Year of the Rooster and General Ignorance in Chinese Astrology

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One of the favourite things Chinese people (and now Westerners who somehow love the New Age stuff) is to read about their fortune for the coming year. There is really no harm done if you take this lightly as a fun event. However, the practice itself, for which originated from commercializing the astrology knowledge for profit, has profound negative effects on people who needs real guidance.

The Economic Aspect of Yearly Forecast Books

First thing first, using whatever year a person is born in to map into a 60 year cycle for predictability of personality and other matters is stupid already. It should take no time for any normal person to reject the idea completely. Yet, every year you can find tons of Chinese horoscope yearly forecast books selling on the street starting December. I asked around when I was in Hong Kong to see how good these books are selling. From what I gather, the more depress a year has been, the more forecast books are sold.

I also asked around to see how people usually buy these books. I wonder if they have certain preferences or patterns that I can uncover. It turns out the psychological behaviours and motivations behind the purchases are very interesting.

Some people will always buy the forecast from the same astrologer, until one year the forecast no longer feels right. These people will then purchase an additional forecast book from another famous astrologer to compare the predictions. Eventually, these people would purchase multiple forecast books every year. As I learned, much of the profits for bookstores and newsstands in Hong Kong during December and January are coming from sales of these forecast books.

In general, it is those people who have a pretty bad year (in their own minds) will more likely to start the habit of buying these forecast books. Once they have bought the first one, however, it is very likely that they will buy another one next year. By random, even if the forecast are complete nonsense, there is always 50% chance of these new readers who find the materials meaningful thanks to skilful writing styles. Just like smoking, the big business of these forecast books is the accumulation of long term consumers.

The Psychological Aspect of These Astrology Yearly Forecasts

Those people who had a not so stellar year are always feeling down at the end of the year. It is a reasonable thing. Just like anyone who look around at their friends all hooked up with someone would feel blue themselves, these people will seek for comfort, specifically psychological comfort, by various means. Astrology forecasts are one of these products that serve this huge market.

The problem though, is that those who seek comfort this way is doing this wrong. To get out of a ditch you work your way out, not sitting there crying and do nothing. These forecast books, in a way, jailed these lost souls in the same bad place by giving them false hope. When they hope that things will get better instead of creating the necessary change to make things to better, they are stripped the chance to fight back.

I am not judging whether the Chinese astrologers are doing a bad thing or not. I am sure many people do find encouraging messages from these forecast books for which positive impacts can happen. But that all depends on the original personality of the readers and how they interpret the information which can be very subjective or biased.

If You Do Believe in Astrology …

Then you have to learn that the year you are born in cannot help you to figure out your fortune based on all the known Chinese astrology methods. In other words, those yearly forecast books are not going to help you. All those common methods based on the year you were born that are passed around on people compatibility, romantic compatibility, etc. are all bullshit.

In this aspect, Western astrology actually works a bit better, but only if you at least dividing up the Zodiac from 12 signs into 36 parts for decent precisions.

For Chinese astrology, a proper yearly forecast has to be done with accurate birth date including the time and location. This will usually cost a lot of money as famous Chinese astrologers command a lot of premium on their services. However, if the Chinese astrologer is not a responsible practitioner, you will still not get the precise forecast you are looking for.

A good Chinese astrologer has to analyze your birthdate in detail with lots of questions on your current status so that your actual situation can be mapped out properly based on the specific method in use. After that, the astrologer has to find out the context of your situation as well. What I mean by context is how you get to the current situation over the years. Without knowing that, the astrologer can only provide very general forecast that may or may not be applicable.

Higher Awareness Matters

The so-called forecasts made with astrology methods are forecasts based on patterns. These patterns exist not because there is a divine order for which our future is predetermined. Instead, it is our inability to think clearly, objectively in a calm manner that sent us into making the same mistakes over and over again.

I have seen many people whose higher awareness helped them to break away from the expected path based on astrology analysis. Their higher awareness is learned or trained over time. Many people invest in themselves by getting a professional degree. Some others figured out they need certain skills and went to study in programs to acquire the skills. But, rarely do people realize the most important thing to learn is training your mind so that it can protect you from your own physical body, with all these defects in terms of personality weaknesses and bad habits.

With higher awareness, everything can change, including your fortune.

Stop buying these astrology yearly forecast books can be the start of great fortune already!

Thoughts on this US Presidential Inauguration Day

Today is the inauguration of the 45th US president. Donald Trump will become the US president for the coming 4 years. Interesting, however, is that the focus in the mainstream media is not about this event. Instead, the top stories are flooded with negative comments, both on Donald Trump himself and how bad his presidency will become, coming from famous people who messed up the world very badly over the past decade.

First I saw on the news, the US congressmen, the infamous bad actors, are “grilling” the nominees of White House important positions. I thought the US Presidential Election already told us what the people of US are thinking. Why are these crowns allowed to have a second say on Donald Trump’s choices? Definitely an interesting way to make sure Donald Trump cannot run the country according to his vision.

Second, the name George Soros went to the top on multiple financial news outlets. Well, Soros being an “activist” and exposed for his “work” in funding all kinds of “unusual” activities worldwide to create chaos, told the press that Donald Trump will fail. Why is Soros so doomy? In my not so humble opinion, I think he is talking his book again. Maybe he is very short and need a outlier-sized pullback in the markets to get out of his troubled positions …

Third, the famous actors and actresses, teamed up with famous Hollywood figures, protested against Donald Trump in front of his Trump International Hotel in New York City. I remember some of these figures said they would emigrant to Canada (or other places). Why are they still there?

Here is a fun comparison of the importance of various things over time according to Google Trends.

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Obviously, Obama is not wanted since 4 years ago (that tiny blip in Nov 2012). On the other hand, Trump is so famous that we did not see a major surge in searching for his name unlike 8 years ago, when Obama was relatively unknown and being elected as POTUS for the first time. But both of them are not important, after all, as people searching on gold consistently beats them both.

And of course, jobs have always been in the mind of the normal people.

But none of the above matters when porn is added to the comparison. I guess it is fair to say sex being a primary human need is far more important than politics or work …

One thing I know for sure – the name Donald Trump will be a front page stable for the coming years whether you like it or not.

It Costs More to Travel Among Cities within Canada Than Going Abroad

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I am very happy to be back home after the long flight from Hong Kong. No surprises during the flight, maybe with the exception that those who were sitting nearby are all sneezing and coughing. Hopefully I do not catch anything nasty from them.

While I was flying, I checked the costs for plane tickets going from Toronto to various destinations in the world. In particular, I was checking for prices to several cities for which I may have to go on a short notice this year. I found out, to my surprises, that the cost of plane tickets going anywhere within Canada are relatively more expensive than going abroad. What’s wrong with this picture?

Honestly, this was the case all along in the past. Years ago, I accepted the fact that Canada, having very limited number of airlines servicing the flight routes within the country, has to absorb the higher cost of operation on per customer basis. Hence higher ticket prices was unavoidable.

However, since 10 years ago, when more operators were allowed to compete for businesses, I thought the scene would have changed. Well, I cannot be more wrong on this.

After a bit of investigation, I found the culprit of the higher prices. It is the additional charges and taxes placed on the tickets that distorted the prices of these plane tickets. In other words, The actual fees charged by the airlines are now lowered while the government and its extended operations like the airport authorities have erased the competitive effect offered by more airline operators.

In short, we are seeing exactly what we can expect from big government – taking all it can with ever expanding charges and levies. This is not a big issue, really. People simply adapt to not travel, for both business and leisure, whenever possible within Canada. The incentive to travel also nudged towards go abroad instead even if the flights cost more because they are relatively cheaper in comparison to the ridiculous pricing for flights within Canada.

When we think of someone acting stupid, the saying of “shooting one’s own foot” comes to my mind quickly. In this case, however, this is definitely a case of shooting both legs – first leg for sending people abroad and the second leg for destroying the eco system of the airline industry within the country. You cannot get a better negative example than this.

Feature Image: Coffee served at the Charlie Brown Cafe in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. The coffee there is great!

The Awkward Real Estate Dynamics in China

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Unlike any other country, China has experienced a prolonged growth in its real estate markets for a very long time. In fact, much longer than any other ones we have seen in the other countries in the past. Is it something sustainable? Well, I am going to discuss about this from a slightly different angle instead of the more traditional evaluation approach. Namely, I will look at the whole situation from the study of the participants in this interesting market.

The Rising Tide Lifts Everyone on Board

Over the past thirty years, China has been undergoing huge reform in its real estate market. The efforts to modernize the major cities and the relaxation of regulations to ownership of realty created the biggest boom in real estate markets across the country. Many people were assigned title ownership to various real estate and related resources as the laws changed. This alone created massive amount of wealth into the hands of the people who had the right connection or status at the time.

Let’s ignore the issue of fairness and whatever moral value you uphold for the moment, as this article is not about that at all.

What is important, however, is that this wealth effect has profound impact on the psychology of the people in China.

Those Who Won Big Without Knowing Why

Those individuals and their families who got the chance to ride on this boom have no idea why and how they actually become wealthy over such a short period of time. Just like any other people in the world who have similar kind of fortune, majority of people who won this lottery game of real estate attributed the success to themselves being smart, to their country being strong and for some with nostalgic beliefs, that Chinese civilization somehow helped them to get to where they are now.

Of course all of these thoughts are plain wrong. They are put into the right place at the right time. i.e. dumb luck

Well, ignorance is a bliss …

Those Who Have to Park Their Money Somewhere

During this wild west type of economic expansion and discovery process, the must have element of corruption and grey area deals for which money are made unethically, of course, are happening everywhere in China at the same time. These money, however, cannot enter the modern banking system easily because, even China does monitor outlier deposits, after all.

One of the obvious routes to park the money, of course, is with real estate, just like everywhere else in the world.

In fact it is a good example why real estate markets are the number one choice for dirty money. Since these money cannot be taken to the bank to exchange for the banknotes with the highest value, the space the money will take up now matters. Just imagine the actual physical size of the paper money needed to hold the value of a property. With small denomination banknotes, they will occupy more space than the property itself!

The Speculators Who Thought They Know

And then there are those short term speculators who think they know how to profit from this real estate boom in China. Of course there are many people who made a lot of money from this bull run. It is again no difference from speculation of real estate in any other parts of the world. The funny thing is, however, how leveraged these speculators can be.

According to various studies, Chinese speculators are the most leveraged speculators in real estates comparing to any other places in the world. Their voodoo beliefs in real estate markets can never drop drive them doing things that any people with common sense would never do. Yet, those with common sense are the ones who have been left behind in terms of financial well being over the past ten years.

So Who are the Suckers Here

Normal hard working people without special trade skills like a professional designation (i.e. doctor, accountant, etc.) will never see the light to even paying for their down payment for a decent apartment in China. Those young professionals will be able to afford buying their own property at the cost of turning into debt slave for the rest of their lives. Yet, they represent only a very small percentage of the population. Hence the important players in the real estate game in China are those who are already on board, either by dumb luck or out of necessity (e.g. dirty money) and those active speculators who continue to actively buying and selling in the current market environment.

Since the dominating players still playing this game are relying on the Chinese government to support the real estate markets as oppose to having at least one valid reason, I think that everyone in this game are suckers at this point, maybe except the central Chinese government itself. It is just a matter of time the Chinese housing market will collapse significantly.

Feature Image: Stanley Street Market in Hong Kong

Singapore: Searching for a New Identity for Survival

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After talking to many people in Singapore from all walks of life, my impression is that it is no longer the uplifted, high energy place it once was. In fact, many factors that are contributing to its long term well being are no longer there. Similar to Hong Kong, Singapore can no longer depend on what it built in the past to thrive in the coming decade.

Real Estate and Financial Industry

The decline in Singapore’s real estate market has been on-going since 2014. Many analysts in Singapore think that the bottom is near. Well, I am not that optimistic. From my conversations with many people who work in the financial industry there in Singapore, many firms are ending their contracts with local staff and sending their own people back to their home countries. That means one segment of high income earners in Singapore is disappearing which is the real reason why Singapore’s real estate markets are under pressure.

In other words, Singapore is facing its biggest challenge ever as its role being an important financial centre in Asia is now at risk. We cannot tell if these major financial institutions will expand their businesses there in Singapore in the near future, but usually this type of business planning is at least 5 years or longer. Hence it is reasonable to say that if, ever, these firms will be thinking of growing their businesses in Singapore, it will be at least 2 years from now. The 2 years estimate is based on the fact that these firms moved out since 2014.

Tourism

As a tourist destination, Singapore is usually a one to two day tour city because of the overall size of the place. Majority of tourists who visited Singapore for leisure purpose would revisit the place for just once or twice more, unlike resort destinations where various resorts each offering a different experience where the visitors can enjoy their stay for longer time to rest and relax.

For seasoned business travellers, they have already enjoyed touring the city in the past hence they are no longer big spenders when they stay in the city. And the trend of rising prices at restaurants and shops targeting tourists and foreign business people is also a big turn off for the visitors as there are many alternative locations in Asia where they can better spend their money.

So I think it is reasonable to say that it can be difficult for Singapore to grow its tourist industry into something more significant for its economy.

Internet Era

For many years, Singapore has been very focus in ensuing their citizens being better educated to deal with the industrial world back in the last century. However, since the beginning of this century, the internet has completely upset the balance of the world economy. This wave of technology shock has affected economy worldwide. One thing that really messed up the world is that the education of people around the world were all pointing to the wrong direction since the internet revolution has started. Nothing in the education of young people are preparing them for the new economy.

This problem affects Singapore much more than the other countries in Asia. Even though in college level education, younger generations can be trained with more computer knowledge, but that implies that at least 2 generations of young workers in Singapore need training before they can be redirected into the knowledge based economy or Singapore will lose all the advantage they used to have against the rest of the countries in Asia.

More importantly, the education up to high school level has to put a lot more emphasis on computer skills which was never the focus. Without reform, the education system will continue to produce workers without the skill sets necessary to thrive in the new economy era. This is no difference from other high tech places like Hong Kong, Korea or Japan. Just that Singapore economy has always been driven by one or two main industries while other Asian countries have better diversifications. Thus, being able to stay at the forefront of knowledge based economy is more important for Singapore than other places.

Tough Time Ahead

In this modern time, as people demand more and more from their government while in reality the government is really nothing more than a construct to manage a place, Singapore is really dealing with a serious identity crisis at this point. Singapore, being a special sovereign entity situated at the centre of South East Asia, has enjoyed great economic growth and endured tough times while bouncing back gracefully every time.

Yet, as the world is entering this crossroad all together this time around, Singapore is facing a very tough time ahead as its government leading approach to its society and economy is facing its biggest challenge ever. To thrive into the future, Singapore has to figure out not only what lies ahead but also resolutions that has to be put in place as soon as possible before the tides turning.

Feature Photo: Singapore Changi Airport

What’s Wrong with This Picture on the US Stock Market

Here is the sentiment indicator from stocktwits on SPY, the ETF on S&P500.

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And the sentiment for emini S&P below.

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We seldom get a significant selloff from such bearish sentiment … bears have to be more careful to avoid turning into roadkills during this holiday season.

Going Back To Hong Kong

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After a hectic week of visiting a number of countries in South East Asia, I am now getting ready to leave Singapore for Hong Kong tonight. I have spent time with bankers and traders who I know for more than a decade. I also got the chance to meet new friends and potential clients introduced to me by my friends. It is nice to see the familiar faces while enjoying the company of my new acquaintances.

First thing I noticed is that many of my friends are now bald and some are very out of shape. Some already passed away due to sickness. It is evidence that we are getting old. Time does not care who we are indeed. The experience is giving me stronger determination than ever to keep myself healthy. The choice is there for everyone, but we must consciously make the hard choices first in order to get the long term benefit.

The retail trading scene in Singapore and other South Asia countries have not changed much. The rules and regulations in many of these countries are still too lax and unenforceable. This give rise to unethical practices by many brokerages to lure naive people into speculations on high risk financial markets without realizing that they are engaging in such activities.

Worst yet, some of these operations are just outright scams taking money from people and then disappear overnight.

I am not sure how long will it take for these countries to mature to the point for which average investors are sophisticated enough not to fall for these scams and illegal activities. It will be a long road and it takes a lot of political willpower to make the necessary changes happen.

I have more to write about my trip to these countries but I have to do that another time. I have to pack up and head to the airport soon.

Have a nice weekend all!

p.s. feature pic is the airport train for connecting the terminals of the Singapore Changi Airport

Leaving Hong Kong Soon

imageI am heading towards other Asian countries tomorrow. My schedule is jam packed and some of the countries I am going to do not provide reasonable internet access. I am not sure if I can even check email in some cases. It will be a nice break from the Net though. Like many people suggested, maybe it is a good thing to unplug from the Net once in a while.

I have notes written down on quite a number of topics that I like to write about. When I get the chance to sit down quietly on my own, I will be able to organize my thoughts and have some interesting observations to share. It looks like my decision to spilt the blog from daytradingbias.com is a very good call. It is quite unprofessional to talk trash in a site that offers professional services to traders, isn’t it?

I am hoping that I can wrap up this round within a week. After all, it is very tiring to talk like 8 to 10 hours almost everyday. I definitely need a break and what is better than spending the Christmas week with friends and family to enjoy the holidays?

The feature image is my father’s Chinese calligraphy.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Hong Kong is Fading Away

traffic on junction in city Second week into my busy schedule meeting people here in Hong Kong, one thing that I have to deal with consistently is the time spent in between. Due to the packed environment and crazy traffic condition in Hong Kong, traffic jam is the norm. Hence much time is wasted on travel. In fact, I think I spend more time traveling in Hong Kong than in many other major cities I have been to. Killing time in leisure seems like a luxury in Hong Kong when you see all these people walking in very fast pace with serious look in many of them.

Historical Importance vs. Reality

Many Hong Kong people are very proud of their past accomplishments. As the richest city for Chinese people back in 1970s to 1990s, it is approximated that Hong Kong’s GDP was as much as one third of the whole China back then. It was really amazing how such a tiny city, due to historical reasons, being placed into the global trade route, could shine so bright. But this is exactly the problem with the people in Hong Kong – many of them do not realize the special conditions allowing the city to grow so much has been chipped away over time.

As of year 2015, Hong Kong’s GDP is less than 3% of China’s GDP. Its relative importance to the growth of China and its future is long gone. Within a decade or two, as China continue its push to modernize the rest of its coastal cities, Hong Kong will likely be less than 1% of China’s GDP. In other words, Hong Kong is going through what many Western countries were going through over the past 20 years – normalization of its economy, living standard and social structure while the developing countries like China were playing catch up.

A Highly Inefficient Place

One thing that stands out in Hong Kong is that majority of the workforce are being rushed to get things done. Everything are being pushed for completion as quickly as possible. By results, however, they are just making more mistakes and time wasted on these mistakes. At the end of the day, nothing is really accomplished efficiently this way.

Another clear problem with the city is the less than desirable education cost which reduces the competitiveness of the city over the years. Education cost is so high that starting from very young age, parents are forced to pay so much of their income just to get inferior education for their children. The high stress environment is also making the younger generation less capable to think creatively or critically. Highest priority in life for the young adults is how to get by with a better paid job.

Fading Away

Hong Kong can keep on fighting the trend of being normalized into just another major city of China but it is not likely to succeed. Hong Kong got its chance and became a very important city of the world. It has a good run just like other famous cities in the world. As the original conditions disappear, the inevitable cannot be avoided hence Hong Kong will never have the same level of importance for being the sole connection between China and the rest of the world.

For the people in Hong Kong, especially the younger generations, there are many great opportunities out there for them but they have to better equip themselves with more knowledge and analytical skills. The internet actually liberated all the knowledge human kind has accumulated so far. Unluckily, English has been a very weak spot in Hong Kong’s education system, making it very difficult for the young people there to learn from the net by themselves.

For instance, the overall investment knowledge in Hong Kong is so bad that even young professionals do not know much about financial markets. Those who are interested in the financial markets are often misled by the financial media in Hong Kong.

Settling Down After a Chaotic Week

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Flying from Toronto Canada to Hong Kong is easy. In fact, way easier than traveling to United States. First and foremost, going through US customs takes at least double the amount of time. Anyhow, my hectic schedule started the very next day after I arrived.

Jet Lag and Polyphasic Sleep

I have been asked enough times about jet lag that it is something worth mentioning here.

Ever since I trained myself to sleep in biphasic sleep, jet lag is never an issue. I always get sleepy once I have nothing to do and can fall asleep easily. When I focus my mind, I can continuously work 10 to 15 hours straight. That’s the interesting benefit of training oneself to actually sleep multiple times a day.

One thing to remember though it takes time to modify one’s sleeping pattern. If you are used to sleep at least 8 hours a day and that you cannot easily squeeze out at least 45 minutes during the day for a nap, cutting short your main sleeping time will seriously affect your brain functions.

Meditation as a Sleep Replacement

Sometimes, if actual nap is not possible, there are interesting ways to refresh our mind to peak performance through other means.

If you have practiced meditation long enough and can get yourself to the state of a cleared mind quickly, you can try to induce the sleep like function in your body where it starts to flush out the chemicals generated during the day when your brain has been working hard. Key to this technique is switching to a breathing rhythm closely resemble the one that our body normally does during our sleep.

In other words, one can consciously induce the brain cleaning function without actually going into deep sleep. Your brain will be completely refreshed after a 20 minute practice of sleep breathing under meditation. Interesting isn’t it?

Hong Kong

It is considered being cold in Hong Kong right now but for someone coming from Canada, just T-shirt and jeans are perfect for me. Obviously that attracted many curious stares wondering if this guy is insane. The picture in this post is taken from the famous place in Hong Kong where they make the roasted gooses. I chose to take a picture of the mega bridge connecting the airport to the rest of the region because it is in fact a very cool piece of architecture.

My schedule will continue to be very hectic. Instead of the expected quiet down of my meetings, many more meetings are now scheduled around my original ones. An interesting development indeed since I thought not that many people would be interested in my line of work.

Have a nice weekend all!