One of the things I learned a long time ago is that while I’m pretty good at trading, when I’m wrong, I tend to be really wrong.
I’m an optimist at heart. It’s almost a requirement to surviving the markets over the long-term because we definitely go up more than we go down and bull markets last a lot longer than bear markets. That said, when things go south, they south in a hurry.
While I tend to give the market the benefit of doubt, I always have a plan for being wrong. The most obvious example is starting every trade with a sensible stop. But beyond this tactical technique, I also need a mechanism for recognizing when my outlook is flat-out wrong. When what seems like a buyable dip is really the next good shorting opportunity. Or what looks like a great short is actually the next great buy.
The most expensive mistakes we make are when we think the market is headed one way but it is actually going in the opposite direction. This is when we need to be the most open-minded about our outlook and the quickest to changing course.
I was looking for last week’s huge bounce to fizzle in a near-term pullback. As I wrote previously, “one day up, the next day down.” While that approach worked brilliantly for the first few weeks of this selloff, it stopped working late last week. Rather than alternate daily between losses and gains, the gains started piling up day after day. Cracks that should have triggered another waterfall selloff ended up bouncing even higher instead.
I could have gotten stubborn and dug my heels in like so many other traders that were skeptical of last week’s 20% rebound. But when my initial short trade didn’t work as planned, I had to acknowledge that I could have this backward. When the market refused to collapse in a waterfall selloff Friday, that was a strong indication it wanted to go higher, not lower. When the market opened strong this morning, rather than argue with it, I saw this counter-intuitive strength as a buying signal. Rather than argue with the market and lose money, I plugged my nose and bought the strength instead.
I still expect this market to pullback very soon (maybe tomorrow is finally the day), but as long as this keeps going up, my trading plan is going to keep forcing me to buy it. And for that, I’m thankful.
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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM
Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two children.