Monday, September 13, 2010

Time To Evolve... From FxReviews to MechanicalForex, a Milestone Achievement :o)

Today it's a very important day, not because of the release of another automated trading strategy or some other achievement related to Asirikuy or the development of expert advisors but because today I will be taking a huge step for this blog and - hopefully- my online presence in general. Through the past 3 years has been the home of my forex blogging efforts and after more than 500 articles and a lot of modifications it has now become evident for me that this blog and its potential have exceeded the limitations of what the blogger platform has to offer. Today I am taking a step forward and sharing with you this blog's new url : Within the following paragraphs I will also share with you the reasons why I decided to take this important decision and why I consider this a very important move for the development of this website.

Although blogger has been a very friendly, rewarding and robust blogging solution its limitations became evident as my blogging frequency increased and the number of my posts became larger. Blogger offers some great advantages, such as being free, being able to do everything easily and having the safety and reliability of Google servers to host all the data, however it fails in two main aspects that make it unsustainable in the long term for me. The first problem is the inability to customize things - which means that the platform is rather inflexible - and the second is the lack of professionalism that comes from a sub-domain of a free blogging platform.

One of the biggest problems I have faced with blogger is the inability to customize the tags and categories of my posts in a way that makes my blog easy to use. The website now has a lot of content and the limitations of the blogger interface make it very hard to reach. So what is so much content useful for if it cannot be accessed easily ? The answer is that it is simply not useful. Since a website needs to be easy to browse and things should be very easy to find, I considered this a major problem for my future developments.

Another important reason why a change was now necessary is the fact that the website is no longer mainly about the review of automated trading forex products, something which makes its name rather inaccurate. Although this was the main topic of the website for a while it is now evident - especially since I started posting daily - that we are now moving towards a much wider area where the review of commercial systems is only secondary to a much bigger goal, which is the continuous achievement of long term profitability. The website is now much more about sharing new ideas and giving advice about how to succeed with mechanical trading than about going through the endless tides of products that reach us every month from the hands of commercial EA sellers.

To solve all these problems and move forward, making my blog much more customizable, easy to navigate, accessible and professional, I decided to create a new domain - that better reflected what the website is about now - and create a whole new website powered by Wordpress. This new website is called Mechanical Forex, a website dedicated to the use, development, review and evaluation of mechanical trading strategies. A website in which the name is much more reflective of what is going on inside of it.

Thanks to some very friendly Wordpress plugins moving all my posts from blogger was a breeze (surprisingly with no broken links :o)) . However there are still some things that need fixing (for example all the links that pointed to articles within articles still point to blogger) but I am confident in that all of these problems will be solved within a few weeks (after I become more knowledgeable in wordpress). However the new Wordpress implementation carees a ton of flexibility that will also allow me to greatly improve the usability of the site, generating tags, category listings and linking systems that will be much better (a world better!) than what we currently have here in blogger.

Starting tomorrow this website will redirect to the new one and new posts will only be placed on the new site. If you are a frequent reader and you follow this blog through the RSS feed please make sure you subscribe to the new blog through any of the buttons shown on the top right. There are also some links on the top right so that you can share the website's articles on digg, stumbleupon, facebook and other social sites. If you like this website make sure you share it with other people you know who might find it useful :o)

Hopefully this new website will be a major improvement, it is definitely a milestone achievement and for me it feels like a move from a "hobby" to a much more "professional" blogger. Thank you very much again for all the support, interest and trust you have given me through all these years :o) Please leave any opinions, comments or questions you might have about the new site ! (you can leave them here or in the new website)

If you would like to learn more about automated trading and how you too can build your own mechanical systems based on sound trading strategies please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

How to Treat Forex Like a Business : Ten Things You Need To Do When You Trade

The internet is filled with people who advice and give their opinion about how others can succeed in forex trading. Many times this advice is extremely vague and does not have any practical implications with it that can actually help newer traders succeed. One of the most common examples of this is how more experienced traders tend to tell people new to the market to "treat forex like a business" while they give absolutely no specific advice on how you are supposed to do this. Sure, for successful traders this is obvious and the advice needs no further explanation - since they are already treating forex like a business - but for new traders the advice is totally meaningless since they do not know how to trade forex like a business or the steps they need to take to make this a reality.

On today's post I want to share with you 10 practical things you need to do to treat your forex trading like a business, after you do these ten things you will find that your trading will be much more organized, your goals will be much clearer and you will be on your road - or at least a much clearer path - towards long term profitability. Definitely treating your forex trading like a business is extremely important but what does this mean ? What practical decisions can you take to change the way in which you trade the forex market ? Keep reading to find out !

1. Think in terms of goals and expenses. The first change you must make is around the way in which you look at forex trading. If you are going to treat this venture like a business you need to think about it in terms of goals and expenses. In trading goals are profitability targets and expenses are both trading costs and losing trades. A great part of your success will fall into being able to look into your trading as a set of goals and expenses.

2. Determine your plan. This is perhaps the most important part of trading which is to determine how things will be done in your business. If you were opening up an aluminium can factory you would have to figure out how you are going to be making the cans, who will buy them and who your suppliers are going to be before you even think about starting your business. Forex is the same thing, you need to have a trading plan which is merely a set of rules (either mechanical or discretionary) that you will follow in your business.

3. Determine your goals based on your plan. Your plan provides the anchor which allows you to determine realistic profit targets. After you come up with a plan you need to deeply evaluate it - through reliable simulations - to obtain a given set of profit targets that you will be able to use. If your profit targets are not what you want they you can change your plan - and reevaluate it - to make them better. When you are happy with your goals, continue.

4. Determine your expenses based on your plan. The next important thing you need to do is understand what your expenses will be. What percentage of your account will you be losing in average every year before reaching your goals ? For how long will you lose that capital ? Accurately determining variables such as the maximum draw down, the average draw down period length and the probability to have a losing month are key aspects of your forex business plan.

5. Determine your capital requirements. Since you now have a plan with goals and expenses you now need to determine your capital requirements which is simply the amount of money needed to execute your plan. Certainly different trading strategies will require different amounts of money to be tradable. This also depends on the amount of money you want to make, if you are aiming to make 20K a year and your goal is 20% then investing 100K might be necessary while if the only thing you want to do is execute your strategy with the minimum possible capital you might only need 200 or 1000 USD.

6. Draw best and worst case scenarios based on your simulations. A very important thing you need to do is to come up with how future scenarios might look for your trading strategy. If your simulations were done in a reliable manner then you can use 10 year backtests to get a picture of how best and worst cases might look like. Your next year might be as profitable as the most profitable year of the past 10 years while it can also be as bad (or worse) than the worst year. Having these pictures is vital since it will allow you to see where your plan is going and if what you are experiencing is or is not normal.

7. Come up with a worst-case scenario. As in every business there can be a point when the expenses are way beyond those programmed by the plan and a change must be made in order to survive to the future. In your trading business you need to come up with a worst-case scenario so that - in case your strategy becomes too risky - you will know well before hand when to change it. I generally use two times the 10 year historical maximum draw down as my worst case scenario, something that has worked well for me.

8. Do monthly, quarterly and yearly evaluations. Another important aspect of treating trading like a business is evaluating how your business has performed in a monthly, quarterly and yearly manner. Just like all other business do you should generate reports and analyze how your strategy has performed during these time periods. It is always important to know if your expenses are what you expect from your plan (within the bound of normal draw down periods), if your goals have been met and if you have reached any of your worst case scenarios. Staying on top of your plan by evaluating it frequently is a vital part of survival.

9. Do not change your plan when it is working as planned. A big mistake - perhaps one of the biggest - new traders make is to jump away from a trader system just because profitability goals are not being met. If a trading system is losing money within the programmed expenses and the 10 year simulations you have made then there is no reason to run away from your trading plan. While your draw downs remain within what you planned when you evaluate the strategy your business is actually working as planned.

10. Do not increase your goals or your expenses. Another very common mistake made by traders who are not yet experienced at treating forex like a business is the change of their goals and expenses along the way. When a system performs well they increase the risk (to increase their profitability goals) and when it is doing badly they sometimes increase their draw down tolerance to allow the system "to recover". There is a reason why you have set goals and expenses and worst case scenarios and you should NOT change them just because of short term performance. Every change in the business plan needs a total reevaluation of goals and expenses which should always be done if any detail is changed. Committing to a set of goals and expenses and sticking to them is a big part of success.

Although the above advice is only a small part of treating forex like a business it does gather all the most important aspects you need to take into account when you want your trading to be something serious, more predictable and less emotional. Treating forex trading like a business with adequate planning, goals and expenses is a vital part of trading which most people new to the market simply ignore or are too lazy to develop. If you follow the above advice and develop a trading plan with an idea of what the behavior of your system might be then you will be miles away from the large majority of new traders.

If you would like to learn more about system evaluation and how you too can develop mechanical systems with reliable simulation results please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Revieweing Thrust VPS a New, Cheap and Reliable Option for EA Hosting

The subject of Virtual Private server hosting is a very sensitive one that affects all traders who want to use automated trading systems. Although it is possible to build a "home VPS" by setting up a raid backup server, a secondary internet connection and a large UPS this is not practical for most people and renting the service from a provider located within a data center seems like the best idea. Amongst the realms of shared VPS servers - where a single computer is shared as a host between different servers - Thrust VPS comes out as a new, fresh and reliable service that can be used by forex traders to host their metatrader 4 platforms.

There are several problems that usually happen with Virtual Private Servers that make people very reluctant to use one or another service provider. The most common complaint of traders about their VPS servers are unscheduled reboots (usually done for updates) problems accessing their platform through remote desktop and the lack of responsiveness of some support teams. I would have to say that many of these problems occur from time to time will all VPS providers and unless you are using a dedicated VPS (which is bound to be much more expensive) then you will have to deal with this if you want to have a VPS. (note however that using auto-login solutions and adequate security settings removes about 99% of these problems).

A few weeks ago I decided to try a new VPS solution in the market -called ThrustVPS - after hearing some good comments from fellow traders about their reliability, the speed of their servers and the great price. This company offers simple Windows 2008 VPS setups from 14.95 USD a month with 1GB of RAM, 30GB of disk space and 1TB of bandwidth each month. Compared to other VPS providers the amount of RAM is good but the amount of disk space and bandwidth seems rather limited, although much more than adequate for the needs of a regular metatrader 4 user.
The payment process, setup and initial configuration of the server was quite easy and fast with everything ready within almost less than 1 business day. The server response is fast and the lag towards IBFX, FXDD and Alpari UK servers is low (5-10 ms) (of course, since the server is located in the US the lag towards Alpari UK is higher). The amount of RAM promised is available for use and the load on the VPS's processor seems to be very low at almost all times. Up until now I have not experienced any reboots or any other unusual behavior that may intervene with the Metatrader 4 platforms I have loaded within it.

However you should bear in mind that ThrustVPS is a young company and VPS providers are generally very good in the beginning before they start to get a lot of customers and start to behave in a greedy way. As a company grows and more clients appear they may resort to piling up more VPS on a single computer instead of buying more hardware something that reflects in an overall reduction in performance for some users. Definitely in the beginning almost all VPS providers are this good but time will tell if they are going to keep this level of performance or if they will just start to fill their current computers with more and more VPS servers without any hardware upgrades.

However right now ThrustVPS seems like a very reliable, cheap and fresh option for people looking for a new hosting provider for their Metatrader 4 platforms. This VPS company provides us with a cheap basic VPS plan with enough RAM and disk space to load several Metatrader 4 platforms with a very fast internet connection and a reduced lag to US forex brokers. As always I advice you setup adequate security measures and an auto-login solution which are absolutely necessary for reliable trading within a VPS. Hopefully ThrustVPS will remain this reliable for years but - as I said before - we won't know this for sure until the company starts receiving more customers.

If you would like to learn more about how you can build your own trading systems to run on a VPS based on sound trading tactics with realistic risk and profit targets please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are You Backtesting Correctly ? : Six Common Technical Mistake That Will Make Your Simulations Useless

When simulating the performance of a trading strategy using historical data within the Metatrader 4 platform there are many things that you can do which will inevitably end in bad performance and unreliable results. Many of the reasons why people regard backtesting using Metatrader as unpredictable and difficult to reproduce are a consequence of one or several technical problems which can arise due to the lack of carefulness of the trader running the evaluation. Knowing about these problems and taking action so that they do not affect simulations is something necessary to arrive at reproducible and reliable results. I have proved - within several trading strategies - that simulations can be reliable and easily reproduced if special care is taken to avoid technical pitfalls.

Within the following paragraphs I will share with you the six main technical reasons why traders arrive at unreliable simulation results that greatly over or under estimate the profitability of their trading systems. These problems can be easily avoided through some simple measures that can ensure that simulations are as reliable and useful as possible. Falling into just one of these problems can cause back-testing results to be utterly meaningless so avoiding them is of primordial importance for anyone interested in the accurate evaluation of trading systems and expert advisors. These are the technical problems you might encounter :

1. Using a 4 digit broker to run simulations. Many people think that the most accurate simulation results for their systems are obtained when running backtests with their broker's Metatrader 4 platform. However they do not realize that backtesting data is ALWAYS downloaded from metaquotes servers and that the 4 digit broker data set downloaded from Metaquotes contains MANY errors which make simulations totally unreliable. There are major gaps in price in the lower time frames, many daily candles missing large segments of volume, introduction of Sunday daily candles on some years, etc. If you want your simulations to be reliable you need to use and ONLY use five digit brokers for backtesting which download the much more reliable five digit data set from metaquotes.

2. You are using the weekend spread. Another very common technical problem people come across is the running of simulations on the weekend when the spread is extremely high in some cases. When you run a simulation during the weekend using this spread values you will have much worse results than what you would have when using the regular spreads provided during the trading hours of the week. In the end you should always perform your backtests in trading hours or change the spread within the Metatrader 4 platform (we use a script in Asirikuy in order to achieve this).

3. Your strategy trades below the 1 hour chart. During the past few years I have tested and run live/back testing consistency analysis of several strategies that run within the 30 min, 15 min and 5 min time frames only to find out that their results are each and every time inconsistent with simulations. The reason why this is the case is because the lower the time frame the more prominent the effect of one minute interpolation errors when determining things such as indicator values becomes. The broker dependency also increases exponentially and when trading 5 minute charts it becomes so high that the simulations are utterly meaningless. The fact is that variability caused by broker dependency and interpolation errors within these time frames is SO high that you can have totally different results between your backtests and reality. The problem is less pronounced for the 15 minute chart and only a small effect occurs on the 30 minute chart but the problem is not almost completely eliminated until you move to at least 1 hour charts.

4. Your Take Profit and Stop Loss values are within 10 times the spread of the instrument you are trading. When you are running simulations of systems that use these type of trading obtaining reliable results is impossible, not only due to the problem with one minute interpolation errors (which for this case is huge) but because of execution variables (such as re-quotes and spread widening) which prove to be VITAL in the actual real-life profit of these strategies. If you want your simulations to mean something and provide you with some approximation to valid profit and draw down targets then your average Take Profit and Stop Loss must be above 10 times the spread.

5. You are not recalculating your data before each backtesting run. Something which is extremely important is the recalculation of data before starting each new simulation. When you load a chart or when your demo feed sends a tick to your platform there are sometimes history recalculations which corrupt your data and cause your simulations to become erratic and invalid. In order to correct this problem you must recalculate your data within the history center before running every back-test. This can be achieved by going to the one minute section of the instrument you want to recalculate within the history center and clicking the download button until it prompts you to recalculate data. Doing this ensures that your data will not suffer from corruption from your demo feed.

6. You are running a backtest over the last 1-3 months. Your historical data is composed of the data you download from Metaquotes servers and the data you obtain from your live/demo feed from your broker. The last 3 months of testing data are usually downloaded from your broker while the data before pertains to the history center. Usually if there is a time stamp mismatch between your platform's live feed and the Metaquotes data there will be massive generation of errors within the past 3 months of data as the program gets "confused" from these differences. If a chart of the instrument you want to trade shows massive gaps after you do a historical data recalculation then this is a problem. You can generally avoid this by only running backtesting that end three months before the current time.

Certainly the metatrader 4 platform has many limitations and the above restrictions limit us to the development of certain kinds of trading strategies. However this doesn't mean that simulations are unreliable but mainly that great care has to be taken in order to make the backtests reliable, reproducible and coherent with live trading results. By following all the above suggestions and avoiding this technical pitfalls you will be able to obtain reliable backtests of your trading strategies which will allow you to get a good picture of the possible long term performance of your trading strategies.

If you would like to gain a true education around automated trading systems and how you too can design strategies that achieve reliable simulations with accurate profit and draw down targets please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Friday, September 10, 2010

September Video Reviews : New Commercial Automated Trading Systems

Today I am releasing the 2nd video monthly reviews of automated trading systems. In August we saw the release of many different new trading systems, most of the expert advisors released have absolutely no proof of live trading and most of them do not even give the trader a decent glimpse at simulation results. As always there is an incredible desire of EA sellers to hide information that is easily available and to make the showing of live trading results a shadowy process based on screenshots and html statements when having transparency is as simple as offering a live, investor access verified myfxbook account.

This month we saw the release of forex bullet proof which was pushed hardly by affiliates with a massive amount of junk email being sent. After looking at the website we then find nothing but a very dangerous martingale system with very shadowy "evidence" of profitability that is certainly NOT reliable and makes us become very suspicious about the ability of this system to be profitable in the long term. Anyway, I invite you to watch this month's videos to learn more about these trading systems and the reliability of the evidence they provide.

If you are having problems watching the videos please remember that you need the free DivX codec or player available here.

Forex Bullet Proof, an unbiased review

Forex SAS, an unbiased review

Forex MeltDown, an unbiased review

Forex Morning Trade, an unbiased review

FX Wealth Machine, an unbiased review

Forex CounterAttack, an unbiased review

I hope you enjoy this week's videos. As always please remember that the burden of proof is on the seller's live accounts and NOT on your own. You should not buy any trading system out of faith and the EA sellers should ALWAYS provide reliable evidence of long term profitability. Remember that every time an EA seller avoids showing evidence, it is for a VERY good reason.

If you would like to learn how to make your own automated trading systems and gain a true education about algorithmic trading and how to design systems with realistic profit and draw down values using sound trading techniques please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Are You Up for a Challenge ? A Likely Daily Long Term Profitable System That Takes 5 Minutes a Day to Trade. Part Two -System Performance

Yesterday we talked about the use of a likely long term profitable system that takes only five minutes to trade everyday. The system is based on the following of momentum using the 10 period moving average inclination allowing us to get in early on long term trends and get profits in the long term on the EUR/USD. We discussed the system's rules including entries, exits, position sizing and accumulation of positions in favor of the trend if favorable movements happen. Another great aspect of the system we discussed - especially for busy people - is the fact that the system can be traded at the same time every single day, requiring very little time from the trader to actually execute the system.

In order to find out if this system actually has an edge and achieved long term profitability during the past 10 years of trading I carried out a simulation of this strategy by hand using Umaki and the metatrader 4 backtester. This showed me that the decision to entry/exit positions can be taken in a very small amount of time and that anyone trading this system would be able to do so every single day with just a few minutes available (I then performed a back test with the strategy coded mechanically to confirm that my results were accurate). Please take into account that the simulations were done on the EUR/USD daily charts - based only on past closed candles - making sure that backtesting interpolation errors remain to the absolute minimum. Daily simulations are most certainly back/live testing consistent due to the high reliability of this data.
So does the strategy achieve profit ? The above graph shows you the performance from January 05 2000 to June 05 2010. As you can see the system achieved profits quite consistently over the past ten years, capturing almost every major trend that developed on the EUR/USD during this whole trading period. The system took 170 positions during the past 10 years, averaging about 2 positions every three months. The average compounded yearly profit of the system is 15.85% and the standard deviation of the yearly profits is 13.41%. The best year during the test gave a profit of 35.51% while the worst one was -6.94%.
The draw down characteristics of the strategy are also very important to discuss with a maximum historical draw down of 13.81% and a maximum draw down period length equal to 554 days with an average draw down and draw down period length of 8.15% and 242 days. This gives the system a pain index value of 4.92 meaning that it will be easier to trade than the Turtle Trading system from a psychological stand point given the fact that its draw down characteristics are easier to handle.
Another very important aspect to evaluate is the distribution of monthly returns which is shown above. Months were divided into classes grouping months within a 1% profit/draw down range ((-8)-(-7)%.... 1-2%, etc) giving the final distribution shown. This analysis gives us invaluable information about the system which will help us understand how the system trades and what we can expect from it. We can see that the system took trades through only 48 of the 120 months of the test and that the probability of one of those months to come out as a winner was 45% while the probability to have losing month was higher, at 55%. However the losing months were much smaller than the winning months with the average winning month being 11.7% while the average losing month loses only -3.7%. This reflects the risk to reward ratio of this system which along the ten year testing period was a little bit above 1:3.

So what we have here is a system that will only give you trades for about 50% of the months in which you trade it, there is a higher probability that one of those months will come out as a loser but any winning month you may have will be in average three times higher than your average losing month. This behavior is classic of daily trend following systems that aim to profit from long term trends that develop on the forex market.

After this analysis I think that there are simply no excuses. The above is the first manual system - to the best of my knowledge - which only requires 5 minutes to trade everyday, is offered absolutely for free and has a full 10 year historical analysis showing you exactly what you can expect and how your performance is likely going to be in the longer term. Sure, it won't be easy to trade and you are bound to have a few losing years within a ten year period but the system will allow you to develop your trading skills and most importantly your discipline and your ability to execute a trading plan. Finally trading this will become even easier during the following months as an indicator I developed for this system will be shared in a magazine I'll be writing for from October... Stay tuned to find out more !
If you would like to learn more about other trading systems and how you too can design and trade your own mechanical trading systems knowing exactly what the average compounded yearly profit and maximum draw down figures are please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Are You Up for a Challenge ? A Likely Daily Long Term Profitable System That Takes 5 Minutes a Day to Trade. Part One - System Rules

I think it is not a secret now that I have always believed that one of the biggest problems faced by people new to automated trading - and their general lack of success - is the almost complete absence of evaluation and the use of a system that has accurate evaluation and a real statistical edge that can be used for longer profitability. This becomes evident if you start to ask traders about the long term characteristics of the systems they use or intend to use. You will find out that the large majority of people ignore the maximum draw down the draw down period lengths, the probability to have a losing or a winning month, etc. It is easy to see then why traders switch so much between different systems and why following a system is so terribly hard.

Today I want to help new traders by sharing with them a simple strategy they will be able to use everyday which is adequately evaluated and has clear long term profit and draw down expectations that have been calculated according to reliable simulations, bringing them the opportunity to trade a system knowing in advance what to expect in the long term and what difficulties they will face when trading. This system also has the advantage of taking only 5 minutes to trade everyday giving you the opportunity to rely on it if you do not have the time to be "glued to the screen" many hours everyday.

It is however clear for me to say - before I start describing the system - that the most important achievement you will get while trading this technique is most likely not going to be monetary (since the profit and risk targets are very conservative) but you will achieve a good education regarding forex trading and - most importantly - you will learn to trade a system which is likely to be extremely difficult to handle from a psychological perspective. If you want to become a better trader and polish both your psychological and trading skills then I advice you to trade this system, but do so seriously and for at least 5 years. Trading this system won't take more than 5 minutes everyday and you will learn to be disciplined and to follow a system for which the statistical expectations are clearly laid out in advance.

This trading system is a very simple trend following system designed to be used on the daily time frame only on the EUR/USD. You should check for an entry signal everyday when your broker's daily candle closes (broker must have chart without Sunday candles, you can use the WithoutSunday EA available for free online to create a chart without these). The rules are very simple :

Long Trades :

If the past 6 bars show an increase in the 10 period simple moving average indicator (average in bar 6 smaller than 5 smaller than 4 smaller than 3 smaller than 2 smaller than last closed bar) and the difference between the close of the last bar and the tenth bar in the past is larger than 3 times the past closed bar's 30 period daily ATR value then enter a long trade.The trade is entered with no TP and an SL value equal to 2 times the mentioned ATR's value.

If a long trade is opened and the last bar close is higher than the close of the bar before the last long was opened open another buy trade and move the SL of the old trades to the value of the new one (which is 2 times the ATR from its opening point). Do this to open an additional maximum of 4 positions.

If a long trade has been entered and the past 4 bars' 10 period moving average in the past show a decline ( average in bar 4 is greater than bar 3 greater than 2 greater than last closed bar) then exit all trades.
Short Trades :

If the past 6 bars show a decline in the 10 period simple moving average indicator (average in bar 6 greater than 5 greater than 4 greater than 3 greater than 2 greater than last closed bar) and the difference between the close of the last bar and the tenth bar in the past is larger than 3 times the past closed bar's 23 period daily ATR value then enter a short trade. The trade is entered with no TP and an SL value equal to 2 times the mentioned ATR's value.

If a short trade is opened and the last bar close is lower than the close of the bar before the last short was opened open another short trade and move the SL of the old trades to the value of the new one (which is 2 times the ATR from its opening point). Do this to open an additional maximum of 4 positions.

If a short trade has been entered and the past 4 bars' 10 period moving average in the past show an increase (average in bar 4 is smaller than bar 3 smaller than 2 smaller than last closed bar) then exit all trades.
Lot Sizing

The lot size is defined by a very simple equation outlined below. This equation adjusts lot size against market volatility and account equity.

Lot size = 0.01*AccountBalance/(ATR*ContractSize)

The ATR is the value of the 30 period ATR as calculated on last bar's close. (ATR of the last closed bar) (value of the ATR as absolute price, (for example 0.0102)). The contract size is the contract size per STANDARD lot.

As you see the system is very simple and the entries can be checked very easily using just 5 minutes of your time everyday. Unlike other trading strategies with a similar approach - like the turtle trading system - this strategy does not require you to be constantly monitoring the market for breakouts and the addition of positions but it works your way so that every trading decision is executed at the exact same time each day - what I would call a perfect system for a beginning trader busy with a full time job.

On tomorrow's post we will learn more about this trading strategy as well as its results over 10 years of simulations, we will talk about the challenges this strategy poses to traders, the rewards you would expect to get and why challenging yourself to trade this everyday (even if only on a small 100 USD live account) will prove to be extremely beneficial in the long term not only regarding possible profits but also regarding what you will learn from both yourself and your psychological characteristics as a trader.

If you would like to learn more about how strategies like this can be turned into mechanical systems for their accurate evaluation and analysis please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Elegant Automated Trading Systems : A Key to Success in Mechanical Trading

Even though there are many ways in which you can define successful automated trading systems I think that the word that describes them best is : elegant. While the large majority of traders seek systems that promise -and yet don't deliver- massive amounts of profit those few of us who succeed by using automated trading systems have done so through the creation of systems that fulfill a series of very simple characteristics that make them robust, reliable and likely to succeed as market conditions change. On today's post I want to share with you the characteristic of elegant systems and how this type of mechanical solutions are one of the many ways in which traders can actually find long term success in forex trading.

What is an elegant system ? To put it simply, elegant trading systems are those which are extremely simple regarding their coding and trading logic and yet extremely rich and deep in regards to the market inefficiencies they exploit. For example Watukushay FE, a trading system I developed which is available for free ( uses a trading tactic that focuses around the RSI. The whole entry, exit and lot sizing aspects of this system can be coded within less than 50 lines of code, however the system exploits a very deeply meaningful aspect of market behavior that makes it extremely deep in meaning.

Watukushay FE is therefore a perfect example of what I consider an elegant trading system. You have a system that seems extremely simple but within it there is a very large amount of understanding and the solution to many important problems faced by mechanical trading systems. For example, Watukushay FE adapts its position sizes and exits against changing market conditions as well as using an internal closing mechanism to cut losses short and let profits run. This system contains within it the ability to follow trends, enter trends upon retracements and adapt to changes in market conditions all within a very simple coding framework. Watukushay FE shows you that it is meaning and NOT complexity what is bound to make trading system successful.

There are also many other advantages inherent to simplicity that make "elegant systems" much more robust and reliable than other more complex implementations. One of the biggest advantages of this type of systems and their low level of coding complexity is the fact that curve fitting them to past market conditions becomes very hard since the number of parameters - and the way in which they affect performance - is very limited. A simple system like Watukushay FE that works along a 10 year backtesting period shows that simplicity is able to maintain profitability amongst very varied sets of different market conditions.

In the future when you start developing your own automated trading systems bear in mind then that the complexity has to be within the amount of problems solved by the system and not by the amount of lines of code or indicators used by the system. The idea here is that complexity must be an inherent characteristic of what the system is doing and not of how it is being done. So even though the techniques used by Watukushay FE - for example- are exceedingly simple, they solve a very wide array of complex problems encountered in mechanical trading system development.

If you would like to learn more about automated trading system development and gain a true understanding and education regarding their use and development please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Confused by Your Charts ? How About Trying a Simple Line Chart for Trading ?

There is a very common term used in trading called "paralysis by analysis". This is what happens to someone who is so overwhelmed by the amount of information on their screen that they are unable to make decisions regarding whether or not to trade. This is something that happens to every trader at some point in their career, a fruit of the desire to get very good entries without having significant risk. Usually people who suffer from this paralysis will have dozens of indicators loaded on their charts with a lot of contradictory signals that are difficult - if not actually impossible - to interpret in a meaningful and useful way to actually enter and exit trading positions. On today's post I want to talk about a way in which you can tackle paralysis by analysis and restart your trading in the simplest of ways. Through this post you will learn what I have learned works best to eliminate "paralysis by analysis".

You start your trading day and your screen is filled with indicators and clutter. The obviously beautiful layouts, tons of trend lines, support and resistance levels and indicators are nice to look at but interpreting what they say is difficult. You have a 20 period RSI giving a signal that you would normally take but you do not do so because you have a 100 MA that contradicts what it has to say as well as a Parabolic Sar indicator and a candlestick pattern formation you don't like at all. Even though the setup is pretty good you do not take it because you are paralyzed by the amount of technical data you are having to analyze. You have been officially paralyzed by your own analysis.

This "paralysis by analysis" is far more common that what people usually think it is. It happens especially to traders who have been into trading between 6 months and one year which is the period in which people become a little bit obsessed with perfecting their entry techniques (from what I have seen at least). Paralysis by analysis is not good as it is usually a symptom of lack of confidence and the need to have what people believe are "high probability setups" by putting up as many signals as possible together. Traders who get paralyzed usually believe that they need to see "agreement" between many different indicators and that this - in itself - will provide them with the statistical edge they need.

If you feel you are in this situation, then you need to make a change. When I got paralyzed by my analysis I found out that the absolutely best solution was to go back to the simplest form of a trading chart, the simple line chart. This is a setup that shows you price action merely as a line moving on your screen, it is fantastically easy to interpret and it shows support and resistance levels with a clarity that is not rivaled by any other type of chart (perhaps only by renko charts). The simple line chart easily allows you to determine where price is headed and to draw support and resistance levels without breaking a sweat. Below you can see an example of this.
The main advantage of the simple line chart over other types of charts used in trading is that it is extremely simple. Even though price action may seem difficult to follow and price patterns hard to spot and interpret on a candlestick or similar chart, on a simple line chart such things as price patterns and price direction simply jump off the screen. Traders usually do not resort to a line chart because they consider them exceedingly simple and "lacking" in the amount of information they give them regarding price action movements but the truth is that line charts offer you one of the clearest pictures of overall market action and - most importantly to new traders - it is the most intuitive chart to interpret.

While spotting trends and support and resistance levels on a candlestick chart can be harder, doing so in a line chart is totally easy as these things are evident most of the time. For this reason I have found that for traders suffering from paralysis by analysis, the line chart provides an extremely valuable tool to get rid of all the analysis tools and come back to what actually matters in trading, price action.
So even though simple line charts are no miracle tool and they won't make you a profitable trader on their own they will provide you with a very clear, simple and effective analysis tool that will greatly help you improve your trading and remove any paralysis you might actually have that could be eliminating your ability to trade in a reliable and long term effective manner.

If you however would like to learn more about my work in automated trading systems and gain a true education in their use and design please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Five Steps to Build a Forex Trading Plan : What Every Trader Should Now

When you go online and start searching for ways in which to become profitable as a forex trader you soon realize that the internet is filled with what seems like very meaningful yet hollow advice. People around forums and educational websites will tell you several key points of advice such as "plan your trade, trade your plan", "cut your loses short" and "follow the trend" but they always fall short of telling you any practical ways in order to achieve the above mentioned objectives. This is one of the main reasons why it is so terribly hard for new traders to achieve success, there is an inherent lack of practical advice online which means that most traders have to learn how to do things from experience, a very lengthy and painful process that usually carries with it a lot of financial loss and frustration.

On today's post I want to make this easier for those out there who have just started or those who are still looking for some guidance in how to become profitable in the long term. In the following paragraphs I am going to highlight the first five practical steps you should go through when building a trading plan. I can guarantee that if you follow these steps it will be much easier for you to become profitable since you will gain a deeper level of understanding of what you are doing and what the outcomes of your trades will possibly be.

But what is a trading plan ? A trading plan is merely a set of rules that allow a trader to make decisions under any possible set of conditions. I allows you to remove emotions from trading and to be able to face different circumstances knowing what you will do in advance independent of the way in which market movements develop. Having a trading plan is the first key to success in trading since it allows you to tackle the market without surprises and without using your emotions when your knowledge fails. Since a trading plan covers all possible scenarios, emotions can be left out completely. How do you come up and make a trading plan ? Keep reading to find out.

Step 1. Figure out the type of market movement you want to capture. The first thing you need to do is figure out what type of movement you will attempt to exploit for profits. Here you need to take into account the amount of free time you have and the amount of stress you can withstand. If you cannot stare at the screen 12 hours a day choosing small time frames will be a bad idea. In general I advice new traders to use the 4 hour or daily time frames as these allow them to have a trading plan that only requires them to be in front of the computer an hour or just a few minutes each day. Aiming for daily or 4 hour trends is a good way to start as a trader.

Step 2. Design your first entry logic. Analyze several trades you would have liked to get into and come up with an entry logic that would allow you to get into the market on those trades. Now you need to take that logic and EVALUATE it over extensive periods of time (5-10 years) so that you can know if your entry does indeed have a positive mathematical expectancy. On this first analysis you merely want to see if price does move in your favor and for how much it moves in your favor when entering trades based on this criteria. The main reason why new traders never use systems that work and second-guess their systems all the time is their lack of statistical analysis. Many traders use systems that don't even have an edge over their entries without ever realizing that this is the case. If you use something that is doomed to fail for the beginning your chance of success will be easily reduces. If you are a manual trader you should consider getting Umaki to help you backtest your discretionary strategy over a long period of time.

Step 3. Make sure your systems is not static. Now that you are going to design the exits for your system you should take into account that systems that are static (for example a system that uses a 20 pip stop loss and a 100 pip take profit) almost always fail as market conditions change since their ability to adapt to the way in which market volatility fluctuates is nonexistent. Your exits should be dynamic (based on indicators or discretionary criteria (S&R levels for example). You can also use volatility adjusted fixed TP and SL levels if you want to or you can design these levels around support and resistance levels (this is the best solution if you are designing a discretionary strategy).

Step 4. Design Exits and Lot sizing. After coming up with an entry logic that has a positive mathematical expectancy in the long term you should now design and evaluate exit and lot sizing criteria to exploit this inefficiency. Since you have already done an analysis of where price goes in average once you enter a trade some exits will be obvious to you. For example price may tend to rally up to the next important support or resistance level or it may go in your favor 50% of the daily range. Once you have an initial mathematical expectancy analysis coming up with exits won't be very hard and it will allow you to build discretionary or mechanical exit points that will work with your strategy.

Step 5. Understand the Risk and Profit characteristics of your plan. The large majority of new traders start trading systems for which the profit and draw down characteristics are absolutely unknown. I have always been amazed at how people can trade a strategy without the slightest idea of how deep draw down periods will be, how monthly returns are distributed or what draw down level will suggest that the plan is no longer working. The MOST IMPORTANT THING you need to do is to evaluate your plan through a LONG period of historical testing so that you know what you will be facing.

In the end your ability to succeed in trading will depend simply on how sound your trading plan is and how capable you are of executing what you have designed. If you have designed your trading plan correctly you can then answer simple questions like :
  • What is your expected maximum draw down ?
  • What is the average draw down period length ?
  • What is the distribution of monthly returns expected to be ?
  • What is the average compounded yearly profit ?
  • What is the probability to have a winning or a losing month ?
If you are unable to answer the above mentioned questions then your trading plan is currently flawed or at least you have not evaluated or understood it very well. Understanding of what you are trading is VITAL for success and failing to know if your trading plan does indeed have a statistical edge and a possibility to survive in the long term will mark a constant failure for most traders. My advice is therefore simple, develop a plan you KNOW has a positive statistical edge, a plan you know and a plan you understand fully from a statistical point of view.

If you would like to learn more about trading plans and how you too can develop mechanical trading systems with a full evaluation of all their statistical characteristics please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Being Close Minded and Being Cautious, Two Very Different Things

I consider myself an investor in the sense that I do not take decisions regarding my trading very lightly, every time I decide to run a system on one of my personal or managed accounts I always take as many steps as possible to ensure that capital preservation and low risk will be the highest priorities. Of course, many people - especially those newer to the scene - view this as being "close minded" and having problems dealing and implementing new ideas. On today's post I want to write a few paragraphs about the difference between being close minded (which refers to being unable to embrace new ideas) and being cautious (taking care of one's capital and risk taking levels). In the end I hope that you will see how both of these things are completely different and how one does not necessarily imply the other.

So why do people view conservative traders as being "close minded" ? The answer to this questions is actually not that complex and goes into the way in which new and experienced traders view trading and how they differ in the way in which they approach their trading accounts and the way in which they trade this money. For new traders there seems to be an urge to gain high returns with small amounts of money, something which is very understandable and aligns perfectly with all the hype and risk taking that can go on with small amounts of money. Since the amounts of money risked by new traders are usually small the sense that the potential reward is much higher than the potential risk is very important.

You will see that new traders will be very easily convinced to use any trading tactic that promises large returns, merely due to the fact that the balance of possible benefit and loss is heavily tilted towards the rewarding side. New traders are therefore much more likely to try new trading tactics which don't have proved long term profitability in order to face the potential and very tempting reward. On the other hand, experienced traders are very reluctant to trade anything that has yet not shown long term profitability because the stakes are - in most cases - much higher (in absolute money terms).

Experienced traders also have an advantage here regarding the number of systems they have seen in the past and which ones they have seen succeed and fail as the years have gone by. Most professional traders will know that certain systems are - by experience - very bad ideas while others are more sound approaches. The answer of new traders to this argument is generally that the fact that no one has done it doesn't mean it cannot be done, which is a valid, yet dangerous argument.
Professional traders are more focused in the long term ability of their systems to succeed while new traders are more comfortable in using new systems which have a very high probability of failing. In the end it is not that professional traders are unable to embrace new ideas, it is simply that they require these ideas to be put to the test rigorously since every time they have been used they have shown to fail in the long term. This is analogous to the people who attempt to build perpetual motions machines, which would violate the laws of thermodynamics. Since these laws are based on vast amounts of observational data for which an exception to the rules has never been found, there must be an overwhelming and convincing amount of experimental evidence to disprove any of them. In the end the people who do not attempt to build perpetual motion machines are not "close minded" they just know that the laws of thermodynamics work on all the observations of our universe that have been made and therefore such an endeavor is most likely a waste of time.

In trading things work the same way. Conservative traders do not develop martingales and scalpers with very bad risk to reward ratios because they know that these systems have always failed in the long term, even if there is no absolute proof saying that a very profitable scalper or martingale cannot be made, professionals know that this is most likely a complete waste of time since from a very large amount of attempts, none have succeeded. It is not that conservative traders are "close minded" since they will eagerly test new ideas which have not proved to fail so dramatically during the past, it is merely that they are being careful and applying the experience most traders have had in order to trade only systems that can reward them in the long term.

So in the end it is not a matter of traders being "close minded" when they do not embrace ideas that seem to put extreme amounts of risk on equity, it is merely that these same ideas have already shown to fail time and time again in the past. It is therefore not a matter of being "close minded" but a matter of being cautious aiming to put your money in the hands of trading systems that are likely going to work for you in the long term. Where would you rather put your money, in a new company that promises you 100% returns each month (knowing that all of these companies in the past have turned out to be ponzies) or into an investment fund that has given its customers an average 15% compounded yearly profit during the past twenty years ? The same applies to choosing trading systems for your forex account.

If you would like to learn more about how you too can build and design your own trading systems with sound trading tactics that are likely to work in the long term please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Why are Five Years Statistically Significant for the Evaluation of Trading Systems ?

Every time someone asks me what I consider to be the minimum necessary period to evaluate a trading system to know if it has a chance of being profitable under future market conditions I unequivocally say "five years". However - although I have explained vaguely in the past why - I have never written a precise explanation that tells people exactly why this is the case and why systems evaluated over at least 5 years have a better chance of surviving than those evaluated over a 1 or a 2 year period. Through the following paragraphs I will tell you the reasons why this is the case and why using this as a minimum period of evaluation guarantees that systems will have a certain degree of adaptability and the possibility to survive to future market conditions.

The first thing we need to ask to understand the 5 years argument is : What changes when market conditions change ? When you analyze any trading instrument and look for changes in the different quantitative characteristics of the market you will notice that changes in market conditions are usually accompanied by changes in volume. This happens mainly because market participants trade more under rough market conditions and less and more orderly under growing market conditions. In the end what you have in an economic cycle is a series of cycles in volume. Since volume is proportional volatility (which is just a way to measure the length of the movements within an instrument) we find that volatility changes as market conditions change. Generally markets in which the economy is growing are steady and quite non volatile while markets where there is a lot of economic turmoil are extremely volatile.

If we then consider that changes in market conditions correspond to changes in volatility then in order to have a sufficient variety of market conditions for the evaluation of a trading strategy we need to have a large enough amount of change in longer term volatility. When you look at the daily or weekly charts of any given instrument, you will notice that volatility within most years tends to change very little while periods of 5 years usually contain large changes in volatility. The graph shown below of the EUR/USD weekly chart clearly shows you the changes in volatility during the past 10 years (as the 14 period ATR indicator). You can see how any given one year period has an almost static volatility while periods of several years, especially 5, have large changes in volatility.
The period of 5 years comes from an analysis about these variations in volatility. If we take a look at any instrument and consider the time it takes for an instrument to go from its average level of volatility to a new high and a new low and return to the original level we find that this period is roughly 5 years (like how it is shown above). This means that after a period of five years there is a large amount of different market conditions that a system needs to tackle if it wants to be successful. Therefore a system that survives to testing periods of more than 5 years has a high like hood of surviving to changes in market conditions in the future since it contains - within itself - the capability to adapt to changes in market conditions.

Of course, a 5 years period does not implicitly guarantee that any given system will be able to achieve success in the future since the market can change further or at a faster phase than what the system sustained during that 5 year testing period. However it is true that to survive profitably through such a long period a system needs to have some degree of adaptability that is not necessary to survive to shorter testing periods when hardly any changes in volatility happen during most years. It is for this reason that evaluation of strategies through prolonged periods of time is necessary since short tests of just a few years may only show how the system behaves under some very specific market scenarios. Of course, the longer the period you use for your tests and the larger the overall chances in volatility, the more robust your system will need to be.

If you would like to learn more about the evaluation of automated trading systems and how you can evaluate and create your own systems that return profits after 10 years of evaluation without exploiting any backtesting faults please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New CFTC Rules : What They Mean and What They Try to Achieve

During the past few days one of the most important news in the forex market has been the introduction of some new regulations by the CFTC which will become effective before November the first. These new regulations include a lot of modifications to the way in which forex trading is currently done, particularly regarding leverage and broker regulations. On the next few paragraphs I will discuss with you what these new rules mean, the restrictions they pose on US traders and the potential effect they may have in the short and longer term for people trading from US territory.

So what is the CFTC ? The Commodity Futures Trading Commission is an agency which is responsible for the regulation of certain trading bodies within the US. The CFTC deals with the regulation of all non-bank foreign exchange trading entities, something which includes non-bank forex brokers such as FXCM, and IBFX. The CFTC had been thinking about restructuring regulations pertaining to these forex brokers for the past year, particularly because they considered the market to be extremely dangerous for retail traders as a very large number of them lose their investment, something which is evidently detrimental for the community in general. The CFTC was also worried about broker funding requirements and other such rules that were just too "loose" and showed a lack of protection for the safety of traders' capital.

Regarding brokers and the protection of retail traders, the CFTC decided to reduce leverage from the previous 1:100 level to a maximum level of 1:50 for majors and 1:20 for minors. This means that if you previously needed only 10 USD to open a 0.01 lot position now you will need 20 USD. Personally I believe that this level is sound and allows most people who use scalping or such other "fast positioning" trading techniques to remain profitable while it also protects new traders from taking extremely large positions and wiping their accounts. From my personal perspective this change in leverage is not that important as my systems can work with levels of leverage as low as 1:5 without having to increase capital requirements. This is due to the fact that small amounts of equity are risked over large movements so small lot sizes are always used.

Many people think this change in leverage is unfair and that it is unjustified as the government has "no business" in controlling how people wish to invest their money or how they handle those investments. The truth however is that when so many "little guys" are losing their money in a manner that is easily preventable it makes sense to change this so that these guys are protected more. Certainly the government does not try here to "protect people from their stupidity" but they just act according to the facts. If 90% of the cars on the street caused people serious injury the government would certainly do something about it, this is also true about forex trading.

There are also some other provisions of the CFTC rules that are good and some others that should cause warning to traders -especially US traders - who trade strategies that require these high levels of leverage or the use of other non-compliant features (such as hedging or lack of FIFO). The CFTC has increased the minimum necessary capital for brokers to start at 10 million dollars (a sound decision) but it has also left an ambiguous road related to whether or not US traders can open accounts in off-shore brokers. If you take the regulations literally - which is the only way to take them I guess - then US traders will not be able to open up accounts with brokers anywhere else except on US soil since the government only considers CFTC regulated brokers legal for US citizens from now on.

This means that if you are currently living in the US you will probably be restricted in the future to trade only on brokers that have no hedging, obey the FIFO rule and are restricted to a 1:50 leverage. This does not mean that profiting will become impossible, since certainly there are many strategies that can be successful using these rules but it will certainly mean that many traders who rely on strategies that do not obey these rules will have some trouble finding a way in which to get their profit. Traders using off-shore brokers (which would probably be the less-ideal brokers since the larger ones will probably stop receiving US citizens due to these regulations) will probably face account freezing and civil prosecution if they reach certain transaction volumes or if the rules are enforced very strongly.

To people trading Asirikuy systems or Watukushay FE, there is no need to worry, as I said before the systems currently trade with very small lot size relative to account size and for this reason they are safe to use under these new CFTC regulations. I personally believe that current CFTC regulations do have the larger amount of new retail traders in mind and that the people who will benefit from these changes are much larger than those that will be unable to profit or those who will lose their ability to live from trading. In the end - although these regulations may make trading harder for some - it is very achievable to profit under these rules (and probably mush harsher ones) using longer term systems as the ones we trade at Asirikuy.

Do you have any opinion about the new regulations ? How do they affect your trading ? Would you be concerned if you lost your ability to trade on non-NFA brokers ? Please leave a comment with your opinion so that we can further discuss this very important matter :o)

If you would like to learn more about mechanical trading and how you too can use likely long term profitable systems that need low leverage please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The September Effect : The Ghost Around the Corner ?

Today we have started the month of September, a month which is usually filled with interesting and decisive economic movements that have very important consequences in the long term for the world's largest economies. What is so special about the month of September ? What is the "September effect" market analysts talk about ? On today's post I will talk a little bit about September trading and the movements that usually take place within this month, I will explain what the September effect is and what it means to the regular world citizen and - more importantly - to the professional forex trader.

September has many unique characteristics that make it an important month, above all others its most important quality seems to be that it is the first month after summer trading and the first month of the last quarter of the year. This means that a combination of factors happen within September that are not present in any other month. First of all, this month starts right after the release of the third quarter's economic data and second, it happens after a regular decrease in volume over the summer trading months. This means that September usually sees a large increase in volume when compared to August, most of the time accompanied by important directionality since institutional traders adjust their positions to whatever economic news were released in the previous 2-3 months.

However this inherent qualities of September are not - by themselves - what market analysts call the "September effect". This phenomena has a much darker side which is related to the fact that September has always seen the beginning of major economic depression and recession periods in the United States. Since September sees a surge in volume with high directionality it is easy to see why panics can easily happen and lead to sell-offs during this and the following months if sentiment and risk aversion are at the right place. The "September effect" has earned its name based on the economic data of the past 150 years, the crisis in the end of the nineteen century, the 1929 depression, the 1987 stock crash and the 2008 global crisis all began in the month of September.

After the United States went through several market cycles that seemed to reach abrupt and dramatic ends in September, it seems that this is not a mere coincidence but the consequence of a series of factors that caused this to happen. What is important right now - under our current economic conditions - is if we will see a double dip (a second recession period) this year as a consequence of deteriorating conditions in the US. Definitely September is not a very good month to get into buy and hold assets (like stocks) since -if a recession is bound to happen - it would start in September and we would be getting into these assets at their highest price before they drop like a rock when risk aversion peaks and we see massive sell-offs in these markets.

The most prudent position for longer term buy and hold investments right now is to remain on the sidelines - until calmer months like November arrive - and to focus on investments that could potentially get profit if such a breakdown period starts (not trying to predict that it will start but getting in quickly if it does). In forex trading we get a very good opportunity to do this since a surge in risk aversion and massive sell-offs in the stock market trigger massive buying of US safe haven assets (government issued bonds) that require exchanging foreign currency to US dollars. So in the end- for us in forex trading- sell-offs in the stock market are a good thing in the sense that they mean strong directionality and an almost always easy opportunity to profit from these massive trends.

It is interesting how most commercial system sellers take praise in the fact that their systems "survived" the 2008 economic crisis when this was one of the most profitable and easiest to trade periods for almost all the mechanical systems out there. Trend following systems - like those in Asirikuy - would have made very large amounts of money within that very directional market. In the end what matters to us in forex is directionality and this type of periods allow us to take advantage of fast-developing and "easy-to-follow" market conditions.

Of course, I am not wishing for an economic crisis, that would be utterly cruel and unethical as it is also possible to profit from trends that are generated as signs of economic recovery. What I am saying here is that the "September effect" is a reality and that you should be aware of this fact when you take decisions regarding your investments and asset allocation for this month. This is especially important when housing and other data from the third quarter was importantly disappointing and the chances of a double dip stand now at an almost 50/50 (for some economists at least). You should be aware that there is a real risk that the September ghost will take its toll, so be prepared, take intelligent investment decisions and follow the market in whatever way it develops.

If you want to prepare to follow a possible developing trend and you would like to learn how you too can code your strategies and use systems that have adequate analysis and realistic profit and risk targets please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Pain Index : A Measurement of How Hard it is to Trade a System from a Psychological Perspective

It is always said - with very good reason - that the biggest obstacle to trading systems profitably is the trader him or herself. There are many reasons why this is the case but perhaps the large amount of self-sabotaging, the inability to trade through draw down periods and the second-guessing about the profitability of different strategies is what makes unprofitable people turn their accounts into dust in the longer term. It is therefore interesting to ask ourselves if there is a way to measure this psychological hardship and estimate if a given system will or will not be difficult to trade from a mental stand point. It becomes clear that some systems - even if account wiping in the long term - are very psychologically easy to trade while systems that are very robust and long term profitable tend to be extremely hard to trade (and therefore almost never traded).

On today's post I will share with you my solution to this problem - the pain index - which is a measurement of how hard it will be - from a psychological point - to trade any given system. This scale gives us a quantitative way of comparing trading systems and it allows us to easily picture how easy or hard it will be to trade a given strategy in the long term. The lower the pain index, the easier a strategy will be to trade while strategies with a higher pain index reading will be excruciating and tremendously difficult to follow. Now bear in mind that the pain index does NOT tell us anything about profitability and there can be systems with extremely low pain index readings that will wipe accounts (as there are in real life), the pain index merely attempts to measure the psychological pressure on the trader rather than the ultimate effect on the account balance.

When attempting to come up with a measure to calculate how hard it is to trade a given system it became obvious to me that the most important factors were the maximum ten year draw down of a strategy and the maximum draw down period length. Trading systems with higher draw downs or longer draw down periods are harder to trade and the combined effect of these characteristics should be shown in any attempt to calculate the "pain" different strategies cause a trader. However it then became clear that both of these parameters do not have the same effect as deeper draw downs are much more important from a psychological point of view than longer draw down periods. Most traders would be able to bear a 1 year draw down period with a maximum draw down at 5% while doing the same thing with a 30% maximum draw down will be significantly harder.

After doing this analysis I came to the conclusion that maximum draw down should increase difficulty exponentially while draw down period length should do so linearly. Since the above introduces an exponential term I decided to use a logarithmic function (base 10) to normalize the pain index to values that would be between 0 and 10. The formula for the pain index calculation is shown below :

MD = maximum 10 year draw down as a percentage of account equity

MP = maximum 10 year draw down period length in years

pain index = 2*(Log( MD^2 * MP))

The scale goes from 0 to 10 since 0 is a hypothetical system that never loses (a system that would be extremely easy to trade, a system that doesn't exist) while 10 is a system that loses all trades within a ten year period except the last one which takes the account back into profit. So the easiest system to trade is a system that never loses while the hardest system to trade is a system that has a maximum draw down close to 100% and a maximum draw down period length close to 10 years (a system that would be effectively impossible to trade from a psychological standpoint).
As you can see on the above graph which shows the evolution of the unnormalized (without the longarithm) pain index as a function of maximum draw down and draw down period length you can see how deeper draw downs increase the pain index rapidly while the duration of the draw down causes a linear increase. Now pay special attention to the fact that you can have systems with draw downs that can be extremely deep (even close to account wiping) but if their draw down period length is very small (just a few weeks or days) the actual pain index will be low. This is the reason why martingales and scalpers with very bad risk to reward ratios are so successful, even though these systems are dangerous to capital preservation and overall long term profitability they are extremely easy to trade from a psychological stand point since draw downs rarely happen and psychologically challenges will only come very sporadically (and perhaps when they happen the account will be wiped). It is fairly easy now to understand why these systems are tremendously dangerous, very easy to trade from a psychological perspective but extremely dangerous for account equity.

The obvious thing now was to take this new pain index measurement and calculate its value for several Asirikuy systems, risk levels and portfolios to see the actual difficulty to trade the different systems I use in live accounts. The results are actually very interesting and they do reflect the psychological difficulty in trading all these systems. Below you can see a scale showing several examples and their pain index values :

0 - system that never loses (does not exist)

2.59 - Watukushay No.2, Risk 1 EUR/USD

2.93 - Atinalla No.1 Portfolio (Risk 1 on all systems)

3.07 - Teyacanani, Risk 1 EUR/USD

3.60 - Watukushay No.5, Risk 1 USD/CHF

5.08 - Atinalla No.1 Portfolio (Risk 3 on all systems)

5.51 - Kutichiy EUR/USD Risk 1

5.79 - EUR/USD Turtle Trading System (original rules)

5.99 - GBP/USD Kutichiy Risk 1

6.71 - Kutichiy (EUR/USD, GBP/USD, USD/CHF, USD/JPY) (Risk 1 on all instances)

10 - system that loses everytime for ten years except on one trade that takes it to profitability

It is very interesting to see how this indexing falls in line with what we experience with the real live systems. The turtle trading system is extremely difficult to trade while systems like Teyacanani are far easier to use. Since this scale is logarithmic the pain index predicts that it is about 10 thousand times easier to trade teyacanani with a Risk = 1 setting than to trade the Turtle trading system on the EUR/USD. Shorter draw down periods and small maximum draw downs account for this difference. Of course we can also see the effect of increasing risk and how trading Atinalla No.1 on a Risk = 3 is almost 100 times worse psychologically than trading it from a Risk = 1 setting (due to the 3 fold increase in the expected maximum draw down). Overall it seems that systems with pain index levels above 6 start to become extremely hard to trade since they would put enormous psychological pressure on their use both through long and deep draw downs.

I hope that you can use this new pain index measurement to get an idea of how hard it will be to trade your systems from a psychological stand point, it will also help you understand why you have traded systems with unsound trading tactics in the past and how this is justified through the "small pain" that these unprofitable systems cause traders. This also shows that long term profitable systems - especially when aiming for yearly profits above 30% - are extremely hard to trade and why very few people actually achieve long term profitability from automated trading systems.

If you would like to learn more about automated trading and how you too can learn how you analyze systems in depth and come up with reliable long term profit, draw down and worst case scenario targets please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Preserving Your Capital : Five Signals You are Taking Too Much Risk with Your Forex Trading

If you asked me what the most important aspect of trading is I would say : to preserve capital. This is something which is common to at least all the professional traders I know and something all new traders seem to lack. People new to forex trading like to trade their money like when they are gambling - the focus is to make money - while professionals trade so that they take the least possible risk on their capital (the focus is on preservation). I remember that when I was a new trader it was very hard to see when I was taking excessive risks, since the focus for new traders is in short term results, the real risk characteristics of the systems they use don't seem apparent until the market cashes on this risk and wipes the account or causes substantial losses.

On today's article I am going to give you some pointers that will let you know if you are trading with excessive risk. Certainly they won't cover all risky scenarios but you can be absolutely sure that if you feel identified with any of the signals highlighted below it is very likely that you will not be able to achieve long term profitability (at least until it is fixed) since you are taking a great exposure on your account which the market will eventually (with certainty) cash on. What are the red flags or signals that you are knee-deep into risky territory ? Keep reading to find out !

1. One loss has a significant emotional effect on you. When you are trading an account and a losing trade causes you any type of anguish, sadness or frustration it means that you are trading with a risk which is too high for you. One of the key ways to eliminate emotions in trading is to have short term results become meaningless to you from an emotional perspective, if a loss means something then it should be much smaller. Imagine that you had to burn a check for a given amount of money every single day. How small would that check need to be so that you could do it without any pain ? That is the maximum amount of money you should lose on each trade.

2. Your system has a historical ten year maximum draw down higher than 50%. When you are trading a system which in the past showed a maximum draw down higher than 50% it is very likely that this draw down will be much larger in the future. What happens here is that you are trading with a large enough risk so that your account will be wiped with a very good probability under evolving market conditions. The past - although a good guidance - should not be taken as if "the worst has already happened" always consider that a system will be able to double its maximum draw down in the future. As a rule of thumb you should reduce your risk so that the historical maximum draw down never reaches above 25%.

3. Your system cannot face twice the maximum number of historical consecutive losses. Also based on the above, the fact that a system has a given number of consecutive losing trades in the past does not mean that it will not have more in the future. It is undoubtedly possible and actually it happen rather frequently, that your system will face a "worse worst streak" in the future as market conditions evolve. You should always trade a system that can withstand twice the maximum number of past consecutive losses, otherwise you are assuming that the past already showed you the worst it could be, a rather naive assumption.

4. You cannot sleep. One of the easiest ways to recognize that you are using excessive risk levels in your trading is when you cannot sleep because you are thinking about the system you are using or the trades you have left open. If trading starts to mess with your sleep it is an absolutely clear and unequivocal sign that your risk level is way too high. As I said before, one of the keys to success is to make short term results meaningless and trading with low enough risk makes this a certainty.

5. You don't fully know your system or plan. Certainly a very risky element in trading is lack of knowledge about what you're doing. If you are trading in a certain way in which the long term profit and draw down targets are unknown then there is no way in which this system can be traded successfully over the long run. Trading a system or plan which has unknown profit and draw down characteristics is dangerous because you don't know the magnitude of the system's market exposure. It could cost you a significant portion of your account due to your lack of understanding.
Definitely my experience has shown me that a trader who answers "yes" to any of the above signals will face very hard problems in the long term as there is ample road for disaster. The good thing here is that simple steps can be taken to correct all these problems, understand the systems you are using, analyze their profit and draw down characteristics and trade with lot sizes and short term results that become meaningless to you.

If you would like to educate yourself in the building and creation of automated trading systems that are likely long term profitable with realistic and sound profit and draw down targets please consider joining, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

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