What’s bothering you today?

Get it out of the way.

Why?

Bother takes a toll. 

Focus goes away. 

You don’t wish to see your trade. 

That’s a pathetic condition to be in…

…as a trader. 

When you’re in a trade…

…you need to monitor the trade. 

How will you monitor a trade…

…if you don’t feel like looking at your screen?

What’s causing your indifference?

Bio-chemistry. 

Resulting from?

The spot of bother.

That’s why, get it out of the way.

Trade gone wrong?

Kill it.

Spouse problem?

Address it.

Child matter.

Deal with it.

Bring your environment to an immediate logical conclusion…

…if you can.

Why?

You’ll trade like a king…

…or a queen…

… whatever title you prefer. 

You’ll see clearly. 

You’ll want to open your terminal. 

Your ideology will be aligned with your trade. 

You’ll be making money. 

That’s why. 

MP vs MoS : the lowdown on Trade-Entry

Margin of Safety (MoS)… 

… hmmm… 

… wasn’t that in investing? 

Well – surprise – it’s in trading too. 

You can enter a trade with MoS. 

How? 

Ok.

ID the trend. 

Wait for a minor reversal.

Let the reversal continue towards a pivot, or a support or a what have you. 

During this reversal, whenever you feel that you have considerable MoS, well – enter. 

Why shouldn’t you wait for the pivot to get touched? 

Things happen real fast at a pivot. Upon a pivot-touch, you can lose your comfort-zone even within minutes. 

Two vital things can happen at a pivot. 

Either there’s a quick bounce-back, or the pivot gets broken. 

Bounce-back means your trade is now in the money, and that you can go about managing your trade as per your trade-management rules. Wonderful. 

Pivot-break is not a worry for you. 

Why? 

Because you’ve placed your stop slightly below pivot, after the noise. 

Upon pivot-break, you get stopped out. You take the small hit and move on to your next trade. 

Eventually, things heat up. 

There is movement. 

Tops get taken out. 

Fast money can be made. 

How do you enter here? (Needless to say, for shorts, everything is to be understood reversed). 

Momentum play (MP)… 

… is the weapon of choice. 

You set up a trigger entry after a top or a resistance or a what have you, and wait for price to pierce, and for your entry to get triggered. Then you place your stop, below top or resistance or what have you. 

MP vs MoS is a matter of style. 

If you’re not comfortable changing your trading style to adapt to times, that’s fine too. Stick to one style.

If you’re conservative, stick to MoS. 

In a frenzy, however, MoS might almost never happen. 

In a frenzy, entry will be triggered exclusively through MP.

Take your pick. Adapt. Do both. Or don’t. Do one.

You call the shots. 

This is about you.

Did you invite the f-word?

The next trade… 
… yeah… 
… take it. 
What? 
Can’t? 
Why?  
Afraid of what might happen. 
That’s the whole thing. 
You see a setup – you trade the setup.
When you see a setup, there are no more what-ifs, supposings or anything. Then, it’s just you and the trade. Take the trade. 
No room for f-(ear). It’s the new f-word.  
How do you drive fear out of the equation? 
Risk a miniscule fraction of your networth per trade. 
Don’t make trading your bread and butter. Make it your bonus. 
Don’t allow anyone else’s negativity to creep in. Don’t talk to people. Trade on your own. No room for tips. 
Don’t listen to your broker. Tell him what to do.
Don’t trade under compulsion. 
Enjoy your trading. 
Once in the trade, lose the mini-bias that got you in. Now, just manage the trade. 
Stop hit? You’re out. 
Run? 
Raise stop. 
Running? 
Keep raising stop. 
Losing some of your notional profits? Market throws you out?
Good. That’s a proper exit. 
See, fear wasn’t allowed to the party. 
Look for next setup. 
Position-size your entry. 
Take the next trade. 
And so on and so forth. 
Not upto trading?
Ok. Don’t trade. Till you’re up to it.
 
Demons out of the way? 
 
Up to trading again? 
 
See the next setup?
 
Take it.

What’s it Gonna Take Today, Pal?

Indicators.

Fibonacci.

Moving averages.

Price action.

Isn’t everyone following all this?

Do the markets behave accordingly?

No. Not really. Sometimes, sure. Generally, no. Just my opinion.

So?

Where does that leave you?

How do you plan your trade entry?

There’s not much planning to it really.

Oh yeah?

Pray on what basis is one to enter then?

Study.

Then overall feel.

What?

Yes.

Gumption?

So?

With no study, direction’s a 50:50.

With study leading to overall feel translating into gumption, this ratio could well become 55:45.

You don’t need more.

Blackjack odds for the card-counter are perhaps 53:47 at peak.

Ok, so you’ve got your 55:45, what then?

Trade management.

You make your money managing your trade.

Formula?

Simple one.

You cut the wrong call. Nip it in the bud.

Let the right call continue being even more right.

Learn, perhaps the hard way, to let the winner continue winning.

Trade might reverse.

That’s the risk you have to take, to win more.

There are no free lunches in life.

How I Wish to Trade

Tension?

No.

Hassle-free?

Yes.

Profit?

Yes.

Fun?

Too. 

I want it to make me want to come back. 

In the background?

Yes.

Part of my normal life?

No. 

Disturbing me in the night?

No?

Terminal on – ideally once a day. Max twice. That’s it. 

Protection?

Yes. Stops for forex. Hedges for options. No naked options. 

Exits?

Make me exit. Yeah, Mrs. Market needs to make me exit. I don’t wish to exit on my own. She needs to throw me out of a trade. 

Fear?

None.

Why?

Bread and butter secured through other-than-trading instruments.

Trading with surplus.

Surplus can potentially become zero. Will I still take the next trade?

Yes. After scanning strategy for errors.

Loss?

Will take small ones, again and again and again. That’s the only way to find the large profit moves. 

Once profit sets in, what then?

Nothing then. 

Normal. 

Behaving as if nothing has happened. 

Giving the trade room. 

It needs to make even more profit. 

It is a potential multi-x trade. Why should I nip it in the bud? As I said, make me exit. Throw me out. 

Family life?

Balanced.

Remnant anger from trading?

None. 

When yes, stop trading. Trading should never be allowed to disturb family life. 

Evolutionary?

Forever. Learning, learning, learning. 

Bias? 

None. 

News?

No. 

Tips?

None. 

Peers?

Maybe to start a strategy with. After strategy is made to fit – no peers any more. 

Discussion?

None. Hopefully. 

Don’t like to discuss trades after terminal shuts. 

Losses piling up?

Review strategy. Discard, renew, implement, trade again. 

Profits piling up?

Great. Do nothing. 

Are you getting the gist?

Similarly, you need to figure out how you might want to trade.

Many things I might be doing will not suit you automatically. 

You need to make things fit. 

If something doesn’t fit, discard it. 

Look for something new that might fit. 

Make a trading strategy that’s lucrative and gels with you and your lifestyle and environment. 

Such a strategy will blossom. For you. 

Stop-Loss vs Hedge – what’s what and how?

Insurance.

Makes you sleep easy.

Simultaneously, you are able to take a calculated risk.

Risk?

Why should you take a risk?

No risk no gain.

It’s as simple as that.

You have to put something on the line to possibly gain something.

That’s what market activity is all about.

You’re doing this all the time.

Day in, day out.

You’ve become used to a steady and dynamic LINE. Your line doesn’t harm you anymore. It doesn’t disrupt your life.

Well done.

How did you achieve this?

By using stops and hedges.

What’s the difference?

The difference is technical, and then practical.

For some mindsets and positions, a stop is more suited.

When you don’t mind exposing your market-play, and want to close your terminal and do other stuff, use a stop.

You get up from your desk, engage in other activity, and have forgotten about your position, because now you don’t need to tend to its needs for 24 hours, for example.

Great.

Your position will either play out, or it won’t.

If it doesn’t, your stop will automatically throw you out of your position.

The level of the stop is digestible.

Next morning, you simply move on to a new trade.

Let’s say you don’t want to to expose your market play, or, in some cases, when you don’t need to expose your market play – how do you then insure yourself?

Hedge.

A hedge maintains general market neutrality.

It leaves windows open for what-if scenarios.

For example, the trade could make money, and then the hedge could make money.

Or, vice-versa. As in lose-lose. Sure, there are win-loss and loss-win scenarios too.

The starting point is somewhat neutral, and then there are permutations and combinations.

Some people prefer this kind of play.

They like the possibility of maximizing profit from the total position at a calculated higher risk.

Also fine.

Generally, the idea is for your main position to make money and your hedge to lose money.

It might or might not play out like that.

Some like this uncertainty and know how to benefit from it.

A stop is sure-shot and straight-forward. It is low-risk as long as it is digestible.

Hedges open you to the risks of a meta-game. Play becomes more interesting, consuming, and possibly, more profitable, for experienced hedgers.

In my opinion, a hedge is slightly higher in risk than a stop.

However, both entities lower overall risk.

Currency pair forex trades are typically taken with a stop. However, they can be hedged too.

Market-neutral option-trades are typically taken using hedges.

Step into a trade with either or, for peace of mind and career longevity.

Cheers.

🙂

Can I Really Really Really Do Without Fundamentals?

I like to trade without a bias. 

Lack of bias means freedom… 

… freedom to think independently…

… not falling prey to another person’s opinion…

… which then allows you to listen to your system…

… trade identification…

…setup demarcation…

…trigger-entry…

…trade triggered…

…trade management…

… trigger-exit…

… exited.

That’s it, move on to the next trade. 

News gives me a bias. 

No news. 

You know what else gives me a bias?

Fundamentals. 

I don’t wish to look at fundamentals. 

If my eyes are seeing a setup in the EuroDollar, I would like to take it without the nagging thought of “what will happen if Scotland says NO or YES”.

I don’t want to care about inflation numbers, or job figures, or industrial output or what have you. 

I mean…can I just …do it?

Meaning, can I just do away with fundamentals, and focus on technicals only, which is my area of specialization?

Sometimes, I get a little unsure. 

I start looking around. 

How are others doing it? The experts, that is. 

My uncertainty gets fanned a little more, when I see experts not really ignoring fundamentals, even though they might be specialized in technicals. Hmmmm. I’m still not happy looking into fundamentals. I mean, why should I take time-out from my strong suit, and devote it to my very weak suit?

No, I decide. I’m really not going to look at fundamentals. 

What’s the worst that could happen?

Let me just see if the worst that could happen is bearable.

Ok…I ID a trade…demarcate a setup…and the trade goes against me because of the announcement of some number in the afternoon. People looking at fundamentals would have waited for the announcement of the number and then traded. Fine. 

In the world of trading, it is always good to have the worst-case scenario unwrapped and right before your eyes to see what it really means. 

You know, I can take this. 

Would you like to know why?

Firstly, I would like you to understand that we are looking at large sample-sizes here. Any sensible reasoning would only apply to large sample-sizes. 

Over the long run, and over many, many trades, Mrs.Market will go either way after an announcement of a fundamental number with a chance of roughly 50:50. 

If this is true, it is very good news for me, good enough to just kick fundamentals out of the equation. 

At times, the market reacts as per the crowd’s anticipation. 

At other times, it reacts in the opposite fashion. 

I assume that the ratio of the above two directions taken by Mrs. Market over a very large sample-size would be 50:50.

I think my assumption is correct. I don’t want to go through the labour of proving it mathematically. 

Ok, let’s assume that my assumption is correct. I then kick fundamentals, and go about my work while relying on my strong-suit, i.e. technicals. This trajectory will very probably have a happy ending. 

Now let’s assume that my assumption is wrong. 

What saves my day?

Technicals. 

Technicals very often give setups that factor in crowd behaviour and crowd anticipation of market direction. 

Technical setups get one into the build-up to an announcement. 

More often than not, one is already in the trade, in the correct direction, enjoying the build-up to an announcement without even knowing that the announcement is coming, if one is not following fundamentals. 

Technicals can actually do this for you. I’ve seen them do it. I mean, the GBPUSD has been giving short setups during the entire 1000 pip run-down recently. To have availed such a setup, people haven’t needed to know that a referendum is coming. All they’ve needed to do is to take the trade once they see the setup. 

Actually, that’s it. I don’t need more.  

I don’t need to reason anymore with myself. Everything is here. 

I think I can let go of fundamentals safely.

Even this trajectory should have a happy ending.

Dealing with Noise…the Old-Fashioned Way

There’s a sure-shot way to deal with noise…

…just shut your ears. 

Yeah, the best ideas in the world are – simple. 

Let’s not complicate things, ok?

So, what kinda noise are we talking about here?

We’re not talking about audio, you got that right…!

The concept is related, though. 

If you’re charting, you’ve dealt with noise. 

Yeah, we’re talking about minute to minute, hour to hour or day to day fluctuations in a chart of any underlying.

Markets fluctuate. 

While discussing noise, we are pointing towards relatively small fluctuations which generally don’t affect the long-term trend. 

However, noise has the capability of deceiving our minds into believing that the long-term trend is turning, or is over. 

Don’t let noise fool you.

When has the long-term trend changed?

When the chart proves it to you through pre-defined fashion. That’s it. You don’t let noise to get you to believe that the long-term trend has changed, or is changing. Ever. 

You believe your chart. 

Moving averages crossing over? Support broken? Resistance pierced? Trend-line shattered? ADX below 15? Fine, fine, FINE.

Take your pick. You have many avenues giving decent signals that the long-term trend has changed or is changing. 

How about eyeballing? Works for some. Like I said, let’s keep this simple. 

So let’s get noise out of the way. 

Random numbers generate trends – you knew that, right?

You don’t need more. 

Once you’ve identified a trend, that’s your cue to latch on to it. 

We’re not talking about predicting here. We don’t need to predict. We just need to identify a trend, and latch on. That’s all. No predictions. Not required. 

From this point on, two things can happen.

Further random numbers deepen the trend you’ve latched on to. You make money. Good. 

Or, the next set of random numbers make your trade go against you, and your stop gets hit. 

If your stop is getting hit, please let it get hit. Even that qualifies as a good trade. 

You move on to the next trade setup, without even blinking. 

What you’re not doing is letting noise throw you out of the trade by deceiving your mind. 

So, here’s what you do. 

You’ve id’d your trend. You’ve latched on. Your stop is in place. Now, don’t look at your trade. 

Till when?

That’s your call. 

Don’t look at your trade till you’ve decided not to look at it. For the day-trader, this could be a couple of hours. For the positional trader, it could be days, or weeks. 

By not looking, you won’t let noise deceive you. 

If the trend doesn’t deepen, or goes against you, you lose the risked small amount. 

Just remember one thing. 

A loss has immense informational value. It teaches you about market behaviour patterns. It also highlights your trading errors. Many times, losses occur without any mistakes made by you. 

That’s the nature of trading. 

Ultimately, if the trend deepens, you’ll have made good money, and can then further manage your trade after the stipulated period of not looking.

This is the sweet spot.

This is where you want to be, again, and again and again.

Sitting on a large profit gives you room to play for more profit by lifting your stop and your target simultaneously.

To reach this sweet spot again, and again and again, you have to position yourself out there and appropriately, again, and again and again. 

This is also the nature of trading.

Wishing you happy and lucrative trading!

🙂

Thunder, Lightning and the Road Ahead

Why do you look here and there?

If there’s a road ahead of you which you have defined, why don’t you just go ahead and tread it?

Is it mandatory to get distracted by things that don’t concern the path?

In the marketplace, it’s all about mind-set.

Free your mind.

Unburden it.

Dump all useless stuff into the bin. 

Secure your family’s basic bread and butter.

Identify a portion of your surplus cum non-invested cash as your NGHM (nobody’s-getting-hurt-money).

Enter the marketplace with your NGHM.

You are armed with your system.

You know how to identify your trades. 

You further know how to enter, manage and exit your trades.

These are the basics.

From here on it a mind-game.

Not partially. 

Fully.

It’s fully a mind-game from this point on. 

Mentally resilient? Are you? Well, you’re going to create thunder with your system then. 

Don’t get distracted by the lightning on the path.

Tread the path with complete confidence, drawing upon your full mental resilience. 

The road ahead is painted with glory.

How to Swallow Small Losses…

… as if nothing has happened … is one of my biggest trading goals.

You see, our society teaches us not to lose. 

It doesn’t teach us that we can lose a bit 5 times, and after that we can win big, recovering all our losses and making money overall.

No. 

It teaches us to try and win all the time. 

That’s the exact reason 90%+ of all society members actually lose in the markets. They’ve not learnt how to lose small, move on, and take the next trade.

Mrs. Market won’t budge an inch for you. You’ll have to make the adjustment. 

So how does one take a loss in one’s stride?

Only one type of loss is immediately digestible – a small one. Therefore, define your risk in the market. Cut and scoot when required. Don’t get married to your trade.

Then, once the small loss has happened, and has been taken, it will nag you. 

It’ll be there, trying to bite your brain in the background. 

Focus on your next trade. 

Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – … … [what’s the difference between implementation and entry? Well, you could be implementing the trade through a trigger, which is not equivalent to entry yet].

Don’t let the nagging bother you by keeping yourself busy with Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – Next Trade Identification – Implementation – Entry – Management – Exit – … … 

Ultimately the nagging will die out, as your mind starts to revolve around your current trades. 

If you give in to the nagging, it will grow, and will slow you down. You might snap at a family member. You might go into depression. You might freeze. DON’T. Don’t give in to the nagging. Don’t let it grow. Don’t let it slow you down. Maintain your family equilibrium at all costs. Move on. 

The nagging is worst if there’s been a close below your stop, and the market is to open the next day, or after the weekend. You have to deal with this one. If you’re not able to deal with this particular situation, you’ll either need to expose your mental stop prematurely and feed it in intraday (before there’s been a close under it), or you’ll need to follow the progress of your trade from half an hour before next market open onwards.

Yes, this last one’s tough, and you need to absolutely work your way around it. 

You can do it with a bit of practise. 

🙂

Approaching a Contrarian Buy as a Pivot Point Trade

Quote

Approaching a Contrarian Buy as a Pivot Point Trade


Long live Jesse Livermore!

In his colourful life, Jesse pioneered the science of pivot points. He went bust many times while trying to understand pivot points, but ever since the fundamentals have been delineated by him, pivot points have stood the test of time.

After falling to a pivot point, where there is heavy volume, a stock then doesn’t look back for a while. Entry into a stock is considered ideal at or around a pivot point. Due to the surge-potential at pivot points, one’s trade gets into the money very fast here.

I don’t think pivot points can be predicted off-hand. Potential pivot points make themselves visible at newer lows. Their trademark is the accompanying very high volume.

So, what does one do here?

One punches in a trigger-buy above the pivot-bar or pivot-candle.

If the point pans out as a pivot, and the characteristic surge follows, one’s entry is triggered as the price pierces the pivot-bar high. Good entry.

Now manage the trade, and exit properly.

How does one exit properly?

I’ve spoken about this many times, and will do so again, not today, but very soon.

Cheers!

One Up on the Romans

Sometimes, words are hard to come by.

Like now.

It’s a dry spell.

Happens.

At other times, well, they burst forth as if a geyser’s exploded.

Then, I’m not able to stop their flow.

That also happens.

Welcome to the dual-natured environment of Earth.

While we’re steeped in this duality, there’s no option but to get used to it.

One can always go on to then master it.

Oh, I forgot, that’s optional.

I’ll tell you what I’ve done to master such fluctuating fortunes, as far as word-flow is concerned.

Two simple steps, that’s all.

When we’re dry,…, we’re dry. No PhDing over the fact that we’re dry. We’re just dry. Period. Accepted. Digested. We just go on to do other stuff. There are millions of other things that grab our interest on this dual planet.

When we’re up and running – that’s just it – we’re up and running. No PhDing over why we’re up and running. We let the flow happen. We can decide to make it happen even more. That’s optional…, but we don’t stop the flow… till the tap dries itself out.

Similarly, you can experience a string of losses in the markets. Losses make you hit your cut-off. A cut-off is a cut-off. You don’t keep on trading. Nature’s telling you to lay off till your mind and body align themselves with the flow of the markets again. Just do other stuff till you’re mentally and physically back.

On the other hand, when profits run, they can really run. PLEASE LET THEM RUN. Don’t PhD about the run. Let them run till they dry out.

When in dualism, the idea here is to first live through dualism, in order to understand its nature.

We’re one up on the Romans, though.

We’re trying to be masters over our fluctuating dualistic environment.

Yeah, in the markets, we’re getting through losing spells with minimal damage.

Simultaneously, we’re maximizing the potential of profit-runs.

That’s what we’re doing.

If not, then that’s exactly what we are going to do.

Cheers

🙂

How Does One Position-Size?

What is the singular most lucrative aspect of trading?

Any ideas?

Want a hint?

Ok, here’s the hint. It is also the safest aspect of trading.

Give up?

Here’s the answer. It’s called position-sizing. (The pioneer of position-sizing is Dr. Van K. Tharp, @ www.iitm.com, and I have learnt this concept through him).

Surprised? I would be surprised if you weren’t surprised.

Yeah, trade selection is important too, but other things are more important while trading.

For example, trade management is more important than trade selection. So is exit. Entry might be paramount to an investor, but to the trader, entry is run of the mill. It happens day in, day out. The trader … just enters a selected trade. There’s no deep thinking involved. The trader knows this. Crux issues are to follow. The trader is saving his or her energies for the crux issues.

So far, we’ve spoken about the chronology of a trade, i.e. entry – management – exit.

Before entry, you decide how much you want to trade with, and how much you want to risk. That’s the size of your position, or your position-size. Remember, for the concept of position-sizing to make any sense, your stop-loss percentage must remain constant from trade to trade. Only your traded value goes up or down.

What does the level of your traded value depend upon?

It depends upon HOW WELL YOU ARE DOING.

If you’re on a roll, your traded value for the next trade goes up. The increment is proportional to the profits you are sitting on. Since the stop is a constant percentage, the amount risked is also higher. Return is proportional to the amount at risk, and the long-term net return of such a trade will also be higher. All this means, that the more you make, the more you set yourself up to make even more…!

Take a coin. Flip it millions of times. There will be a stretch, where you’ll flip tails 5 times in a row, or six times in a row, or maybe even ten times in a row. The 50:50 trade called “coin flip” can well result in a series of back to back losses. You are an experienced trader. Your trade selection ratio could be 60 winning trades to 40 losing trades, or perhaps a little better, let’s say 65:35. Even a trade selection ratio of 65:35 will result in back to back losses. As a trader, you need to take large drawdowns in your stride, as long as you are confident, that in the long run,  your system is working. What’s working in your favour during the large drawdown?

Your position-size is.

You see, as trade after trade goes against you, and your losses pile up, your position-size KEEPS GOING DOWN. Your stop percentage remains constant. This means, that the more you lose, the more you set yourself up to lose lesser and lesser, trade after trade. Yeah, position-sizing gives you the safety of losing less. Nevertheless, because of this safety assurance from your position-sizing strategy, you keep yourself in the market by just taking the next trade without too much deep thinking (and with no melancholy whatsoever), because your next trade could be the one decent trade that you are looking for. Yeah, your very next trade could cover all losses and then some. TAKE IT.

Now, two things can happen.

Firstly, if you keep losing, and hit your loss cut-off level for the month, well, then, you just stop trading for the rest of your month. You then spend the rest of the month reviewing your losses and your system. You tweak at whatever needs tweaking, and come back fresh and rested the following month. Position-sizing kept you in the market, ready to take the next opportunity to earn big. The auto-cut takes you out of the market for a while. That’s why, in my opinion, while position-size is still activated, it provides more safety, because it keeps you in the market to recover everything and then some, starting with your VERY NEXT trade. Having said that, auto-cut is auto-cut. It overrides position-sizing.

The second thing that can happen is that your losing streak ends before your month’s cut-off is reached. Yayyy, position-sizing is still activated! You’ve lost lesser and lesser on each losing trade as long as you were in the losing streak, and now that you are winning again, each win sets you up to win more in the trade that follows.

After many, many trades, just cast a glance at your trading corpus. It will boggle your mind!

Your position-sizing strategy has kept raising your corpus, because your system is 60:40+, and you win more than you lose. Ultimately, your corpus has become substantial. Its size exceeds your expectations BY FAR.

All thanks to position-sizing.

Can We Please Get This One Basic Thing Right? (Part II)

Now that we’ve laid the foundation, we need to build on it.

The most important aspect of investing is the entry. For a trader, entry is the least important aspect of the trade.

An investor enters after a thorough study. That’s the one and only time the investor is calling the shots regarding the investment. The right entry point needs to be waited for. After entry, the investor is no longer in control. Therefore, the entry must be right, if the investor is required to sit for long. If the entry is not right, then one will not be able to sit quietly, and will jump up and down, to eventually exit at a huge loss.

The trader can even take potshots at the morning newspaper, and enter the scrip hit by a dart at current market price (cmp). There’s a 50:50 chance of the scrip going up or down. If, after entry, the trade is managed properly, the trader will make money in the long run. A loss will need to be nipped in the bud. A profit will be allowed to grow into a larger profit. Once the target is met, the trader will not just exit slam-bam-boom, but will keep raising the stop as the scrip soars higher, and will eventually want the market to throw him or her out of the trade. If the scrip is sizzling, and closes above the stop, the trader will be happy that the market has allowed him or her to remain in the trade, because chances are very high that the scrip will open up with a gap the next morning. Then the trader will take the median of the gap for example as a stop, and will continue to raise this stop, should the scrip go even higher. Eventually, the correcting scrip will throw the trader out of the trade. One or two big winning trades like this one will give the trader a fat cushion for future trades. Now, the trader will position-size. He or she will again take his or her dart, and will select the next scrip. The amount traded will be more, because the trader is winning, and because the pre-decided stop percentage level now amounts to a larger sum. The trader’s position will be sized as per his or her trading networth. So, you see here how unimportant entry is for trading, when one compares it to trade management and exit.

For the investor, there’s no investment management in the interim period between entry and exit, unless the investor goes for a staggered entry or exit. That again falls under entry and exit, so let’s not speak about interim investment management at all. If anything, the investor needs to manage him or herself. The market is not to be followed real-time. One’s investment-threshold should be low enough so as to not have the portfolio on one’s mind all day. You got the gist. Also, exit happens when no value is seen. The investor just loses interest. He or she just tells his or her broker to sell the ABC or XYZ stake entirely. Frankly, that’s not right. Proper exits are what the trader does, and the investor can learn a trick or two here. Then, again, the investor would be following the market real-time in the process, and will get into the trader’s mind-set, and that would be dangerous for the rest of the portfolio. On second thoughts, it’s ok for the true investor to just go in for an ad-hoc exit.

You see, the investor likes it straight-forward. A scrip will be bought, and then sold for a profit, years later. That’s how a typical investment should unfold.

The trader, on the other hand, likes to think in a warped manner. He or she has no problems selling first and buying later. It’s called shorting followed by short-covering. The market can be shorted with specific instruments, like futures, or options. In seasoned markets, one can even borrow common stock and short it, while one pays interest on the borrowed stock to the person it was borrowed from. Yeah, many traders like to go in for all these weird-seeming permutations and combinations in their market-play.

A person who trades and invests runs the danger of confusing one for the other and ruining both. We’ve spoken about how proper segregation avoids confusion. Another piece of advice is to specialize in one and do the other for kicks. Specializing in both will require a good amount of mind-control, and one will be running a higher risk of ruining both games. At the same time, doing both will give you a good taste of both fields, so that you don’t keep yearning for that activity which you aren’t doing.

You see, sometimes the trader has it good, and sometimes, the investor is king.

When there’s a bull-run, the fully invested investor is the envy of all traders. Mr. Trader Golightly has gone light all his life, and now that the market has shot up, he is crying because he’s hardly got anything in the market, and is scared to enter at such high levels.

During a bear-market, Mr. Investor Heavypants wishes he were Mr.Trader Golightly. Heavy’s large and heavy portfolio has been bludgeoned, whereas Lightly’s money-market fund is burgeoning from his winnings through shorting the market. Lightly doesn’t hold a single stock, parties every night, and sleeps till late. Upon waking up, he shorts a 100 lots of the sensory index, and covers in the early evening to rake in a solid profit.

When Mrs. Market goes nowhere in the middle, Lightly gets stopped out again and again, and loses small amounts on many trades. He’s frustrated, and wishes he were Mr. Heavypants, who entered much lower, when margin of safety was there, and whose winning positions allow him to stay invested without him having to bother about his portfolio.

Such are the two worlds of trading and investing, and I wish for you that you understand what you are doing.

When you trade, you TRADE. The rules of trading need to apply to your actions.

When you invest, you INVEST. The rules of investing need to apply to your actions.

Intermingling and confusion will burn you.

Either burn and learn, or read this post and the last one.

Choice is yours.

Cheers.  🙂

Can We Please Get This One Basic Thing Right?

Pop-quiz, people – how many of us know the basic difference between investing and trading?

The logical follow-up question would be – why is it so important that one is aware of this difference?

When you buy into deep value cheaply, you are investing. Your idea is to sell high, after everyone else discovers the value which you saw, and acted upon, before everyone.

When you’re not getting deep value, and you still buy – high – you are trading. Your idea is to sell even higher, to the next idiot standing, and to get out before becoming the last pig holding the red-hot scrip, which would by now have become so hot, that no one else would want to take it off you.

The above two paras need to be understood thoroughly.

Why?

So that you don’t get confused while managing a long-term portfolio. Many of us actually start trading with it. Mistake.

Also, so that you don’t start treating your trades as investments. Even bigger mistake.

You see, investing and trading both involve diametrically opposite strategies. What’s good for the goose is poison for the gander. And vice-versa.

For example, while trading, you do not average down. Period. Averaging down in a trade is like committing hara-kiri. What if the scrip goes down further? How big a notional loss will you sit upon, as a trader? Don’t ignore the mental tension being caused. The thumb rule is, that a scrip can refuse to turn in your direction longer than you can remain solvent, so if you’re leveraged, get the hell out even faster. If you’re not leveraged, still get the hell out and put the money pulled out into a new trade. Have some stamina left for the new trade. Don’t subject yourself to anguish by sitting on a huge notional loss. Just move to the next trade. Something or the other will move in your direction.

On the other hand, a seasoned investor has no problems averaging down. He or she has researched his or her scrip well, is seeing  deep-value as clearly as anything, is acting with long-term conviction, and is following a staggered buying strategy. If on the second, third or fourth buy the stock is available cheaper, the seasoned investor will feel that he or she is getting the stock at an even bigger discount, and will go for it.

Then, you invest with money you don’t need for the next two to three years. If you don’t have funds to spare for so long, you don’t invest …

… but nobody’s going to stop you from trading with funds you don’t need for the next two to three months. Of course you’re trading with a strict stop-loss with a clear-cut numerical value. Furthermore, you’ve also set your bail-out level. If your total loss exceeds a certain percentage, you’re absolutely gonna stop trading for the next two to three months, and are probably gonna get an extra part-time job to earn back the lost funds, so that your financial planning for the coming months doesn’t go awry. Yeah, while trading, you’ve got your worst-case strategies sorted out.

The investor doesn’t look at a stop-loss number. He or she is happy if he or she continues to see deep-value, or even value. When the investor fails to see value, it’s like a bail-out signal, and the investor exits. For example, Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala continues to see growth-based value in Titan Industries at 42 times earnings, and Titan constitutes about 30% of his billion dollar portfolio. On the other hand, Mr. Warren Buffett could well decide to dump Goldman Sachs at 11 – 12 times earnings if he were to consider it over-valued.

Then there’s taxes.

In India, short-term capital gains tax amounts to 15%  of the profits. Losses can be carried forward for eight years, and within that time, they must be written off against profits. As a trader, if you buy stock and then sell it within one year, you must pay short term capital gains tax. Investors have it good here. Long-term capital gains tax is nil (!!). Also, all the dividends you receive are tax-free for you.

Of course we are not going to forget brokerage.

Traders are brokerage-generating dynamos. Investors hardly take a hit here.

What about the paper-work?

An active trader generates lots of paper-work, which means head-aches for the accountant. Of course the accountant must be hired and paid for, and is not going to suffer the headaches for free.

Investing involves much lesser action, and its paper-work can easily be managed on your own, without any head-aches.

Lastly, we come to frame of mind.

Sheer activity knocks the wind out of the average trader. He or she has problems enjoying other portions of life, because stamina is invariably low. Tomorrow is another trading day, and one needs to prepare for it. Mind is full of tension. Sleep is bad. These are some of the pitfalls that the trader has to iron out of his or her life. It is very possible to do so. One can trade and lead a happy family life. This status is not easy to achieve, though, and involves mental training and discipline.

The average investor who is heavily invested can barely sleep too, during a market down-turn. The mind constantly wanders towards the mayhem being inflicted upon the portfolio. An investor needs to learn to buy with margin of safety, which makes sitting possible. An investor needs to learn to sit. The investor should not be more heavily invested than his or her sleep-threshold. The investor’s portfolio should not be on the investor’s mind all day. It is ideal if the investor does not follow the market in real-time. One can be heavily invested and still lead a happy family life, even during a market down-turn, if one has bought with safety and has even saved buying power for such cheaper times. This status is not easy to achieve either. To have cash when cash is king – that’s the name of the game.

I’m not saying that investing is better than trading, or that trading is better than investing.

Discover what’s good for you.

Many do both. I certainly do both.

If you want to do both, make sure you have segregated portfolios.

Your software should be in a position to make you look at only your trading stocks, or only your investing stocks at one time, in one snapshot. You don’t even need separate holding accounts; your desktop software can sort out the segregation for you.

That’s all it takes to do both – proper segregation – on your computer and in your mind.

R&D Experimental Action – BHEL – Nov 30 2012

Scrip – BHEL.

Currently Market Price – Rs. 232.10.

Experimental Action – Buy 240 Call Option (expiry Dec 27 2012) now.

Rationale – is explained in the chart given in this link : BHEL – PATTERN BUY – NOV 30 2012.

Disclaimer and Disclosure – Technicals are gauged and shown using Advanced GET 9.1 EoD Dashboard Edition. I entered this trade around 11:30 am today. Opinions given here are mine only. You are free to build your own view on the stock. I bear no responsibility for any resulting loss, should you choose to enter this trade.

Downside – Entire option premium, about Rs. 5400 per call just now. Your option premium could be considered your stop, if you don’t want to manage your trade actively. If you do, you can set your stop to fractions of the option premium. In fact, you can go about your trade management however which way you wish to do so. Point is, trades need to be managed, either actively or passively.

Upside – roughly > 2 times the option premium (estimated). Estimation of the upside here could be considered an art, roughly based on the chart patterns at hand, coupled with my interpretation of suggestions by the software OptionScope Version 9.1 by Equis international.

Thus, reward : risk for the strategy discussed is rougly > 2 : 1 (estimated).

Cheers. 🙂

What Exactly is a Decent Trade?

A decent trade should yield you money, right?

Not necessarily so.

Am I crazy?

No.

So why am I saying this?

Am I not in the business to be in the green?

Of course I am, so let’s delve a little deeper.

As is slowly becoming clear to you, Mrs. Market is a schizophrenic. Her behaviour is mostly looney, and more often that not, she traverses an unexpected trajectory.

In the business of trading, there lie before you a set of circumstances, and your trading decisions are based upon these.

Thus, you outline your trade.

You plan the entry.

You plan the exit.

You define the reward : risk ratio.

You draw up a trade management plan, as outlined by your system. You preplan your response to all possible movements of Mrs. Market.

Can you do more?

No.

Can you predict Mrs. Market’s future behaviour?

No.

You have an idea about what she might do, based upon past behaviour, but does that make her future path certain?

No.

So that’s it, you enter a trade offering a high reward : risk ratio, based upon information from the past and a probabilistic idea about the future. A high reward : risk means that if there is a payout, it will be high in comparison to the loss you might bear if the trade goes against you. Something like 2 : 1 (possible profit : possible loss), or at least more than 1 : 1.

So what’s going to make your trade decent?

Just stick to your systematic plan, and you’ll have traded well.

Notice, no talk of any money here.

We’ve only spoken of sticking to our system-outlined trading plan.

We are not focusing on money. We are focusing on trading well.

Money is a side-effect to decent trading.

Trade decently, do the right thing, and money will follow as a side-effect, seen over the long run.

If your trade-management plan says you are cutting the trade below point X, and if point X is pierced by Mrs. M as she moves against you, well, the right thing to do would be to cut the trade.

So what if the trade didn’t yield you money?

It was a trade well executed, AS PER YOUR SYSTEM-OUTLINED TRADING PLAN.

What would have made this trade an indecent one would be if you hadn’t cut the trade below point X, irrespective of where Mrs. M went after that.

Why would the trade then be “bad”?

Because you didn’t follow your system’s advice.

You second-guessed yourself.

That means that you don’t have faith in your trade-management abilities, and / or that you succumbed to your emotions. You begun to hope that Mrs. M would start to move your way after piercing point X during her move against your trade direction.

If you did follow your system, you actually didn’t let any hope enter the equation.

Decent.

You had faith in your system, and did not second-guess yourself.

Very decent.

Such faith in one’s system is absolutely essential, and you’ll realize that as you start to scale up in trade-size.

Let’s look at the other part of your trade-management plan.

Let’s say that you decided that if Mrs. M moved in your directon, then you would stay in the trade till you saw the scrip giving at least one sign that it was stagnating. Only then would you book profits, upon such a signal from Mrs. M.

Assume then, that after entry there’s a spike in your direction, and you are in the money.

What do you do now?

Do you get greedy, forget about your trade-management plan, and book the trade? Would such a money-yielding trade be considered decent?

No.

Firstly, you got greedy.

Indecent.

Then, you forgot about your system-outlined trading plan.

Very indecent.

So what if you made money?

Sticking to your system’s advice would have given you the chance to make more, perhaps much more.

It is difficult enough to pinpoint a scrip which is about to explode.

Then, when you land such a scrip, the last thing that you want to be doing to yourself is nipping the explosion in the bud.

You nipped potential profits, even if you took a portion home.

Very, very indecent.

There you have it, people.

Use your common-sense, and, trade decently.

Mentally Speaking

The trader’s biggest enemy is…

…his or her own mind.

The good news is, that one’s mind can be trained … to become one’s friend.

Between these two sentences lies a path.

Some never make it.

For some, this path is arduous.

Other, more disciplined ones make it through.

However, that’s not the end.

Once there, one needs to stay there.

Emotions get in the way.

Fear. Greed. Hubris. Hope. Impatience. Insecurity. Despair …

… you got the drift.

Knock them out, people. Once in the market, stamp all emotion out of your (market) life.

Listen to your system. First make your system.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a technical one, or a fundamental one, or whether it is techno-fundamental, or for that matter funda-technological.

It is your system.

You have spent time putting it together.

You have lost money recognizing its pitfalls, and have tweaked these pitfalls away after they were recognized by you.

Since it has reaped you rewards, you have begun to trust it.

Stay with the trust. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you. It likes to.

Once your trusted system identifies a setup, take it. Period.

Your mind will suddenly switch on. What if this, and what if that?

Ignore.

Only use the mind’s intellect portion to perfect your system. That’s the friendly part for you. Together with it, you construct a system that is capable of identifying setup after setup, from one properly executable trade to another.

You see a setup, and you take it. No ifs, no buts, no what-ifs.

Similary, when your system identifies a stop or a target, and when this is hit, you are out of the trade. Period.

No procrastination. No waiting. No fear. No hoping. No greed.

No mind …

… from entry to trade management to exit.

Switch your mind back on when you have wound up your market activities for the day.

Switch your mind on amidst family. It’ll be fresh.

That’s the path between the two sentences at the top.

Here’s wishing that it’s an easy one for you.

The Cat that Survives Curiosity

So, what are the Joneses upto?

Or the Smiths?

Naths?

You know something, who cares?

You’re trading, right?

Fine, then just mind your own business, and focus on your return.

I mean, people, let’s just go beyond poking our noses into others’ businesses.

Don’t we have our own businesses to take care of?

Isn’t that enough for us?

If not, and if we start poking around, seeing what kind of return XYZ has made, or for that matter how many winning trades ABC has pulled off, well, we are doing ourselves a great disservice.

For starters, we don’t seem to have much confidence in our own trading system, if we’re poking around like that.

You should be pulling off the winning trades, you.

And XYZ’s or ABC’s performances should have no meaning for you.

They are trading according to their system. Let them be. What’s good for them is not necessarily good for you.

You are trading according to your system. Period.

Not minding your own business can seriously affect even a successful system which has temporarily hit a string of losing trades.

Random losses in a row happen. A winning system can well yield ten losses in a row, for example. Improbable, but not impossible.

Ask a coin, which functons at 50:50. On average, you’re flipping heads and tails equally. Nevertheless, you could land heads (or tails) ten times in a row over many, many coin-flips. Part of the game. Accept it.

Since you have a system, you’re functioning well beyond 50:50, right?

Thus, chances of a large number of losses in a row are even lesser for you.

Tweak at your system if you feel it’s lost its market-edge.

To remind you, an edge starts occurring when one functions beyond 50:50.

After a while, one gets bored, and tells oneself, that from now on, one wants to function at 55:45 and beyond (for example), come what may.

One then tweaks at one’s system, and raises the bar.

Tweak at your system if you feel the urgent need to raise the bar.

Keep raising the bar to your comfort level.

Leave other people alone. Don’t bother with their systems. Focus on your own trading.

Be the cat that survives curiosity.

Coin-Flipping in the Marketplace

Are you good at darts?

Actually, I’m not.

I’ve even removed all darts from our home. Hazard. Children might hurt themselves. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m paranoid. Tell me something new.

Well, just in case you fancy playing darts, here’s a market exercise for your consideration.

Take a newspaper section, and pin it on the wall.

I know, I know, you’d love to take pot shots at your favourite corrupt politician’s picture. Please feel free to do so, let out all your venom. When you’re done, we can resume with the market exercise.

Now substitute whatever picture you’re shooting darts at with the equity portion of your newspaper’s market segment.

Take a dart. Shoot.

You hit some stock or the other. Let’s say you hit XLME Systems.

Now take a coin. Flip it.

Go long XLME Systems if you flip heads. Short it if you flip tails.

You have a 50:50 chance of choosing the correct trade direction here.

This is still a winning system, if you manage your trades with common-sense.

Cut your losers short, quite short, yeah, nip them in the bud. Let your winners ride for as long as you’re comfortable.

These two sentences will turn your little darts cum coin exercise into a winning market system.

Try out a 100 such trades, coupled with proper, common-sensical trade management. You’ll see that you are in the money.

Now, whoever turns towards me and starts to talk about trading systems, well, that person needs to be very crystal clear about one thing.

He or she needn’t bother discussing any trading system with worse results than the above-described trading system.

I mean, come on, people, here’s nature, already presenting something to us which doesn’t require any formal education, just an average ability to aim, fire, flip, trade, and manage with common-sense. This small and natural system is enough to keep us in the money.

So, if we want to spend any time discussing trading systems with an edge, we need to be sure that these systems are functioning at beyond 50:50. At par or below is a waste of time.

Good trading systems with a market-edge function at 60:40.

In the Zone, you maneuver your evolving edge to function at 70:30 and beyond.

Frankly, you don’t need more. You don’t need to function at 80:20 or 90:10. Life at 70:30 is good enough to yield you a fortune.

Getting to 70:30 is not as difficult as it sounds. First, get to a 60:40 trading system. Out of every 100 trades, get the trade direction of 60 right. Comes, takes a bit, but comes eventually.

Now you’ve got your good trading system with a decent edge, it’s working at 60:40, what next? How do you extract that extra edge.

Well, tweak. Adapt. Fine-tune. Till your edge becomes that something extra.

Still want more?

If yes, the game becomes a story about you. How disciplined are you? Are you with the markets regularly, as a matter of routine? Are you with the flow? Can you sense the next move? Are you slipping into the Zone? Can you stay in the Zone for long periods? Once you slip out, can you get back into the Zone soon?

The answers to these questions lead you to 70:30 and beyond.