Market Advisory Features
|Swing Trading: Rules and Philosophy||Notes from a Swing Trader ................|
|The Mental Aspect of Trading||Volatility Breakout Systems ...............|
Time Tested Classic
This is a list of classic trading rules that was given to me while on the trading floor in 1984. A senior trader collected these rules from classic trading literature throughout the twentieth century. They obviously withstand the age-old test of time.
I'm sure most everybody knows these truisms in their hearts, but this list is nicely edited and makes a good read.
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Trading: Rules and Philosophy
My style is based on the "Taylor Trading Technique", a short-term method for trading daily price movements that relies entirely on odds and percentages . It is a method as opposed to a system. Very few people can blindly follow a system, though many find it easier to be discretionary in a systematic way.
Because this short-term swing technique generates frequent trades, it is important to know the "correct plays," to lock in profits, and to seek the "true trend." Taking a loss is merely playing for better position. One trades strictly for probable future results, not for what the market might do.
To know the "correct play" is to know whether to buy or sell first, to exit or hold. Trades are based on "objective points," which are simply the previous day's high and low. Movement between these two points determines the "true trend."
When swing trading, adjust your expectations. The lower your expectations, the happier you will be and, ironically, the more money you will probably make! Entries are a piece of cake, but you must also trust yourself to get out of bad situations and trades. It is important to use tighter stops when trading swings and wider stops when trading trends.
This method teaches you to anticipate! Never react! Know what you are going to do before the market opens. Always have a plan--but be flexible! "See" your stop (support or resistance) before initiating a trade. Know how to trade out of trouble situations and get off the hook with the smallest possible loss.
Finally, never trade in narrow, dead markets. The swings are too small. Never chase a market. Rather than worry that you've missed a move, think instead, "Oh, boy! I've got oscillations and volatility back..."
Basic Rules for Swing Traders
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Notes from a Swing Trader
Swing trading seeks to take advantage of a very basic price pattern that sets up and can be traded in any market. Though I refer to a two- to three-day trading cycle, principles that I teach work on an intermediate time frame - weekly charts - as well as on five-minute charts.
Whether you trade short-term, from a mechanical system, or a methodology like what I teach, there is one thing I want to impress on you: Be consistent! You can't do a Fibonacci calculation on one trade, try something else the next day, and then jump into a seasonal trade the next. It just doesn't work because trading is just a numbers game, that's all it is, trying to get a little bit of an edge in your favor.
My personal rhythm consists of buying one day and selling the next, or the day after that. I carry a lot of trades overnight. I don't take many on an intraday basis, only the trades which don't work out. The ones that don't work out become intraday trades really fast. The exception, of course, is the S&P market...in which there is plenty of opportunity to day trade.
Money (and Risk) Management
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Mental Aspect of Trading
Many traders quickly come to acknowledge that despite being familiar with winning strategies, systems, and money management techniques, trading success is dependent on your psychological state of mind. If you're a trader just starting out, where do you find the initial confidence to pull the trigger? How do you deal with the down times without digging yourself deeper into the hole? If you are in a hole, how do you work your way back out? How do experienced traders push through the ceiling of profitability that caps their initial trading years and make a truly fabulous living?
Trading is a performance-oriented discipline. Stress and mental pressures can affect your ability to function and impact your bottom line. Much of what has been learned about achieving peak performance in both business and sports can be applied to trading. But before looking at some of these factors, let's first examine the ways that trading differs from other businesses.
What IS the definition of a successful trader? He should feel good about himself and enjoy playing the game. You can make a few small trades a year as a hobby, generate some very modest profits, and be quite successful because you had fun. There are also aggressive traders who have had big years, but ultimately blow-out, ruin their health or lead miserable lives from all the stress they put themselves under.
Principles of Peak Performance
The first principle of peak performance is to put fun and passion first. Get the performance pressures out of your head. Forget about statistics, percentage returns, win/loss ratios, etc. Floor-traders scratch dozens of trades during the course of a day, but all that matters is whether they're up at the end of the month.
Don't think about TRYING to win the game - that goes for any sport or performance-oriented discipline. Stay involved in the process, the technique, the moment, the proverbial here and now.! A trader must concentrate on the present price action of the market. A good analogy is a professional tennis player who focuses only on the point at hand. He'll probably lose half the points he plays, but he doesn't allow himself to worry about whether or not he's down a set. He must have confidence that by concentrating on the techniques he's worked on in practice, the strengths in his game will prevail and he will be able to outlast his opponent.
The second principle of peak performance is confidence. in yourself, your methodology, and your ability to succeed. Some people are naturally born confident. Other people are able to translate success from another area in their life. Perhaps they were good in sports, music, or academics growing up. There's also the old-fashioned "hard work" way of getting confidence. Begin by researching and developing different systems or methodologies. Put in the hours of backtesting. Tweak and modify the systems so as to make them your own. Study the charts until you've memorized every significant swing high or low. Self-confidence comes from developing a methodology that YOU believe in.
Concentrate on the technical conditions. Have a clear game plan. Don't listen to CNBC, your broker, or a friend. You must do your own analysis and have confidence in your game plan to be a successful trader.
Analyze the markets when they are closed. Your job during the day is to monitor markets, execute trades and manage positions. Traders should be like fighter pilots - make quick decisions and have quick reflexes. Their plan of attack is already predetermined, yet they must be ready to abort their mission at any stage of the game.
Just as you should put winning out of your mind, so should you put losing out of your mind - quickly. A bad trade doesn't mean you've blown your day. Get rid of the problem quickly and start making the money back. It's like cheating on a diet. You can't undo the damage that's been done. However, it doesn't mean you've blown your whole diet. Get back on track and you'll do fine.
For that matter, the better you are able to eliminate emotions from your day, the better off you will be. A certain amount of detachment adds a healthy dose of objectivity.
Trading is a great business because the markets close at the end of the day (at least some of them). This gives you a zero point from which to begin the next day - a clean slate. Each day is a new day. Forget about how you did the week before. What counts is how you do today!
Sometimes what will happen during the day comes down to knowing yourself. Are you relaxed or distracted? Are you prepared or not? If you can't trade that day, don't! - and don't overanalyze the reasons why or why not. Is psychoanalyzing your childhood going to help your trading? Nonsense!
The third important ingredient for achieving peak performance is attitude. Attitude is how you deal with the inevitable adverse situations that occur in the markets. Attitude is also how you handle the daily grind, the constant 2 steps forward and 2 steps back. Every professional has gone through long flat times. Slumps are inevitable for it's impossible to stay on top of your game 100% of the time. Once you've dug yourself out of a hole, no matter how long it takes, you know that you can do it again. If you've done something once, it is a repeatable act. That knowledge is a powerful weapon and can make you a much stronger trader.
Good trades don't always work out. A good trade is one that has the probabilities in its favor, but that doesn't mean that it will always work out. People who have a background in game theory understand this well. The statistics are only meaningful when looking at a string of numbers. For example, in professional football, not every play is going to gain yardage. What percentage of games do you need to win in order to make the playoffs? It's a number much smaller than most of us are willing to accept in our own win/loss ratios!
Here is an interesting question: should you look at a trade logically or psychologically? In other words, should every trade stand on its own merits? Theoretically, yes, but in real life it doesn't always work that way. A trader is likely to manage a position differently depending on whether the previous trade was a winner or a loser.
How does one know when to take profits on a good trade? You must ask yourself first how greedy do you want to be, or, how much money do you want to make? And also, does your pattern have a "perceived profit" or objective level? Why is it that we hear successful winning traders complain far more about getting out of good trades too soon than not getting out of bad trades soon enough? There's an old expression: "Profits are like eels, they slip away."
Successful traders are very defensive of their capital. They are far more likely to exit a trade that doesn't work right away than to give it the benefit of the doubt. The best trades work right away!
OK. Realistically, every trader has made a stubborn, big losing trade. What do you do if you're really caught in a pickle? The first thing is to offer a "prayer to the Gods". This means, immediately get rid of half your position. Cut down the size. Right off the bat you are taking action instead of freezing up. You are reducing your risk, and you have shifted the psychological balance to a win-win situation. If the market turns around, you still have part of your position on. If it continues against you, your loss will be more manageable. Usually, you will find that you wished you exited the whole position on the first order, but not everyone is able to do this.
At an annual Market Technician's conference, a famous trader was speaking and someone in the audience asked him what he did when he had terrible losing trades. He replied that when his stomach began to hurt, he'd "puke them at the lows along with everyone else." The point is, everyone makes mistakes but sooner or later you're going to have to exit that nasty losing position.
"Feel good" trades help get one back in the game. It's nice to start the day with a winning scalp. It tends to give you more breathing room on the next trade. The day's psychology is shifted in your favor right away. This is also why it's so important to get rid of losing trades the day before. so you don't have to deal with them first thing in the morning. This is usually when the choice opportunity is and you want to be ready to take advantage of it.
A small profitable scalp is the easiest trade to make. The whole secret is to get in and get out of the market as quickly as possible. Enter in the direction of the market's last thrust or impulse. The shorter the period of time you are is the marketplace, the easier it is to make a winning trade. Of course, this strategy of making a small scalp is not substantial enough to make a living, but remember the object is to start the day out on the right foot.
If you are following a methodology consistently (key word), and making money, how do you make more money? You must build up the number of units traded without increasing the leverage. In other words, don't try going for the bigger trade, instead, trade more contracts. It just takes awhile to build up your account or the amount of capital under management. Proper leverage can be the key to your success and longevity in this business. Most traders who run into trouble have too big a trade on. Size influences your objectivity. Your main object should be to stay in the game.
Most people react differently when they're under pressure. They tend to be more emotional or reactive. They tense up and judgement is often impaired. Many talented athletes can't cut it because they choke when the pressure's on. You could be a brilliant analyst but a lousy trader. Consistency is far more important than brilliance. Just strive for consistency in what you do and let go of the performance expectations.
Master the Game
The last key to achieving mental mastery over the game is believing that you can actually do it. Everyone is capable of being a successful trader if they truly believe they can be. You must believe in the power of belief. If you're a recluse skeptic or self-doubter, begin by pretending to believe you can make it. Keep telling yourself that you'll make it even if it takes you five years. If a person's will is strong enough, they will always find a way.
If you admit to yourself that you truly don't have the will to win at this game, don't try to trade. It is too easy to lose too much money. Many people think that they'll enjoy trading when they really don't. It's boring at times, lonely during the day, mentally trying, with little structure or security. The markets are not a logical or fair playing ground. But there are numerous inefficiencies and patterns ready to be exploited, and there always will be.
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Breakout systems can actually be considered another form of swing trading, (which is a style of short term trading designed to capture the next immediate move). In other words, the trader is not concerned with any long term forecast or analysis, only the immediate price action.
Volatility breakout systems are based on the premise that if the market moves a certain percentage from a previous price level, the odds favor some continuation of the move. This continuation might only last one day, or go just a little bit beyond the original entry price, but this is still enough of a profit to play for. A trader must be satisfied with whatever the market is willing to give.
With a breakout system, a trade is always taken in the direction that the market is moving at the time. It is usually entered via a buy or sell stop. The bit of continuation that we are playing for is based on the principle that momentum tends to precede price. There is also another principle of price behavior that is at work to create trading opportunities. That is, the market tends to alternate between a period of equilibrium (balance between the supply and demand forces) and a state of disequilibrium. This imbalance between supply and demand causes "range expansion", (the market seeking a new level), and this is what causes us to enter a trade.
There are several ways to create short-term volatility breakout systems. I have found that different types of systems based on range expansion test out quite similarly. Therefore, whichever method you choose should be a matter for your own personal preference.
In designing a system, one can choose to place an entry stop off either the opening price or the previous day's closing price. This entry stop can be a function of the previous day's range or a percentage of the previous 2.10-day range, etc. Mechanical exits can range from using a fixed objective level to using a time function such as the next day's open or close. Most of these systems function best when a very wide stop is used.
Another way of trading the breakout mode is by using "channel breakouts" which is simply buying the highest high of the last seven days in the case of a 7-period channel or the highest high of the last 2 days in the case of a 2-period channel breakout. In the case of an inside day breakout pattern where one buys the high or sells the low of the previous bar, a 1-period channel breakout is actually being used for the trigger. The most famous long-term breakout system adapted by Richard Dennis for training the "Turtles" was the 4-week channel breakout originally designed by Richard Donchian. Other breakout systems can be based on chart patterns (i.e., Curtis Arnold's Pattern Probability System), trendline breaks, breakouts above or below a band or envelope of prices, or variations of simple range expansion functions.
Training Benefits for the Novice Trader