There are many trading books from excellent traders that described their particular techniques for trading the morning gaps. If you look carefully at their ideas see that in many cases we are in complete disagreement about an appropriate strategy for the gap. This sounds stranger than it really is.
The morning gaps is so volatile that there are a number of short-term strategies that can make money if execute effectively.
For me, however, the morning gap is so volatile that I like to wait approximately 20 to 30 minutes to get a read on the morning price action before I commit my money.
I conducted several daily analyses concerning the gap, however, that shapes my strategy for the following day.
First, I analyze statistics concerning the science and direction of the morning gap in the market in my target of interest the past 200 days. I uses information to establish normal and abnormal gap, in order to increase my understanding of the current context of the market and the trade. I actually use this information to help me manage my exit decision near the end of the day regarding the size of the overnight risk I am prepared to take.
There are some times when the correlation between the gap and the subsequent follow-through is so strong that you can use the strategy of linear forecasting to estimate the size of the follow-through based on the morning gap. This only happens 10-20% of the time, but when it does it can help you very carefully engineer a good reward to risk ratio trade.
A persistent finding is that the size of the gap correlates strongly to the size of the follow-through. Unfortunately this will not predict the direction of follow-through reliably.
In terms of standard practices and intraday battle drills, I look for a morning hook or a bungee trade in the direction of closing the morning gap when it’s large.
The morning will normally takes the form of a large gap down, the sharp see selloff, intraday support established at the low of the day, followed by a reversal to at least close the morning gap. There are a number of sub strategies with the morning hook but the basic idea is pretty simple.
The bungee trade occurs on exceptionally sharp selloff that begins to immediately rebound on an upward trending day the broader market. In many cases this strategy allows us to front run a mechanical entry price that we have established during our preparation phase.
Every day after the market closes I prepare a trading plan for the following day. Every Friday night, I analyze the market conditions on a weekly basis to develop a week long trading strategy that will last entire week. My combined daily trading plan then incorporates both the weekly and daily preparation.
I use a number of methods to generate system signals efficiently for both the daily and weekly trading plans.
Standard stock firstname.lastname@example.org: I have about a dozen standard screens that I can quickly run on a standard set of trading baskets. Because I have named these baskets and named the screens, I can link them together to build more complex screens as needed.
Excel macros: I use defined ranges and standard formatting in combination with Excel macros to automate the production of 30 different reports in various spreadsheets. I hotlink the summary action tables of the various spreadsheets into a Microsoft Word document to generate automatically but daily and weekend reports. The macros include a linked set of sorting routines and report printing procedures to standardize repetitive tasks. This saves time, energy and improved accuracy a lot.
Excel visual conditional formatting: by defining the correct area which makes certain conditions highlighted I am able to rapidly source and identify trading targets to meet my requirements.
Maintaining your trading Journal: many of tomorrow’s setups and trade frames for a result continuation patterns from today’s setups and trades. Developing familiarity with stocks and ETFs that behave well is a very efficient way to generate trading ideas for tomorrow.
Mastermind sharing: by having a group of like-minded traders who share ideas and a common framework for trading the market, we are able to very efficiently generate a lot of trading ideas from various members
Staying alert in the moment: since an important part of my trading strategy on an intraday basis is to respond to existing market conditions as they change, I can say that my is an efficient way to generate trading ideas as well. My mindfulness practice includes maintaining a watch list of all my favorite stocks and ETFs sorted by daily percent gain and loss, which allows me to focus on the extreme winners and losers in order to ride momentum intraday.
I find that having about 10 tradable ideas in mind that are related to market conditions broad indexes favorite stocks and ETFs is more than sufficient to prepare me for the day ahead. Having the automatically generated daily and weekly reports adds rigor and discipline to my preparation.
Trend following is one of the most powerful practical trading strategies available to you as an individual trader. It is suitable for multiple time frames and multiple markets. In a very real sense, all trading strategies regardless of time frame incorporate some aspect trend following except for purely random entry systems.
In my own personal strategy I employ trend following in several ways:
On a weekly basis I analyze market conditions to determine what percent exposure to the markets for the following week I should have. If market conditions permit me to expose money for the week ahead, I will then allocate the appropriate amount of money into the strongest trending ETF sectors. I will use a trailing stop from the highest high while in the trade in order to preserve profits and perfect capital.
I defined the strongest of the strong ETF’s with a composite measurement of strength, consistency and volatility lesson blended into a single metric.
This exit strategy will certainly give back some profits but is a disciplined way of ensuring that I don’t exit positions too soon. It also waits to see the far side of the hill before it sells to preserve profits.
In a longer term passive asset allocation strategy, I am fully invested in a diverse set of low correlation asset classes as long as the market trend is positive, as defined by the relationship between price and the 200 day moving average. In a sense, this is trend following related to the markets overall trend. When that trend is negative, defined by price less than 200 day moving average, then I am out of a position and fully in cash.
The strategy could incorporate going short the market once the bearish trend is established on price weakness. In my personal strategy, however, I go after profits on the short side in a different manner.
In the shortest time frames strategies for trading, I am looking to capitalize on intraday trading prices in high probability setups in order to make more reward than risk in the shortest possible time.
It is fair to say that I am really looking to trend follow in all time frames that I trade.
Michael Covel’s book on trend following is the best single resource I have found on this topic. I also like Dr. Elders triple screen pattern to find high probability, high payoff opportunities in strong trends.
There are a number of ways to trader can go about gaining self-knowledge. I want to describe four important sources in this article: assessment instruments, reflective journals, traders mastermind and a trading coach. Each of these can offer important insights into your trading practice, and I recommend that traders use each of these for their self-development.
Assessment instruments: while there are many different kinds of pseudoscientific instruments out there, a couple strongly scientific instruments come to mind. The Myers-Briggs type indicator is one of the most well-known instruments self evaluated personality profiles. While there are many who dispute its claims to scientific knowledge, there is no doubt that it offers powerful insights into preferences and learning styles even if treated as a metaphorical tool. Another odd other instrument that I am fond of using is the learning styles indicator which I find particularly useful since I consider trading the markets to be an educational process of focused inquiry. Appreciating the cold learning style model will give you many useful points of departure for self discovery.
Reflective journals: I strongly recommend every trader maintain a comprehensive trade journal that can be used as evidence were behavior during the act of trading. There’s nothing more powerful than physical evidence in establishing exactly what it is that you do as a trader as opposed to what you believe you do or think you do or say you do. A reflective journal can be short annotations of standard trades patterns or can be expanded to include recordings of how you feel, what you see, with letter grades and editorial comments included. Journals offer double loop learning, which is learning about the trade as well as learning about yourself in the trade.
Traders mastermind: by having a trading tribe of like-minded practitioners who are open to observation and giving quality feedback you will be able to triangulate your behavior and performance through the eyes of respected others. In addition to being 80 high-quality social support network, you want access to excellent feedback. It is good for you to give feedback to others and not just received. That is being a good citizen.
Trading coach: this is a powerful text me for supercharging your performance by putting yourself under the watchful eyes of a coach who can help you focus on the important elements of planning, preparation and execution of your trading plan. A good coach will help us see ourselves clearly and move us to those areas where he modes need improvement. If Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan pay money for personal coaches, there must be something to it.
By incorporating some or all of these sources of insight a trader can dramatically improve his personal performance.
The short answer is: no, you cannot make a living as a mechanical trader.
In fact, you cannot make a living as any kind of trader, mechanical or otherwise.
This doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or stupid or somehow lack the qualities needed to be a success in life. It is simply a realistic appraisal of the statistics of success regarding the trading profession.
Thousands and possibly millions of people around the world have all decided one time or another to try their hand trading profession as a way of life.
They have done what you have done, which is to list their strengths and weaknesses, have some kind of market feedback to suggest to them that they could actually do this for a living, developed a plan and put it into action.
They may have received the encouragement of friends and the advice of professionals.
They may have equipped themselves with the finest hardware and software available to give them an edge.
They may have sufficiently capitalized their effort so that they can participate in markets for extended periods of time.
They researched systems that are appropriate for their personality and the kind of markets they propose to trade.
They have written business plans, rehearsed their trading strategy through simulations and prototyping with real money small position sizes.
They may have aligned themselves with a tribe of like-minded people for mutual support and multiple perspectives.
They may have equipped themselves with market insights from recognize longevity and above-average results.
They have done all of these things, and like you they have failed.
These people were not stupid, naïve, or unprofessional. They are all generally good and decent people just trying to make a living.
It’s just that the market is hard and unforgiving.
It will crush you without blinking an eye.
The guy on the other side of the trade take your money without blinking an eye no matter how unfair you feel it isor how professional you are.
He is trying to feed his family just like you were.
But you failed and he didn’t. T
he reason they succeeded and you fail, you ask?
If you fail to perform any of the good ideas earlier in this article the answer is easy. You were a naïve child unprepared for the world.
But if you were well-prepared as noted above and still feel, the answer is harder to find, and sometimes we can’t find it at all.
The market is not only stranger than we know, it’s probably stranger than we can know.
And just when you think you have it figured out after a long winning streak, and have taken on more risk than you realize because you’re hot, the new kid in town who was luckier or faster than you will take all your money and leave you crying in the street.
But maybe you are different.
Your plan is better. You are smarter. You are faster. Keep telling yourself that.
All I know is that everyone I have met who makes a living as a trader has a ruthless commitment to performance and preparation and specialization in their niche.
They are driven to succeed by an inner fire that cannot be extinguished.
They are relentless about exploiting their edge every time they see the opportunity and they do not quit until they have the prize in hand. and then they guard it as if their life depends on it.
That is who you are trading against.
Do yourself a favor and find an easier way to make a living.
Take care of your long-term investment through passive asset allocation.
But if you must trade, prepare yourself well and remember that you have been told.
Your results are entirely your responsibility.
Don’t ever forget that.
Now go trade.
In a larger sense, I think what is necessary for someone to be pure mechanical trader is that they have the confidence in their analytical judgments, confirmed the reliability of the confirmedand have identified the risk level that allows them trading system without danger of blowing up.
They are committed to periodic performance review and can approach the entire situation with analytical mind and rigor.
These would be unusual qualities for most people, but they are ideal for someone who has a good mechanical system and wants to exploit it.
Rehearals are considered to be one of the highest payoff practices in the military planning process. It’s where units develop and reinforce the patterns of action and decision-making that make all the difference in combat. Rehearsals will improve your trading practice as well, if you understand how to do them well.
There are 4 main reasons why rehearsals can improve your trading practice:
1. Practice essential tasks. By identifying the critical tasks in your systems, you can focus on the ones that contribute the most to success or failure
2. Identify weaknesses or problems in the plan. You often will not discover gaps in your logic or problems with the concept until you have “driven the route ” from start to finish from the perspective of the operator. This is especially true if you have built your plan out of component pieces, each which are individually sound, but have not yet been linked together before.
3. Coordinate subordinate element actions. When you use a building block approach to trading system development, sometimes you will discover that the sum of the parts is different than the whole. This means that there are unknown or unintended consequences of piecing things together which are not revealed until you put the plan into operation, or better yet, have a decent rehearsal to test the seams.
4. Improve understanding of the concept of operations. Once you have driven the entire plan, you will develop a sense of completeness and appreciation for its qualities or problems areas from the top down. You will be able to see the seams, where pieces come together in utual support or in sequence.
By paying close attention to your rehearsals, and making them as realistic as possible, you will be able to dramatically improve your trading practice.
Taken together with effective After Action Reviews, rehersals are an important part of your preparation phase. Time spent here will add directly to your bottom line.
Because of the concentration of confirmed cases in Mexico, the first place we could look to find a potential weakness at the open on Monday morning would be in the Mexican ETF, symbol: EWW. In fact what we saw was a gap down opening of eight percent, followed by weakness throughout the day to close down 9 1/2% for the session.
The next place that we can look is to expand our focus to the geographic region, by looking at the ETF for Latin America, symbol: ILF. As we might have suspected, Latin America was down much greater than the rest of the world also. So, we can see the connection between countries and regions very clearly here.
Mexico and Latin America are both members of what is considered to be emerging markets. This collection of countries is represented by the ETF symbol: EEM. This ETF was also down much more than the rest of the world today. What contributes to the potential weakness in emerging markets is perhaps the relatively less resourced national healthcare systems which may make emerging market countries more vulnerable to a flu epidemic than the mature first and second world countries.
Taken together, these ETF’s show us how macro economic events in the news unfold across country and regional boundaries and can help us confirm the hypothesis of tradable ideas that appear every day in the news.
By developing trading scenario ideas, the short-term trader is able to assemble a bundle of ETF’s that serve both as tradable vehicles and as research instruments. By having all of these on the trading screen it is possible to see the idea of the tradeunfold in real time right before your eyes. You can then select which of the targets is moving the most in your preferred direction and you can turn your research idea into a tradable vehicle.
By monitoring a standard set of international, regional, country and specialty ETF’s, the short-term trader is able to monitor world events and take advantage of trends in the global market.
In other articles I have considered the usefulness of selecting metaphors to help you place your trading plan in context. Metaphors are powerful devices for focusing your mind in helping provide context for complex behavior in situations where consistency and forceful action are often the critical components of success.
In this article I want to examine the usefulness of the metaphor of trading as combat to see what kinds of insights we can discover. I think you will find that it is a very useful metaphor provided you do not carry it too far.
Some of the most powerful aspects of combat are: fear, surprise, uncertainty, violence, consequences of failure, coordination, stress, leadership and emotional fatigue. Each of these aspects can easily be found inside the trading arena. I want to look more closely at fear in this article, because it is so powerful and pervasive.
Fear: it will freeze you in place when it’s time to act or it can prompt you to act when you shouldn’t. You will cloud your judgment so that you go left when you should have gone right and will cause you to question your own best judgment. Even the best laid plans, founded on the soundest principles of deliberate planning, may unravel when an unhealthy dose of fear is applied.
Facing fear, either directly or indirectly, is the first step in mastering this powerful emotion. The best way that I know to manage fear as a trader is to reduce your position size until you can trade at a level that allows you to operate with nervous energy but not outright fear.
No matter how effective and experienced you are, I think fear is an element of our trading all-time and one that we should therefore acknowledge and respect. It helps keep us humble and focused on our risk management.
Another useful technique for managing fear is to name it. By moving in the direction of the feeling of fear and putting a face and a name on it, you give yourself a handle with which to manage it delivered late.
By starting with the smaller aspects of the source of fear and learning to manage it carefully, you will soon desensitize yourself to its paralyzing aspects.
You will no longer feel the panic reaction when the environmental cues trigger the feeling because you will have the confidence to know that you can manage it.
Your effective risk management strategies will ensure that you don’t trade too large or too often. Your risk management will keep you from exploding and this can reduce an important source of your fears.
Trading with relaxed money, which is another way to say of being well capitalized and staying within your risk profile should also help reduce the source of some of your fears.
Finally, learning how to manage conditions of uncertainty will take away some of the nervousness associated with uncertainty.
Learning to recognize, acknowledge. manage and co-exist with fear will help you move beyond it to your next trading challenge.
Sociobiologists describe the formative years in the development of the human brain as the era of evolutionary adaptation. This was a period of hundreds of thousands and even millions of years in which the law of natural selection shaped and molded our brains into the marvelous workings of the adaptation that we now enjoy.
Unfortunately for traders, however, many of the behaviors and tendencies that are hardwired into our brains do not translate directly into success in the marketplace. Indeed, many evolutionary adaptations are directly opposed to our ability to routinely make money in the market.
It is very clear to me that 10 million years of evolution cannot be set aside through the simple application of catchy phrases and clever slogans. It takes long and sustained effort to begin to offset the power of evolution.
Here is an example of the kinds of problems your evolutionary brain will provide. It helps explain why it is so reliable to go against the crowd if you want to make money.
The evolutionary brain has been conditioned from an environment of scarcity. In our hunting and gathering days, it would have been a significant disadvantage to have missed an opportunity to catch a rabbit or kill a mammoth. There is a distinct advantage to being successful in each and every trade when you cannot be sure that another trade will soon come along.
The extra energy that comes from being afraid of missing the trade would have been helpful in our hunting and gathering days, but in modern markets being driven by emotions will get you killed.
When we look at the equity market as an environment of abundance, filled with infinite opportunities, we can see that it is an advantage to be able to let marginal trades go on without you. It is the panic reaction of scarcity that makes you want to chase a trait that has already department your entry zone. Chasing false breakouts is one of the most reliable ways of losing your money, yet be emotionally satisfying behavior is compelling to our evolutionary brain.
How can a trader understand and then overcome these kinds of handicaps?
For some traders the only answer is to be strictly mechanical and to program your trading behaviors into software to execute porting to the rules and nothing but the rules. Having your trades executed by a broker or an auto-broker fall into this category as well.
Discretionary traders or semi-discretionary traders must find other ways to accommodate their natural tendencies to chase every idea they see. Attention to detail, preparation, self-discipline, a trading mastermind, periodic reflection and after action reviews all will help you develop the self-discipline you need to survive and succeed in the market.
Don’t underestimate the power of the evolutionary brain.