Good Strategy & Three Good Trades

Posted by Tyler Bollhorn of StockScores

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This week’s Market Minutes video discusses how to know when the market is likely to produce good trades, check it out by clicking here.

There are many who consider trading the stock market to be a form of gambling. Quite truthfully, the way many people trade the stock market it is a form of gambling. Legal, easily accessible and perhaps more addictive than a slot machine, I have seen many people suffer great financial loss in the pursuit of easy market profits. How is it that trading can be gambling for some and a legitimate income source for others?

Because, for most, the value of the outcome of their trades in not known before the trade is made. We all understand that what happens with stock price is uncertain but that does not mean it is not predictable. A gambling trader may hope that he or she makes money on their trades but the professional trader knows what he expects to make on the trade. They know the expected value of the trade.

Suppose you devise a trading system that says buy any time the 20 day moving average crosses above the 40 day moving average and the volume is at least double the 20 day volume average (I have no idea if this is a good strategy, I doubt it so don’t try trading it). You then test your trading strategy along with some rules for exit and find that, over a sample of 300 trades, the average profit was $410 and the average loss was $230. Profits happened 67% of the time so, of course, losses occurred 33% of the time (again, all hypothetical).

The pro trader recognizes this as a money making system (it should be noted that the statistics above are not all that a person needs to consider when assessing whether a strategy is effective, I just want to keep it simple for this discussion). The expected value of a trade is as follows:

Probability of profit times the average profit – the probability of loss times the average loss so for this example;

0.67 times $410 – 0.33 times $230 = $198.80.

The trader who does this analysis finds that this simple strategy is expected to make them $198.80 each time they make a trade. While they do not know if the next trade will be profitable or not, they can predict what the profit should average out to over a large sample of trades, provided that what has happened in the past continues to happen in the future.

So, let me now ask if you know the expected value of the trades you make?

If you answer no then you may be a gambler. I say may because some traders may not have tested their rules to know the expected value but have still proven in their actual trading history that their strategy has a positive expected value.

In short, if you have no idea if your trading rules actually work or if you don’t even have a set of rules, relying instead on gut feel, then you are gambling at the stock market casino. Sadly, this casino will not comp you a room or give you free drinks when you play.

Successful trading involves taking risks; we are probably never certain of what the outcome of our next trade will be. Taking risk is necessary if we are hoping to make a return. However, there is a difference between taking risks and being reckless.

Think about what it means to be reckless. I like to mountain bike, race cars and fly planes; all things that most consider to be risky. But when I am on my bike, I don’t try to do 75 foot gap jumps like Matt Hunter, I don’t go 200 mph in to a corner like Lewis Hamilton, I don’t do wing to wing aerobatic maneuvers like the Snowbirds. I work within my abilities and limits and in doing so, avoid letting risk turn in to recklessness.

Buying a stock without knowing the expected value of the trade is reckless, it is gambling. Additionally, what is a simple risk for one person may be reckless for another. You have to know what your limits are and work within them. I may trade a strategy which has a positive expected value and not be reckless but if the experience required to execute that strategy is beyond your limits then trading it for you would be reckless.

If you want to be a successful trader you have to stop gambling and make sure you are trading with an expected outcome that is positive. You need to work within the limits of your skills and experience and avoid being reckless.

I did a number of Market Scans on tonight to find stocks that had decent charts, including the Abnormal Breaks and Stockscores Simple strategies. Here are a few stocks that I think are worth keeping an eye on, their charts show good potential.

1. GSS
GSS broke out from a pennant pattern today with strong volume and abnormal price action. This move takes it through its downward trend line, making the chart a good turnaround candidate. Support at $1.09.


2. WAL
WAL is breaking to new highs for the year and has a very good long term weekly chart showing signs of a turnaround. Support at $8.85.


GPOR breaks from an ascending triangle pattern after breaking its long term downward trend line a few weeks ago. The Sentiment Stockscore has recently crossed above 60. Support at $19.50.





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