Cutting losses


There is one big difference between traders, who make money and traders who don’t. It is called risk management. Even if you blindly pick your stocks, in the long-term you will make money as long as you cut your losses short. Add to risk management a proper equity selection model and then you are in top 5% in the world. The 5% that actually make money, consistently. This is the biggest secret of successful traders – cutting losses short. It saves capital and it saves your piece of mind.

If you browse on the internet, you will find thousands of articles that preach that losses should be cut short. It is well known fact and yet you’ll be surprised how few people actually utilize it, even those who write about it. Words are free. You can say whatever you want. Many people don’t practice what they preach and this is why the biggest edge someone could have is called discipline.

There are two types of traders: the ones that cut losses short and the ones that lose everything and go out of business. If you can’t define your risk in advance and most importantly if you can’t accept it, you should not be trading at all. Reading about cutting losses short will never be enough. It is human to believe that you are different and that you know better and that it will never happen to you. You have to experience it to realize it. It is part of the learning curve. I knew about this rule long before I committed serious money to trading and yet I didn’t practice it until I had my portion of outsized losses. Today, the thought of how and where I’ll exit a trade, is the most important.

I know that there are many people who preach that they don’t use stop losses and yet they are successful. Well, if they are successful doing that, then they are not really traders. They are investors and they limit their risk by hedging, which is a whole new chapter.


I will spend the next week and half in South Beach, Miami. Hopefully the weather will be nice and the girls …

About tight stops

Someone had said that he is jumping on stocks, moving with 100 mph with an inch stop for protection. There is a lot of wisdom behind these words. They reveal two essential elements of many systems for consistent profits: momentum and risk management.

Being right and being profitable in trading are two very different definitions. You could be right in 90% of your trades, making a $1 per share. Then you could be wrong on the 10th trade and lose $10 per share there. The final result is -$1 per share from all the ten trades. Percentage of winners is not what traders should be paying attention to.

You might decide to use a tight stop of 10 cents to exit quickly trades that don’t go in the desired direction. As long as you make 50 cents per share on your winning trades, you could afford the luxury to be wrong 4 out of 5 times and still be in a profitable position. The point is to jump on stocks that are moving and have the potential to provide much bigger reward than your initial risk.

Blindly using a tight stop might be useful in the begining stage of the learning curve of a developing trader, as it will teach you to lose. Sometimes you have to lose the battle in order to win the war. Losing will always be painful. The point is to use that pain as a catalyst to work harder and smarter next time. The point is, when you lose to lose small, so you could recover faster.

Using 10 cents as a stop is only an example to illustrate a point. Stop losses should be defined by the individual volatility of each stock and its supply and demand dynamics. 10 cents represents 5% of a $2 stock and it might be a proper stop, but 10 cents is only 0.1% of $100 stock, which is a normal move and might not be a stop that makes sense. Certainly this will depends on your trading horizon and trading skills. Use tight stops, but make sure there is a reason behind that stop. Don’t just randomly chose a number. Let the stop be the signal that will tell you that you are wrong and you should exit in order to chase other trading opportunities with better odds of success.

The Golden Rule

10% of your trades will account for 90% of your profits

1 or 2 months will account for most of your annual profits

1 or 2 days will account for most of your monthly profits

Good investors and traders know that very well. They are ready to press extra hard when realize that they might have a home run in play. They are ready to disappear in 60 seconds when things don’t go as planned.

Gio from IBC knows that rule very well and he pressed on his GMCR investment to achieve 190% return.

Dennis Gartman knows that The Golden Rule is what distinguishes smart from not so smart money:

We’ve learned one good lesson from that one trade, and that is that we only get one or two or perhaps three good ideas each year that work. So, when they work, it is our duty to beat them into submission; to add to them when we can; to embrace them as they insulate themselves from random market noise, and to use them to make up for the myriad numbers of truly idiotic ideas  we are capable of coming up with, keeping those losses small.

Sometimes one good opportunity could turn your life upside down.

Recession Marketing for Baseball Teams

baseball girl Tonight I was watching STL Cardinals losing shamelessly against Cincinnati and an interesting thought occurred to me. People go to see a game for entertainment purposes. There are three major ways to offer good quality entertainment to the fans (other than being in nice company and overconsuming beer):

1) they see a good quality, exiting game

2) their team wins no matter how

 3) they see a good quality game and their team wins.

 Therefore we might conclude that people are getting more satisfaction and better quality entertainment when their team wins. Higher quality justifies higher price of tickets. Here it is my proposal for every team, who wants to boosts its overall income and fans’ satisfaction.

1) Raise your tickets with 10 to 20% from the current prices.

2) If your team losses during a home game, give all ticket holders the right of 50% discount for the tickets of the next 2 home games. The promotion will work as “first comes, first served” until all seats are sold off. From one side people will get retributed for seeing their team losing and from the other, the owners will sell more seats for the next games. (seats that otherwise would stay empty)

3) If your team is winning at the beginning of the 8th inning, offer ½ price off on all drinks for the last two innings. By the end of the game, most people have consumed what they usually consume and if you see statistics, only small percentage of the overall sales take part in the 8th and 9th innings. Therefore a 50% discount mixed with the euphoria of the coming win would certainly boosts sales. We all know that margins on everything at the stadiums are gigantic, so even after 50% discount, profits will be sizable.

Is the new, old trend: Buy commodities, sell retail?

139 stocks went up 50% or more during the month of May. To create this list, I used a liquidity filter of average number of shares traded per day >100k and a quality ratio of minimum price of $2.00.

Distribution by sector

may 09 50% moves

The move in the Basic material sector has been impressive during the last 4 weeks. The 10 year treasury yield has been steadily climbing since end of March. Higher yield is usually caused by selloff in the bond market and it is often an indicator of expectations for higher inflation 6 months ahead. As a result of that, all commodities groups were dramatically boosted and I expect this trend to continue during the summer.

The changes in the accounting methods and the steep yield curve were more than welcome by the financial sector, which again performed well despite multiple secondary offerings. The difference between the short-term Fed’s rate and the 10 year T-note rate is practically risk free money for the banks. In longer-term perspective, the higher yield means higher mortgage and consumer credits rates and I believe that will be devastating for the banks from 2010 forward. In the meantime, they might continue to offer “earnings surprises”. Let the banks worry about that and concentrate on the opportunities that the market provides now.

Earlier this week, the Consumer Confidence Index jumped unexpectedly – a first sizable jump since 2003. I believe this is a consequence of higher savings. People feel more confident as they have gradually built a cushion by saving more, paying off their debt, trying to live within their means. An increasing savings rate, higher yield, higher commodity prices, rising unemployment will rob the consumer purchasing power and I have no doubt that this will affect negatively the retail sales and the real GDP growth. When is going to happen. I don’t know. Probably the consequences will be felt in the fall or early 2010. Let the retail and the government worries about that and concentrate on the opportunities that the market provides now. And currently, they are in the commodities.