracts, to lock in its costs for the next month. Starbucks buys at 18.50.

These two participants have paid the market maker, in total, 0.20 in spread. Here, the spread is the fee the market maker charges for facilitating liquidity. At this point, the net sum between the three participants is still 0. However, we also need to factor in the fees charged by the exchange, any taxes that may be charged on the transaction (for example the SEC fee in equities), clearing fees, and funding costs.

On the whole, the transaction between the three participants was negative sum. However, the market maker is running a business by reflecting those costs, and the risk premium, in the spread. Even though this transaction is negative sum, it, presumably, still provides economic value to the farmer and Starbucks.

mattkrause said 6 months ago:

Isn't that example nearly zero-sum (ignoring the spread)? If the spot price for milk goes down later, Starbucks loses a bit of money. If it goes up, the farmer has effectively "paid" for an advance.

My point is that futures are by construction zero-sum (ignoring spreads) or negative sum (including them). Thus, any analysis that averages across market participants' P&L will conclude that futures trading is unprofitable[0], except for the market makers. This is true regardless of the savvy of market participants.

[0] Obviously, it doesn't capture non-cash considerations. Starbucks and the farmer both might be thrilled with reduced risk. But paper doesn't consider those factors either.

nickles said 6 months ago:

> Isn't that example nearly zero-sum (ignoring the spread)?

But ignoring the spread is incorrect, and nearly zero sum is not the same as zero-sum. The spread is the fee that market makers earn for a service they provide. You're also not considering other participants. The price changes you're talking about could be driven entirely by end users, or they could be driven by speculators, arbitrageurs, and others who are providing separate services (price discovery, liquidity, balance sheet, arbitrage, etc.) and are also capturing some of the value.

> futures trading is unprofitable[0], except for the market makers

If you are explicitly excluding participants who profit by providing financial services to markets, then you are begging the question.

> Obviously, it doesn't capture non-cash considerations. Starbucks and the farmer both might be thrilled with reduced risk.

Transferring risk can definitely provide economic value (insurance policies exist for this reason), but it should be noted that there are other advantages as well. These futures transactions can help Starbucks manage inventory without needing to maintain large stockpiles of perishable or reduce the volatility of prices charged to consumers.

mattkrause said 6 months ago:

Are you saying that the "misconception" is that it's actually slightly negative-sum, rather than exactly-zero sum? If so, great, I agree. It doesn't change my point at all; if anything it makes it stronger.

I am not excluding anyone; I'm trying to explain why I think the result here is not particularly enlightening.

nickles said 6 months ago:

My understanding of your comments is influenced strongly by this statement:

> Thus, any analysis that averages across market participants' P&L will conclude that futures trading is unprofitable[0], except for the market makers. This is true regardless of the savvy of market participants.

By virtue of offering various services to market participants, savvy market operators can consistently generate profit. In the context of this article, I took your statement to mean that any given participant cannot consistently do so.

At the same time, the end users entering into these transactions understand they will be paying these fees, just as a firm expects to pay a fee to borrow money from a bank. If we describe this process as a zero-sum game, it gives the impression that trading is a speculative casino, reallocating money to participants at random (the misconception). If we describe it instead as negative-sum, where participants are paying/paid for services, it better reflects the economic value of the transactions.

> ignoring/averaging across trades with non-daytraders

I didn't see this bit for some reason when originally responding to your comment. Had I, my comment would have been stated differently.

mattkrause said 6 months ago:

That's not what zero-sum means. The definition of a zero sum "game" is simply one where the participants' payoffs (here, profits) sum to zero.

Nothing in the definition prevents some participants from being better players than others. As you noted above, some entities might also prefer to "buy" stability for their main operation instead of trying to minimize their spending on some of its inputs. Nevertheless, for every dollar made on futures, someone has lost (at least) that much. Except for the market-maker, the entire thing is a closed system. Thus, you'd expect the average return, across everyone trading the contract, to be zero, which is exactly what this paper shows.

The paper does show 47 people who turned a profit. Their analysis can't distinguish between rubes who haven't (yet) reverted to the mean and savvy traders with some kind of effective edge. It would be interesting to see what the loss distribution looks like.

dbsights said 6 months ago:

All trades are zero-sum. For any price change in a stock, the money made by one party is equal to the money that could have been made by the other. Given the choice to either buy now or buy later, if the price appreciates, buying later is a loss and if it falls, it is a gain.

So in your example with the biotech stock, the person who loses the corresponding $100 is whoever sold it to you prior to the news event. If they had not made that trade, they would be $100 ahead, and if you had not made the trade, you would be $100 behind. Every transaction has a winner and a loser when considered over a period of time.

harryh said 6 months ago:

Probably a bit negative-sum when you take into account commissions and other transaction costs?

kolbe said 6 months ago:

In the time frame tested, Brazil's equity markets fell about 60%. I'm sure more than just 'day traders' failed to make money.

PorterDuff said 6 months ago:

I've always wanted to design a slot machine that traded a few NASDAQ stocks.

You go into a bar, run your credit card and stick some money in the machine, buy/sell some shares (with leverage?), machine owner skims off fees, cash out when done.

I never thought day trading worked very well and given the number of non-human brains on the other side (plus the overhead), the odds are good that the odds are bad.

AYBABTME said 6 months ago:

In the whole paper, there's no mention of whether the market itself was growing or shrinking. This makes the results kind of hard to trust. Assume the market lost money for these dates, then it would follow that most traders on that market lost money as well. The results should at least be controlled for the overall rate of change of the market.

cshimmin said 6 months ago:

I don't think that's how day trading is supposed to work. Successful day traders are supposed to make money whichever way the market is moving, by taking short positions when the market is going down and long when the market is up. Buy-and-hold investors (quite the opposite of day traders) are the ones who make money when the market as a whole goes up.

munherty said 6 months ago:

Sorry this doesnt fly.

I think at best we can conclude that the trading methods used by the sample are ineffective for day trading in Brazil. Now if their methods are similar to that of the population, one may be able to conclude that common day trade methods are unsustainable within the brazilian market

hsnewman said 6 months ago:

I don't understand. If companies (pensions, banks, funds) regularly trade and make profit (ie: for a living), why can't individuals? I think this study is flawed, more likely the Brazilian market had problems during the study's time period.

bowcoy said 6 months ago:

Putting your money in a savings account already gets you 6%-10% depending on how Brazil's economy is doing. Putting your money in real estate gets you 10%-50% depending on the neighborhood. But both of those investments require big/old money, and the younger generation does not have that (not uncommon for a highly qualified engineer or mathematician to live at their parents until they are 28, because they can not afford to rent or buy a apartment).

So, daytrading has become extremely popular. It is the "make 2000$ working from home" style and seedily advertised everywhere. For instance, the night door man at a medium-poor hotel was up all night looking at candle graphs and drawing trendlines. My girlfriends social media is full of influencers who get free money to play and then only report on their winnings. I spoke with a professional gamer who quit university to do nothing but Twitch stream and day trade. He makes 6400$ a month in a country where the minimum wage is 290$ (though cost of living can be on par with the big cities in the US).

The data they used is pretty solid, but then again, if you make serious money with day trading, then you find a so-called "little way" to avoid detection and scrutiny. For instance, it would be slightly more complex to use 20 accounts, vs. just 1 account. You can trade on another person's details.

I think the biggest part of the losses are caused by the hype, and targeting this hype to financially illiterate people, who do not have much money to weather a bad streak. Many ordinary people were also sucked into Bitcoin around December 2017, with taxi drivers investing in fractional BTC, only to see their savings and vacation money drop to 25% of the original value.

Market was not super (but is recovering).

foxfired said 6 months ago:

Nonsense. Of course you can. You just have to sell it as a course rather then do the trading.

HenryBemis said 6 months ago:

FX trader here. I do trade daily for the last 18 months, mostly algo, and it IS possible to make profit every single day. Just aim for 0.1% per day and you are set for life. You aim for the 0.1% of your capital, so when the market goes against you, you got enough margin to keep the account alive.

Anton Kreil has a good video (I will add it later - walking now) that tells the tale how the markets are set up to rip you off/apart. He mentions the 90-90-90 rule.

90% of retail traders lose 90% of their capital every 90 days. I have seen this happening so many times to retail traders who want to get rich in a week that I just stopped talking to other traders because they never learn their lesson.

Edit: Anton Kreil's video on how the system is stacked up against 'you'. He of course also sells the 'secret recipe' to win!!


samfisher83 said 6 months ago:

If you could make .1% every on the stock market that would be a return of 29% a year. I am not sure how many hedge funds could get you that kind of return.

FX is different and I guess there are differences in terms of trading days, but returning .1% every day would be very hard.

HenryBemis said 6 months ago:

I'd say even more than 20% per year, because you aim for 0.1%, but when the market goes against you, you may end up having a max floating -20% but that will close with a 2% profit that day.

The Broker will only cheat a little just to push you over the edge. As long as stay far-far away from the edge, you are safe. If you aim for 0.1%, even if they (broker, markets, price action) do their worse, they won't get you past 10% (that's x100 the 0.1% risk:reward you aim for).

IAmGraydon said 6 months ago:

If you really believe that you can make a .1% return every day retail trading leveraged FX, you’re delusional. There’s just no other way to say it.

HenryBemis said 6 months ago:

Feel free to call me what you want. One can make $1 out of $1000 per day easily. Waking up this morning I saw $1.57 profit per $1000. It is the greed that busts accounts.. I am not advertising anything. I am merely stating what is working for me and a couple of friends. Btw this is my side-gig. My main profession is related to financial services and IT which I have been serving (both) for the last 20 years, so I have an advantage when it comes to any kind of botting (algo trading).

IAmGraydon said 5 months ago:

No, you can’t do that day after day for any extended period of time. You certainly can’t with algo trading. The spread alone would cost you more than .1%, so you would have to make more than that just to be profitable. In 18 months of trading, what net return have you made?

qaq said 6 months ago:

"We observe all individuals who began to day trade between 2013 and 2015 in the Brazilian equity futures market, the third in terms of volume in the world, and persisted for at least 300". How do they know it is "all"?

codingslave said 6 months ago:

Day trading seems similar to online poker, where 98% of players are loosing players.

LeonM said 6 months ago:

And yet, every poker player will tell you about how they always win. The same goes for daytraders I guess

newfangle said 6 months ago:

As a poker player this is exactly what i was thinking. Poker is probably more winnable though because you arent competing against super computers with ai built by a team of highly paid mathematicians.

yurka4 said 6 months ago:

I completely agree with your statement. This is fortune for few.

chewbacha said 6 months ago:

In other news, it’s virtually impossible to earn a living buying lottery tickets.

gigatexal said 6 months ago:

Anecdotal sure but I know many who are trading derivatives at a profit — they’re being conservative but selling and buying options can be lucrative although it goes against the efficient market hypothesis

hogFeast said 6 months ago:

What do you think traders who work at banks are doing? Last I checked, they made more than bank tellers.

(Being facetious, looking at one instrument in one market is awful...it deserves a stupid response).

tempsy said 6 months ago:

This year has been unusual but it is pretty wild as someone fully invested in stocks (including individual picks) how many times I found myself making more than my rent or paycheck in a day.

stjohnswarts said 6 months ago:

That 100% assurance that no one can day trade seems a bit, ever seems like a bold declaration. I'm sure there are prodigies that can, but the other 99% of us suck at it over time.

00N8 said 5 months ago:

Teaching people to day trade as a career sounds kind of like teaching people to challenge NBA players to basketball games for money, as a career

praptak said 6 months ago:

Mandatory reading for anyone considering trading stocks: http://edmarkovich.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-i-dont-trade-sto...

TLDR: just invest in an index fund.

newshorts said 6 months ago:

Until Michael burry pointed out that indexes have a grown into a bubble...

erdleerdle said 6 months ago:

Start with a big pot, learn python, don't be stupid.

homonculus1 said 6 months ago:

This is probably the worst retitle I've seen on HN

throwawaylolx said 6 months ago:

That's not really a claim that science can prove.

booleandilemma said 6 months ago:

It’s possible, because people do it.

Maybe they mean day trading isn’t something that can be managed, metricized, and scrummed to death like some other fields?

SEJeff said 6 months ago:

Humans day trading is harder / impossible mainly because computers do it now, and do a much better job of it.

verizonuser said 6 months ago:

ES just retested 3000 - good time to try a short position on United States stock market index futures.

zelly said 6 months ago:

> 97% of day traders lost money

How can I take the opposite side of these trades? Is this what James Simons is doing?

rjkennedy98 said 6 months ago:

Buy and hold...simple as that.

newshorts said 6 months ago:

I find it interesting that all the comments on here seems to corroborate this evidence.

It doesn’t seem like a large percentage of comments are saying “this is false, because I make a living day trading!”

Instead most of the comments say something like “this story is untrue because I know someone who makes a living day trading”

Knowing someone != being someone

bmarquez said 6 months ago:

Many people who are actually successful with day trading (as opposed to selling pitchforks to miners) don't like to brag or talk openly, or post flashy pictures on social media.

Why? Because they don't need the attention. They don't need people begging to mentor them for free, or share the strategy they've worked for months or years, or ask for free stuff since they didn't really "work" for it like lottery winners, or criticize their livelihood saying it can't be done. There's just no point.

rotrux said 6 months ago:

The subject of this post should be changed to remove "impossible."

adrr said 6 months ago:

It is difficult to make a living but you can make money day trading. Market isn't the fastest. You can capture value on big events like the Boeing issues and other events. If you have risk appetite you can write options and pick up nickels in front of a steam roller.

dragthor said 6 months ago:

With risk-defined option trading, you decide the size of the steam roller.

Havoc said 6 months ago:

The pennies stay small though

marketgod said 6 months ago:

Look up the Wheel Strategy. Good way to start trading and it's fairly profitable because it's long term investing with a boost to your cash flow.

marketgod said 6 months ago:

Or ignore the news and focus on what the charts say.

qwerty456127 said 6 months ago:

It's widely known that 99% amateur traders loose money.

fortran77 said 6 months ago:

What happens is you get people "day trading" in a period of time when there's an extended bull market and they think they're geniuses / financial whizzes.

ape4 said 6 months ago:

Is Day Trading the same as Momentum Trading?

axwhy said 6 months ago:

With small account, yes it is impossible

ablx000 said 5 months ago:

Efficient Market Hypothesis anyone?

Allower said 6 months ago:

"In Brazil" Well that's your problem...