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Alison Gopnik Interview with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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Alison Gopnik
Alison Gopnik

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Alison Gopnik is an American professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She is known for her work in the areas of cognitive and language development, specializing in the effect of language on thought, the development of a theory of mind, and causal learning. Her primary study is looking at how we learn and grow from the earliest years of our lives.

How did Alison get started down this path? She is the eldest of 6 children brought up in a bohemian style family. Being the oldest of 6 she had a deep understanding of children at a young age. She saw relationships between play and learning in babies first hand and was intrigued early on.

Alison also looks at the relationship between how long a baby is a baby before adulthood and how that relates to the rest of their life that follows. Humans generally have twice the amount of childhood than any of our animal relatives. If we have these extended periods of learning, compared to other mammals, what are human babies doing in that time? What are the other animal babies doing in that time? How does this time shape the rest of our lives in comparison?

Why is Alison so passionate about her work? She works with children everyday. She observes, plays and sees first hand how important they are. Other fields of science, particularly the artificial intelligence community, is beginning to take notice of her work. They are starting to look at children and cognitive development to help advance their programming. Introducing play and adaptation to their systems is one thing scientists have taken away from observing children. The more you play around and experiment in your childhood, the more you are able to adapt and adjust to the unknown environments. How do you go about taking on new challenges? Exploring and having fun with things often helps to solve problems quicker.

What are some lessons we are learning about kids and technology? Will this generation’s technology ruin the world? Michael and Alison end the podcast discussing the ever changing technological advances and what impacts it may or may not have on the world and the children living on it.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Life after death
  • Narrow attention
  • Exploring – as a child and adult
  • Unknown, unknowns
  • Bayesian babies
  • Test and adjust
  • Consciousness as a baby rather than adults
  • Children and technology

What’s it like being a baby? “Being in love in Paris for the first time after you have had three double espressos.” – Alison Gopnik

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Strategies & Ideas

Weekly Market Recap Aug 19, 2018

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A good amount of volatility this past week, but once again indexes are just sort of hanging around as we work through some news items, specifically facing trade issues.  We ended last week with some hand wringing over Turkey – while nothing was really resolved, U.S. markets looked past that… however emerging markets continue their struggle.  The U.S. indexes have simply been range bound for weeks on end.

The Turkish central bank pledged in a statement Monday to provide “all the liquidity the banks need.” It also said banks would be able to borrow foreign-exchange deposits from the central bank at one-month and one-week maturities. Analysts said Turkey’s reluctance to raise interest rates stood out.  Wednesday, Qatar reportedly pledged to invest $15 billion in Turkey following a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan and Qatar’s Sheikh Temim bin Hamed Al Sani.

Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network, said the main reason Turkey’s crisis is not likely to spread is because Turkey is an outlier.  “It has borrowed more, as a percentage of its economy, in foreign currencies than any other country. There are only a handful of countries that are even close, including Hungary, Argentina, Poland and Chile. Recently, its central bank effectively lost its independence and is now politically unable to take measures that might mitigate the crisis. In other words, Turkey is both more exposed and less able to do something about it than any other country. Notably, while the other exposed countries are also taking hits, no country is as bad as Turkey,” he said in a note.

“The bottom line is that the volatility seen in overseas currency markets does not change the immediate picture for the stock market. The market continues to be driven by improving economic conditions. This is underscored by a report last week showing confidence among small businesses at an all-time record high, which bodes well for continued strength in the labor markets,” Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird, said in a note. “The largest negative on the horizon is the reluctance of either the U.S. or China to back down from tariff threats, which could eventually lead to a slowing of global economic growth.”

After a few quarters of back and forth trade war rumblings have begun that a “summit” will happen in November between President Trump and Chinese leader Xi — and all will be well in the world again.

China broke to a new low Friday.

Apple (AAPL) rested for two weeks, and then took off again near the end of the week!

Not good action in those precious metals.

The only interesting economic news was retail sales rose 0.5% in July, above expectations. Excluding auto sales, they were up 0.6%, which was also ahead of expectations.  The government also said sales in June rose a smaller 0.2% instead 0.5% as originally reported.  Oops.  Retail sales have increased 6.4% over the past 12 months, close to the long-run average since 1980.

For the week the S&P 500 gained 0.6% while the NASDAQ fell 0.3%.

Here is the 5 day weekly “intraday” chart of the S&P 500 … via Jill Mislinski.

The student debt bubble is a massive overhang among the younger folk in the nation.  So it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next decade  – one note along that line:  NYU’s medical school is offering free tuition go forward.

Amazon’s share of U.S. ecommerce has risen from 38% to 49% in the last 2 years!

The week ahead…

The minutes of the Fed’s last policy meeting are due on Wednesday, but are expected to deliver little new information.  Central bankers are set to meet at Jackson Hole, Wyo – Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will give a Friday speech on “monetary policy in a changing economy.”

The longest bull market on record hits this week!

Index charts:

Short term: The S&P 500 is holding its breakout.  Watch 7950 in the NASDAQ – maybe it is too cute to see yet another double top in a major index but …

This double top in the Russell 2000 has been in place quite a while now.  On the other hand we are seeing “lower lows” on the index – so we are getting in a narrower and narrower range.  Will be interesting to see which way the next move happens.

The NYSE McClellan Oscillator was in red for well over a month.  Back to black Friday – let’s monitor this.

Long term: Still very positive for the “buy and never sell” crowd.

Charts of interest / Big Movers:

Monday, Dycom Industries (DY) plummeted 24% after it cut its second-quarter profit and sales outlook.

Wednesday, Macy’s (M) slumped 16% after the department store reported its revenue fell year-on-year even though its adjusted second-quarter earnings beat expectations.

Thursday, J.C. Penney (JCP) plummeted 27% after it reported an adjusted second-quarter loss that was much wider than expected. It also widened the loss it expects for the full year.  The long slow death continues.

Also Thursday, Walmart (WMT) surged 9.3% after it reported adjusted second-quarter earnings that topped expectations, along with revenue that was above consensus expectations. The discount retailer also boosted its adjusted 2019 earnings forecast.

Tesla (TSLA) slumped 8.9% Friday after CEO Elon Musk told the New York Times the past year had been “excruciating” and “the most difficult and painful” of his career.

Friday, Nordstrom (JWN) soared 13% after the retailer posted better-than-expected earnings and raised its outlook.

Have a great week and we’ll see you back here Sunday!



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Lawrence Krauss Interview with Michael Covel on Trend Following Radio

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Lawrence Krauss
Lawrence Krauss

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Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, professor at Arizona State University, director of its Origins Project and author of bestselling books: “The Physics of Star Trek” and “A Universe from Nothing.” He is an advocate for science based data, public policy based on sound empirical data, and scientific skepticism. His goal is to reduce the influence of superstition and religious dogma in popular culture. His most recent book is “The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far: Why Are We Here?”

When did Lawrence first discover he was a skeptic, someone who would think outside the box? He was encouraged to think for himself from a very early age. He grew up Jewish but slowly grew out of ideas that surrounded the religion. No real a-ha moment, just gradually decided that religion wasn’t something he could believe in. In 6th grade he also began doing poorly in school. His parents moved him to a different school where he subsequently did much better. Lawrence knew that he wasn’t a different person, but it was other people’s expectations that wavered how he performed. From then on, he was conscious of not letting others opinions of him bring down his performance.

Richard Feynman has played a large role in Lawrence and his studies. He is a great example of someone who did not let other’s hinder him. Feynman was charismatic, intelligent, and excited about all things new – he didn’t rely on other’s opinions. The charisma Feynman possessed, combined with the genius of his science made him the legend.

How does Lawrence describe science? It is a process rather than a collection of facts. Science helps to establish what is true from what is non-sense. It also breaks the sensible from the non-sensible. Lawrence brings this mindset into religion taking a controversial stance saying, “God is completely irrelevant to science.” He fiercely believes that the idea of religion was created as a way to explain how the world worked before we had the technology and science to know how it actually works.

In this episode of Trend Following Radio:

  • Big bang theory
  • Religion in science
  • Simulations
  • Skepticism

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Weekly Market Recap Aug 12, 2018

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Indexes spent the past week churning along as news flow was generally quiet…outside of Turkey and Russia that is.  The NYSE McClellan Oscillator has been in the red for weeks, and breadth has remained pretty weak but the indexes continue to hold up!  A conundrum indeed!  That said keep an eye on foreign markets to see if any “contagion” happens – thus far, the U.S. markets have been acting impervious.

“Despite the gains in the averages last week, fewer stocks hit new 52-week highs and an increasing number of issues reached new lows for the year. Overall, the technical indicators argue on the side of caution,” said William Delwiche, an investment strategist at Baird, in a note.

Trade Wars!! ™ continued but without much affect on markets.

“Things are looking good in the U.S. in terms of earnings and data, but things aren’t as rosy if you look to China, emerging markets or Europe. Weakness in those regions could eventually become a headwind for the U.S.,” said Suzanne Hutchins, senior portfolio manager of the $1.5 billion Dreyfus Global Real Return Fund, which is run out of the investment boutique Newton.

The Turish lira took a hit late in the week (-17% Friday) as Trump and the ECB attacked… boosting the U.S. dollar… and bonds.

The steep decline in the Turkish currency came after the European Central Bank expressed concerns about potential contagion from Turkey’s problems, especially in the banking sector.  The country is struggling with double digit inflation and its reliance on foreign funding. With much of its debt denominated in U.S. dollars, the stronger buck has added weight to its debt burden.  Analysts and investors have also attributed the relentless pressure on the Turkish currency to a growing diplomatic spat between Washington and Ankara over the detention of a U.S. pastor in Turkey.  The lira’s stumble prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to announce a doubling of U.S. tariffs on certain Turkish goods.

Turkey’s currency volatility has recently accelerated and now gotten to the point where it’s beginning to impact global markets as investors worry about European banking exposure,: said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell.

Russia also had a rough week as Trump attacked…

Newly announced U.S. sanctions—and the potential for a second round of actions in 90 days—roiled Russia’s currency and blue-chip stocks as the country braced for further economic pain amid uncertainties over the Trump administration’s commitment to enforcement.

Economic news was sparse and not market moving.

For the week the S&P 500 lost 0.3% while the NASDAQ added 0.4%.

Here is the 5 day weekly “intraday” chart of the S&P 500 … via Jill Mislinski.

Everyone thought Snapchat would be the new hip thing but it’s Instagram which is stealing the show!  Another win for Facebook.

For large parts of the past two years, it seemed like Snapchat would be the next platform that no one could afford to ignore. Having quickly gained popularity it only seemed like a matter of time before it would break through to the mainstream and compete with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. However, over the past 12 months Snapchat’s growth has slowed significantly and many people are beginning to ask whether the once innovative social media app was nothing more than a passing fad.  In fact, it has been Instagram, not Snapchat, that really had its big breakthrough in the past year. Having implemented, or shamelessly copied as some would argue, Snapchat’s popular Stories feature, Instagram’s simple design appears to be more appealing to the broader public than Snapchat’s sometimes confusing user interface. The platform that Facebook acquired for $1 billion in 2012 recently passed the 1 billion active user mark.

Speaking of which…

Snap (SNAP) stock fell 6.8% Wednesday after the company issued quarterly guidance for the first time as well as reported a user decline.

The week ahead…

Retail sales hit Wednesday.

Will any of the “foreign weakness” matter?

The longest bull market on record hits in about a week!

Index charts:

Short term: The S&P 500 is holding its breakout – is that a double top in the NASDAQ??? Hmm – see the Russell 2000. 😀  A new high negates that thought in the NASDAQ.

This double top in the Russell 2000 continues to hold.

The NYSE McClellan Oscillator stayed in the red for a FOURTH week in a row (a full month).  When this happens it is usually a good idea for short term traders to go cautious but in this case the indexes have held up quite well.

Long term: Still very positive for the “buy and never sell” crowd.

Charts of interest / Big Movers:

Monday, SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) surged on positive earnings.

Pain Thereapeutics (PAIN) plunged 48% after the drug company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected its non-opioid drug.

Tuesday, Elon Musk tweeted Tesla (TSLA) was going to go private @ $420 a share – a pretty interesting (but legal) way to announce corporate news!

Zillow (Z) sank 15% after the company late Monday posted earnings and announced its acquisition of a mortgage lender.

Rite Aid (RAD) sank 12% Thursday after a merger between the retailer and Albertsons Cos. was called off.

Yelp (YELP) surged 27% after the review website late Wednesday reported better-than-expected earnings and raised its full-year profit outlook.

Roku (ROKU) jumped 21% a day after it reported better-than-expected revenue and unexpectedly swung to a narrow profit.

Friday, Redfin (RDFN) tumbled 22.4% a day after it forecast slower revenue growth in the third quarter.

TradeDesk (TTD) for the win… that’s TWO massive gap ups the past 2 earnings seasons and well ove 100% GAINS since May!!!

The fast-growing provider of programmatic solutions is hitting new all-time highs after posting strong second-quarter results following Thursday’s market close.   Revenue surged 54% to hit a record $112.3 million for the quarter. The Trade Desk’s own guidance three months ago was calling for just $103 million on the top line, 41% growth.  Marketers are taking to The Trade Desk’s algorithmic solutions, and several of its categories including connected TV, audio, mobile video, and mobile in-app saw their numbers more than double. Advertisers that come to the company tend to stick around. Customer retention has now clocked in north of 95% for 19 consecutive quarters.

Have a great week and we’ll see you back here Sunday!



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