Memoirs from the Butte
There's no place like home!
She's my yo-yo, I'm her string
Listen to the birds on the hot wire sing
Singing yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Singing thank you, for a real good time
With newfound inspiration from the mountain elevation, it's time again to spend with friends some minxy education. Before we begin our daily spin, I must first take the time to thank everyone who presented and participated in our Crested Butte seminar. I set uber-high standards for the 'Ville but these past few days were a massive upside surprise. We had eighty Minyans laughing, learning and leaving with a head full of ideas and a heart full of memories. It was, quite simply, a magical retreat that has set the standard for years to come.
The weekend started on Thursday night with a gathering at the Idle Spur. It was great to see the professors meet each other as they replaced names with faces and hugs. And the Minyans--some of which I've "known" for years but have never had the privilege to meet--effortlessly interacted with an unspoken commonality. As laughter filled the back room and folks acclimated themselves to the altitude, it was evident that we had stumbled upon something special.
I kicked off the Friday morning session with a quick introduction to our annual west 'Fest. I explained that human capital is the single best investment that anyone could make and as we edge through the years, honesty will trade at a premium and integrity will be commoditized. And while our critters may provide a stylistic and differentiated brand, our content will always be the root of our substance. That is the foundation that we've built and the tone I wanted to set.
"Tickle me' Tuttle took the stage and spoke about how the hedge fund industry will not be dissimilar to what happened to the retail brokerage industry of years past. We must face facts, he argued, and map out a cohesive strategy that will allow you to differentiate from the crowd. "In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is King," he said, "and unless you simplify and adapt, you'll be rowing upstream with a spoon!" He then walked through his trading process of dynamic quantitative analysis, his technical scan for 'Road Signs', updating his watch list, executing with an exact entry and exit point and, finally, carpe diem (seize the profit).
Jason Roney spoke next and shared the wares of quantitative analysis. In particular, he shared his considerable insights on gaps, trends, ranges and facts. His statistical revelations were eye-opening and, in many cases, compelling. He spoke of the importance of the second hour of the session, how stop levels can be placed at prior highs/lows, the identification of trend days and patterns surrounding the upcoming election (the S&P has been up eight of the last ten days into the election and down seven of ten days following the election).
Snoop Tony Dwyer took the mic and offered one of the more animated presentations of the weekend. His self-effacing style and engaging disposition immediately warmed the crowd and brought smiles to our faces. His tremendous technical illustrations discussed historical precedence and offered a more constructive view on the equity markets. And after he shared some of his patented dance moves (words don't do it justice), we broke for pastries, coffee and some fresh mountain air.
Kevin Depew kicked off the second set of the morning session and offered a tutorial on Point & Figure analysis and where we are today. After documenting how the "offense" was called on the field in the spring of '03, he explained how both the sector bell curve and NYSE bullish percent guide are now flashing red. His opinion--which I greatly respect--is that global financial liquidity benefited asset classes across the board and may have reached a saturation point. He shared chart after chart that shared similar characteristics of a rally from the March '03 low, the 2004 price peak and a subsequent breakdown.
Energy Maven Neal Dingmann concluded the first day's presentations with a much anticipated discussion of energy. With crude so rude, it's no shocker that the crowd was on the edge of their seats. He spoke of supply constraints (lower quarterly production, lower exports and few near-term alternatives) and how the OSX and XNG are generally the most levered sector plays. Finally, he spoke of the disparity between crude and natural gas and how historical precedence implies a regression (contraction of that spread).
We opened the floor for the five-person panel and I would guestimate that 75% of the questions were on energy. The contrarian in me started to get antsy (particularly with crude powering towards $50/brl) and, sure nuff, crude put in the week's top shortly thereafter. This isn't a dig at Neal--his stuff was awesome, informational and insightful-but the lopsided disparity of questions from the crowd was palpable.
We broke for the day and scattered towards the afternoon activities. Some jumped on their bikes for a Minyan mountain adventure (what's a little mud?), others sauntered into town and furthered their newfound friendships and Team Minyan gathered at Scotto's place for an internal vibe. It was there that I offered the exciting state of the union to our circle of trust and shared how humbled I am to be surrounded by such talent. It's not often that someone gets to work with people they love and respect and it was important that they knew exactly how I felt.
After a brief afternoon shower, the sun broke through the clouds and offered the perfect backdrop for Minyan softball. Over sixty people showed and we whacked them up into two squads--one managed by Collins and the other by David Miller and myself. The result wasn't pretty--I haven't taken a beating like that since I put a banana down my pants and turned the monkey loose--but it was without question the most fun I've ever had on a baseball diamond. Big snaps to Minyan James Wilkes of Bloomberg for jacking two homers and taking home MVP honors. Heck--I'm not sure the first dinger has even landed yet!
We walked (I limped) back to our digs, showered for dinner and then met at The Slogar. I said to the owner, Mac, that it almost wasn't fair that the Minyans were blindsided by his famous fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and biscuits. I remember looking up (from my plate full of bones) and having a moment of clarity. As I watched folks from around the country share smiles and stories, I realized that the future had arrived. This was the vision of Minyanville and the game was officially on.
I would share stories about the Friday night frolic but what happened in the Butte stays in the Butte! Truth be told, this was one evening where I would have to live vicariously through Fokker (scary thought) as I was nursing some softball injuries and a "I can't believe I ate the whole thing" belly. Besides, the weekend was only half over and we had a huge day awaiting us on Saturday.
I'll share the rest of the vibe with part two of the Mountainfest memoirs a little bit later... (click here for part 2)
Good luck today.
Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at email@example.com.
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