The Story Behind the Weekly ChartStorm
Everything you wanted to know + Due Diligence for prospective subscribers...
The Weekly ChartStorm presents a punchy and pragmatic update on the drivers of risk & return in the stockmarket. Started over 7 years ago, it has attracted a wide following, but recently a number of changes have been made — so I thought it would be worth presenting a bit more detail and background.
For those who are new to the ChartStorm — or for those are thinking about a paid subscription but want more information: here's all you need to know!
Contents of this note:
The ChartStorm Origin Story
Who is Behind it?
Who is it For? (and is it worth subscribing?)
What exactly is it? (and what do you get as a subscriber?)
What do people Say about it?
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
The ChartStorm Origin Story
As far as I can recall, I have been doing the Weekly S&P500 ChartStorm for 7 full years now (across 9 calendar years!), it’s almost difficult to imagine life without it because in that time I have *never* missed a weekend (I even have fond memories of doing the ChartStorm while on family vacations! e.g. waking up early while my wife and kids sleep, and heading down to the café — get a coffee, soak in the views and the atmosphere… and into the charts!).
But why did I start it, and why do I keep doing it?
A key reason for starting the “Chart(tweet)Storm” was to accelerate my career progress as a market analyst — but mostly because I liked charts and wanted to learn more. For context, I was about 7 years into my career when I started it (my corporate career was mostly in investment management working in research and investment strategy), and I was about at the stage in my career where I needed to do something to help accelerate me onto the next steps.
And it definitely was a valuable discipline: it meant I was actively working each week to build my knowledge base, expand my market analysis skills, grow my list of contacts and sources, and of course it also meant I was able to bring well-informed perspectives to the table during investment committee meetings at work.
In terms of my career, it definitely helped, and was probably also a key element in my decision to leave corporate and start Topdown Charts. But what was perhaps surprising, and definitely rewarding, was how it also helped other people.
It didn’t take long for people to warm to the idea of a weekend market charts session on Twitter (in the beginning and for most of the 7 years it was just a case of post the charts on Twitter and participate in the conversations around the charts, it was only in early-2021 that I launched the Substack version with extended commentary, explanations, conclusions).
Over time, followers came and went (with the market cycles, with life changes, and of course depending on what the Twitter algorithm decided they should see), but the interaction and overwhelmingly positive feedback was a constant.
So why the change then?
For context I have shifted the ChartStorm off Twitter exclusively onto Substack and have started charging a small fee. Any significant changes like this are always going to be driven by multiple reasons, and these include: dissatisfaction with Twitter (the algorithm i.e. unreliable distribution, excess spam/scams, platform risk, inability to add nuance, etc), but also out of a desire to simplify things and reduce work load (which has become all the more important given we recently had another baby!).
As for the fee, I tried running ads/sponsorships as a means of monetization, but ads suck – it’s too much work, too many issues/risks, and of most concern: ads erode the reader experience. But above all the key reason for charging is about making the overall thing more sustainable. And so far the feedback has been that the annual subscription price is very reasonable (probably too low) vs the value.
But in terms of all these changes, in many ways it’s basically a business/life balance choice of going for quality of growth vs growth for the sake of growth. I don’t want or need to have a million followers just to puff up my ego, I would rather have a smaller group of somewhat like-minded followers who respect and support what I do and “get it”. And ultimately that’s one of the key goals and directives as I move forward with the next phase (and the next 7 years!) of Weekly ChartStorms (with a focus on quality of output, and quality of audience).
Who is Behind it?
By this stage you’re probably wondering who the “I“ is from the previous section! Callum Thomas is the name, charts are my game! :-)
For quick reference, you can check out my socials:
But here’s my story: I live in Queenstown, New Zealand (grew up in a small town nearby, went to university in Auckland, moved to Wellington for work, then Sydney, and then here to Queenstown when I left corporate to start my own thing). On the education front I completed a couple of masters degrees in banking/finance, and on the career front worked mostly in investment strategy & economics on the buyside — mostly focused on multi-asset investing (think: pension funds, asset allocation mutual funds, and long-only multi-asset hedge funds). Given the small size of our stock market over here, you tend to spend most of your time looking globally (and in particular: US markets). And given the generally small team sizes over here you get to do a bit of everything (portfolio/liquidity management, economics, strategy, investment communications, manager research) — so it was an excellent incubator for me to gain a deep perspective across the investment industry (in my time there I sat in dozens of fund manager pitch meetings, and I saw just about every different approach to managing money across just about every asset class). This along with over half a decade running my own independent research firm (Topdown Charts — where I provide global multi-asset investment research to institutional investors), has given me a unique perspective and edge in being able to pick out the most poignant and useful charts to feature in the Weekly ChartStorm… and of course given my work at Topdown Charts also means I can bring completely unique charts of my own into the mix. So it’s not just some random dude dumping a bunch of random charts in front of you, it’s a professional who seeks to answer “what should we be paying attention to, where do the weight of risks lie? (and which charts best illustrate that?)“ — for me research is not about fun with charts or research for the sake of research, given my background in investment management I have been trained to come back to the key question everyone has at the end of a research note: “so what?“ (what are the investment implications?)
Who is the ChartStorm for?
(and is it worth your time/money?)
Basically it’s for anyone who wants an easy way to keep up to date with the market outlook, especially if you’re time-poor or don’t necessarily want to watch the market tick-by-tick, but also want ideas and guidance on emerging risks+opportunities and longer-term perspectives as food for thought.
Who reads the ChartStorm?
Professional investors, fund managers, investment advisors, individual investors
Most often active investors, most often with a medium/longer-term horizon
Investing in equities (individual stocks, indexes, global + US), but also other assets
In terms of why it’s worth your time, here are the reasons that come to mind:
Charts: a picture says a thousand words, objectively, and fast
Commentary: I explain why the charts matter, how they fit together
Curation: I handpick only the best, most useful, and interesting charts
Conclusions: while you are free to ignore what I say, I do offer my views
Convenience: it’s all on one page so you don’t have to do the work yourself
Overall, what this means is:
It saves you time and effort in finding the charts and figuring it out by yourself (including what not to pay attention to: you’d be surprised how many charts don’t make the cut!)
It strikes a good balance between telling you what to think about the charts and the implications vs letting you make your own mind up
It’s easy and quick to digest yet covers most of the key issues, so not only does it save you time in terms of the work that goes into it, but it saves you time on reading and keeping track of all the moving parts – in essence I basically try to *reduce* information overload by acting as your filter on the world of markets.
Overall in terms of the time/money aspect, I believe it is worth your time for all the reasons mentioned above – and time is your most valuable (and non-renewable) resource of all …by contrast the subscription fee is barely worth a mention! But even then, at $95/yr (which is probably tax deductible for most people) it’s about what we might spend if we went for a couple of drinks at the pub, and with this you probably get a more sensible and coherent conversation! I’d also go out on a limb and say people spend far more on investment expenses that don’t add any value like tax/brokerage/admin, etc. If anything I am probably undercharging, and I am intentionally doing that because I want to make it easy for long-time followers to get on board with the next phase of the Weekly ChartStorm.
If this all makes sense, why not subscribe?
What is it? What do you get as a Subscriber?
Subscribers receive the Weekly S&P500 ChartStorm report sent direct to their inbox (so you never miss it). Subscribers can also log on to Substack and read it online as well as browsing the archives and joining the conversations in the comments section — where you are welcome to ask questions (I will also look to host occasional Q&A sessions, especially when the market is on the move).
What exactly is the Weekly ChartStorm?
10 handpicked charts from around the web (+some of my own original charts)
Clear and concise explanations on why the charts matter +implications
Good mix of timeframes and topics (e.g. charts/topics span technicals, sentiment, flows, macro, valuations, fundamentals, financial history)
Bonus chart section +mini-blog exploring a particular theme of interest
Occasional “Off-Topic ChartStorm” on other assets/markets/macro issues
Examples – see the below for unlocked sample reports
Weekly S&P500 ChartStorm - 22 January 2023
Weekly S&P500 ChartStorm - 15 January 2023
See also – occasional Off-Topic ChartStorms
What do people Say about it?
Mostly good things — usually the bad comments are when someone disagrees with me on a certain thing or don’t have the context or actively take things out of context (or from people who just like to troll).
But anyway, and you can search it up yourself, here is a selection of “tweetimonials” — tweets where people have praised/recommended the ChartStorm:
Along with that, here’s some testimonials from a recent survey of readers:
“Love your work. I learn a lot and you provide great perspective.”
“Great newsletter! Your succinct analyses are clear, insightful, and timely.”
“Overall interesting and digestible format. Like the comments which have some view expressed alongside charts. Incisive and non-consensus comments appreciated”
“Really enjoy your work! There are always at least 7 or 8 (relevant to me) thought provoking charts in your weekly round-up.”
“I think this is a very useful snapshot especially, because I do not follow markets tick for tick, but just trying to concentrate on the big picture. For that purpose a weekly chartstorm is very useful and the chosen charts are very often spot on in concentrating on the most important topics in the market.”
I always appreciate this type of feedback, especially when it affirms exactly what I am trying to do with my work here (and at Topdown Charts). So in terms of what people say vs what I aim to achieve, I reckon I’m doing OK.
But don’t believe me, or all the people who say it’s awesome — try it yourself :-)
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Here’s a selection of common questions/concerns — but by all means, if you have any other questions please let me know in the comments section (or contact me).
Why should I pay for this?
You shouldn’t …unless you value what I am doing. If you are looking for a succinct chart-based wrap on current market issues as well as longer-term perspectives and insights into emerging risks and opportunities — and you find that the ChartStorm is fit for purpose in that respect, and it helps you achieve your goals or at least makes you think, then I reckon it’s probably worth paying (the very small fee) for.
If not then don’t. I know most people don’t like to pay for content, but I would say think of it more as a service — you are paying me for all the work I do, and paying me to help make things easier for you by doing the work for you.
What if I want to ask questions?
Please ask questions (or provide any thoughts/opinions you may have in general) in the comments section: log on to the website and navigate to the comments section in the latest edition and type your question in there and I will get back to you as soon as I can – doing this in the comment section is the best option as other people probably have a similar question or can even provide their own perspectives too. Aside from that I will look to hold semi-regular Q&A sessions.
Do you offer anything more in-depth/macro/asset allocation?
Glad you asked, yes my day job is running my business “Topdown Charts” – an independent investment research firm focused on providing top-down global asset allocation insights to institutional investors. You can check out the entry-level service (condenses down the key points and charts + at an accessible price) or the full service (the full reports in all their glorious detail, and personalized service, but at an institutional price tag). Let me know if you would like a trial.
Do you cover (insert stock/market/asset/issue here)?
Generally the answer is yes given that I cover global asset allocation at Topdown Charts – and I am happy to take topic suggestions, but if the answer is about an individual stock/security/product the answer will generally be no. I don’t do securities advice or sales/offers of securities and I don’t do personal financial advice either (all of this is of a general nature, and for informational and entertainment purposes only, and all of that disclaimer sort of language, etc etc).
Can I take a trial?
Yes, 7-day free trials have now been activated.
99% of any technical issues you might have with subscribing or using the Substack platform can be answered here: https://support.substack.com/hc/en-us/categories/360002411451-Readers
(otherwise just ask and I will see what I can do)
The Last Section
If you’ve made it this far I think it’s a fair guess that you are probably interested at some level in subscribing… So, only one thing left to do:
Thanks for your interest and attention.