When heaven favours your blade

… when the Old Man would have any Prince slain, he would say to such a youth: “Go thou and slay So and So; and when thou returnest my Angels shall bear thee into Paradise. And shouldst thou die, natheless even so will I send my Angels to carry thee back into Paradise.”… And in this manner the Old One got his people to murder anyone whom he desired to get rid of.

The quote above is taken from Marco Polo’s writings from the 1200s.

The “old man” of the story lived in a castle in what is now Syria, and wielded considerable control over the region thanks to some incredibly committed acolytes. Fearless, and renowned for their selflessness in completing their goals, they would publicly assassinate enemy leaders in broad daylight, often being killed in the process.

One story tells of how the old man ordered one of his men to leap from the walls of the castle to his death, to prove to a French count with a giant army that numbers counted for nothing for he had absolute control of his men. The man selected leapt to his death without question.

Incredible what men will do with a little faith. Except… it wasn’t faith. Not just faith, anyway.

The acolytes had been drugged.

The old man would sedate his disciples and then bring them to a hidden garden, which had been laid out to resemble paradise as described in their religious texts. He had fashioned a counterfeit heaven, with all its bells and whistles: milk, honey, ladies, the lot.

The disciples, in their still drugged state, would awake in “paradise”, and believe they had ascended to heaven. The old man would then tell them that he had ordered his angels to bring them there, and could easily send them back there if they did his bidding. They were then sedated again before being returned to their quarters in the castle.

There’s a certain metaphor here for how markets have been drugged into believing central banks have been successful in reflating the global economy and will lead them to paradise… but today, I’d like to focus on a detail of the story – what drugs were they using to brainwash people during the Crusades?

Historians debate what drug was used exactly. Some believe it was opium, but the commonly held view is that it was hashish, or cannabis. In fact, the group itself were known as the hashashin (“hashish-eaters” in Arabic), which is where our word for “assassin” comes from.

In a recent issue of The Fleet Street Letter, Charlie Morris makes the case that the perception-altering effects of cannabis are at work in the stockmarket around cannabis stocks, which have recently been on a massive tear:

I have seen these medical marijuana stocks fly. I have no issue with the changes in the law. However, marijuana is called weed for a reason; it isn’t scarce. While it may be tightly regulated today, over time I see this market becoming highly competitive, and that’s terrible for profits. For that reason, this story is hype over substance (abuse)… I just don’t see the financial opportunity at these valuations – whatever they’re smoking, I want some.

Faith in soaring markets coupled with perception-altering drugs seem to be at work again, albeit without the assassins…

However, our tech specialist Sam Volkering thinks the party is just getting started for legal marijuana. This week he tipped two stocks he thinks will blaze the trail in this new industry – one, he thinks, will become “the Amazon of weed”, with the other looking to farm only the highest grade of cannabis flower for use in the pharmaceutical industry…

What do you think the future holds for the cannabis sector? I’d love to hear your views: boaz@southbankresearch.com.

From my perspective, the tax revenue will be too appealing for governments to keep marijuana illegal. With the state of Colorado making half a billion dollars in tax off it last year alone, how long will politicos keep their anti-drug views before caving to their desire for more government spending?

Courting Lady Luck

Having heaven on your side is a great motivator, and, of course, it wasn’t just the hashashin who believed it during the crusades.

Crusader knights would have their swords blessed in a ritual known as consecratio ensis, the benediction of the sword. Having faith that the Lord was on their side gave them courage, a significant edge in battle.

This doesn’t seem to have been lost in Russia, where rifles…

Attack helicopters…

And jet munitions…

… are all blessed.

Who knows? Perhaps this is why Russia has been so successfully in gaining influence and locking the US out of the Middle East…

For those who do battle in the markets, some try to gain a similar edge through prayer. I’ve yet to see a Russian Orthodox priest bless a trader’s Bloomberg terminal, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s happened.

Eoin Treacy, our trading specialist, recently published an alternative way of getting Lady Luck on your side. Don’t worry – you don’t need to eat hashish, or get a sword blessed.

It’s all about choosing when to fight in the markets … and when to keep your powder dry. The trick is only to take a swing on certain days, when the odds are automatically stacked in your favour… and staying in cash on the days Lady Luck is courting somebody else.

That makes some days lucky is to do with liquidity. When cash is set to flow into stockmarkets on certain dates ahead of time, the odds are tilted in favour of the market going up that day from the very outset.

You can figure out which days yourself. In fact, Eoin’s even made a calendar outlining each of these days for the rest of the year that you can sync with your email or desktop calendar to keep you abreast of when these “lucky days” come up.

It doesn’t work every time, of course – this is a system taking advantage of manmade systems rather than divine ones after all. But Eoin has backtested the strategy using market data since the millennium – with some very striking results.

If you’d like to learn more, click here

Have a great weekend!

Until next time,

Boaz Shoshan
Editor, Southbank Investment Research

Category: Geopolitics

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