Too many traders have an obsession with Winning Trades. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to some of you, but taking losses is the primary job description of a market speculator. If Losing Trades offend you or upset your emotional chemistry, if you consider “being wrong” to be a character fault or a “problem” with your trading approach, if you even think that the marketplace cares what you think or what you do, then market speculation is probably not for you. Trading is mostly an exercise of throwing mud against the wall to see what sticks – and most lumps of mud fall quickly to the floor. I have known many extremely profitable career traders over the years and very few of them have a win rate in excess of 50%. Almost to a person, these traders view taking losses (many losses) as the process of finding winners.
I am not offended by being wrong on a market call – it is absolutely not a big deal to me. It is always an amusement to me when tweeters go out of their way to remind me of bad market calls. To be a successful profit taker, a trader must first become good at taking losses. Sorry – both profits and losses are part of trading. I know of no other service similar to the Factor that provides a frank discussion of losing trades, losing days, losing weeks, losing months and even losing years (I have experienced several net losing years along the way). I am in no way embarrassed to be wrong on my market analysis or on trades.
If Losing Trades and being wrong bothers you then trading is not for you. If you become obsessed with Winning Trades and making money back in the same stock, forex pair or futures contract in which you lost capital, then you need to seriously examine if you should be involved in market speculation.
- Money management is job #1 for a trader.
- Keeping your pile of chips intact is the only thing that really matters at the end of the day. (Risk Management)
- If you think you know what a given market is going to do, you are only fooling yourself.
- Trading a market with expanded volatility but reduced liquidity is a demonstration of arrogant insanity.
- Being flat is a position.
- An obsession to always be in the market will lead to disaster – it is only a question of when.
- Being short volatility (short gamma) is akin to picking up pennies in front of a steam roller.
- Of what value is market analysis and trade selection once a trader has lost his or her trading capital.
I know my sweet spot. Every trader should strive to know his or her sweet spot. We should strive to only take a trade when the market set up is in our sweet spot. We should strive to avoid trades out of our sweet spot.
If you, as a trader, do not know your trade set up with great intimacy, then how in the world will you know if you are exercising patience and discipline?
Once you know exactly what your sweet spot is and is not, then the real challenges begin.
The real challenges for me (and it could be different for you) are different nuances of patience and discipline.
- Patience to wait for just the right set up
- Discipline to sit on the sidelines and not getting pulled into a trade that does not fully satisfy my requirements
- Discipline to pull the trigger when the right trade comes along
- Discipline to remain detached from open positions and properly manage each trade according to trade management guidelines developed over decades of market speculation
- Patience to allow a position with a substantial profit potential the room and time to bear full fruit
The above challenges are very, very real. The markets can force a trader to let his or her guard down. The markets are all about forcing traders to make mistakes. Markets are constantly luring traders with such deceptive messages as:
“Trade now and trade often”
“You’re missing out on some good moves”
“The only way to make money is to trade”
In fact, there are times when NOT trading can be the action with the best outcome. Trading just to trade often leads to drawdowns. Then comes the urge to find trades in order to recover the drawdown. Often this leads to a worse drawdown. Before a trader knows it he or she can be in a 20% to 30% or greater drawdown resulting from trades that never really qualified as trades in the first place. This is when the capital drawdown becomes a significant emotional drawdown. Vicious cycles can easily come upon us as traders.
Traders talk a lot about Trading Drawdowns. But what are they exactly? How are they measured? What do they mean? Can they be prevented? If not, how does a trader deal with them.
In the world of futures and forex, Trading drawdowns are measured based on month-end to month-end net asset value (or nominal account value). I know a number of traders who will measure drawdowns on a week-ending basis. I really do not know many traders who measure drawdown levels on a day to day basis. I was clipped today by about 170 basis points (1.7%), but that is not a drawdown. Day to day asset volatility does not represent a drawdown.
It is especially dangerous (from an emotional perspective) for novice traders to be intraday equity watchers. This is NOT a habit you want to get yourself into. As a chartist, I want to trade the charts, not my equity level. I do not want intraday — or even day to day — volatility in equity balance to affect my judgement.
I know traders who have “circuit breakers.” whereby if they reach a certain daily loss level they liquidate all positions. For me, a daily loss of 3% or more would force some examination of my positions. But, the chances are great that a daily loss of 3% of capital or more is an indication of being over leveraged, and that is a separate (but more deadly) issue.
Drawdowns are a fact of life for a trader. They happen. There will be bad days and bad weeks and bad months, and periodically even a bad year. A losing day/week/month is not an indictment against a trading plan. In fact, drawdowns are to be expected and a trader must learn to take them in stride without pulling the escape hatch whenever a position turns into a daily loser.
A benchmark metric maintained by many professional traders is their Calmar ratio. The Calmar ratio is calculated by dividing the worst drawdown (month-ending basis) into the average annual rate of return for some measure of time. A rolling three-year period is the most frequent time measure for determining Calmar. A Calmar ratio of 2.0 is considered outstanding — 3.0 is world class. Some short gamma traders (naked options sellers) can generate Calmar ratios of 5.0 or even higher — that is, until they go broke, which they eventually will.
The practical implication of a Calmar ratio of 2.0 is that to achieve an average annual ROR of 30% you will likely experience a worst-drawdown of 15% or greater (month-ending). Keep in mind that a month-ending worst drawdown of 15% probably equates to a week-ending worst drawdown of 20% or greater.
Now, if your trading approach frequently experiences daily equity swings of 3% or more, then you have some issues that need to be dealt with. But, equity swings less than 2% daily (or 5% monthly) must be expected.
If you cannot handle Trading Drawdowns, then my advice to you is simple — quit trading and take up gardening or knitting.