What A 1920s Gang Should Have Known About Trading

I’ve been binge-watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix. Think The Sopranos but in 1920s England. It’s very good, and the lead character, Thomas Shelby, is scarier than Tony Soprano ever was. Tony is volatile. Thomas is calculating and ice-cold.

One episode of the show takes place on October 29, 1929 – Black Tuesday, when the market collapsed, kicking off the Great Depression.

Some of the characters, like many real-life investors, were completely caught off guard and suffered devastating losses.

But Black Tuesday didn’t happen in a vacuum. The market had been falling for several days. The Thursday before, October 24, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 11%. One of the show’s characters instructed his brother to sell everything on Friday – just before Black Tuesday.

Perhaps he was using the concept of support to time his entries and exits?

A support line is a price level where a stock historically stops declining. It can be a flat line all at one price, or it can be a trend line that gradually moves in one direction.

For example, here’s a chart of Compugen (Nasdaq: CGEN).

Support on Display With Compugen Ltd.

You can see that from August through October, every time the price dropped to about $5.80, buyers stepped in and supported the stock, pushing it back higher. But then, in mid-November, the buyers disappeared and no longer supported Compugen. It fell below its support line and continued to slide.

If you owned Compugen, you would have looked to get out of the trade once the stock was a few percentage points below $5.80. If you bought the stock close to $5.80 and sold close to, say, $5.60, you’d have a very small and manageable loss.

And if you bought the stock in late October around $5.80, you had the chance to make more than $1 in profit in a short period of time while taking on very little risk because you would have gotten out if the stock hit $5.60 or so.

Let’s look at a support level that isn’t flat.

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