Eckhardt on taking profits

“One common adage on this subject that is completely wrongheaded is: you can’t go broke taking profits. That’s precisely how many traders do go broke. While amateurs go broke by taking large losses, professionals go broke by taking small profits. The problem in a nutshell is that human nature does not operate to maximize gain but rather to maximize the chance of gain. The desire to maximize the number of winning trades (or minimize the number of losing trades) works against the trader. The success rate of trades is the least important performance statistic and may even be inversely related to performance.”

No other quote illustrate better my trading during the last two weeks. I was right 14 times in a row, but my account didn’t appreciate significantly due to my premature exits. It is true that my timing was often correct as I was lucky to exit minutes before my position turned against me. This especially well relates to my countertrend trades. But it is also true, that I left too much money on the table by jumping out of stocks that were just beginning to move; trades that for some reason were all in the direction of the trend. In hindsight, I realize that I wasn’t chasing profits. I was trying to be right as often as I could, often scalping for meaningless profits.

Then on my 15th trade I took a big hit, that wiped out half of my two week profits. I made all the mistakes that an amateur could have made. Initiated a position in a leveraged ETF not for a day trade and not to hedge my other positions. Entered a trade that was in the opposite side of the prevailing trend. Essentially I bought the rip – the very place that professionals often use to renew their selling, as it offers excellent risk/reward. I put good money after bad by averaging down in a losing position. I did that even after realizing that my position in a 3x ETF should be three times smaller than the average position I take due to their extreme volatily. I turned a trade into an investment. My initial entry was profitable and I had the opportunity to exit with good gains two days in a row. I didn’t. I saw my position going against me and instead of exiting immediatelly I decided to buy myself some cushion by selling front month OTM calls against my equity. The cushion wasn’t enough, so I averaged down. I created a position that would be normal for my other lower betta trading vehicles, but way too big for this leveraged ETF beast. Last Friday I exited with a 2.5 points loss.

It’s much easier to learn what you should do in trading than to do it. Good systems tend to violate normal human tendencies.

Eckhartd on losses

“The people who survive avoid snowball scenarios in which bad trades cause them to become emotionally destabilized and make more bad trades. They are also able to feel the pain of losing. If you don’t feel the pain of a loss, then you’re in the same position as those unfortunate people who have no pain sensors. If they leave their hand on a hot stove, it will burn off. There is no way to survive in the world without pain. Similarly, in the markets, if the losses don’t hurt, your financial survival is tenuous.”

Losses happen and they are part of our trading education. If you don’t learn anything out of them, it is money wasted. Always ask yourself: what did I learn form that loss? What could I do, not to repeat it again.

Learning from your own trades

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – John Powell

“Learning is not a spectator sport” – D. Blocher

Having a daily routine

Dr. Brett Steenbarger has an outstanding article on the importance of keeping a trading journal and how it should be used as a tool to improve your performance. I have been writing a trading journal for two months now and I find it exceptionally useful. I thought that I might share the basic structure of my journal. It might be helpful to someone or I might receive a constructive feedback on it.

My trading e-journal consists of 4 columns.

In the first one I describe the trade I took. For example I just write: “long 400 AMZN @70.23” or “short 200 AAPL @115”. I also put the approximate time I initiated the trade.

In the second column I answer myself: why did I take that trade. What made me do it. Did I follow my trading strategy for the day/week or I just got excited and emotionally initiated a position. For example, your entry might consist of the following: entered on a pullback, stock was within 15% of all time high, market was picking up; or whatever entry criteria you have; I mention what was my exit strategy, when I initiated the trade. It is essential to know what triggered a trade and where would exit if wrong. If done often and long enough, it will become a habit.

In the third column I deal with the problem: what happened with the trade. Did I close it the same day and why? Did I kept it overnight and why? Did I make a profit or I lost?

In the 4th column I ask myself what did I learn today/this week? What did I learn from my profitable trades? How could I repeat them or make them even more profitable? What did I learn from my losing trades? How to prevent them from happening again? I am very specific in my thoughts.

Have an open mind and be ready to react to any situation. Keep in mind that in trading the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.

Don't trust V-bottoms

 

We finally managed to have two positive back-to-back days for the benchmarks. There are many stocks that bounced from oversold levels, undeservingly so. They climbed to their 50-day MA, where they will find major resistance. Why? Because most of the investors in these stocks are under water and they will sell as the stock climbs, effectively killing its upside potential. Look for V-shaped bottoms. They are destined to fail. They represent an important occurrence in trading: there is often a significant short squeeze before next major leg down. A real, healthy bottom takes time to form. It takes months of sideways action in a relatively tight range. This is an indication of accumulation. Take a look at the fertilizer producer MOS. Between October and February it mostly moved in the 30-40 range. Since January, it gradually started to build higher lows until it decisively broke  above the $40 level. Every retracement was met with support at the 50-day MA. This is a healthy formation. I do not imply that this was the ultimate bottom for MOS. In this market, anything is possible. Just pointing out, how a sound bottom is usually formed.


Don’t rush all in after two positive days. We are still in a bear market and most likely things are going to get worse, before they get any better. How long is this rally going to continue is anyone’s guess. I’d say it has the potential to go until the beginning of next earnings’ season, when we’ll hit the hard, cold reality again. In the meantime, you could grow your portfolio by being extremely selective and patiently wait for the right set ups to form. You don’t have to trade every day to be profitable. 

Is that enough market weakness?

monthly-performance1

A snapshot of the monthly performance of stocks priced above $2 and with average traded daily volume of over 100k

We haven’t seen that much weakness in the market since Mid November last year. 1226 stocks were down more than 20% for the last month. This is an incredible destruction of shareholders’ wealth. So many different industries were affected, that it would be more beneficial to mention those that so far have managed the storm – Agriculture chemicals, Internet providers, Gold, Food processors, Semiconductors, Sporting goods, Wireless communications.

92 stocks have declined more than 50% during the last month vs only 7 up more than 50%. I follow this ratio closely as the market tends to turn when it reaches extremes. It has been there for the last couple of days, but this market doesn’t care about it and daily rewrites the history of all oversold indicators. Many expect (hope) for a bounce tomorrow.( Including me).

Other than 2 quick day trades in $UAUA( one short, one long), I sat on my hands all week. I have a bullish bias for tomorrow just because if you read the news you’d tell yourself that things couldn’t get any worse. They could and this is why I am still not willing to hold a position over night. I prefer to protect capital and live to trade another day.

In times like this, it is always useful to remember Paul Tudor Jones words about market extremes:

There is no training – classroom or otherwise – that will prepare for trading the last third of a move, whether it’s the end of a bull market or the end of a bear market. There’s typically no logic to it; irrationality reigns over supreme, and no class can teach what to do during that brief, volatile reign. The only way to learn how to trade during the last, exquisite third of a move is to do it, or, more precisely, live it.