Combination of online trading styles

November 24, 2009

I believe some of the best professional traders actually combine traits of the obsessive-disciplined style with the gambling-emotional style.

For example, James J. Cramer is a professional trader who manages a hedge fund (a fund that holds stocks that try to balance each other whether the market is up or down), and writes three or four short columns daily for the online stock web site “The Street.com,” of which he is a founder.

A frequent past guest host on CNBC’s Squawk Box, until his own site began a show on cable television, he often expressed his views passionately. In the stuffy Wall Street world of self-conscious, conservative, and often self-serving stock commentators, Cramer provides a breath of fresh air. He is not afraid to tell it as he sees it, even when he knows his views may be unpopular.

In his columns, Cramer often shares with readers his trading moves and his thinking behind them. He is offering readers lessons in money management through the mind of one professional trader.

Cramer appears to be a healthy blend of the obsessive-disciplined and what I call the gambler-impulsive trading types. He is an experienced trader who has learned to “smell” moves in the market either before or as they occur (or at least faster than most traders).

He is not afraid to take reasonable chances, sometimes acting by instinct and educated hunch, when time is of the essence. And he is not afraid to let readers know when he is wrong. Yet he tempers his gambler-impulsive trading style with the disciplined mind that comes with earning both undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard.

With the help of his partner and staff, he does all the research he can before making big moves, including calling companies at the last minute to find out if there is any news that may affect his trade.

As an example of the compulsive style, when I e-mailed Cramer my assessment of his combination obsessive-disciplined and gambler-impulsive trading styles, within 10 minutes, he shot back this response: “Shoe fits.”

What better example of an obsessive-disciplined personality than a guy who is hooked up to his laptop computer continuously throughout the day and who reads and responds immediately to e-mail? In addition, he carries a beeper for any late-breaking news when out of the office and surfs the message boards at his site late into the evening, posting messages when the mood strikes him. No surprise to find out he suffers from insomnia, a common symptom with perfectionistic personalities.