The S&P 500 exploded 7% higher after Coronavirus infection rates showed a modest moderation over the weekend. While these are only just the first hints of a beginning, anything remotely positive is being embraced by the markets. These small rays of light reassure traders there will be an end to this crisis and we are not falling down a bottomless pit. That said, today’s relief could easily turn into tomorrow’s disappointment when our economic realities come crashing back down on the market.
These 4%, 5%, and even 7% moves in both directions are a constant reminder we cannot survive these markets without a plan that allows us to be wrong. Despite the constant boasts on the internet claiming otherwise, no one is right all the time. In fact, any honest trader freely admits to being wrong…a lot. While braggarts are trying to convince us they already know where the next breakout/breakdown will be, I’m over here looking at all these boasts with a highly skeptical eye.
There is a popular saying in the market, there are bold traders and there are old traders, but there are no old, bold traders. And it’s true, only the novices boast about their trading prowess. (Many people still act like first-year traders even though they’ve been doing this for a decade!) Savvy veterans have been humbled far too many times to even consider tempting the market’s vindictiveness by bragging about their successes.
My most recent humbling experience occurred today. Last week I was looking for a market swoon back to 2,300 support following the previous week’s 20% rebound. While I felt like a near-term dip was the most likely outcome, I knew better than to tempt fate by holding a short position over the weekend. With 3%, 4% and even 5% opening gaps as common as they are, a simple mistake could easily turn into a very costly mistake by leap-frogging any sensible stop. (IMO, stock options are far too costly to be usable right now.)
Since my trading plan couldn’t effectively manage my risk over the weekend, I chose not to hold a position and would wait until this morning to trade the next move. That decision meant I couldn’t profit from a nice move in my direction over the weekend, but it also meant I wouldn’t end up on the wrong side of a 5% gap against me. And it’s a good thing because that’s exactly what happened today.
Sometimes the best trade is to not trade and I’m glad my trading plan kept my gut out of the market this weekend. And more than just saving me from a big opening loss, my cash position and trading plan actually got me in on the right side of the market and I finished the day with a decent profit. Not bad for being wrong.
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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.