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Stock Market Trading Book
'It's not important whether you are right or wrong, it more important
how much you lose when you are wrong and how much money you make when
you are right.': George
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My Trading System
I am currently reading a book "Trading for a Living" by
Dr. Alexander Elder. Dr. Elder is a psychiatrist who seems to be vary
much interested in trading psychology and trading systems.
sets this book apart from most others on stock analysis is the professional
background of the author. Most investment or trading books usually
talk about trading strategies or market analysis. This book however
also focuses on often neglected component of a successful trading
system and that is psychology or behavioral part of trading. I particularly
enjoyed chapters on trading psychology and found them useful and practical.
I would strongly recommend this book to those interested in trading.
Click here for some notes or go to the bottom of this page, or best,
go out and buy this book. You may also find it on Half.com
or on eBay!
book has made me aware of some of my weaknesses and has prompted to
approach trading in a more systematic way. I want to formalize and
document my trading system so here it is.
emphasizes that a success of a trading system depends on three pillars:
I have been investing (not trading) in stocks since I was
in college. However in mid 90s, I founded a stock brokerage firm in
India and got a seat on India's biggest stock exchange. This is when
I got in close contact with functioning of a stock exchange, various
trading strategies of traders and real time stock quotes and order
executions in front of my eyes. I guess this continuous closeness
to market fluctuations and interactions with many traders (most of
them losers) attracted me and before I could realize, I was also hooked
to trading like many others. During those 3 years, I traded a lot
and lost most of the time. As Dr. Elder points out in his book, I
was an addict to trading. Like an alcoholic, I was not able to control
myself. I didn't have a formal trading system either. I wanted to
get rich quickly, but I kept losing most of the time. This was frustrating.
Many times I decided to quit the game but I could not quit either.
I was no better than an alchoholic. This is the time I moved to USA
and brought an end to my trading. (Not all
was bad in those three years. During last few months before I left
India, I came in contact with a trader. He explained me a unique trading
strategy. I was impressed by its simplicity, logic and scientific
approach. Initially I was keeping records on paper and then I learnt
PowerBuilder from a friend and created a program. If you have visited
Lessons on my Website, probably you know what I am talking about.)
I have a pretty good trading strategy (item 2 in the list above),
I lacked the other two pillars of a sound Trading System. Trading
is a short term game (rather a war between buyers and sellers) where
our emotions and money management skills play as crucial role as a
trading strategy in our success or failure. When I was trading in
India, I was a hybrid animal- some part investor and some part trader.
I would enter into a trade many (not all) times as in investor. If
the stock moves in favorable direction, like a trader, I would book
my profit. However if it went contrary to my position, I would turn
into an investor and hold on forever! So my profits were usually small
and losses were devastating. Small profits in few trades would boost
my confidence and make me feel like the smartest guy! Then I would
take a much bigger position and lose all. I guess this is not only
my story but is of most traders.
want to waste your time in my history. Following is my proposed trading
system with some inputs from above book.
- I want
to approach trading with a capital of 20,000$. This is my risk capital
and I would be comfortable even if I lose all of this money over the
- In any
trade, the maximum loss I would take is 400$ (approx. 2% of my initial
risk capital). In no circumstance I should let my losses run beyond
- I would
usually take a position that requires investment of five to ten times
the risk taken. This translates into 2,000$ to 4000$ position when risk
taken is 400$. However exception to this rule is permitted as long as
amount risked is within 400$.
- This being
my risk capital, I would let go any temptation of earning return on
it. I may keep surplus money (out of this 20k or residual amount of
it) in Money Market or in a brokerage account but would not want to
invest in stocks just for the sake of making my money work for me! This
is to make sure that I don't wear two hats at the same time- an investor's
and a trader's.
- If I start
making profit, I would withdraw profit whenever it reaches 5,000$.
- If I lose
money, I would not bring in any new fund and add this risk capital of
- I would
take a position when the expected payoffs are between two to three times
the risk taken. This means for a 400$ risk, the position should have
expected profit of around 800 to 1,200 dollars.
- I would
create a record keeping system or use a form to record every trade.
I would write down details, reasons for the trade as well as expectations
on a piece of paper before I trade. This is to make sure that I watch
my emotions as they change. As a fact, after we enter into a trade,
our attitudes and expectations often changes and most of the time we
don't even happen to notice them. This is the biggest psycholigical
trap for any investor/trader.
- When facing
a loss, I would take it before it gets bigger. I would strictly adhere
to my stoploss.
looking at a profit, I would not close the position too soon fearing
that the profit may get wiped out. I would book profit in a position
only when target is reached (think about this: try using a trailing
protective stop if you still find scope for additional gains.) or
my trading strategy has flashed a counter signal in the stock.
- I would
not let my loss in a position run beyond my initial stoploss(400$ loss).
If I found myself in a position(s) with more loss than 400$, I would
quit the game with an acknowledgment that I am not psychologically and
emotionally mature(fit) for trading stocks at this time.
- If I lose
in three consecutive positions, I would do a formal analysis of situations
in a written form before I take next position. (What went wrong? Which
were the factors behind it? What is the lesson? What will change in
- If I lose
in a position, I would not keep looking at the same stock just for an
opportunity to recover my past loss from it. Once we lose in a stock,
our emotions are likely to blur our rationality and drag us into another
wrong position in the same stock. (In behavioral finance, this is mental
accounting. Somehow we tend to recover/repeat money in the same mental
account!! We don't have to do it.)
if I succeed with a stock position, I would not keep looking at it just
to duplicate my success.
- I will
not avoid or postpone trading opportunities in order to minimize brokerage
commissions. (Also always trade with low commission brokers to minimize
brokerage and hence trading costs. However when a trading opportunity
is there, don't let it pass by just to save commissions.)
- I would
continuously watch my emotions. If I found scared, greedy, day dreaming,
too excited about a trade, position, loss or a profit, I am not a trader
material. I got to behave neutrally all the time in order to make rational
decisions. If I find emotions hard to control, I should quit trading.
confuse investing with trading. Don't trade a stock just looking at
its fundamentals, company reputation or the current price. (If this
is the case, may be invest from your investment account or funds.)
has to be a convincing reason behind a decision to create a position
this stock, why at this price and why at this time.
- Take a
position when potential rewards outweigh potential risk. An ideal position
is the one where expected payoffs are around three times the risk assumed.
This means for a 400$ risk, the position should have expected profit
of 1,200 dollars.
- Look at
the charts- last 5 days, 3 months and 6 months. Trade in a stock based
on patterns, trend lines, gaps or break outs. Avoid trading on mechanical/stochastic
indicators (Dr. Elder suggest a convincing strategy, Triple
Screen Trading System, based on mechanical indicators. Please look
at the bottom of this page for details.)
into a trade based on the signals I use. Visit http://www.geocities.com/patel_jr/StockLessons.htm
(Currently I have put 4 lessons but I intend to put them all when I
the trend you are riding approaches support or resistance, you have
two choices: either to book profit or tighten the protective stop.
- When a
chart is strong, don't run after few pennies. Believe in yourself. A
true upside breakout on a chart may not be followed by a pullback in
the range. (Think of SUNW when I tried to buy at a lower price after
a break out.)
(I am going
to put all my trades on my TradingIdeas
message board as soon as I make one. I guess if I make them public, it
would work as a control on my psychology and behavior. Also such a message
board is a good alternative to a paper based record keeping. Thank you
Disclaimer: This page is not intended
to encourage anyone to trade. This is a trading system for my personal
use and it may not be appropriate or suitable to your financial conditions,
financial objectives or circumstances. The trades I post on my message
board are for record keeping purposes and not a recommendation nor an
invitation to anyone to trade. However you may use any material on my
Website or opinions and thought on my message board if you find them suitable
and appropriate for you. You may also watch my experiments in my TradingLab
(TradingIdeas). Please remember that trading stocks is very risky and
needs a disciplined approach, self-control and significant experience.
In short, I don't know a lawyer's language nor can I hire one for this
purpose but I do want to adequately warn you. You are solely responsible
for consequences of your trading decisions.
more notes from the book:
- The best time to buy an upside breakout on a daily chart is when
your analysis of the weekly chart suggests that a new uptrend is developing.
True break outs are confirmed by heavy volume.
- Stock prices spend more time in trading ranges than in trends.Trading
in trading ranges calls for different tactics than trading in trends.
When you go long in an uptrend or short in a downtrend, you have to
give that trend a benefit of doubt and not be shaken out easily. It
pays to buckly your seat-belt and hang on for as long as the trend continues.
When you trade in a trading range, you have to be nimble and close out
your position at the slightest sign of a reversal. In trends, follow
strength and in trading rages, do opposite.
- When you want to trade in a breakout, you have to decide whether to
buy in anticipation, during a breakout or on a pullback after a valid
breakout. If possible, buy one third in each of them.
- When professionals are in doubt, they look at the big picture (weekly
or monthly chart instead of a daily), but amatures focus on short term
- What number to use for an EMA (Exponential Moving Average)? See if
you can find a cycle. If you find a 22 day cycle, use 11-day moving
average. If the cycle is 34 days, use 17-day moving average. Trouble
is, cycles keep changing their lengths.When EMA rises, trade from the
long side. If it falls, trade from the short side. When the EMA goes
flat and only wiggles a little, it identifies an aimless, trendless
- ! MACD Historgram is one of the
best tools. The slope of the Historgram is more important than its position
above or below the centerine.They are more useful in weekly charts than
in daily charts.
- ! Divergences between MACD Histogram
and prices occur only a few times a year but they give some of the most
powerful messages- "extra-strength" buy or sell signals.
" Sell short when MACD-Histogram ticks down from its second, lower
top, while prices are at a new high. Place a protective stop above the
latest high.Opposite for going long."
- ! Oscillators (RSI, ROC, Momentum,
%Williams, Stochastics) work spetacularly well in trading ranges but
they give premature and dangerous signals when a new trend erupts from
a trading range.
- ! Divergences in Oscillators are
best part of them.
- Momentum is P-Pn while ROC is P/Pn P= Price today, Pn= Price on nth
- A rule of thumb with all oscillators- when in doubt, make them shorter.
This is opposite of trend following indicators like MA, EMA, MACD etc.
- RSI= 100 - (100 /(1+RS))
Where RS = (Average of net UP closing changes for a selected number
of days)/(Average of net DOWN...)
note: use n as denominator in both averages
Screen Trading System
- Identify the weekly trend using a trend-following indicator and trade
only in its direction. (EMA, MACD, MACD Histogram, Trendline etc.)
- Apply an oscillator to a daily chart. Use daily declines during weekly
uptrends to find buying opportunities and daily rallies during weekly
downtrends to find shorting opportunities.
- Use the trailing buy-stop* technique when the weekly trend is up and
the daily oscillator is down. Use the trailing sell-stop technique when
the weekly trend is down and the daily oscillator is up.
* Place a buy order one tick above the high of the previous day.