Author of ‘The Timely Trades Letter’.
I went to the Traders Expo in Las Vegas last week. While walking the floor of the show and talking to traders, I was amazed at the number of people who were looking for a new trading technique because the one they were using was ‘not producing results’ during the last few weeks. There were a lot of slick presentations on trading, but few contained any real data indicating how the system actually performed, or how the results varied by market condition. Trading a tool based on just a few examples is a good way to drain an account. Most of these people only had one trading tool, either focused on stocks or ETFs, and did not trade both. They had no idea how their trading tool performed in different market conditions. They had no idea of how to adapt to the market conditions instead of complaining about them.
Trading the same tool constantly in all market conditions is a good way to drain an account. Moving blindly from one tool to another is also a good way to drain an account. Since stock and ETF trades often work in different timeframes; I have found that trading both is an advantage to me, and lets me participate in both short term and intermediate term movements. Understanding the current market conditions and having that information drive the selection of trading tools, number of positions traded, and position sizing, is one of the keys to success. It takes some time and effort to learn this. The ‘traders’ that are looking for a simple indicator or magic tool that will lead them to riches are asking for trouble.
There are no magic tools. If there were tools that required no effort to learn, and always worked, then everyone would be rich. Trading, like other professions, requires some time, effort, and expense, in order to develop the skills. None of the people complaining about the recent market environment had used that information to adjust their trading styles. In my case, I have been standing aside for a couple weeks as the market has shown unusual volatility in a tight trading range. Both of those conditions are caution signs, and together indicate it is best to sit tight and focus on protecting previous profits until the market picks a direction; which it will when it is ready. None of the people complaining about the market environment and the results of their trading were sitting tight (as the recent conditions called for). They felt that since they were traders they should be trading. When I suggested they should be focused on generating profits, not trades, and the recent environment had the odds stacked against them they were very quiet except for a couple that argued they had to be trading in order to have the opportunity to make profits. I quoted a Kenny Rogers song and told them that successful traders need to ‘know when to hold them and know when to fold them’. Sometimes the best, and most profitable, strategy is to stand aside for a week or so and let the market sort itself out. Traders need to have studied their trading tools and market conditions to know which tool is most likely to be appropriate for the current market conditions.
Trading should be data driven, not based on emotion, whishful thinking, or hot tips from TV hosts. To be data driven one needs to test and analyze trading tools and find out what really works, and when each tool should be used. Traders must understand which tool to use for a specific task, and have a clear understanding of how the tool works, and what can and cannot be done with it. I have extensively tested several trading systems, the results of this testing on specific trading trading tools are outlined in ‘How to Take Money from the Markets’, and Money-Making Candlestick Patterns. The testing process helps us understand how stocks usually behave after forming a specific pattern such as being outside the Bollinger Bands, showing strong distribution or accumulation, or pulling back or retracing during a trend. Understanding what a stock is most likely to do forms the beginning of a trading strategy. Trading without this information is taking unknown risks.