How to Fix the Most Demoralizing Thing About Trading

Boris Schlossberg

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What the most demoralizing thing about trading?

Losing.

Losing is by far the most demoralizing aspect of trading for anyone who tries it for longer than a week. Rookie traders sometimes catch a burst of beginners luck and will make five, ten, twenty winning trades in a row -- which is just about the worst thing that can possibly happen to them -- because they will then inevitably lose it all on one single trade as they fight the market. I’ve seen it happen so many times that it is basically the trader’s version of Groundhog day.

Losing carries with it all the joy of a sucker punch in the solar plexus when it happens to you. You just can’t believe that the market could be so stupid as to (rally, dive, whipsaw -- pick your choice ) so much that it stops you out (almost inevitably to the pip of a bottom or a top).

It is certainly painful to lose the money, but the damage to your psyche is much, much worse. You start to wonder if the game is rigged, or even if it isn’t -- if you are smart enough to play it. You want to succeed but begin to question if you ever will.

Generally, there are two risk control approaches when dealing with losses. The most common one is the automatic stop loss. For example, I trade with a script that always wraps a stop and a take profit on every entry I make. That way I never, ever hold a position with open-ended risk. I may on occasion adjust my stop, but I never lift it. ( Since doing that, by the way, I have never, ever blown up any account I’ve traded).

Stop losses are ok, but they don’t remove the demoralizing factor. In fact, they can sometimes increase it. You misread the market and then wind up catching three, four, five stops in a row. The death by a thousand cuts can be as painful as the blow from a single punch.

The other approach to risk management has to do with size. Stops are for suckers some traders claim. Trade small and you can ride out almost any move against you. Your account basically acts like a rubber band -- the market throws losses at you but the account bends rather breaks as all your equity absorbs the adverse moves and waits patiently until the market turns around in your favor. So this approach can work, but only if you trade super small. Let define what small is -- that’s basically 1:1 leverage or even 1:2 leverage where you trade a 10,000 unit size for every $10,000 in your account. Let’s understand why that’s important. If you allow the trade “float” it can go against you 5% maybe even 10%. If you are floating 3 to 5 different positions at 1:1 lever you have implicitly levered up 5 times and if the trade moves against you 10%, that effectively makes it a 50% move against your equity. So trading small means trading 1:1 lever MAX.

But even if you let the trade float, you are no less protected from both the monetary or psychic risk. In fact, the WORST losses I ever incurred were the results of letting trades float. The reason is that the market, (like your siblings or your mother) will always push your buttons. As the losses mount the psychological pressure becomes more and more unbearable. This is especially so when several negative positions “add up” and begin to weigh on your equity like a boulder on your chest. When that happens, I guarantee you, you will not sleep well at night, waking up every few hours to glance at the quotes. Furthermore, no matter how small you trade, eventually you will need to cut one or several of your losing positions, generally at a massive loss that will wipe out weeks, months, sometimes even years of gains.

There is nothing more demoralizing than that.

So what’s the solution?

Use stops like you have an OCD complex AND trade ultra-small. That may not sound very satisfying. You may never make 10,000 dollars on a $1,000 account in one single well-placed trade, but trust me you WILL be able to stay in the game for years and years and will get better with every month that passes.

The key to good trading is not winning strategies or brilliant analysis -- both help -- but just mildly. The key to good trading is the speed of the recovery rate. How fast can you recover from drawdown? If you can achieve a recovery rate of one week or less -- you are on your way to success. The money will take care of itself. That’s why trading super small and stopping quickly is the better way go. And just in case you need to motivate yourself consider this.

The best hedge funds in the world do 20% per year.
If you take $10,000 make 20%/year and add $5,000 from saving to you trading pile each year you will have more than 1.5M in your account in 20 years time.

20% is equal to 2000 basis points
There are 250 trading days in a year.
That means you need to make 8bps or 8 pips each day to achieve that long term goal.

The Greatest Rally of All Time? The Day of 1987 Crash

Boris Schlossberg

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Howard Marks, the famed investor who runs more that 100 Billion at Oaktree Capital, tells a story of a phone call that changed his life. He had a conversation with Michael Milken who was just starting out as the king of junk bonds at the time. Milken told him that, “If you buy AAA or AA bonds they only have direction. If you buy single B bonds, and they survive, all the surprise will be on the upside.”

Out of that brief encounter Marks took away the lesson that all investments are about price. As he tells Business Insider, “There’s no such thing as a good investment idea, until you’ve discussed price.

Investing well is not a matter of buying good things, it’s about buying things well. And people have to understand the difference. And if you don’t understand the difference you are in big trouble.”

Mark’s observation made me think about the great stock market crash of 1987. I am embarrassed to admit that I am old enough to remember it. And ironically enough I was at Drexel Burnham Lambert, the very firm that Milken made infamous, when the crash occurred.

What very few people realize is that the 1987 crash was also the day of one of the greatest stock market rallies of all time. At around noon, after a vicious sell-off in the morning, stock staged a massive rally that brought the indices almost to breakeven. All in all, the move from the bottom to its apex was more that 200 Dow points or greater than 10% gain in matter or hours. Trader who bought the bottom and exited midday made a fortune. Of course, equities then faded into the afternoon and ended up down more than 500 points on the day or more than a 22% drop -- still the biggest one-day decline in US stock market history. But if you were a trader, there was almost as much money to be made from the long side as there was from the short side. All of which leads me to conclude that in trading just as in investing price entry is everything.

So as traders, we should banish the concept of oversold or overbought. We should stop worrying if we are aligned with trend or not. The only real question to ask whenever you make a trade is -- did I get a good entry or not? The answer to that query will determine your chance of success far more than any strategy you use.

Wanna Day Trade? Be Like Donald Trump

Boris Schlossberg

Last night as US tomahawk missiles rained on a Syrian airbase while my four-year old kept dancing around me an hour past her bedtime, and CNBC producer screamed in my ear over a poor phone connection, I felt completely calm and in control. That was particularly ironic because whole day prior I was miserable and ill at ease. The markets yesterday were flatter than a Florida landscape and I spent the entire day sulking making exactly one trade in the BK chat room.

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But now, with USDJPY dropping like a stone, I knew exactly what to do. I waited for the small, but inevitable bounce, eyeballing the levels because I didn’t have my Trendy algo turned on and fired off some sell orders across a couple of levels covering everything back for profit a few minutes later. No parent of the year awards for me, as the four-year old continued to dance happily around my office, but I had my mojo back.

What makes good day trading?

This.

What’s this?

Reacting.

Good day trading is reactive by its very essence. That’s why it defies classification. It defies “methodology” and it most certainly defies consistency. You can’t “make” $1000/day day trading. Some days you can make $3000. Some days you make nothing. Good day trading is all about synthesizing the news of the moment and then adjusting your trading approach to exploit the short-term flows in supply and demand.

If you are a positional trader you are by definition -- prognosticating. It doesn’t matter if your reasons are fundamental (Non-Farm Payrolls will be weak because ISM employment index sank 5 points) or technical (USDJPY broke 200 SMA, it’s in Elliott Wave III of abc correction, it’s bouncing off Fib resistance -- blah, blah, blah). You are trying to forecast the distant future. That is the implicit bet you are making each time you trade. Trading forces you to have an opinion on the market whether you realize it or not, and the longer your time frame, the stronger your opinion must be. That’s why it’s so hard to be a great swing trader.

Good day-traders on the other hand generally have no opinions. They look at what is happening NOW. Five minutes ago may as well be five years ago, as their focus is on the next 10 pips of profit regardless of the intellectual foundation of their views. In short, good day traders are exactly like Donald Trump -- willing to change their position on a dime and completely abandon their previous views. The very things that drive both the right wing and the left wing absolutely insane about our current President are actually qualities that we must embrace to daytrade successfully in the market.

Today, for example, I was able to avoid the massive short squeeze is USDJPY despite the fact that “job numbers were horrible and yields were low!” because I saw the pair hold the 110.20 level in post news trade and realized that shorts were in danger of getting squeezed. Did my fundamental skills honed by four years of economics at Columbia help me? Did my knowledge of pivot points, or fib lines or moving averages help me? No. It was pure price action. It was watching what was happening rather than what I thought would happen that helped me make the right decision. It was the Trumpian ability to read the “mood in the room” that kept my P/L positive today. Now that certainly may not be the right way to run a country, but it is definitely the right way to day trade.

React, don’t prognosticate.

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The Most Important Technical Indicator is… Fundamentals

Boris Schlossberg

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I am a technical trader. I trade price on the 1-minute chart, which is about as granular as you can get without becoming a high-frequency scalper. I couldn’t care less about Fibonacci levels, Gann angles, Elliott waves and any other geometric structures that traders try to graft onto what is essentially a never-ending price auction. If those tools work for you -- all the more power to you -- but I like to operate in the here and now, where my sense of the future is never more than an hour long.

I have a great new algo, called Trendy that we developed in my chat room and I am very happy to follow its signals. But Trendy, like all robots it is just an execution algorithm. Like a hunting dog, it can follow a scent but it can’t tell you if that scent will lead you to a dirty old sock or a murder weapon. Like all algos it needs to be turned on and off. It needs to be properly positioned. It needs to be … managed.

Just for fun, I let it run 24/5 on a demo account and watch it bleed money hour by hour, while I collect 20-30 pips most every day judiciously deploying five to ten times each day.

But much as I believe in the tactical value of trading price, the other day I realized that the single most important input into Trendy’s success is actually … fundamentals. Today, for example, the market gave me three good Trendy trades -- a short AUDUSD off a meh RBA interest rate statement, a long USDJPY off the burst in US yields and a short GBPUSD off Jamie Dimon’s letter about the perils of Brexit. All else was garbage, as prices weaved and bobbed and dropped and chopped producing lots of heat but little light as they say the American South.

Technical analysis tells us what IS happening. Fundamentals tell us WHY something is happening. Understanding the WHY gives us the confidence to predict that the price action in the near future. Especially if we’ve seen that pattern of behavior hundreds of times before.

Does it work all the time?

Of course not.

Another story could come by and bump our analysis out of the way. Or some large, non-price sensitive order could disrupt market flow completely and stop us out. However, on balance, this approach works 70% to 80% of the time with reasonable risk-reward ratios. That’s because instead of segregating technicals and fundamentals into two disparate disciplines, this methodology tries to synthesize the two and treats them as two sides of the same coin.

To make a successful day trade you need two things -- the price action to be moving your way and news flow to continue pushing prices it in that direction. Trading, after all, is very simple. It’s the act of predicting that price will either continue or reverse.

So instead of having never ending debates as to which method works, isn’t it better to always be aware of both technicals and fundamentals at any given moment in time so that we put the odds in our favor and make more accurate trades?

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No Bulls-t Advice for the FX Trader

Boris Schlossberg

So you want to trade FX?
Forget strategies. Forget fancy charts. Forget listening to TV talking heads like me.
If you want to have any chance at success in trading here are five simple things you need to do.

1. Get a good execution broker.

You can trade on bid-ask spreads or on raw spreads with commission. In the end, the costs all even out. The much more important question is -- how’s your execution? If your trades get slipped and even worse rejected more than once a month. Leave. Leave the broker, because they are clearly not honest or competent and eventually one or both of those sins will cost you all your money.

Speaking of money if you broker is not Licensed with one or several of the following authorities: NFA in US
FCA in UK
ASIC in Australia
MAS in Singapore
HMA in Hong Kong

Consider your money gone.

Do a simple experiment. Ask for half your account back. If it takes more than 48 hours to get your money -- leave the broker immediately.

You need to understand that brokers don’t consider your money to be yours, the moment you make a deposit they consider it to be theirs. So unless they have a regulator that makes them act as a fiduciary, your money is their money and all that trading you are doing is strictly for entertainment value -- you are never getting it back. If you are tempted by flashy offshore brokers with high leverage and tight spreads then understand that your trading is most likely imaginary. Your money is never coming back, even if you do manage to beat the market.

2. 4x for Forex

Speaking of beating the market. I had an interesting discussion last night. I was at a party with a lot of industry people including a consultant that sets up a lot of these offshore brokers. What the gentleman told me is that contrary to popular belief most of these brokers don’t even try to scam the clients. The mathematics of the FX business almost insure that 97% of traders will lose all their money. Why? Because of leverage. In FX leverage -- the ability to borrow on your account -- is astronomical. Outside of US leverage can be as high 400:1 or even 1000:1. That means you can trade 400,000 unit position on just 1000 dollars of equity. You may think that’s great but it’s actually financial suicide. Let’s just use a simple example of 100:1 leverage. If you put on a trade that size, just 1% move against you, wipes out your account. Do you know how often currencies move 1%? About 200 times per year. Do you think you can survive 200 days of 1% moves and escape whole? Let me ask you differently. Suppose I told you to run across the race track at Le Mans 200 times while the race was in progress. How confident would you be at surviving that challenge? When you are trading at 100:1 you are doing the exact same thing except with your money rather than your body. The end result is a disaster either way.

What’s the maximum leverage per trade? Four times. That’s right. That’s not a typo. Not ten times, not twenty times, not forty times. Four times -- and that is MAXIMUM not starting position. You starting leverage should be 1 or 2 times equity. That means that if your account is 10,000 the starting trade should only be 10,000 or 20,000 units.

Go ahead and snicker. But if you don’t follow that rule, the chances of you losing all your money are virtually 100%.

3. Get a Rebate
Every single broker in FX will pay you money to trade with them. They won’t tell you that up front and they may not even be willing to give it to you on an individual basis, but every broker has a rebate program that will pay you back anywhere from 0.1 to 0.5 pips back. If you do 5000 trades a year that’s 1000 pips of profit for doing nothing. That’s why you need to connect with a good introducing broker who will advise you what FX broker would be best for you. If you want some names just email me.

4. Discover Metatrader 4.

If you are trading FX on a proprietary platform rather than MT4 -- you are already at a disadvantage. MT4 is an almost universal piece of FX software that is available from any major broker. It allows you to create software programs that can trade for you. But you do not need to be a programmer to get the full value of MT4. The platform has hundreds of thousands of trading robots (called Expert Advisors) -- including those that we develop in our chat room, that can help you place trades at the right time, at the right amount and with the proper risk control. The future of life is robots. If you are not using them for trading you are already way behind all because you are subject to massive human error. You will hit the buy button instead of sell, you will buy 10 times the size you wanted and you will miss the exit price because you were looking at something else away from the screen.

Don’t worry, that’s totally normal -- we’ve all done it. But traders who trade with MT4 -- don’t do those things often, so they have an edge on you because they are making fewer mistakes. One very simple thing to do is to trade with buy/sell scripts so that any market order you place is always automatically wrapped around with a limit and a stop and never creates a risk problem for you down the road. Robots are the future and that fact is especially true in trading.

5. Get a good education (like our BK chat room) Trade with us

Yea ok, shameless self-promotion. I gave you four pieces of good advice so I get to toot my own horn a bit. Actually, it’s not even my own horn I want to toot. Most of the time I am just the sideshow in our chat room. The true value for you comes from interacting with other like-minded traders who will very often improve and refine the trading ideas and strategies that I suggest. Trading in a team environment completely transforms the game and gives you hundreds of different and creative ways to look at the market. Trading is not a solo sport. Make it a lifetime pursuit and join a team to trade with.

In FX 10 is the Magic Number

Boris Schlossberg

Over the past few weeks, I must have made more than 1000 short term trades. Some were on demos. Most were live accounts. Some trades were done on raw spread, others used a full spread broker. Here is what I discovered.

It doesn’t matter what strategy you use. It doesn’t matter if you trade chop. It doesn’t matter if you trade trend. It doesn’t matter if your spread is 0.2 wide or 1.4 wide. It doesn’t matter if your target is just 3 pips or even 1.5 or 5 or 6 or even 7 -- you can’t make money in FX day trading unless you target is 10 pips.

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The reason is -- to paraphrase Bob Dylan is that you got to pay somebody. It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, but you’ve got to pay somebody. Regardless of how you make your trade your average cost per trade is 1.5 pips (either spread or 1 pip commission + raw spread). That translates to about 15% cost of doing business.

When you factor in the vagaries of the market, the risk/reward payoffs, the various news bombs that blow up your trades, that frankly is about as much cost as you can absorb. If you go down the 5 pip level, the transaction cost becomes too large at 30%. Basically, you give up a third of your gross profit right off the bat and few businesses can survive that math over the long haul.

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10 pips is also a very reasonable distance for a day-trade. The average true range for a major pair is about 100 pips (yes, yes I know that’s wishful thinking in these low volatility times -- but it is still a decent rule of thumb). That means that a 10 pip trade is about 10% of the daily move which is very achievable 2-3 times each day. Like a perfect bowl of porridge, 10 pips is not too cool, not too hot. For those of us who like to day trade -- 10 pips is juuuuuuust right:)

As to all the snarky position traders who constantly berate day traders for just churning our accounts -- feel free to ridicule all you want, but some traders in my chat room have been trading for years with drawdown profiles of less than 10% -- and that’s basically what? -- a bad week in your world :).

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When to Trade Raw

Boris Schlossberg

With the exit of FXCM out of the US FX market, it looked like the last of the US raw price dealers was gone. Fortunately, Oanda stepped up to the plate and this week revealed that it will be rolling out raw pricing first for its FXtrade platform and then eventually for MT4. So I thought this is a perfect time to examine when traders should choose one or the other type of brokering service.

80% of the Time Markets Do Nothing -- Learn to Pull Pips from Quiet Markets

What is raw price dealing? That is simply the wholesale price feed from the Interbank market. In a dealing desk model, all retail FX brokers markup, the wholesale price feed the get from the big banks before they display it to their customers. So in the Interbank market, the EURUSD typically trades 0.1 pips wide -- a normal quote would be 1.06801 by 1.06802. Most retail dealing desk firms would quote that out as 1.06795 by 1.06809. Some might even quote 1.0679 by 1.0681.

The raw spread comes with obvious advantages. When the spread is only 0.1 pips wide versus 1.5 pips wide, it is a lot easier to get trades done. Limits get hit faster and more frequently. Stops are given more room and can sometimes even be avoided. But the raw spread trade comes with a catch. Every time you trade you have to pay commission. Typically the commission is about 1 pip round trip (half a pip to buy and half a pip to sell).

80% of the Time Markets Do Nothing -- Learn to Pull Pips from Quiet Markets

That may not sound like much, but it can quickly add up. When I traded with FXCM my monthly commissions were often larger than my profit. That’s ok when you are making money, but it can add up quickly to your costs of you are not. So we go back to the original question -- when should traders trade raw and when should they accept paying the full spread.

The answer as is the case with so many of these things is complicated and not necessarily intuitive. Generally, you would think that if you have a high-frequency strategy that requires exact execution and quick in and out tactics then trading on raw spreads would be the way to go. Not necessarily so. A high-frequency strategy is basically a massive commission generator. If you can make money on a high-frequency strategy with full spreads or even if you can break even -- the full spread broker may be a better way to go.

Let me explain why. When you pay full spread, you not only pay nothing in commissions, but you can actually -- in fact, you should by all means -- collect rebates from your broker. There are several very good IBs who will set up a rebate program for you. I work with the best in the business -- feel free to email me for info. In any case, a typical rebate is about 0.2 pip per trade. If you do 25 trades per day on NO LEVERAGE. In other words, if you have $10,000 account you trade 10,000 units per trade, then in 20 trading days, you will have earned 100 pips in rebate. That’s 1% per month or 12% per year on your account even if you fail to make one single pip.

80% of the Time Markets Do Nothing -- Learn to Pull Pips from Quiet Markets

On the other hand, if you have a strategy that trades 2-5 times per day with 10 to 20 pip targets, you are probably much better off with a raw spread strategy. That type of “in between” trading can really benefit from the raw spread difference. Let’s say you have a strategy that has a stop of -20 and a target of +15. If just one out of 20 trades flips from a loser to a winner (i.e. you avoid getting stopped on raw pricing and eventually make target or you make target on raw pricing and bank profit, but miss doing so on markup spreads then you essentially have a +35 point swing in your P/L (you make +15 and avoid losing -20) that more than makes up for the 20 pips of commission you would pay on your volume.

80% of the Time Markets Do Nothing -- Learn to Pull Pips from Quiet Markets

So trading raw versus markup is really a question of style as much as cost and every trader should consider his individual condition before making the move. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be a binary decision. Most brokers let you have both accounts and that’s probably the best way to go.

EURJPY – Gunning for 124.00?

EURJPY – Gunning for 124.00?

Boris Schlossberg

The EURJPY trade is starting to show signs of life as the pair makes a sharp bottom off the 118.00. The bounce may be reflecting the “reflation” trade as all the major central banks are now moving away from QE mode into a more normal monetary policy regime.

Today’s ECB presser highlighted the fact that the central bank looking to taper eventually, although Mr. Draghi was quick to note that the ECB saw no signs of any serious inflation in the system just yet and therefore ready to maintain the status quo. Still, the market took his words a tilt to the hawkish side and the euro has remained supported throughout the day.

Meanwhile, USDJPY continues to probe the 115.00 barrier which has acted as cement ceiling for the pair since the start of the year. If tomorrow’s NFPs prove to be as good as forecast the 115.00 figure will likely fall by the wayside and EURJPY could explode towards the 124.00 target.

How I Traded 4+Million Dollars and Never Lost More than 0.5%

Boris Schlossberg

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A few weeks ago I took about $25,000 of my retirement funds and put them into my FX day trading account (Yes such a thing is possible and even legal).

In less than 10 days of trading, I managed to do 4+ Million dollars of notional volume on the account or about 160:1 leverage off the equity base and yet… and yet… I never lost more than 0.5% of my account at any time during all this trading. That’s right. My equity -- that is the REAL money in my account never dipped by more than 125 bucks.

How is that possible?

How could I have achieved such risk control (I am up by the way on an absolute basis about 1/2 of 1 percent after two weeks of trading -- but that is not the point) with seemingly such ridiculously high leverage?

The answer is size. But not in the way you normally think of size in FX trading. Generally, when we think about margin trading we are conditioned to view leverage as a function of credit. You have $1000 dollars. In US, your broker offers you 50:1 leverage (higher elsewhere) and you can open a trade for $50,000 units. That’s classic leverage and it’s basically the crack cocaine of trading. It gets you hooked and it gets you killed -- well your money at least.

There is, however, a completely different way to achieve leverage that does not expose you to any sort of serious risk. It’s called turnover. If you have ever been in the retail business you understand the concept of inventory turnover very well. Basically, if you flip over your inventory ten times you levered your working capital by 10:1. Put simply you used the same $1000 dollars to buy $10,000 worth of merchandise.

Day trading is the exact same thing. You can lever your position by borrowing money from your broker and be at the mercy of the market, or you can lever by making lots of small but frequent trades and expose very little of your account to risk.

My average trade size on that $25,000 was only $5000.00 units. That’s right I actually traded at less than 1:1 leverage. I was UNDERLEVERED at 1:5 size. That’s why no single trade, not even ten bad trades could hurt me. Size will forgive almost all your trading sins and is far more important than any strategy you use in achieving long-term success.

Novice traders always have their priorities wrong. To stay alive and thrive in trading first things first.

Size.
Stops.
Strategy.

Get that order right and you can trade forever. Get it wrong and you’ll just be another 90 day blow up statistic in the forex market.

Oh just in case you doubt me -- here are the stats.

Screenshot 2017-03-03 12.02.54
Boris.Volume
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How Losing Makes You Win

Boris Schlossberg

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How much money should we lose?

That’s not a question that most traders ask before they press the buy/sell button, but it is perhaps the only question you need to answer if you want to trade well.

Nobody ever starts trading because they want to lose. Everyone gets involved in the markets because of the tantalizing prospect of big wins. But the reality is that most traders lose big precisely because they never think about losing properly.

If you are day trading like we do in the BK chat room, losing is simply part of each day. The more trades you take, the more stops you’ll have. That’s just the nature of the markets. The key is always to control the losses.

The first and easiest way to do that is to automatically wrap each trade with a stop and a take profit using the simple buy/sell scripts I shared a few weeks ago. Doing that will ensure that you don’t have a “dangling” order whose loss can quickly grow out of control due to some “news bomb”.

One of the most common mistakes traders make is that everyone wants to fight sentiment. When markets turn against you the universal instinct is -- “it will come back”. And 8 out 10 times it usually does. But the 20% of the time that it doesn’t, comprises 100% of the cases of all blown accounts. Having an auto stop attached goes a long way towards avoiding that nasty scenario.

The other great risk control tool is simply size. Size however is not just a function of your risk tolerance but of the frequency of trading as well. A trader who has a 10,000 account and trades once a day at 10:1 lever factor could trade 100,000 units of currency. The very same trader who day traded 10 times that day would only be allowed to trade 10,000 units per trade in order to maintain his leverage factor. This is something that most rookie traders miss completely. If you day traded 10 ten times at 100,000 units each -- your total turnover would be a 1M and you would have basically levered 100:1. (Yes I know that mathematically that is not quite true, but for trading purposes it’s much closer to the truth than not, which is why everyone should think of leverage this way)

My own personal preference is to trade no more that 1 times my equity on any given trade (that includes all the add-in positions I may employ). Generally, my starting trade on my 25,000 IRA account is 5,000 units which may be too conservative for some but suits me just fine, since I expect to make 20 trade each day (there is that frequency lever multiplier).

The very last question you want to ask yourself is how much am I willing to lose each day? Again that is a function of personal preference, but my hard rule is never more than 1% of the account. So far, I have not come close to hitting that limit (mainly because my initial opening size is small) but if I ever do -- I will close all positions and stop trading for the day.
A 1% equity stop on your account may not seem like a lot, but if your goal is to make 10 basis point per day than it is just right. In fact that is a very good rule of thumb to use. Take your daily goal target (assuming it is realistic of course) and multiply that by 10. Put a hard stop on your equity at that level and never, ever, question or doubt that move. Any loss that takes more than 10 days to recover is going to be a very difficult task to achieve. Don’t make trading any harder than it is.

Know your losses ahead of time and you will set yourself up for the wins.

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Trading Discipline? Waste of Time

Boris Schlossberg

The greatest economist that ever lived was John Maynard Keynes. (All the Austrian School economists, indulge me for a minute). But besides saving capitalism and setting the foundation for our modern world, Keynes was a damn good trader.

Here is how Keynes performed during the depth of the Great Depression managing the endowment of King College, which he managed to increase tenfold over a period of twenty years.

Keynes

As you can see, for a pointy headed academic, Keynes was a very skilled trader. One of Keynes great quotes is, “I would rather be vaguely right than precisely wrong.” That’s pretty good advice for life overall, but it’s probably the greatest trading advice ever given.

I was thinking about Keynes’s words when I was live trading in the BK Chat room during last night’s UK Retail Sales. As I was furiously moving in and out of the pound, the yen and the various pound crosses I suddenly realized that there are three very distinct states of trading. There is the ideal trading model that you develop after thousand of hours of observation and back testing. There is the live market price action that rarely corresponds to the exact parameters of the model and lastly there is the actual trading that you will do under real market conditions that will only approximate the rules of your model.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s extremely important to have all three components in order to trade successfully. You can’t trade a strategy unless the intellectual foundation is technically valid. But it is naive beyond belief, to think that having a great trading strategy is all you need to make money in the markets. The markets are designed first and foremost to wreak havoc with your strategies and force you out of your trades, usually at the worst possible time. Speculative markets are essentially nothing more than massive poker bluffing machines whose primary function is to transfer the wealth from the weak hands to the strong hands.

The easiest way to become weak is of course to over leverage your trades. But beyond that I think the other way to let the market wear you down and destroy you is by being too disciplined, by faithfully following your model on every single trade, every single day. Doing that will inevitably create two problems. After some period of time your model will begin to lose -- and no matter what you tell yourself -- just like a spouse who cheats on you -- will grow to resent your model and then doubt it and then eventually abandon it, even though in the long run it may prove to be very profitable.

So it’s actually okay to be sloppy, to be imprecise, to make mistakes. In my BK chat room I laid out my run to the 00’s model using crisp, clean instructions that looked wonderfully efficient on the chart. But of course in the mayhem that followed news trading, my execution was off, my first exit was flawed and my second exit was driven more by psychological compunction rather than proper risk control.

And yet it was perfect trading day.

We made money because I got the big thing right -- direction. And most importantly I did not fret about botched executions, or missed opportunities or unfavorable spreads. I focused on the only thing that really mattered -- where was the trade going?

And as John Maynard Keynes made perfectly clear -- in trading and in life that’s the only thing that matters.

Three Simple Questions Every Trader Should Ask At The Start of Each Week

Boris Schlossberg

Plan your trade, trade your plan is an old maxim in the markets that almost everyone ignores.

The reason is obvious, of course. Financial markets are the least predictable environment there is. Every day is different from the last and anything can happen at any given time. Executives at Amazon, for example, can predict within a few packages, the demand for some product from a particular zip code at a particular time of the day. This is especially true for highly consistent products like soap, or cereal, or shaving cream that people reorder all the time.

In real life demand for goods is remarkably consistent since it must satisfy physical needs that are inviolable. In financial markets -- especially in speculative ones -- demand is totally mercurial. If you still believe that currency markets exist to help corporations and investors to settle their cross-border transactions or that oil markets exist to help producers and consumers find a settlement price -- you are woefully naive. More than 97% of all activity in both markets is purely speculative in nature -- meaning it does not emanate from an actual economic need for the product. The average daily volume on NYMEX for crude oil is 22 Billion barrels of notional value. The actual daily demand in the real world? 80 Million barrels per day.

Whether this is good or bad is a philosophical question that I will put aside for now. But the wide gulf between how real world markets behave and how financial markets function goes a long way towards understanding why traders have such a hard time “planning” their business. The volatility of trading simply does not have any legitimate parallels in the real world which is why almost all “real world” business advice is worthless.

And yet… the longer I trade the more I begin to appreciate the value of planning. As traders, we can never expect the kind of control that real world business people enjoy, but that doesn’t mean we should operate by the seat of our pants as a result. This is especially true if you are trading some sort of systematic approach on a day trading basis. Day trading systems have the very big advantage of the law of large numbers. The more trades you make, the more likely the possibility that the large volume will smooth out the volatility spikes of the financial markets.

If you are trading a system here are three simple questions you need to ask yourself at the start of each week.

How many trades do I expect to make this week?
How many winners versus losers do I expect will occur?
What is the pip target this strategy will likely produce?

This is hardly the Big Data-regression-driven-sophisticated-stat analysis that exists in the real world, but it’s enough to ground you in making much better trading decisions for the long term. Just asking those 3 simple questions can tell you if you are overtrading or not trading enough. If the volatility of the markets is aiding or destroying your win ratios and most importantly if you are actually following the system that you claim to trade.

Setting expectations doesn’t mean that you are now a prisoner of your rules -- quite the opposite. It means that you can now exert a modicum of control over one of the most unpredictable human activities there is.