Friday, October 24, 2008

Five Trading Behaviors I'm Seeing Among Traders Making Money Now

As I'm writing this, the ES futures are lock limit down and my email count is off the charts. Lots of fear, not much greed: fear, not only for one's trading, but for retirement savings and the economy. Most of people's money is tied up in some combination of stocks, bonds, and residential real estate. That means that many, many people are worth 25+% less than they had been just a year or so ago.

It is difficult to insulate those fears and concerns from one's trading. And yet, I do hear from traders who are making money in these markets. There *is* volatility, and there can be opportunity. Here are ten factors that stand out among the traders I talk with who are making money in the current environment:

1) Patience - The ones who are afraid of missing moves, who chase moves as a result, are getting hurt. The ones who wait for clear signals and good reward-to-risk opportunities can take advantage of the volatility. The successful traders aren't afraid of missing a move; they know, in this volatile environment, other opportunities will arise.

2) Position Sizing - Trading smaller when markets are moving more means that one or two losing trades won't knock you out for the day or the week. The successful traders tell me they're making plenty of money with smaller size simply because we're moving triple digits in the Dow just about every day.

3) Resilience - When you're wrong in these markets, you can really be wrong. My first trade yesterday lost over 20 S&P points; I wound up the day solidly in the green. By managing risk, you also manage emotions and can stay in the game. The successful traders are in there, making trades. They get off the canvas when they're wrong and they play defense, even as they look for opportunity.

4) Minimizing Distractions - One thing I noticed is that the successful traders in this environment have taken active measures to protect their personal finances. The less successful ones have been distracted by losses they're incurring outside of trading. It is difficult to focus on trading if you're worried about unemployment or loss of savings; addressing personal security helps maximize focus during trading.

5) Self-Maintenance - It's easy to get run down following markets through the day, every day, and then tracking them overnight and overseas. One troubled trader told me he was living, eating, and breathing trading. That is a risk factor for burnout, lessened concentration, and bad decision making. The successful traders aren't afraid to step away from the screens; once again, they know opportunity is not going to go away.

I'm finding that execution is the better part of success in these times. If you have a good idea, but the timing of your entry is wrong or your position is too large, you're likely to get stopped out at the worst conceivable time. By waiting for markets to put in a seeming high or low, waiting for a bounce or pullback that can't make a new price extreme, and *then* getting into a position, you can minimize the heat you take on trades. That, I'm finding, is half the battle.