Friday, February 21, 2014

Trend and chop

The most important criteria to optimize your odds is to trade in the direction of the trend, which implies sitting out when there is no trend. This gives rise to the question of how to determine when the market is trending. A related concern would be the strength of the trend, which can help determine targets.

A trend simply defined, is higher highs and higher lows for bull trends and lower highs and lower lows for bear trends. However, this is too simplistic in practice. Technically, a trend is a sustained move in one direction. The opposite of a trend is chop.

For example, today's open was a choppy open and its pretty obvious from the sequence of opposing bars. But then a trend broke from b16. (Identifying the breakout of a trend before it breaks is called the breakout problem and is an active research topic.)

Once the trend breaks, you would need to wait for a setup at the trendline. In general, the setup needs to be a multi-legged and/or deep pullback. The picture above shows several ways to draw trendlines. The purple line is simply an inferred trend line drawn parallel to the TCL from the prior two pushes. The bear trendline from b7-b16 is the shallowest bear trendline that can be drawn from the HOD. Similarly the trendline b37-40 is the shallowest bull TL that can be drawn from the LOD.

The shallowest TL is the safest, highest probability TL and is the only place you can take swing trades (trades with indefinitely large targets). A sustained breakout such as the one below b11 enables the drawing of a steeper TL that sometimes works at least once (this is due to the fact that strong breakouts usually have at least one more leg). Note that the breakout above b33 for example was a strong move but not a sustained breakout since it did not continue for many bars and many ticks.

In most cases, there are at most two trendlines, the shallowest bull and the shallowest bear. In a bear move such as today, every new pullback after a new push down will attempt to create a new shallowest bull TL that could break and give a new move down. The steeper the shallowest TL, the stronger the trend.

The first achievement in trading is predicting the direction of the market correctly. The shallowest TL is the simplest way to learn to guage direction. Waiting for the price to poke beyond the trendline before taking a trade will ensure at least directional correctness. To start with, disregard, breakouts and reversals. Wait for an obvious trend and wait for price to pullback to the shallowest trendline and take every trade. You may use a bar stop in the beginning or even a tight stop and not worry about the win/loss because your goal not really to profit but to learn to read direction.

Once you are comfortable with your sense of direction, you can fine tune your entries to work with a tight stop and later move to optimize exits.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The openers: 1W

Its a common suggestion to trade with the trend whenever possible and while its a good idea, often it takes a while for a trend to be obvious. Often the big moves occur early in the day when the trend is indeterminate. Some days such as today, the big move may lead to a sustained trend. Once a trend is obvious, say b40 or so, its a simple matter of waiting for a deep pullback to the trendline (around b57) and then finding the right place to enter.

On most days however, it pays to be on the right side of big moves early in the day, since that may be your only opportunity to take a sizable profit.

Even the open has some repeat patterns that signify potential large moves and studying them enables you to be on the right side of a large move.

The overall idea is that the first bar or the first few bars represent either a trend or a trading range and the way price moves beyond it will enable you to determine the pivotal move of the day.

Openers fall into various classes based on how the first few bars relate to each other. A large first bar usually signifies high volatility and potentially a large day.

The simplest opener is 1W (first wedge of the day). This represents a 3 push move in one direction that turns into a reversal. Sometimes the 1W can be a 3 push pullback after a large move in one direction.

1W usually results in a sustained move for the rest of the day (or at least the next couple of hours). 1W that are also WfBO adds strength to the pattern and are usually good for at least the other end of the range.

In general, its beneficial to take the higher low (b21) rather than take a bad bar (b15). When the move takes out the other end of the W in one leg (did not happen today), its usually a sign that the price will move a measured move in the same direction (which did occur).

ProTip: Any weak move from the open could 1W and turn around.