Aug 302011

Today is our last day and I’ve been reading some of Al Brook’s book at the beach. I first read it over a year ago and I guess I wasn’t ready for it then as it makes a lot more sense now.  I think he goes overboard with his patterns and analysis but I’m picking up some good information here and there, and that makes a second read worthwhile.  Actually I must admit I didn’t succeed in reading 100% of it the first time. <grin>

One thing has me thinking:  He says to take half off at +1 pt and swing the other half with a breakeven stop.  That’s what I was doing before but lately I’ve been going for 2:1 ratio on my first scale.  It’s too early to know which is best so this is something I plan to keep track of.

I like what he says about counter-trend:  Don’t do it until after a major trendline break with momentum and a retest of the high/low.  That would keep me out of trouble and is in line with my recent attempts to avoid fading.

I also like what he says about going for 1 pt/day and increasing size.  I’ve been working on increasing my profit and reducing risk.  Maybe I’m going for too much?  1 pt/day doesn’t seem that hard.

I think I’m done for the day as it’s time to go back to the beach one last time.  Traded “ok” today.

I made 924 euros while on vacation, without any losing days.  I’m very happy with that as I traded less than a couple hours/day when the kids were resting.  It didn’t interfere with our vacation and it kept me in tune with the markets.  Trading only a few hours/day a few days/week was a nice relief from the 8+ hrs/day I usually do.  I plan to trade a little less when we return and spend more time on exercise and hobbies.  I think it’s much easier to focus when trading only a few hours at a time.

Tomorrow we drive back, a grueling 8.5 hour drive which with kids takes about 12 hours, especially if we stop and visit on the way.  So I’ll be back on Thursday.


Aug 262011

I only took 2 real money trades this week.  For most of the week I wasn’t around enough during trading hours.  I did trade on simulator on Wednesday so I could test out some ideas and I did terribly.  After that I was not too keen on trading real money.

Friday I was expecting continuation up but the move down after the open threw me and I scratched my long.  I hate it when those kind of moves throw me for a loop.

So I squeezed out a tiny profit this week, basically from two “scratched” trades.  2 pts total.


Here’s a look at the 10 day average of the day range for the past year:


Note the huge surge in August!  My trading worked great in May, well in June, “ok” in July, and I feel it’s starting to break down in August.  The main reason is stops.  I was using 4 pt max stop prior to August.  The increased volatility in August means I’d need an even bigger stop.  I did use 2-4 pts for most of my trades but I think 2 pts is too close. My tests on Wednesday (on sim) confirmed that.

I don’t think the volatility will continue forever so I don’t want to change my trading too much.  So I’m not sure exactly what to do about this.  So far I did very well in August but I can sense the risk.  So I’m being a bit more cautious and that’s probably why I only took 2 real money trades this week.

So for now my max stop stays around 3-4 pts and when volatility comes back to “normal” I will try 2 pts.

One thing to note:  3-4 pts stop is OK if the winners are 6-8 or more (2:1 ratio).  As long as that’s possible then it’s OK and that’s how I’ve done well this month, going for big wins.

Hope you did OK this week and have a nice weekend.  We only have 4 days left on our vacation and then it’s back to work.



Aug 212011

Yesterday UC asked some very good questions and I thought a response would be worthy of a new post:

Hi Michael,

Nice diary.

I have few questions for your regarding scales and lots and one observation about your latest post.

Reading FT71 steam on twitter and recently seeing Don Miller’s “trading after dark – episode 6” i realized that trading with 1 lot vs trading with multiple lots is a completely different business. I see you are using 2 lots. my questions is do you think you can still be in positive territory at the end of the week trading only one lot? I ask you this question because in the last 2 months with 2 point hard stop and trading only one lot i quite damaged my trading account. my interpretation is that current market conditions require to adjust one’s trading strategy – on one hand – but also it makes life much more difficult for day traders and maybe trading 2 lots (scaling out 1 lot to hedge position after 1-2 points – would be better. Next two weeks i’m going back to sim trade to see if this plan works out or not. any thoughts from you on this would help.

Regarding your last posts, entering trades between levels, wouldn’t just mean to destroy the idea of levels and trading plan? I would rather use rotations/pullback to add or cut on a position. As I mentioned above i trade only one lot, so take this observation for what it’s worth.

Thanks a lot.


The first question is about scaling out.  I’m not a fan of scaling out at a set profit target at anything below a 2:1 R:R ratio.  I believe that is cutting winners short.  I think of it this way:  If I traded only 1 contract, could I make money taking profit at 1-2 pts?  I believe the answer is that I wouldn’t make much money.  So if it’s not profitable then I shouldn’t do it.

If one thinks about a 2 lot trade as two separate trades, then both trades must be profitable long term.  Having the first lot be unprofitable doesn’t make any sense.

So when do I believe it’s good to scale?  I can think of two reasons, the first is if you see a change in the order flow.  Let’s say you’re long and then you see buying get real weak and sellers coming in. Even in this case, I don’t want to do it unless my R:R is at least 1:1 and I prefer 2:1.  The reason is if I get long while price is going down, there are always going to be sellers who take another stab at a short.  And I don’t want these sellers to trick me into exiting half my position.  I prefer to just let the market prove me wrong by stopping me out so that when I’m right I can get paid.

The other reason is to take profit ahead of a S/R level which you expect to cause at least a small retracement.  This makes sense, but if there is such a level at less than 2:1 R:R then I don’t want to take the trade.  For example if my stop is 2 pts and there is a level 2 pt away, I’m not going to enter the trade.

So putting these two concepts together, I want to take my first scale as late as possible.  Lately I’ve been putting my two targets quite far away and I will scale out if & when I need to.  This results in a good profit on the first scale.  In fact in a few trades I got a good profit on the first scale and then the second stopped out.  That’s ok because I’m going for a big win and when I get it I will have a very profitable day.  The increased volatility makes this possible.

FT has said he takes a scale at 1-2 pts.  But keep in mind he is trading at least 8 units so he can take off 1/8 of his position at 1-2 pts and it’s not going to have a huge impact.  However if one takes off 1/2 their position at 1-2 pts it’s not the same.  So we must be careful in applying these concepts as they are heavily influenced by the number of units one trades.

Regarding 1 lot trading.. many of my good trades are done with a single lot.  Why?  Because I see price coming up to a level but I’m not sure price is ready to reverse, I’ll enter 1/2 my position.  And sometimes price will just reverse and take off in my direction and I never get to add the second position.  In these trades I go for a big win since I can’t scale and often get it.  I debate entering my full position instead of half but the other half of the time price goes a bit farther into my zone and I get the 2nd contract at a better price.  So I’m still undecided.  But what I want to say is one can trade 1 lot profitably.  If one is scaling out too quickly with 2 lots then I think trading 1 lot is the cure.  Just make sure your R:R is 2:1 or greater, ideally 3:1+.  Then your win rate can be below 50% and you can still be profitable.  When profitable with 1 lot then try 2 and have the second lot be at a larger target.  In other words, then one goes from 1 to 2 lots, you don’t want to bring the first target in.  That doesn’t make any sense at all.  Rather than doing that, it’d be better to trade 2 lots with a single target.  For me the advantage of 2 lots is I can go for a little more on the second and ride the move.  That’s how FT can stay in a trade for hours.  He scales out 1/8 at levels and has more staying power.

Another example of when I trade 1 lot is when it’s really volatile and my stop is 4 pts or greater.  I trade 1 contract in this case and I go for 8 pts.  This is mainly when the market is very volatile.  And another example of when I trade 1 lot is if I’m fading counter-trend.

I just went through my trades from July 1 to present and I filtered out all the real money ES trades where I only traded 1 contract.  The expectancy is $57.  That doesn’t mean I’m going for 1 pt, that’s just what the average works out to be.  I had a $700 winner, a $300 winner, and a $228 loser in there.

When I do the same thing with my ES real money 2 lot trades, I get an average of $81 per trade which is $40 per contract.  Surprisingly that’s less!  How could that be?  I believe it’s because I was too quick to scale out of the first position.  The numbers tell me I’d be better off trading with one target.

Except there’s a slight catch.  As I explained, some trades barely touch my level (or even come short) and then take off in my direction.  So that accounts for part of the reason why 1 lot is more profitable.

Intrigued, I did the same thing for August only.  1 lot trades averaged $104 while 2 lot trades averaged $117 which per contract would be $58.  I think this makes a good case for going for big R:R trades and not scaling out.  I’m going to be paying more attention to this in the next few weeks.


The second question is about trading between levels.  This doesn’t “destroy” the trading plan if my plan is to take specific setups in between levels.  And if I can do so with a tight stop and a target at the next level, it can be profitable.

What I find is when I don’t get an entry at a level, or more precisely in a zone, then I have to wait for the next zone which could be quite later.  If I can enter on a pullback then I can get in on this missed trade and ride it to the next level.  Sometimes zones are quite far apart so this makes a lot of sense.

An example is a 1-2-3 low.  Let’s say point 1 is at my level but I miss it for some reason.  Then it pulls back and makes pt 3 and then it comes down to retest pt 1 and falls short, creating pt 3.  This pt 3 is a good low risk setup.  The stop can be below pt 1 and I’m seeing weakness since it couldn’t get to pt 1 and make a lower low.  This this is an example of entering in between levels.  And in this case I think it can be more profitable than entering at the level, especially when fading.

For me, the key to entering in between levels, actually the key to entering all the time, is to time the entry based on the order flow.  I know that’s an overused buzzword but I’m not sure what else to call it.  Buying pullbacks is hard because you don’t know when the pullback is over.  Just like I don’t know when pt 3 makes a higher low until well after the fact.  But if I see selling getting weak, absorption on the bid, and then buyers lifting the offer, I can guess the pullback is over and enter my trade.  And by entering this way, I know right away when I’m wrong.  Either the pullback is over or it’s not.  When timing entries this way, it’s possible to get very tight stops of 4-6 ticks.  The problem is often these setups don’t work so it could stop me out a few times and that’s why the R:R has to be good.

I’m not recommending that everyone use “order flow”, as it takes a lot of practice & experience to learn how to use it.  I’ve been using the volume ladder for a year and a half now and I’m still learning.  I’m just saying this is one way to help time entries and get a tight stop.  FT doesn’t use the ladder so one can do it with the DOM and Time & Sales also.

Now some things specific to UC.  If you look at my equity curve, you’ll see the past 2 months have been very difficult for me.  I did very well in May, my equity curve was like a rocket.  That rocket ran into trouble in June & July.  And I’ve had to adjust my trading to the current market conditions.  I agree with you that one must adjust, but adding a contract just to scale out at 1-2 pts is not the answer IMHO.  I believe the opposite, trading 1 contract with a bigger stop and a bigger target is the answer.  The increased volatility means you can have proportionally bigger targets than stops (thanks to eminiwizard for sharing this concept).

The other idea would be to avoid fading.  The market has been trending and you don’t want to fight that trend.  Fading in May worked great because there were very few strong trend days.  But that’s no longer the case.  So adapt.

If you want to share some trades you made we could investigate this further.

I want to stress that everyone has to find out what works for them and I’ve shared my ideas about what works for me.  If someone is doing something different and is profitable, I wouldn’t argue with them or try to change their mind.  But if someone is not profitable then hopefully sharing some ideas can help.