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The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It, by Wall Street Journal reporter Scott Patterson, is the inside baseball story of the quest for The Truth on Wall Street. That is, the fountain of money that never stops flowing.

-- As made manifest from the odds, the probabilities.

-- As interpreted by the "quants," traders who believed, above all else, in the numbers, data, statistics.

And why not? That's not immediately pejorative, though Wall Street has gotten a very, very bad reputation of late. After all, odds, probabilities, are the stuff of everyday life. We don't think about them consciously. But they're there. You and I cross the street -- now -- because we see the odds of getting hit are nil. We didn't cross 10 seconds ago because we saw two semi's roaring towards us. We don't even think about these as "probabilities," per se. But they are. And for those who do think about probabilities, and in connection with financial markets, from a vast resource of education (preferably Phd) and erudition and experience, the rewards can be staggering, as in a million per minute.

Quant trading started in -- wait for it -- Las Vegas, where odds-making (not image, sorry Andre, our favorite LV homebay) is everything. This is where card counting got its start. Card counting is just probability analysis, on the fly. And card-counting, writ large, is quant trading. Card counting pioneer, Ed Thorp, was the progenitor of quant trading. Thorp begat Ken Griffin, Citadel. And on and on it went (and goes).

Some of the other featured players here include:

Author Patterson wields a deft pen, and never fails to grab the reader at the end of a section or chapter: you have to keep reading. Very entertaining. To peel back the layers of secrecy and expose the histories, successes, failures, personal peccadilloes -- the whole story of 'the quants' -- is a very great journalistic accomplishment. THE QUANTS is not an indictment, per se, of the entire enterprise of quantitative trading, but does indict extreme leverage and the perils it presents. Interestingly, Patterson follows the founder of the practice, Ed Thorp, who turns away from over-leverage, and generates excellent returns without it.

So, as per usual with Wall Street, we come back to the question of greed. Greed is good? Maybe like alcohol or fire or nuclear energy? A little bit, the right place, the right time. Managed. To overdo here is to destroy, and the problem is, we're all on the hook for it. THE QUANTS is big, intriguing, messy, clear, ambiguous, and provocative -- just like the financial industry it covers. It is, quite simply, a must read.

PS: Talk about "destroying Wall Street", as we were reading this volume, the Dow experienced the infamous May 6, 2010, "Flash Crash," for which many explanations have been offered, but the truth? We are still waiting; Wall Street doesn't tell all its secrets, not even to Mr. Patterson. As author Patterson wraps it up: "here come the quants." Indeed.

PPS We received from a Chicago quant this youtube.com video.  Another cautionary quant tale, a good one, told in large part by a quant-turned-oysterman (he lives off his interest) and we recommend it to you: 

Quotable:

 



Option Wizard Trading Method
Newly updated, revised, 2008
Buy directly from Option Wizard® Store, receive additional publication "Seminar Notes" free

By John A. Sarkett, Developer, Option Wizard Online

"The Option Wizard Trading Method presents a series of common-sense rules for trading -- from analysis methods to the proper considerations for purchasing or selling options. These, coupled with a risk management system, should provide an excellent approach to trading options."

Lawrence G. McMillan, leading options analyst, author, founder, McMillan Analysis Corporation


My experience from many, many years in the business: the options sellers do better than the options buyers. There is a different mindset between them, and a great gulf between them. It takes capital and it takes patience to succeed being on the sell side. Option Wizard software and the publication Option Wizard Trading Method magnifies the sell-side possibilities with its price-time decay table and mindset to "not neglect the short side." The Option Wizard Trading Method is an entertaining, yet meaty read. We commend both to the neophyte as well as the experienced trader.

Jay Shartsis, Director, Option Trading, Lafferty & Co. Options Brokers, New York, Options Columnist, The Striking Price, Barrons


"The Option Wizard Trading Method is a very good piece of work -- valuable insights and options lore no trader should be without. Explains how to profit when the product 'never stops dancing.' Very readable, too."

Jerry Kopf, principal, Benjamin & Jerold Stock & Options Discount Brokers, Chicago
Former CBOE market maker and publisher, The Blue Page (options newsletter)


"I am not a systems player nor do I believe in any indicators other than the last sale (tick). However, there is much worthwhile information in the Option Wizard Trading Method.

"This is a very readable and expert integration of stock and options analysis, strategy, case histories and Eastern thought. Will sharpen your trading vision. Very well done. Highly recommended."

Edward Allen Toppel, author, Zen in the Markets


"I have been active in the markets since 1973 and Option Wizard is easily the most comprehensive options system I have seen to date. It is the only program available to the public that easily calculates implied volatility and percent-to-double. This is poetry for Excel.

"The companion text -- the Option Wizard Trading Method -- is a real potent dose of reality for those who wish to trade options, and while it will not always tell you the things you want to hear, it will tell you the things you need to hear to be successful. It offers off-the-beaten track insights into a number of areas: trading the short side of options, volume formations in large and small stocks, which stocks to follow, how often to trade, among others. I recommend this one highly."

Bob Hockenhull, Cutter & Company Brokerage, St. Louis


The Option Wizard Trading Method is one of the most enjoyable technical trading books to read, and most valuable to learn from, that I've come across. The insights here -- especially the emphasis on volume and trend -- here are valuable not only to the novice, but to the seasoned as well.

Spencer A. Brownell, financial consultant, Merrill Lynch Private Client Group, Chicago


Option Wizard® reviews these popular texts:

TRADING OPTION GREEKS
Dan Passarelli, Bloomberg

Reviewed in May, 2009 SFO magazine by Option Wizard® creator John A. Sarkett.  Free access on sfomag.com, just register, sign-in.


THE VOLATILITY EDGE IN OPTIONS TRADING
Jeff Augen, FT Press

Reviewed in March, 2009 SFO magazine by Option Wizard® creator John A. Sarkett.  Free access on sfomag.com, just register, sign-in.

All in all, five stars, highly recommended. 
 



OPTIONS STRATEGIES FOR DIRECTIONLESS MARKETS
Saliba, Corona, Johnson

Reviewed in May, 2009 SFO magazine by Option Wizard® creator John A. Sarkett.  Free access on sfomag.com, just register, sign-in.



THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO OPTION SELLING:
How selling options can lead to stellar returns in bull and bear markets

by Cordier and Gross

We like this text a ton more than the Jabbour because it has a point of view, briefly put:  sell premium on OTM options in trending markets. It shuns any discussion of the greeks in favor of a brief discourse of the ideas behind the greeks, i.e. OTM = low delta. This anathema for options analytics permits a degree of subjectivity into the mix that may not prove helpful in the long run. The authors prefer selling moderate vols to high or low vols. But then they contradict. ("Do I contradict myself. So be it. I am large; I contain multitudes" said the poet.) Sometimes they head straight for the madness, and sell high vols on screaming futures, e.g. their example is summer 2003 natural gas calls, so there is something of a contrarian bent here.

Two strategies are favored: short OTM strangles, and OTM radio credit spreads.

For risk management, the authors cite 4 points:

1. Buy ATM options to offset your OTM short options -- use 10% to 50% of collective premium to build defensive positions.
2. 200% rule. When sold option becomes worth 2x premium received, cover. (One of the top condor traders in the US has recently adopted this, among other rules.
3. Rolling options, either same number to 2x+, to cover losses, provide for gains, e.g. buy in 5, sell 11 farther out, 5 to cover losses, 5 to provide profit, 1 to cover transaction costs.
4. Set exit point on value of underlying, based on a) support-resistance, or b) when underlying hits short strike.

Criticisms?

Yes, we have a few. The diatribe against math wasn't helpful, especially when most brokerage platforms now handle all the math anyone could want, so why rail against it? E.g. the authors state: "How does one know if volatility is high or low? The number cruncher out there may cringe, but how about simply looking at a price charge of the underlying?" Give me a break. The software crunches the numbers. The anti-intellectual posture of "you don't need to know volatility" is more the rant of a broker (remember, the author is one) than an options guru.

Also, the fictitious conversations with one's broker makes the text feel somewhat dated since most hard-core trading has gone electronic vs telephonic at places like optionsXpress, thinkorswim, Interactive Brokers, and the like, and since the ETRADEs of the world charge a premium for the privilege of reciting your order to your faithful broker.

The ending summation is useful, and we'll overlook the fairly blatant pitch to hire the author firm's as brokers.

All in all, some useful street smarts here, and they make this book worthwhile.



THE OPTION TRADER HANDBOOK: STRATEGIES AND TRADE ADJUSTMENTS
Jabbour and Budwick

The subtitle "strategies and trade adjustments" promises vastly -- there is no really good book on options adjustments out there in the literary hinterland -- but does not really deliver. This is an at expiration analysis of options strategies. There is no mention of Greeks, word is not found in the index, nor is delta, gamma, vega, theta, rho. No mid-trade adjustment considerations, adjustment here means: if you're up on a stock, add a put below, or a calendar above. There is lots of discussion of ratio spreads, which is perhaps the sole strength of the book, and stock positions. No in-depth treatment of condors, double diagonals, double calendars. No mention of tax implications of selling stock. Pedestrian presentation, beginner level.

Savvy reviewers on Amazon are on the case, calling it variously, "solid," "disappointing," "repetitive."   Here's what they say:  "Many of the tactics and adjustments described were alluded to in McMillian's Options as a Strategic Investment. But that thick tome occasionally left out a few points complete novices might not pick up. So if you trade stock, long options, or spreads, and want to figure out what to do to limit risk, this will explain things clear and simple language." "I was quite disapointed when I read this book. My high expectations of it didn't materialize. I cannot recommend this book to anyone who is serious about option trading since it does not discuss greeks and how you can balance your portfolio with them. If you spend time and research components of option pricing and greeks this book becomes just a common sense repeated a hundred times."  From Wiley. Reviewed:  Tuesday, May 20, 2008

 


NEW INSIGHTS ON COVERED CALL WRITING
Lehman and McMillan

Everyone starts somewhere in options, and for many, the place to begin is in covered writes, i.e. selling calls against stocks they already hold.  This is a very basic, plain vanilla text that will provide a sound introduction to this practice.  The book does not overpromise, which is just as well.  For example, the section on adjustments is sound, walking the reader through one's prospective courses of action as the underlying moves up, down and sideways, and in so doing, illustrating that there is really no free money to be had in the options markets, every strategy or adjustment involves a tradeoff of some kind.  We have a few caveats:  the claim that "this is a strategy (covered writing) that to date, at least, has been practiced by only a devoted few" may or may not be true  Buy-writes are Options 101, and we think most of the estimated four million or so options traders have done them.  What exactly the titular "new insights" were, we are not entirely sure.  The McMillan byline is yes, that of leading options educator Larry McMillan, whose long-published texts are the foundation of options education, so you can be sure this is a thoroughgoing and comprehensive presentation.  Beginner to intermediate level, worth reading.  Thursday, June 19, 2008.

 



FIRING BACK: HOW GREAT LEADERS REBOUND AFTER CAREER DISASTERS

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward

A profound study of CEO career setbacks and comebacks. As we are all CEOs of our own lives, there is no one who wouldn't profit from a close read, and re-read, of this excellent volume, including the latest fallen, e.g Michael Vick, Alberto Gonzales, Don Imus,  etc.  Many great quotes, Eastern wisdom to Broadway, telling anecdotes and insightful studies contained herein, but more than just anecdotes, the authors lay out a five-step blueprint on making a comeback: 1) fight, don't flee, 2) recruit others to help, 3) rebuild heroic stature, 4) prove your mettle and 5) rediscover your heroic mission.

Highly recommended. Rx: give it to a young manager, will save him/her tons of grief down the road.  By John A. Sarkett, author, "Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success", Friday, September 21, 2007.



INSIDE THE INVESTOR'S BRAIN -- THE POWER OF MIND OVER MONEY by Richard L. Peterson

Ever wonder why doctors, lawyers, dentists and other highly trained, brilliant professionals make such bad investors and traders?  We do -- every day at the help desk at Option Wizard®. We've spoken with hundreds.

It's not intellect. It's emotion. The human, no matter how smart, is not hard-wired for investment success.

Now we have 330 pages of documentation to prove it, in the form of a new book from Wiley called INSIDE THE INVESTOR'S BRAIN -- THE POWER OF MIND OVER MONEY by Richard L. Peterson, a medical doctor (psychiatrist), managing partner of Market Psychology Consulting, and former trader. He is a pioneer in the field of neuroeconomics -- the study of how humans manage their financial affairs.

Chock full of data, charts, insights, Peterson presents an Rx of neuron re-sculpting, that is, actually reshaping the molecules and neurons in our brain and nerves to "do the right thing" and make the right choices by repetitive practice, much like a pianist or tennis player. He recommends, among other things, creating a "decision journal," applying stress management techniques, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, modeling successful trader/investors, and employing a trading coach.

To begin the chapter "Behavioral Finance Investing: Playing the Players," Peterson quotes Woodlock: "The principles of successful stock speculation are based on the supposition that people will continue in the future to make the mistakes they have have made in the past." Peterson quotes a number of studies to back this up. This one chapter may be worth the price of admission.

Well written, thoughtful, and most importantly, focuses on the root cause of underperformance: emotion. Highly recommended.  By John A. Sarkett, author, "Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success", Thursday, September 20, 2007.


OPTION WIZARD FAVORITES:

When Genius Failed -- The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management
Roger Lowenstein

Start with a specialty in bond spreads, leverage to 28:1 and up, expand into areas outside your expertise, gain the confidence of Wall Street, grow larger than Merrill Lynch in just 4 years, and grow your mindset from confidence to invincibility. Every one loves to read the about the winning side of trading, even more instructive is the losing side. Read what happens next . . . a must read, especially in the wake of the sub-prime, and derivatives scare of 2007.

The Way of the Warrior-Trader
The Financial Risk-Taker's Guide to Samurai Courage, Confidence and Discipline
Richard D. McCall

Misogi. Ritual cleansing. The ability to recover from any loss except loss of life. Metaphysical imagination, universal mind, e.g. Chiquita banana. The Samurai master who rises at dawn, concentrates, splits the dew drop. Suki: to strike at once vs. opponent. Win-stop, goal setting. If you lose, at least know why. Everything happens for the highest good.

Pit Bull
Market Wizard Martin Schwartz

Disequilibrium: the starting place. Sunspot theory: 2% of the time we are irrational. Winners are ahead of you, not behind. Don‘t start by trying to make a killing, make little profits, shift into neutral. See ALSO Liar’s Poker, Michael Lewis.



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Carl C. Peters (Editor), Ben Warwick (Editor) / Hardcover / Published 1996
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High Performance Futures Trading : Power Lessons from the Masters ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Joel Robbins (Editor) / Hardcover / Published 1994
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High-Impact Day Trading : Powerful Techniques for Exploiting Short-Term Market Trends ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Robert M. Barnes / Hardcover / Published 1996
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How I Tripled My Money in the Futures Market : Winner of the Robbins Trading Championship Shares His Secrets ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Ulf Jensen / Hardcover / Published 1994
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How the Options Markets Work ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Joseph A. Walker / Paperback / Published 1991
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***The Innergame of Trading ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Robert Koppel, Howard Abell (currently out of print, check your library)

Inside the Financial Futures Markets (Wiley Finance Editions) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Mark J. Powers, Castelino Mark G. / Hardcover / Published 1991
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Introduction to Futures and Options Markets ~ Ships in 2-3 days

John Hull / Hardcover / Published 1995
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Keys to Investing in Options and Futures (2nd Ed) (Barron's Business Keys) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Nicholas G. Apostolou, Nick Apostolou / Paperback / Published 1995
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Macro Markets : Creating Institutions for Managing Society's Largest Economic Risks (Clarendon Lectures in Economics) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Robert J. Shiller / Hardcover / Published 1994
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Managed Futures : An Investor's Guide (Wiley Finance Editions) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Beverly Chandler / Hardcover / Published 1994
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Managed Futures : Performance, Evaluation and Analysis of Commodity Funds, Pools, and Accounts (Institutional Investor Publication)

Carl C. Peters (Editor) / Hardcover / Published 1992
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Managed Trading : Myths & Truths (Schwager on Futures Series) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Jack D. Schwager / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Mathematics of Derivative Securities (Publications of the Newton Institute) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

M. A. H. Dempster (Editor), S. R. Pliska (Editor) / Hardcover / Published 1997
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Maximum Adverse Excursion : Analyzing Price Fluctuations for Trading Management (Wiley Trader's Advantage Series) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Jack Sweeney, John Sweeney / Hardcover / Published 1997
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McMillan on Options (Wiley Finance Editions) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Lawrence G. McMillan / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Mesa and Trading Market Cycles (Wiley Trader's Advantage Series) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

John F. Ehlers / Hardcover / Published 1992
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Money Management Strategies for Futures Traders ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Nauzer J. Balsara / Hardcover / Published 1992
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Neural Network Time Series Forecasting of Financial Markets (Wiley Finance Editions) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

E. Michael Azoff / Hardcover / Published 1994
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Neural Networks for Financial Forecasting (Wiley Trader's Advantage Series) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Edward Gately, Ed Gately / Hardcover / Published 1995
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The New Options Advantage : Gaining a Trading Edge over the Markets ~ Ships in 2-3 days

David L. Caplan / Hardcover / Published 1995
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The New Technology of Financial Management (Wiley Finance Editions) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Dimitris N. Chorafas / Hardcover / Published 1992
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The Option Advisor : Wealth-Building Techniques Using Equity & Index Options (Wiley Trading Advantage) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Bernie Schaeffer / Hardcover / Published 1997
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Option Market Making : Trading and Risk Analysis for the Financial and Commodity Option Markets (Wiley Financial Editions) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Allen Jan Baird / Hardcover / Published 1992
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Option Pricing and Investment Strategies ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Richard M. Bookstaber / Hardcover / Published 1991
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Option Strategies : Profit-Making Techniques for Stock, Stock Index, and Commodity Options (Wiley Finance Edition) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Courtney D. Smith / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Option Volatility & Pricing : Advanced Trading Strategies and Techniques ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Sheldon Natenberg / Hardcover / Published 1994
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Options ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Robert W. Kolb / Hardcover / Published 1997
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Options : A Personal Seminar ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Scott H. Fullman / Paperback / Published 1992
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Options : Essential Concepts and Trading Strategies ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Hardcover / Published 1994
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Options : Perception and Deception : Position Dissection, Risk Analysis, and Defensive Trading Strategies ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Charles M. Cottle / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Options : The Investor's Complete Toolkit/Book and Disk ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Robert W. Kolb / Paperback / Published 1991
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Options Analysis : A State-Of-The-Art Guide to Options Pricing, Trading & Portfolio Applications ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Robert G. Tompkins / Hardcover / Published 1995
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The Options Primer ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Robert W. Kolb / Paperback / Published 1997
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Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

John C. Hull / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives ~ Ships in 2-3 days

John C. Hull / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Schwager on Futures Fundamental Analysis (Wiley Finance Editions) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Jack D. Schwager / Hardcover / Published 1995
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Spread Trading : Low-Risk Strategies for Profiting from Market Relationships ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Howard Abell / Hardcover / Published 1997
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St. James World Futures and Options Directory, 1991-1992 ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Nick Battley (Editor) / Hardcover / Published 1991
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Starting Out in Futures Trading ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Mark J. Powers / Paperback / Published 1993
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Technical Analysis (Schwager on Futures/Jack D. Schwager) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Jack D. Schwager / Hardcover / Published 1995
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Technical Analysis in the Options Market : The Effective Use of Computerized Trading System (Wiley Financial Edition) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Richard Hexton / Hardcover / Published 1994
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Trade the OEX : Cut Risk Not Profit ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Arthur Darack / Hardcover / Published 1995
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Traded Options (Millard On-- Series/Brian J. Millard) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Brian J. Millard / Paperback / Published 1997
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Trading 101 : How to Trade Like a Pro ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Sunny J. Harris / Hardcover / Published 1996
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***Trader Vic - Methods of a Wall Street Master ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Victor Sperandeo / Hardcover / Published 1991

Trading in Choppy Markets : Breakthrough Techniques for Exploiting Nontrending Markets ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Robert M. Barnes / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Trading Systems : Secrets of the Masters ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Joe Krutsinger (Editor), Joe Krutisinger / Hardcover / Published 1997
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Trading With the Odds : Using the Power of Probability to Profit in the Futures Market ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Cynthia A. Kase / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Understanding & Trading Futures : A Hands-On Study Guide for Investors and Traders ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Carl F. Luft / Paperback / Published 1994
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Understanding Futures Markets ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Robert W. Kolb / Hardcover / Published 1991
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Understanding Futures Markets (5th Ed) ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Robert W. Kolb, Robrt W. Kolb / Hardcover / Published 1997
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Understanding Options (Wiley Marketplace Book) ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Robert W. Kolb / Hardcover / Published 1995
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Value at Risk : The New Benchmark for Controlling Market Risk ~ Usually ships in 24 hours

Philippe Jorion / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Volume and Open Interest : Classic Trading Strategies for 24-Hour Markets ~ Ships in 2-3 days

Kenneth H. Shaleen / Hardcover / Published 1996
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Winning in the Options Market : A Streetwise Trader Shows You How to Outsmart the Pros ~ Usually ships in 24 hours
Allan S. Lyons, Alan S. Lyons / Hardcover / Published 1994
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Out of print but worth searching for, e.g. libraries, used book sites, etc.

The Way of the Hunter Warrior -- How to make a killing in any market ~ Out of print, check your library
Julian Snyder

Candlepower; Advanced Candlestick Pattern Recognition and Filtering Techniques for Trading......
Gregory L. Morris / Hardcover / Published 1992
(Publisher Out Of Stock)


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