What has Fear got to do with the Stock Market

On a typical trading day the stock market will veer up and down and settle on some minor peak or trough with an equal number of traders either making a small gain or taking a mild hit. In good times, the overall trend across a number of months or years is upward and known as a bull run. When times are hard, the bears take over and do their best to make money on falling share prices by selling short. Bulls are optimists, bears are pessimists, but they have one thing in common: they are both out to make money. They make money regardless of how much money they already have. They always need more money. They have clients relying on them, pension funds and private investors, governments and public companies, all relying on them to make money. To be motivated to make a lot of money on a daily basis regardless of market conditions you have to be smart, quick and greedy. The final ingredient of greed is essential. You cannot put your feet up half way through the day and say, “I have made enough today.” You have to keep going to make more. Nobody is ever going to tell you you have made enough money.

Underlying the greed is another factor, less tangible but just as effective in motivating traders, and that is fear. Perhaps only airline pilots experience that same sense of underlying fear whenever they go to work in the morning. The fear is that you have missed some unforeseen inevitability. Something is going on in some part of the world which you have not noticed and it is going to make a massive impact on your trading position. Or perhaps it´s nearer to home. Perhaps in your own capital city, someone has planned something so big it´s going to blow you out of the water, and they forgot to tell you about it. In an industry where information is everything, paranoia runs deep. It is not about who you can trust, because you don´t trust anyone, but about how much information you can get from everyone you know.   When you have been a trader for a while you get to know the signs. A look, a tightening of the facial muscles, sweaty palms, the signs are there to tell you something about the guy sitting next to you you hadn´t noticed before. He knows something and he´s afraid.

When fear is sparked inside a trading room a scene of frenzied acitivity ensues. Everyone wants out! It is a kind of irrational fear because nobody has time to analyse the full impact of whatever it is that has sparked the fear. These days news media is managed so that fear does not spread to contaminate the wider public. A newscaster turning pale and screaming “Sell! Sell! Sell!” across the globe is only going to make matters worse. As the stock market evolves we get a better understanding of how it works, how it responds to its environment, how it lives and breathes. It is a beast that must be fed and tamed. It can deliver us or devour us, and we are greedy for deliverance, fearful of being devoured. Honour those who do battle each day. They are the modern knights, courageous and self-glorifying in equal measure.