Blog update for 2014 with my dust allergy kicking in big time

Feel like I’ve crawled across the scorching desert, through a swamp and finally blown the dust off a long buried book of magical spells to update this blog. Apologies in advance since this isn’t likely to be short… Previous update was what? Mid-way through last year >6 months ago?

Still, as I’m struggling to get to grips with the fact WordPress has also mutated, it’s worth having a bit of a review of ‘the journey so far’ for anyone picking this up from scratch.

All the funny/scary/horrendous stuff is back in entries from 2011-12 so if you want to hurl rocks or pooh start back there… mm’kay?

Most of what’s below was written in response to a notable trading person asking a really simple question… ‘How is your trading going?’ Seems innocent enough, right? Little did the poor soul know he’d receive a 8+ page response…

I also sent this to Steve at NoBrainerTrades who is also a bit of a legend. All you Price Action junkies go there and get some sanity. Really good comments/feedback I’ll update inline.

There’s several sections in here… If I was a bit smarter I’d I’ll try to split this up a bit…

The story so far… I had this great idea…

I started looking at trading for all the wrong reasons, chiefly to solve the external problem of not having enough money to meet my commitments and radically change my financial circumstances. Little did I realize when I started what a huge personal challenge this would be and the number of blind alleys I would end up running down. It seems I had have a lot of ‘stuff’ to resolve and every one of these problems made up a barrier which I have had work through to the get to the point I’ve reached now.

The silver lining in all of this has been without trading as an engine for change I doubt there would have been anything to really compel me to evolve as a person. Thanks to this pursuit I began meditating which has (on it’s own) transformed my outlook on people and life in general.

This isn’t to say I’m anywhere near ‘done’ but I’m no longer a danger to myself (in trading) and have a proper appreciation of the process I still need to go through to become a consistently profitable trader.

Working full time as a project manager does not really allow me the time to sit in front of the live market. At the moment I focus on replaying historical price moves and using these observations to further reinforce what I have been taught. 

So here follows a brief history recap, some s**t I’ve noticed and what’s currently occurring.

Year 1 (Trading is Tic-Tac-Toe)

I probably spent >9 months going in exactly the wrong direction and also bought into some ‘education’ which (it later became clear) was essentially a money making scheme for the vendor. The UK trading education market is woeful and centres around spread-betting as a ‘get rich quick’ scheme without there being anything like realistic expectations. An advantage here however is that profits from spread-betting are tax free. Still this is of no comfort if you keep getting carted every day.

So in short, no methodology, no understanding, no edge and a significant lack of any sort of process. Add in indicator madness/the search for the holy grail as well as me being convinced (at this point) of my own godlike intelligence or superiority and you’ve got a recipe for unmitigated disaster.

Happily I wasn’t in a position to damage myself too badly financially – apart from getting completely ripped off by aforementioned ‘training’ 

Year 2 (Trading is Checkers)

Moved to ‘somewhat’ acknowledge that possibly I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was and so undertook some low level studying without really having enough knowledge to structure it properly. Started to understand that my own psychology wasn’t helping me at all in my approach to the market and begun meditating on a daily basis. I still meditate every day because of the ridiculously positive effect it’s had on my life.

Was exposed to some proper traders who made it very clear that my approach was woefully inadequate and underpinned by zero knowledge. Still not really sure what I’m looking for on a chart though and unable to hold back from impulsive trading i.e. not thinking through something before hitting the buttons. Favourite approach this year? Trying to fade one way moves without an adequate understanding of why it didn’t work.

Just enough knowledge to be dangerous and overconfident but still safe due to not willing to over-commit without being consistent. Self aware enough to know that consistent isn’t on my list of trading traits at this point.

Winning consists of luck at this point and massively compromised by the fear of missing out approach

Year 3  (Trading is Chess, against yourself)

Finally hooked up with some proper education (Chris Lori) in someone who was able to teach me how to ‘see’ the market and explain what’s actually happening. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

That combined with being exposed to other real traders ideas (Tom Piccin in the UK, Anthony Drager and Mike Bellafiore’s ‘The Playbook’ and the NBT site) plus books like ‘Bounce’ and ‘Mindset’ I actually started to define the process of how to improve without cutting my own throat. More on this below.

By now I’m more interested in becoming ridiculously proficient at this craft (the journey) as opposed to fixing the external issues by some sort of force of will. Still, having learn to play chess there’s a difference between being able to play and being a master… You only get good by playing lots of games within a proper learning structure.

Year 4 (The present moment)

So at this point I’ve defined a feedback model for myself as a way of structurally driving that improvement – this is outlined below

All through the time above I’ve spent looking at FX majors since it’s actually easier to keep tabs on a half dozen of these and the associated macro drivers than attempting to capture/filter stocks/futures price moves without a significant amount of automatic filtering.

This year will be spent building my experience via historical data and continuing to add to my database/diary of trade setups. I’ve built this using Filemaker Pro because you can capture images (charts) and the context of a move rather than trying to fit this into excel or something that it’s difficult to search within…

filemaker

So with the trade/research dB I need a vastly larger sample size than I’ve currently got but I’ll give you an example of how it’s useful.

The human memory is faulty and suffers from a number of biases. You discount information you don’t like and pay more attention to things that back up a thesis. Just ask any researcher – this is the reason that academic papers require peer review.

I’ve looked at three trades in the last two weeks where I’ve spotted a good level that (imho) should produce a tradeable reaction. Each time the reversal has been front run by 4-5 pips and I’ve not got my fill. Not having a record of these types of events how am I ever going to notice this stuff of improve? My next trade I will know in advance that I need to position my limit +4 above or below what I consider to be the entry point.

Knowing and getting comfortable with this in advance makes all the difference as far as trade management is concerned. This adjustment becomes a reaction to observed market conditions rather than a knee-jerk response to something I may only have a feeling for.

Other Things I’ve learned

The more often a level is tested the weaker it gets, not stronger.

Depending on the price action prior if a level has been tested multiple times it’s more likely to fold than hold. Books, educators and many traders seem to be bought in to the idea that the more often a level is tested the more the ‘market’ will respect it. Does the door get stronger as the SWAT team is bashing it down? Nope…

Emotional Capital in trading is as important as actual capital (well for me anyway)

In fact it may be more important. If you get carted and scared the amount in your trading account and your ability to bounce back will suffer if your emotional capital/resilience is in short supply. I am dealing with this at the moment.

Prediction is for pundits and listening to (99%) of analysts is a waste of time

Having an opinion as to where USDJPY might be in 6 months is all well and fine but it needs to be underpinned by fundamentals data, caveated by possible shifts in central bank monetary policy and not a chart.

Kathy Lien’s FX market commentary is however worth it’s weight in gold if only because she clearly communicates what everyone is looking at. Kathy = legend

Patience. Do not chase price

If you missed the move at the point you wanted to get in then leave it. The bus may reverse back onto you if you chase it down the road. The reason for this is outlined below. Patience also gets you better entries.

The faster/farther price extends the weaker the move becomes, not stronger

Like a water jet the force of the move exists at the base (origin) and not 200 pips above where it broke out from.

As price extends up looking for counterparties this has an effect on orders in the market ahead of or around it and liquidity withdraws away from the spike. What happens next depends primarily on what the price driver actually was and whether you can do anything with this comes down to whether you understand the consequences in a wider context.

Price moves as a function of liquidity

I underlined this one since it’s come to underpin all my trading decisions. If I don’t understand what I’m looking at in the context of this statement then I’m not going to trade it. Thanks to Chris Lori for the lightbulb moment where I finally got this concept

I appreciate that an FX feed doesn’t contain volume data but having spent 2-3 years looking at EURUSD charts I’ve a fairly good appreciation of what/where on a chart there will be a tradeable level based on previous price movements.

Your time-frame is irrelevant (Oooh… Controversial…)

I’ve come to believe that people over-think the issue of time-frames in trading. People will say ‘oh, I only use H1 charts’ because M5 charts are all noise… Wow, really? Just think about that for a minute. Are computer models and algo’s concerned with how we humans have represented price data? What about a M24 chart? Is this more valid than an M30 chart?

The only question is this… What price is optimal to allow me to enter with a high probability that subsequently allows me to reduce my exposure to risk? After that it’s down to trade management and looking at M5 or M1 charts can really tell you a lot about where a ‘safe’ area is when moving stops.

Last one…

You are not trading the market. You are trading the traders who are trading the market

This is somewhat esoteric but this view of the market fits into my worldview nicely so I’ll include it here.

Since we’re all individuals it’s logical that we each have a perception of the world and our experience of it that is unique. No two experiences of life are the same just as no two trades or traders are the same.

We each view what unfolds through the prism of our experience, upbringing, teaching etc. and as with life so with looking at the market. This is where we have to start seeing what’s occurring from the perspective of probabilities and psychology rather than certainty and right/wrong.

If the price gets to point ‘x’ then the probability based on the psychology of the participants indicates that a reaction in a given direction is more likely and the result may well be a trade that wins for you as an individual.

This is a level of abstraction above what or how most people believe the world works let alone applying it to something else. The market doesn’t care about right or wrong in any regard since it’s only there to facilitate trade… You got your fill? Then the market did it’s job. Whatever happens next isn’t it’s concern at all

This view can be extremely useful when looking at a level that ‘everyone’ on twitter or squawk is anticipating will break. Back in October Goldman Sachs published a trade recommendation (which was made public) that called for USDJPY to break 97. This didn’t happen and we’re now banging on 106.

It really comes down to the fact that when the majority of participants expect ‘x’ and it doesn’t happen (e.g. taper as another example) then the reaction will be outsized in the other direction. Disappointment and the fear of being wrong create outsized moves.

Another way of using this is to look at a chart and ask the following question…

‘Where is everyone going to be wrong?’ Go search for Anthony Drager (ref: Market Delta) on this topic and sign up to some of his webinars – he really explains this a lot better than me.

And so to the future…

I’ve come to appreciate more and more what this pursuit of trading has done for me as a vehicle for self development. With this in mind and the structure (database) I’ve created the near term consists of looking at the markets when I have the opportunity, creating ideas and then seeing to what extent those ideas play out

Things to focus on in 2014: -

  • Execution – I am still not ‘comfortable’ putting on positions
  • Patience – especially holding on to positions longer
  • Trade management
  • More screen time
  • Resilience

Currently I don’t have the financial cushion to switch from my job to doing this full time and without something approaching consistent profitability that would indeed be foolish. It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. 

A very optimistic timeline would be 18 months before anyone sees significant progress here so don’t all get carried away now. Thanks for reading.

Trade 090613

Yep, they’re coming thick and fast now – lol

This trade was based on a lack of large sell orders at this point of the day. Price basically bleeding up following a serious gap down over Sunday night. The logic goes like this…

If you have a large sell position to execute you’re simply not going to drop this into the market on the wee hours of Monday morning after the pair has already dumped 100+ points

(Usually)

If you read ‘Markets in Profile’ or anything on auction market theory this will make perfect sense. Price auctions up looking for sellers and after a drop like this there are no sellers down here ;)

So there’s a (qualified) good chance that price will get back up to somewhere close to the top of the gap before the buy liquidity is available to mean this type of size actually gets executed… right? Right!

M5 AUDUSD 090613

Apart from the error I made which I’ve pointed out on the chart (trailing my stop too aggressively on/around my first target) I also could have waited for a better entry price.

I actually remember thinking ‘I want 0.9396 to buy this’ but then I decided not to wait and plumped for 0.9403 instead. The reason I mention this is that waiting could have meant I’d have been less jumpy with my stop and held the trade for longer.

This is all highly speculative of course but before anyone asks this was a +24 winner although yes, there was another +20 in there which I missed at one/both ends.

Right, back to work as obviously I’m still not a genius ;)

All my best – Robert

Trade 160413

Only just posting this trade from April and it’s now June… which goes to show how much time I am not devoting to this endeavor at the moment.

Complete stagnation may be something of an understatement but as previously mentioned this is mainly due to working a ridiculous amount.

So… this is probably my least stellar effort recently due to me having completely missed a key aspect of this ‘setup’ (which it isn’t really) or rather a key component in taking these types of trades so you don’t get your ass handed to you…

M5 EURUSD 160413

There’s way too much uncertainty here at this point to be trying to fade this move.

  1. Move up is +70 which isn’t generally enough to start trying to fade
  2. Not enough space/inefficiency from where I got in to the area shown in the rectangle
  3. Lack of contextual understanding… which I’ll explain below.

My observation is that multi-day ranges break from the opposite side… or to explain this another way… by the time you notice it’s in a range it’s time to start looking to buy at the BASE or sell at the TOP. I was out by about the 30 points out this cost me.

In this case I wasn’t paying a blind but of attention to the context of what I was doing.

M30 EURUSD 160413 context

The smart move would have been to sell later.

The smarter move was to actually get an idea of context and buy the retest @ 1.3110

Genius move? Buy the test of the low at 1.3030

I’ll settle for smart/patient at this point ;)

Talent is Overrated

I thought I’d post a review ’cause I’m reading this book at the moment and I’d suggest anyone who is learning to trade should read it. The basic premise is that ‘talent’ is not only over-rated in relation to becoming ridiculously good at something it in fact may not actually exist…

I’m not going to regurgitate examples from the book here (go read it for yourself) but simply state that even genius level performers got there not though some ‘divine spark’ but from deliberate practice and the development of ridiculous levels of domain knowledge.

Students of Chris Lori reading this will understand the point I’m about to make regards exercises/practice.

IF you go about looking at a singular aspect of the market in a structured and logical manner that gives you feedback then you will learn that part of what’s occurring faster and more efficiently.

If you just throw on trades and read books about trading hoping to find some sort of shortcut (and we’ve all been there) you are absolutely not using your time in an efficient manner. You could actually be wasting your time.

The kicker here is what’s called ‘deliberate practice’ and just as the name sounds boring and un-sexy this is what it is and therefore why so few people do it. The number of hours of deliberate practice you do in order to learn a skill are basically what governs your ability in that skill. The sooner you start the better you will be…

So that’s my big lesson for the week/year ;) If you’re trying to learn anything at all then I’d suggest you buy a copy of ‘Talent is Overrated’ by Geoff Colvin

Analysis 140413

Yes indeed – these posts are coming thick and FAST! (not…)

Right… Since it’s impossible to trade or even look at anything during the day I have come up with an alternate stratagem. This also stems from my complete inability to multi-task.

Through the systematic practice of ‘doing a thing’ you get better and at the very least ‘doing the homework’ ahead of the next day then checking my planning against what pans out could be a good thing.  

A couple of people I follow have mentioned going into the day with a game plan and while I can’t really watch price live I thought there’d be some benefit in putting my own levels/ideas onto a chart and seeing how they hold up. Today I am pleasantly surprised.

Actually even before I opened a EURUSD chart I went over to Forex Factory’s trusty calendar and went through last week’s data to compare the Eurozone data results with the good ‘ole US of A’s. I wanted to get a ‘sense’ of positive or negative between the two contenders before looking at a chart. My conclusion was that as a whole the euro area data had been un-inspiring or at least not positive. Depending on the weighting US data seemed positive/ok.

One clear point looking ahead was that the euro’s chief wind-piece Draghi is talking tomorrow (Tuesday) and looking on an H1 chart we’ve been sideways following an up-swing. 

So… potentially more sideways, maybe it’ll turn into a pennant but a raging attack on 1.3200 seems somewhat unlikely unless someone/something drives it up. Then I had a look on an hourly chart and marked it up thusly… (is that a word?) so this is my ‘before’ picture.

140413 EURUSD H1

I’ll not bore you to tears about it but 1.3066 was what I wrote on the chart Sunday nite and it seems to have been a key point all day.

I put in the European open, US open and EU closes in as verticals below since this helps me get an idea of the passage of time across different chart timeframes.

140413 EURUSD M5 Results

What’s pretty clear is the selling all through the US session and then withdrawal of bids just now so we’re back at the low of the range from early/mid last week of 1.3040 – Is everyone selling euro’s to meet their margin calls in Gold? Who knows ;)

I guess we could see Asia take it sideways and then back up to 1.3066 again before breaking back down but I’ve not looked at this in any detail and I’m not staying up to watch either…

As they said in ‘Stingray’… “Anything can happen in the next half hour!” G’nite!

Trade 240213

Yes, it’s been more than a month since I placed any trades = FACT! :)

In some ways this serves to make the point from the earlier (much earlier) video post that I’ve not got a great deal of time in which to actually trade and this blog will only detail trades I’ve made.

If I’m to trade with any confidence I like to have developed some ‘connection‘ to the market and this is ridiculously difficult if you’re actually working 50+ hours per week in a completely non-trading related job.

However on Sunday the ‘DOWNGRADE’ (cue dramatic music) of the UK was able to penetrate even my tired brain so along with the rest of the FX community I wondered what would happen to the good ‘ole pound on Sunday at 22:00. We were not disappointed.

So on this basis I was looking to go long for the close of the gap which is basically a play on the liquidity available in a given direction following a sharp spike down. Booyah!

240213 GBPUSD M5 Gap

So I got in just above the lower red line and the upper line was nominally my target.

The eagle eyed among you will note that I closed everything about half way between the two points but I’ll come back to that at the end of this post in what will be famously known as NOTE 1

Here’s a slightly more interesting view with annotation from an M1 chart

240213 GBPUSD M1 Gap

Now this is all well and good but at the same time I also made an error… Due to having the attention span of a drunk monkey with ADHD I saw something on twitter about a huge gap up in USDJPY which got me all excited. Rather than having a trade idea (as I did with GBP) all I had here was optimism and spangles. What I also managed to do was put my fat monkey finger on the ‘at market’ button while messing with stops/limit settings.

I ended up with this…

240213 USDJPY M1 Gap

There are so many reasons why this was a bad idea that I can’t list them all here… apart from the fact that my clumsiness got me into it in the first place. I could have had a bit more subjectivity and moved my stops then been ‘saved’ later in the morning but after grinding this out for an hour I felt that discretion was the better part of valour.

What I have rather grandly referred to as Note 1 goes as follows…

NOTE 1

Retail traders with very small accounts (of which I most definitely am one) are overwhelmingly disadvantaged by the ridiculously awful psychology associated with having no goddamn money.

There, I’ve said it out loud.

Let’s combine this fact with the other monstrous problem which is that new traders lose. You don’t know what you’re doing and are compromised (massively) by the fact that the money you have is actually important on a relative basis.

Is this anywhere near optimal? No it’s not.

To butcher a quote ‘we hold these truths to be self evident’ so the solution (having looked squarely at the problem) is to change things which means another mad work day tomorrow.

Cheers for sticking with me on this people. I’m still having fun and maybe I’m actually improving.

Trade 040113

Ah and so to new beginnings… and I’m going to clear this point up right now before anyone reads any further. Post-trade analysis is always 20-20

Which means it’s challenging to put yourself back in the moment when you placed the trade. It’s inevitable that there might well be a lot of ‘coulda/woulda/shoulda’ in these types of posts so I’m open to suggestions as to how to improve them. Comments purely along the lines of ‘that was a shit trade’ are only welcome if you can point me to your blog/analysis/audited trading results.

The intention here is for me to objectively look at what I did so I can wring all the lessons from each experience. If you feel compelled to point out a bunch of mistakes then I’m going to insist you’re not a dick about it. That was a ‘Be Nice‘ warning on behalf of the ‘Feeling Slightly Vulnerable Here’ party. Thanks for your polite consideration.

I’ve started writing this up and have also begun to realise what an awful lot of work I might have let myself in for but lets press on regardless shall we? Need a brew first though!

Trade Thesis – EURUSD

Essentially although there’s been an equity rally the euro has just not gone anywhere the last few days so I’m looking at places to get short. Based on previous observations there’s usually a reaction when price gets back to the days range pre-europe open about 06:00-07:00. in this case that’s around 1.0342 for a short.

M5 Big Picture

So the NFP number came out and it was near as dammit on expectation so there was a steady hitch up to that number. It sat in/around 1.0340 for 10 minutes without getting above 1.03048 so I did get short at 1.03042 as per my plan. Bonus points for sticking to the plan but many negative marks for not being patient enough to wait longer. If I had waited and stepped back from the trade a little things would have been much better.

My rationale for this trade was invalidated by the ‘non-miss’ nature of the unemployment number. The price behavior usually seen at this point was overcome by a larger part of the market seeing am opportunity to buy and I’d avoided an opportunity to look at the bigger picture – which I’ll get onto later. Other participants reading the situation differently meant I was going entirely in the wrong direction at this point.

Couple of execution issues also didn’t help. Firstly put my stop much, much too close to the action i.e. within the previous dealing range rather than outside it… This should have been above two dealing ranges (1.3071?) to give me some protection and I wouldn’t have gotten stopped out.

See the two boxes to the left in this screenshot to really see what I’m talking about.

M5 Big Picture order flow blocksSo with all that in mind here’s the real error from this trade. Let’s remember the retro-active analysis challenge of this type of thinking but the next screenshot is what I had put up yesterday evening when I was looking before all this happened. The box with the red line and the arrow in it was where I was expecting price to get back to before falling further…

M5 YesterdayQuite… I’d basically drawn in a line where price goes right back to 1.3090 area which is exactly what it did do this evening. I got suckered into only looking at a very, very small extract of what was happening and entirely forgot the bigger picture. All I was focused on (unfortunately) was the price in Asia pre-market and the sell off without reference to the higher time-frame.

[Hindsight warning] I should have been buying at 1.3034′s and I’d have had a defined take profit already in play. With some further thought I guess I could well have avoided this but I’m only just coming back to look at everything now rather. Still it was an interesting exercise.

The last screenshot is something I’ve just noticed while writing this which is that when the payrolls number was announced a clear trendline break occurred. Having focused only on the price from this morning without the larger context I made the wrong directional call.

M5 trendline

There you go.