Featured Article

Intervention and Opportunity

Sam Seiden
Online Trading Academy, Chief Education, Products, and Services Officer

Last week, a major voice for the European banking system announced to the world that they would do whatever was needed to “save the euro.” As soon as I heard that, I went right to my charts and looked for a larger time frame supply level in the euro to use as a low-risk, high-reward, and high probability shorting opportunity. Here is why… I started my career on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange facilitating institutional order flow. This means taking large buy and sell orders from banks, institutions, money managers, hedge funds, and more, paying close attention to market price, and then making sure those orders get executed and filled at the proper prices. I started in the currency quadrant and was specifically responsible for the Japanese Yen, Canadian Dollar, British Pound, Deutsch Mark, and Swiss Franc markets. The highest volume and most volatile market of this group back then was the Japanese Yen so that’s where much of my focus was.

One of the main reasons for the high volume and volatility was the Bank of Japan (BOJ) as they were very active in this market. As you may know, Japan has been primarily an export economy which means they have desired a weak currency (Yen). A weak (cheap) currency makes their goods and products attractive to the rest of the world. Often, because of a strong economy due to strong export sales, the Japanese Yen would strengthen and the Japanese government and BOJ would not like this. Their solution almost always was to “intervene” in the currency market to help weaken the Yen. They would put hundreds of millions to work in the market, selling the Yen against other major currencies to drive down price of the Yen. I witnessed this and was a part of it many times. They would surprise the market to achieve the biggest effect, news wires would start informing the world that the BOJ was intervening to weaken the Yen, and this would cause many traders to exit long positions and sell. The outcome of this intervention was always the same but it may not be what you think it is.

What would happen quickly was the value of the Yen would decline to levels the BOJ was aiming for which is no surprise. However, soon after, not only would the Yen rally back to pre–intervention levels but it would then rally a ton more. I found this fascinating and realized one of the most important lessons from my time on the exchange floor: intervention in free markets never works. What is most interesting is that the BOJ and other central banks have the power to print money and they can’t even control a truly free market. The “invisible hand” always brought market price to where it should be, not where someone wanted it to be, even with the ability to print money.

There are many types of government and central bank intervention and to be honest with you, I have NEVER seen it work for more than a short period of time. In fact, from my experience, the opposite price action occurs from the goal of the intervention. For example, take the pre – March 2009 S&P low downtrend in the global markets. During this time, government “bailouts” were the theme and seemed to happen every other month. In the Extended Learning Track (XLT) program at Online Trading Academy, I created a rule in our online trading program (XLT) that every time a bailout was announced, students were to look for a supply (resistance) level in the S&P and get ready to sell short. Sure enough, the market would rally on the bailout news, reach a supply level, and decline.

So, with the recent talk of “saving” the Euro, here are my thoughts… First of all, if the Euro was in good shape and had a bright future, no one would talk about “saving” it. The general public and news media really liked this announcement and the Euro rallied very strong as everyone bought thinking everything in Europe is fixed and the Euro is great again. Just like my experience with the Japanese Yen for years, the likelihood is that the Euro reaches larger time frame supply and falls all the way back down to pre-news prices.

Remember, to me, “intervention” means someone is trying to artificially alter free market price and this is not possible in my opinion. The reason the opposite desired price action ultimately occurs is because the act of intervention itself is a clear signal that something is wrong or broken in the market. It is actually a tip that while price may move in one direction initially, the big move is ultimately in the opposite direction. Those that understand this and can quantify supply and demand in markets enjoy huge opportunity when intervention occurs. They are given this opportunity by those who don’t understand.

Hope this was helpful, have a great day.

Sam Seiden


This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.