The S&P 500 exploded higher Thursday, reclaiming 1.7% of the latest selloff and closing comfortably above 4,400 support. This is a mile from Tuesday’s Chinese drip torture that gave the impression we were on the verge of the next collapse.
And you can count me as one of the fooled. On Tuesday, I wrote a post titled “Why I’m so concerned about a 0.2% loss“.
While most prognosticators quietly sweep their mistakes under the rug, I have no problem admitting my mistakes. In fact, acknowledging our mistakes is the only way we can learn and grow as traders.
But in this particular instance, I wouldn’t say closing my long positions following Monday’s dreadful close was a mistake. While it was ultimately proven to be unnecessary, sound defense is never wrong.
Savvy traders that are successful over the long-term learned early in their career that preservation of capital is far more critical than growing capital. That’s why we only take calculated risks when the risk/reward is stacked in our favor, and even then, we back that up with sensible stops to protect us when things don’t work out in our favor.
To do it all over again, I sill would lock in modest profits on Monday and start looking for the next trade because that is the only sensible move to make in that situation. While it didn’t work this particular time, in a dozen similar setups, it would have been the right call. We play the odds and don’t let the exception to the rule cause us to give up on our well-thought-out rules.
Anyway, enough about that. The next important development is what happened Wednesday afternoon. The inevitable collapse never arrived and an early dip bounced and closed near the intraday highs. While no one is getting rich off of Wednesday’s 0.3% gain, the signal it gave us was compelling and worth acting on.
I always remind subscribers that as soon as we get out, we need to start looking for the next opportunity to get back in. Sometimes the next trade comes along as quickly as a few hours later.
I will be the first to admit Wednesday’s bounce wasn’t all that attractive and I was already suspicious of this market, so my gut told me to ignore the bounce. But I don’t trade my gut, I trade my trading plan and that told me to start with a small position Wednesday afternoon. (Buy every bounce: start small, get in early, keep a nearby stop, and only add to a position that is working)
Wednesday’s 0.3% gain counted as a bounce, so I held my nose and bought it. My trading plan told me to add more following Thursday’s strong open, so I bought more. And here I am, holding a nice profit in a trade I didn’t even want to make! This example highlights why we always follow our trading plan, not our gut.
Now who knows, maybe this is just another false bottom on our way lower. But by jumping aboard this bounce early, I have a nice profit cushion that will more than offset any near-term risk. If this bounce fizzles and retreats Friday or next week, I get out at my stops and try again next time. No big deal. And best of all, by being proactive and getting in early, my stops are already at or above my entry points, so this trade is now nearly free to me. Hard to beat that risk/reward.
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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.