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Markets are looking to the Federal Reserve to be a soothing force when it meets in the week ahead, but stocks could remain choppy if the central bank disappoints and as investors focus on the election and the economic recovery.
The Fed’s two-day meeting is expected to end Wednesday with minor tweaks to its statement and some clarity on how it plans to use forward guidance. The Fed also updates its economic and interest rate outlook, including forecasts for 2023 for the first time.
But Quincy Krosby, chief investment strategist at Prudential Financial, said the stock market could easily be disappointed because the Fed is unlikely to offer more clarity on monetary policy, such as plans for bond buying.
“The market is concerned the Fed is not going to give us explicit readings on their plans for monetary policy,″ she said. The Fed’s extraordinary policies have been an important factor behind the stock market’s 50% surge from the March 23 low, and it’s also seen as a major factor limiting the depth of the market’s sell-off.
Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, said the Fed is not likely to tweak much and it continues to buy $80 billion a month in Treasurys. “I don’t think they’ll do anything to the markets either way,” he said.
Stocks were volatile in the past week, falling hard, rallying, falling and rallying again. That left the S&P 500 with a weekly decline of about 2.5%, its worst week since June. The harder hit Nasdaq was down about 4.1% for the week, its worst weekly decline since March. The quadruple expiration of options and futures at the end of the coming week could add to the volatility.
Bank of America strategists said the bond market is watching the Fed for any balance sheet adjustments and the changes to its forward guidance, which includes the Fed’s recent tweak in its inflation policy. The Fed changed its policy of focusing on a target inflation rate to an average rate, meaning it may not tighten policy if inflation overshoots its 2% target.
“We see risk the rates market is underwhelmed by the guidance provided by the Fed, which would support higher back-end rates and a steeper curve,” the Bank of America strategists noted. The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield slid in the past week, touching 0.67% Friday, and it could move higher, meaning bonds may sell-off, if the Fed does not clarify policy around its bond buying program.
Krosby said the stock market is hoping for a dovish Fed. “The market needs that now because fiscal policy is going nowhere,” she said.
BTIG strategist Julian Emanuel said the market could focus on the fact that Congress failed to make headway on fiscal stimulus, if the economic data begins to disappoint.
Retail sales for August are expected Wednesday morning, as the Fed meets. They are expected to rise by 1%, and that should be an important look at whether the lack of enhanced unemployment benefits, which expired July 31, impacted consumer spending. Among other things, Republicans and Democrats could not agree how to replace the $600 weekly payment to the unemployed.
“Depending on the polls and the economic data, the probability of stimulus rises and falls,” said Emanuel, head of equity and derivatives strategy.
“Our view is that next week is just going to be lots of back and forth with the potential for a further extension of the range for the downside, if the political narrative gets more inflamed,” said Emanuel. Emanuel expects the market to remain choppy and fall further into the month of October, as investors worry about the uncertainty around the presidential election.
The Fed’s meeting this week is its last before the election, and analysts expect Fed Chairman Jerome Powell to sound reassuring that the Fed will do whatever it takes to support the economy. Powell holds a briefing after the meeting Wednesday, and he is expected to also be asked about the potential for higher inflation. The Fed has said it is more concerned about disinflation, but recent inflation data has been hotter than expected, though still well below 2%.
“There is a tug of war between those who say buy chips now because inflation is moving higher, versus those why are saying deflationary forces are still weaving their way into the economy,” said Krosby.
Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex, said he expects the Fed to sound reassuring but it’s not likely to discuss a target for bond purchases or the yield curve controls some investors were hoping for. Yield curve control would mean the Fed would try to manage interest rates by targeting its purchases of specific Treasurys. For instance, it may focus on trying to keep longer duration yields lower, and buy the 10-year.
Chandler also noted the Fed’s $7 trillion balance sheet has recently declined by about $100 billion from its peak, and its bond purchases are falling behind the European Central Bank.
“My sense is the Fed is going to keep saying it’s not worried about inflation. Its bigger worry is downside risks. They’ll repeat their call for fiscal stimulus which after this week seems less likely,” he said.
Chandler said the stock market could remain choppy in the coming week, but he does not expect a sharp selloff. The dollar could decline, if the Fed sounds dovish, and that is a positive for stocks.
“I don’t think a 10% pullback [in Nasdaq] has caused enough pain to have people capitulate. This is just an ordinary correction, and we’re going to make new highs,” he said.
Election Charts You Need To See: Part 1First off, our thoughts go out to everyone who was impacted by the tragic events of September 11, 2001—19 years ago today. It is a day to reflect and remember those who were lost.
One of the top requests we’ve had here at LPL Research is for more charts on the election. Over the next week, we will share some of our favorite charts on this very important subject.
Here’s how the S&P 500 Index performs under various presidents and congressional makeups. The best scenario has historically been a Democratic president and Republican Congress, while a Republican president and Democratic Congress has been the weakest.
Active Managers Do an About FaceThe National Association of Active Investment Managers (NAAIM) has an index which tracks the exposure of its members to US equity markets. Each week, members are asked to provide a number that represents their exposure to markets. A reading of -200 means they are leveraged short, -100 indicates fully short, 0 is neutral, 100% is fully invested, and 200% indicates leveraged long. Two weeks ago, in our Bespoke Report, we highlighted the fact that the exposure index had moved to one of the highest levels in its 15-year history. Now, just two weeks later, these same active managers have reigned in their exposure considerably as this week's reading dropped from just under 100 to 53.1.
This week's drop was the second-largest one week decline in the index's history and just the 10th time that the index lost more than a third (33 points) in a single week. The most recent occurrence was back in early March in the middle of the Covid crash, and every other prior period where the index saw a similar drop, the S&P 500 was also down every time by an average of 2.3%. Therefore, it's not much of a surprise to see the big drop this week given the big declines in the market. But what about going forward? Do big drops in the NAAIM Index mean a bounce back for markets or further declines?
The Most and Least Heavily Shorted Stocks in the Russell 1,000Below is an updated look at the most heavily shorted stocks in the Russell 1,000. Each of these 30 stocks has at least 15% of its equity float sold short.
At the top of the list is Nordstrom (JWN) with 38.66% of its float sold short. With a YTD decline of 61.86%, the shorts have crushed it with JWN this year.
With its huge portfolio of office and retail real estate, Brookfield Property REIT(BPYU) has the second highest short interest in the Russell 1,000 at 33.7%. BPYU is down 35.7% YTD.
There are plenty of other well-known companies on the list of the most heavily shorted stocks. Examples include American Airlines (AAL), Virgin Galactic (SPCE), LendingTree (TREE), Wayfair (W), Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS), ADT, TripAdvisor (TRIP), Beyond Meat (BYND), and Kohl's (KSS).
One name that is no longer on the list of most shorted stocks is Tesla (TSLA). When we provided an update on short interest back in February (a pre-COVID world), Tesla (TSLA) had more than 17% of its float sold short, but that number is all the way down to 8.3% as of the most recent filing.
These 30 stocks with the highest short interest are down an average of 3.01% since last Wednesday (9/2) when the S&P 500 made its last closing high. That's actually a little bit better than the 3.55% average decline for the rest of the stocks in the Russell 1,000. And year-to-date, these 30 stocks are up an average of 0.60% versus an average gain of 0.81% for the rest of the index. That's not much of a difference!
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) has the lowest short interest as a percentage of float in the Russell 1,000 at just 0.36%. Microsoft (MSFT) -- one of the key mega-cap Tech names -- has the second lowest short interest, followed by Merck (MRK), Eli Lilly (LLY), and Medtronic (MDT).
Somewhat surprisingly, Amazon (AMZN) is the sixth least shorted stock in the entire Russell 1,000. While AMZN is still thought of as a high-flying momentum name by many investors, its short interest levels tell a much different story, painting it as more of a non-cyclical stock like Pepsi (PEP), Procter & Gamble (PG), or Coca- Cola (KO).
While the 30 most heavily shorted stocks in the Russell 1,000 are up 0.60% YTD, the 30 least shorted stocks in the index are up much more at +8%. This group has MSFT, AMZN, HD, and AAPL to thank for that strong performance!
5 Lessons Learned About Rising RatesWhile the direction of the 10-year Treasury yield over the last cycle was decidedly lower, as shown in LPL’s Chart of the Day, there were still six extended periods where it rose at least 0.75%, and in two of those it rose almost 2%. Looking ahead, economic growth below potential, slack in the labor market, and an extremely supportive Federal Reserve (Fed) may limit rate pressure in the near term, but with interest rates already low and massive stimulus in place, we believe the overall direction is likely to be higher.
“Even in a falling rate period there are lessons from the last cycle about rising rates,” said LPL Financial Chief Investment Officer Burt White. “Among them: Careful when the Fed stops buying and sometimes the best defense is a good offense.”
With the Fed still providing strong stimulus and economic growth potentially poised to accelerate, we currently see an increased risk of rates moving higher. We are playing some offense with our equity exposure, which allows us to emphasize a focus on higher-quality bonds. Among bond sectors, we are emphasizing MBS and still prefer investment-grade corporates over Treasuries. History may not repeat, but if it rhymes, this positioning may help add resilience to a fixed income portfolio if rates extend their move off recent lows.
- Careful when the Fed stops buying. The two drivers of rising rates last cycle were economic growth and Fed bond purchases, also known as quantitative easing (QE). The Fed buys bonds to keep rates down, but the start of Fed buying has actually been the time when rates rise—likely on expectations that the purchases would help strengthen the economy. These periods also often followed large rate declines either because markets anticipated the start of Fed buying or the economy was faltering. The takeaway: unless the economy is really taking off, any rising-rate period may pause for an extended period, or even reverse, when the Fed backs off bond purchases.
- Sometime the best defense is a good offense. Lower-quality, more economically sensitive bond sectors actually performed well during periods of rising rates during the last cycle. Rate gains were largely driven by economic improvement rather than a large pick-up in inflation, and that’s typically a good environment for sectors like high-yield bonds and bank loans. The downside is that these are much riskier bond sectors and don’t provide the potential diversification benefits of higher-quality bonds during periods of stock declines.
- Don’t expect TIPS to provide much resilience because of their inflation adjustment. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS) are high-quality bonds that have provided a little extra insulation against rising rates compared to similarly dated Treasuries when inflation expectations increased. TIPS prices are adjusted for inflation, but even with the adjustment, they are still very sensitive to rates.
- Investment-grade corporates can both hurt and help. If credit spreads narrow when rates are rising, investment-grade corporates can post some solid gains in a rising-rate environment, but if spreads are holding steady or even widening, they can be very sensitive to changes in Treasury yields, potentially (although not often) even more sensitive than Treasuries.
- Mortgage-backed securities (MBS) have not provided as much insulation as corporates, but they also have had less downside. While MBS have certainly outperformed Treasuries during periods of rising rates, they have not performed as well as investment-grade corporates. But they also have come with less downside, losing only 1.4% in their worst performing period compared to a 4% loss during the worst period for corporates. With the Fed still providing strong stimulus and economic growth potentially poised to accelerate, we currently see an increased risk of rates moving higher. We are playing some offense with our equity exposure, which allows us to emphasize a focus on higher-quality bonds. Among bond sectors, we are emphasizing MBS and still prefer investment-grade corporates over Treasuries. History may not repeat, but if it rhymes, this positioning may help add resilience to a fixed income portfolio if rates extend their move off recent lows.
Best and Worst Performing Stocks Since the 9/2 HighSince the S&P 500 and Nasdaq peaked on September 2nd, we've seen rotation out of the post-COVID winners and rotation into laggards in the value space. Below we take a look at the best and worst performing stocks in the Russell 1,000 since the 9/2 high for the S&P. For each stock, we also include its YTD total return and its percentage change from the 3/23 COVID Crash low through 9/2.
Capri Holdings (CPRI) is up more than any other stock in the Russell 1,000 since 9/2 with a gain of 17.43%. Even after the recent gains, however, Capri -- the holding company for brands like Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, and Versace -- is still down 52.9% year-to-date.
Only four other stocks are up more than 10% since 9/2 -- Beyond Meat (BYND), PVH, Virtu Financial (VIRT), and Reinsurance Group (RGA). Interestingly, BYND and VIRT are also up big (~80%) year-to-date, while PVH and RGA are both down more than 35% year-to-date.
What stands out the most about the list of winners is that only one Technology stock made the cut -- Sabre (SABR). Most names come from the two consumer sectors including cruise-liners like Carnival (CCL), Royal Caribbean (RCL) and Norwegian Cruise (NCLH), Kohl's (KSS), Williams-Sonoma (WSM), Six Flags (SIX), Foot Locker (FL), and Ralph Lauren (RL). Both UBER and LYFT also made the cut with gains of 6% since 9/2. The 30 biggest winners since 9/2 are still down an average of 20% year-to-date, while the rest of the stocks in the Russell 1,000 are up an average of 1.46% YTD.
Typical Early September Weakness Recovers Mid-Month Sells Off Month-EndAs of yesterday’s close the market was down more than the historical average performance in September. DJIA was down nearly -3.3%, S&P 500 was down -4.8%, NASDAQ was off 7.9%, Russell 1000 was down -5.2% and Russell 2000 lost 3.7%. Today’s rally looks like the beginning of a textbook mid-month recovery rally However, the second half of September has historically been weaker than the first half. The week after options expiration week can be treacherous with S&P 500 logging 23 weekly losses in 30 years since 1990. End-of-quarter portfolio restructuring, and window dressing can amplify the impacts of any negative headlines.
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FedEx Corp. $232.79FedEx Corp. (FDX) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $2.54 per share on revenue of $17.46 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.78 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 16.72% with revenue increasing by 2.42%. Short interest has decreased by 15.4% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 46.5% from its open following the earnings release to be 54.3% above its 200 day moving average of $150.90. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 28, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,504 contracts of the $250.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 10.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.6% move in recent quarters.
Adobe Inc. $471.35Adobe Inc. (ADBE) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:05 PM ET on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $2.41 per share on revenue of $3.15 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.47 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 76% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of approximately $2.40 per share. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 12.62% with revenue increasing by 11.15%. Short interest has decreased by 14.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 15.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 25.2% above its 200 day moving average of $376.45. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, August 27, 2020 there was some notable buying of 18,006 contracts of the $455.00 put expiring on Friday, September 25, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 12.5% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.2% move in recent quarters.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. $136.79Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (CBRL) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 8:00 AM ET on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.55 per share on revenue of $483.68 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is ($0.49) per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 28% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 120.37% with revenue decreasing by 38.55%. Short interest has decreased by 2.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 30.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 12.5% above its 200 day moving average of $121.64. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Thursday, August 27, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,012 contracts of the $190.00 call expiring on Friday, January 15, 2021. Option traders are pricing in a 10.6% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.9% move in recent quarters.
Aspen Group, Inc. $11.54Aspen Group, Inc. (ASPU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:00 PM ET on Monday, September 14, 2020. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.04 per share on revenue of $14.26 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is ($0.03) per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 49% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 63.64% with revenue increasing by 37.67%. Short interest has increased by 56.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 16.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 32.3% above its 200 day moving average of $8.72. The stock has averaged a 11.1% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Lennar Corp. $77.48Lennar Corp. (LEN) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:35 PM ET on Monday, September 14, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.51 per share on revenue of $5.33 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.67 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 65% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 5.03% with revenue decreasing by 9.00%. Short interest has decreased by 16.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 20.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 29.6% above its 200 day moving average of $59.78. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 8.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.9% move in recent quarters.
Endava $53.03Endava (DAVA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:20 AM ET on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.19 per share on revenue of $107.96 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.22 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 33% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $0.18 to $0.20 per share on revenue of $105.00 million to $106.00 million. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 26.92% with revenue increasing by 9.61%. Short interest has increased by 56.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 11.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 12.7% above its 200 day moving average of $47.06. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 6.7% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Brady Corp. $45.34Brady Corp. (BRC) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.55 per share on revenue of $260.00 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.56 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 31% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 19.12% with revenue decreasing by 11.95%. Short interest has decreased by 37.3% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 0.6% from its open following the earnings release to be 7.5% below its 200 day moving average of $49.01. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 5.3% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.6% move in recent quarters.
Cantel Medical Corp. $49.12Cantel Medical Corp. (CMD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Thursday, September 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.08 per share on revenue of $232.80 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.09 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 39% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 87.30% with revenue decreasing by 2.79%. Short interest has decreased by 19.9% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 4.5% from its open following the earnings release to be 3.7% below its 200 day moving average of $51.02. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. Option traders are pricing in a 17.8% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.9% move in recent quarters.
IsoRay Inc $0.63IsoRay Inc (ISR) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:15 PM ET on Thursday, September 17, 2020. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.01 per share on revenue of $2.77 million. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 25% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 50.00% with revenue increasing by 43.97%. Short interest has decreased by 26.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 33.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 6.7% below its 200 day moving average of $0.68. Overall earnings estimates have been unchanged since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 8.2% move on earnings in recent quarters.
Apogee Enterprises, Inc. $19.49Apogee Enterprises, Inc. (APOG) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Thursday, September 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.34 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 19% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 52.78% with revenue increasing by 179.79%. Short interest has decreased by 4.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted lower by 7.2% from its open following the earnings release to be 23.9% below its 200 day moving average of $25.63. Option traders are pricing in a 10.1% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.4% move in recent quarters.
Hi guys,submitted by getmrmarket to Forex [link] [comments]
I have been using reddit for years in my personal life (not trading!) and wanted to give something back in an area where i am an expert.
I worked at an investment bank for seven years and joined them as a graduate FX trader so have lots of professional experience, by which i mean I was trained and paid by a big institution to trade on their behalf. This is very different to being a full-time home trader, although that is not to discredit those guys, who can accumulate a good amount of experience/wisdom through self learning.
When I get time I'm going to write a mid-length posts on each topic for you guys along the lines of how i was trained. I guess there would be 15-20 topics in total so about 50-60 posts. Feel free to comment or ask questions.
The first topic is Risk Management and we'll cover it in three parts
Why it mattersThe first rule of making money through trading is to ensure you do not lose money. Look at any serious hedge fund’s website and they’ll talk about their first priority being “preservation of investor capital.”
You have to keep it before you grow it.
Strangely, if you look at retail trading websites, for every one article on risk management there are probably fifty on trade selection. This is completely the wrong way around.
The great news is that this stuff is pretty simple and process-driven. Anyone can learn and follow best practices.
Seriously, avoiding mistakes is one of the most important things: there's not some holy grail system for finding winning trades, rather a routine and fairly boring set of processes that ensure that you are profitable, despite having plenty of losing trades alongside the winners.
Capital and position sizingThe first thing you have to know is how much capital you are working with. Let’s say you have $100,000 deposited. This is your maximum trading capital. Your trading capital is not the leveraged amount. It is the amount of money you have deposited and can withdraw or lose.
Position sizing is what ensures that a losing streak does not take you out of the market.
A rule of thumb is that one should risk no more than 2% of one’s account balance on an individual trade and no more than 8% of one’s account balance on a specific theme. We’ll look at why that’s a rule of thumb later. For now let’s just accept those numbers and look at examples.
So we have $100,000 in our account. And we wish to buy EURUSD. We should therefore not be risking more than 2% which $2,000.
We look at a technical chart and decide to leave a stop below the monthly low, which is 55 pips below market. We’ll come back to this in a bit. So what should our position size be?
We go to the calculator page, select Position Size and enter our details. There are many such calculators online - just google "Pip calculator".
So the appropriate size is a buy position of 363,636 EURUSD. If it reaches our stop level we know we’ll lose precisely $2,000 or 2% of our capital.
You should be using this calculator (or something similar) on every single trade so that you know your risk.
Now imagine that we have similar bets on EURJPY and EURGBP, which have also broken above moving averages. Clearly this EUR-momentum is a theme. If it works all three bets are likely to pay off. But if it goes wrong we are likely to lose on all three at once. We are going to look at this concept of correlation in more detail later.
The total amount of risk in our portfolio - if all of the trades on this EUR-momentum theme were to hit their stops - should not exceed $8,000 or 8% of total capital. This allows us to go big on themes we like without going bust when the theme does not work.
As we’ll see later, many traders only win on 40-60% of trades. So you have to accept losing trades will be common and ensure you size trades so they cannot ruin you.
Similarly, like poker players, we should risk more on trades we feel confident about and less on trades that seem less compelling. However, this should always be subject to overall position sizing constraints.
For example before you put on each trade you might rate the strength of your conviction in the trade and allocate a position size accordingly:
To keep yourself disciplined you should try to ensure that no more than one in twenty trades are graded exceptional and allocated 5% of account balance risk. It really should be a rare moment when all the stars align for you.
Notice that the nice thing about dealing in percentages is that it scales. Say you start out with $100,000 but end the year up 50% at $150,000. Now a 1% bet will risk $1,500 rather than $1,000. That makes sense as your capital has grown.
It is extremely common for retail accounts to blow-up by making only 4-5 losing trades because they are leveraged at 50:1 and have taken on far too large a position, relative to their account balance.
Consider that GBPUSD tends to move 1% each day. If you have an account balance of $10k then it would be crazy to take a position of $500k (50:1 leveraged). A 1% move on $500k is $5k.
Two perfectly regular down days in a row — or a single day’s move of 2% — and you will receive a margin call from the broker, have the account closed out, and have lost all your money.
Do not let this happen to you. Use position sizing discipline to protect yourself.
Kelly CriterionIf you’re wondering - why “about 2%” per trade? - that’s a fair question. Why not 0.5% or 10% or any other number?
The Kelly Criterion is a formula that was adapted for use in casinos. If you know the odds of winning and the expected pay-off, it tells you how much you should bet in each round.
This is harder than it sounds. Let’s say you could bet on a weighted coin flip, where it lands on heads 60% of the time and tails 40% of the time. The payout is $2 per $1 bet.
Well, absolutely you should bet. The odds are in your favour. But if you have, say, $100 it is less obvious how much you should bet to avoid ruin.
Say you bet $50, the odds that it could land on tails twice in a row are 16%. You could easily be out after the first two flips.
Equally, betting $1 is not going to maximise your advantage. The odds are 60/40 in your favour so only betting $1 is likely too conservative. The Kelly Criterion is a formula that produces the long-run optimal bet size, given the odds.
Applying the formula to forex trading looks like this:
Position size % = Winning trade % - ( (1- Winning trade %) / Risk-reward ratio
If you have recorded hundreds of trades in your journal - see next chapter - you can calculate what this outputs for you specifically.
If you don't have hundreds of trades then let’s assume some realistic defaults of Winning trade % being 30% and Risk-reward ratio being 3. The 3 implies your TP is 3x the distance of your stop from entry e.g. 300 pips take profit and 100 pips stop loss.
So that’s 0.3 - (1 - 0.3) / 3 = 6.6%.
Hold on a second. 6.6% of your account probably feels like a LOT to risk per trade.This is the main observation people have on Kelly: whilst it may optimise the long-run results it doesn’t take into account the pain of drawdowns. It is better thought of as the rational maximum limit. You needn’t go right up to the limit!
With a 30% winning trade ratio, the odds of you losing on four trades in a row is nearly one in four. That would result in a drawdown of nearly a quarter of your starting account balance. Could you really stomach that and put on the fifth trade, cool as ice? Most of us could not.
Accordingly people tend to reduce the bet size. For example, let’s say you know you would feel emotionally affected by losing 25% of your account.
Well, the simplest way is to divide the Kelly output by four. You have effectively hidden 75% of your account balance from Kelly and it is now optimised to avoid a total wipeout of just the 25% it can see.
This gives 6.6% / 4 = 1.65%. Of course different trading approaches and different risk appetites will provide different optimal bet sizes but as a rule of thumb something between 1-2% is appropriate for the style and risk appetite of most retail traders.
Incidentally be very wary of systems or traders who claim high winning trade % like 80%. Invariably these don’t pass a basic sense-check:
How to use stop losses sensiblyStop losses have a bad reputation amongst the retail community but are absolutely essential to risk management. No serious discretionary trader can operate without them.
A stop loss is a resting order, left with the broker, to automatically close your position if it reaches a certain price. For a recap on the various order types visit this chapter.
The valid concern with stop losses is that disreputable brokers look for a concentration of stops and then, when the market is close, whipsaw the price through the stop levels so that the clients ‘stop out’ and sell to the broker at a low rate before the market naturally comes back higher. This is referred to as ‘stop hunting’.
This would be extremely immoral behaviour and the way to guard against it is to use a highly reputable top-tier broker in a well regulated region such as the UK.
Why are stop losses so important? Well, there is no other way to manage risk with certainty.
You should always have a pre-determined stop loss before you put on a trade. Not having one is a recipe for disaster: you will find yourself emotionally attached to the trade as it goes against you and it will be extremely hard to cut the loss. This is a well known behavioural bias that we’ll explore in a later chapter.
Learning to take a loss and move on rationally is a key lesson for new traders.
A common mistake is to think of the market as a personal nemesis. The market, of course, is totally impersonal; it doesn’t care whether you make money or not.
Bruce Kovner, founder of the hedge fund Caxton Associates
There is an old saying amongst bank traders which is “losers average losers”.
It is tempting, having bought EURUSD and seeing it go lower, to buy more. Your average price will improve if you keep buying as it goes lower. If it was cheap before it must be a bargain now, right? Wrong.
Where does that end? Always have a pre-determined cut-off point which limits your risk. A level where you know the reason for the trade was proved ‘wrong’ ... and stick to it strictly. If you trade using discretion, use stops.
Picking a clear levelWhere you leave your stop loss is key.
Typically traders will leave them at big technical levels such as recent highs or lows. For example if EURUSD is trading at 1.1250 and the recent month’s low is 1.1205 then leaving it just below at 1.1200 seems sensible.
If you were going long, just below the double bottom support zone seems like a sensible area to leave a stop
You want to give it a bit of breathing room as we know support zones often get challenged before the price rallies. This is because lots of traders identify the same zones. You won’t be the only one selling around 1.1200.
The “weak hands” who leave their sell stop order at exactly the level are likely to get taken out as the market tests the support. Those who leave it ten or fifteen pips below the level have more breathing room and will survive a quick test of the level before a resumed run-up.
Your timeframe and trading style clearly play a part. Here’s a candlestick chart (one candle is one day) for GBPUSD.
If you are putting on a trend-following trade you expect to hold for weeks then you need to have a stop loss that can withstand the daily noise. Look at the downtrend on the chart. There were plenty of days in which the price rallied 60 pips or more during the wider downtrend.
So having a really tight stop of, say, 25 pips that gets chopped up in noisy short-term moves is not going to work for this kind of trade. You need to use a wider stop and take a smaller position size, determined by the stop level.
There are several tools you can use to help you estimate what is a safe distance and we’ll look at those in the next section.
There are of course exceptions. For example, if you are doing range-break style trading you might have a really tight stop, set just below the previous range high.
Clearly then where you set stops will depend on your trading style as well as your holding horizons and the volatility of each instrument.
Here are some guidelines that can help:
For example if you stop understanding why a product is going up or down and your fundamental thesis has been confirmed wrong, get out. For example, if you are long because you think the central bank is turning hawkish and AUDUSD is going to play catch up with rates … then you hear dovish noises from the central bank and the bond yields retrace lower and back in line with the currency - close your AUDUSD position. You already know your thesis was wrong. No need to give away more money to the market.
Coming up in part IIEDIT: part II here
Letting stops breathe
When to change a stop
Entering and exiting winning positions
Coming up in part IIISqueezes and other risks
Crap trades, timeouts and monthly limits
Disclaimer:This content is not investment advice and you should not place any reliance on it. The views expressed are the author's own and should not be attributed to any other person, including their employer.
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