Category Archives for "Free CMU"

Oct 29

The smartest way to trade this volatility

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Free After-Hours Analysis: 

Stocks bounced back Thursday and recovered a respectable chunk of Wednesday’s losses. In fact, it even got to the point where anyone who shorted Wednesday’s crash was left sitting on a pile of losses. Ouch! So much for chasing an easy short. But that’s not unusual. Anyone that shows up late to the party is often left holding the bag.

Crashes by nature are breathtakingly quick and they usually end with sharp bounces. Hold a few hours too long and nice short profits evaporate before our eyes. That’s exactly what bit everyone who shorted Wednesday’s tumble and didn’t harvest profits.

That’s not to say bulls don’t also commit the same foul. The indexes are down in Thursday’s after-hours session and virtually every bull that bought Thursday’s bounce is now sitting on a pile of losses. How’s that for equal opportunity humiliation!

And so continues the meatgrinder, a.k.a. the stock market. This is an extremely volatile period for equities and that means big swings in both directions. Every day of up is inevitably followed by a day of down.

There is nothing wrong with being aggressive and grabbing ahold of these large intraday swings. But be smart enough to recognize these profits are fleeting and they will be gone within a few hours. Take worthwhile profits and be ready to do it again in the other direction a few hours later.

As for what comes next? Expect more of the same. Wednesday’s 3.5% tumble was far too large to brush off with a single up-day. This volatility will stick around until at least after the election and probably a couple of weeks beyond that too.

That said, there is no reason to fear this volatility as long as we are smart about it. Put tripwires on either side of the open and grab ahold of that early move, whichever direction it happens to be. Place your stop-loss just on the other side of the open and be ready to lock-in a pile of worthwhile profits later that afternoon. Rinse and repeat the next morning.

If the trade doesn’t work and we get stopped out, no big deal, especially if we got in early enough and were able to move our stop to our entry point. That turns this into a free trade. It’s hard to beat that risk/reward.

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Sep 21

CMU: How I traded Monday’s tumble

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University:

Spend any time on the internet and it sounds like everyone makes a killing trading stocks because all you ever hear is people bragging about their big scores. But those of us that have been around the block a few times know better. Unsurprisingly, very few people mention their losses. In fact, most people hide from them. And not just from other people, but also from themselves when they refuse to acknowledge a bad trade by either selling it or tallying the true cost after they close it. But as a matter of transparency, I’m willing to let everyone see what the other side of my personal trading looks like.

First, let’s roll the clock back to Friday afternoon. As I wrote in last week’s free post, I liked the way the S&P 500 bounced back above 3,300 after briefly violating the weekly lows earlier in the day. Big money makes their moves late in the day and they were clearly more interested in buying Friday’s dip than selling it. That resilient price action was a buy signal for me. But rather than rush in with everything I’ve got, I start every trade with defense in mind. My trading plan clearly dictates I start small, get in early, keep a nearby stop, and only add to what is working.

What this means in practice is I prefer being aggressive when buying bounces and that means getting in not long after the bounce. I protect myself by testing the market with a smaller 1/3 position. I further back this up by placing a stop nearby, typically under the recent lows. And I only add to a trade that is working. (I never “average down”)

This recipe often leads to nice opening pops like we saw the previous two Mondays, but I wasn’t as lucky this morning. There was a perfect headline storm over the weekend. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and subsequent nomination fight likely ruins any chance for a near-term Covid stimulus. Then China retaliated against Trump’s Tik-Tok ban by threatening to do the same against foreign companies operating inside China. And finally, parts of Europe are considering a second round of economically devastating shutdowns. Put all of this together and it is no surprise stocks tumbled at the open.

That meant I started the day playing defense. But since I only had a partial position, the losses were very manageable. The one exception I have to my otherwise rigid stop-loss policy follows opening gaps. Rather than sell the open when a gap leaps over my stops, I give the market 10 or 20 minutes to find a near-term bottom and bounce. That new low becomes my new stop and I will sell a violation of that no matter what. If I find myself already down 2% at the open, it isn’t that big of a risk to give the market another 0.25% or 0.5% of slack to see if there will be an early bounce. And most of the time, the market does bounce. Whether that bounce sticks or not is less consistent, at least I gave myself the opportunity to ride a rebound higher. If the early bounce fails, no big deal, I get out nearly where the market opened.

This morning the market attempted a modest bounce following the opening gap, but within an hour, it undercut the early lows and I was out. I even took a stab at a small short following my standard trading plan of starting small, getting in early, keeping a nearby stop, and only adding to what is working. That said, betting against a bull market is one of the hardest ways to make money and I enter these shorts with very low expectations. And just as expected, the early weakness bounced and I was out of my short in a matter of hours. No big deal. Most shorts don’t work, but the few times they do work, they make a ton of money, so they are definitely worth trying. Especially when I can enter and exit them without losing any money like I did today.

Just like Friday, I was impressed with Monday’s late surge into the close. While the market still ended down more than 1%, institutions were clearly more interested in buying the dip than selling the weakness. Right or wrong, big-money moves the market and I follow their lead. For the third time, in two days, I started small, got in early, and left a stop nearby.

Will this afternoon’s buy be any more successful? I don’t know. If it works, I will add more Tuesday and ride this wave higher. If it doesn’t, I’ll make the same defensive moves I made today.

This market is on the verge of making a big move. The only thing that matters is I am in the right place at the right time. If I have to take a few small losses along the way, no big deal. As long as I keep buying the bounces and shorting the breakdowns, I know my payday is coming. The worst thing I can do is give up now just because my last trade didn’t work. As long as my losses are small, I can keep doing this for a long, long time.

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Sep 15

CMU: How savvy traders look at the market

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University: 

All too often people think of trading in binary terms. They are bullish or they are bearish. The market is going up or it is going down. I need to be all-in or I need to be all-out. This stock is either racing to the moon or it is in a bubble and on the verge of collapse.

What these people fail to grasp is trading successfully is far easier when we approach the market in shades of gray. We don’t have to be all-in the same way we don’t have to be all-out. Sometimes a trade looks promising but it isn’t fully developed. That’s a great opportunity to test it with a smaller position and see what happens. When the trade starts working, we add more. If it fizzles because we got in too early, no big deal, pull the plug and try again next time. These aggressive trades are not unreasonably risky when our risk is reduced by starting with smaller position sizes.

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe we have a big winner we love, but the recent price-action is throwing off some warning flags. Not enough to abandon ship, but if we lock-in some profits, it becomes far easier to confidently hold the remainder of our position.

Shades of gray is how I felt about today’s price action in the S&P 500. As I wrote previously, I liked Friday’s late resilience after violating the weekly lows and bouncing back. The market confirmed that optimistic sentiment Monday morning when it poped at the open. I started buying partial positions early in this rebound because I could manage my risk by starting small, getting in early, keeping a nearby stop, and only adding to what was working.

Following that simple recipe, I ended up with a full position in a 3x index ETF. Tuesday started well with another opening gap higher and everything looked great. Unfortunately, the market’s midday second-thoughts gave back a big portion of those early gains. That fizzle was enough to give me pause. I still liked the way the market was trading and it is unreasonable to expect stocks to go up every single day. My inclination was to continue giving the rebound the benefit of doubt, but taking some of my position off midday made it a lot easier to confidently stick with my trade.

With one foot in the market and one foot out, no matter what happens Wednesday, I will be in good shape. If the rebound continues, I still have a lot of long exposure. If the market tumbles back to 3,300 support, I reduced my risk and it won’t sting nearly as much because I scaled back.

After the market reveals its intentions Wednesday morning, I will either buy back in or pull the plug and wait for the next opportunity. While other people are stressing over the overnight futures, I will be sleeping like a baby because I know I’m in good shape no matter what happens tomorrow.

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Sep 10

CMU: Was buying Wednesday’s bounce dumb?

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

Back when I was a novice trader, I used to look at the market and try to figure out where it was headed next. Then I would make my trades based on those predictions. Many times I was right and this approach worked well. Unfortunately, other times it didn’t go as planned and my predictions caused me to go down in flames while holding a position that “just needs a little more time.” I assume all traders have been there at one time or another.

After being handed some pretty humbling losses, I realized this was a foolish way to trade. Unfortunately, that is the way most people still trade.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about buying the bounce and many readers were shocked. Obviously, yesterday was “a dead-cat bounce and the market was clearly headed lower.” As a seasoned trader, I don’t get that mindset. For me, if the market is going up, I buy it. If it’s going down, I sell it. It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.

Yesterday, the market went up and regardless of how I felt about the dip and whether it went “too far” or “not far enough”, the market was going up and that created a buying opportunity.

I fully acknowledge that I will never be right all the time. Rather than try to predict the market, I simply follow its lead. When it goes up, I buy. When it goes down, I sell. Was yesterday’s bounce the real deal? Following today’s dismal reversal, obviously not. But if a person is nimble enough to get in early and has the discipline to get out early, they have the luxury of trading these swings with near impunity.

I bought yesterday morning and held the strength through the close. Things were going well enough this morning to keep holding, but a midday fizzle undercut my stops and I was out. If the trade worked, I would have made money. It didn’t work and I lost nothing more than my time.

No doubt people on social media will call me stupid for trying, but personally, I think it is stupid not to try. Especially since this approach allowed me to make a killing riding this “impossible rally” higher since the March lows.

Is the Covid rally dead? Maybe…Maybe not. All I know is if this bounces again, I will be one of the first in line to buy that bounce. If it doesn’t work next time, then maybe it will happen the time after that. As long as I’m savvy with my entries and disciplined with my exits, it doesn’t really matter when it happens. The only thing that matters is that I’m in the right place at the right time when this thing is finally ready to rip. And most likely, that will happen when most people are still predicting bigger losses.

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Sep 08

CMU: How a savvy trader buys the dip.

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University: 

The S&P 500 fell for the third session in a row, retreating 7% from last week’s all-time highs. The spectacular implosion of the tech trade has many wondering if the Covid rally’s best days are now behind us.

First, this is one of the most hated rallies in recent memory. And to be honest, there is a lot to dislike about this market, namely hitting all-time highs in the middle of the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression. But let’s not allow these minor details to cloud our judgment. This market has been ignoring fundamentals for six months and there is little reason to believe anything changed now. If the headlines didn’t matter then, they probably don’t matter now. And if the market doesn’t care about these things, then neither should we.

Second, arguing with this rally has become a national pastime. Since the earliest days in April, critics have been bashing this strength. As you can see from the above chart, there have been at least 9 different times this market allegedly died. Is there a reason to believe this time will turn out any different?

Without a doubt, this rally will die like all the others that came before it. But if I’m a betting man and there are 10 chances one thing will happen while only 1 chance something else will happen, I’m sure as heck putting my money on the thing that happens 10x more often. This is just a simple numbers game.

While this dip will most likely bounce, that doesn’t mean we can be reckless with our trades. First, I will assume everyone who reads this free blog already locked-in profits when the market first retreated under 3,500. This is where our trailing stops should have been and those would have gotten us out.

Now that we’re in cash, the challenge is knowing when to get back in. Is three days of selling enough? Or will it be five? Or seven? I have no idea and that’s why the savvy dip buyer assumes every bounce is real. While that leads to premature entries, those are not a big deal if we manage our risk properly.

First, we start small. That means entering with a quarter, third, or half of a normal-sized position. That way if we’re wrong, our mistake doesn’t hurt very much.

Second, we buy the bounce early so we can place a nearby stop just under the lows. If the bounce fizzles and retreats, no big deal, we get out and try again. While this often leads to a hand full of small losses, those will easily be overcome when we catch the next big leg higher.

And third, we only add to what is working. The real bounce will take off and it won’t look back. As long as we start early, keep a nearby stop, and only add to something that is working, our risks will be small and our eventual rewards will be large.

This isn’t hard when we approach the market with a thoughtful and sensible plan.

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Aug 13

CMU: The real life dangers of holding leveraged ETFs

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University: 

Yesterday I wrote about the compelling benefits of buying the Covid bounce using a 3x leveraged ETF. No doubt the impressive 200% gains grabbed people’s attention. But no discussion about leveraged ETFs is complete without also discussing the negatives.

I often have people ask me why they shouldn’t just buy-and-hold leveraged ETFs. If 1x is good, obviously 3x is even better, right?  Not so fast. There is a weird quirk in the compounding of leveraged ETFs that makes losses loom larger than gains.

I will dig into the math in a future post, but for now, we don’t have to look any further than the current market swings for a striking example of this damaging quirk in action.

The chart in yesterday’s post was a little deceptive because I truncated the timeframe to include very little of the Covid selloff. If we expand the timeframe to include the previous highs, as I did above, it becomes strikingly obvious what the problem is.

While the S&P 500 recovered all of the Covid selloff this week, the comparable 3x leveraged ETF is still down a shocking 29%!!!

Any patient, long-term investor that held a 3x leveraged ETF through the Covid collapse and subsequent rebound is still down a staggering amount of money. And that’s only if he had the tremendous courage required to sit through a 75% plunge during the Covid lows. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely have second thoughts if I saw my life savings shrivel by 75%.

Leveraged ETFs are wonderful tools when used for short-term swing trading. But holding them for longer time frames is a dangerous and foolish thing to do. If you only remember one thing from all of this, let it be:
Leveraged ETFs are ONLY suitable for short-term swing-trades.

 

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Jun 26

CMU: Three Traders on a Mountain Road

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

Three traders find themselves standing on a road at the top of a mountain. All three are looking over a blind crest, wondering what is on the other side.

The first trader announces to the other two, “Look at how the camber of the road leans a little to the left. Obviously that means the road turns left on the other side of this crest.”

Confidently, the first trader jumps in his car, turns the wheel to the left, reves the engine, closes his eyes, and guns it.

A few seconds later, the other two traders flinch as they hear crashing sounds coming from the other side of the blind crest.

The second trader responds with, “Can you believe that idiot, what was he thinking? If you look at the terrain a little further down the valley, obviously the road turns to the right on the other side of this crest.”

Confidently, the second trader jumps in his car, turns the wheel to the right, reves the engine, closes his eyes, and guns it.

By now, the third trader is not at all surprised when he hears the sound of crunching metal coming from the other side of the blind crest.

Hopefully by now, everyone realizes the point of this story. Successful traders react to what the market gives them. They don’t just guess at what is ahead and blindly trade it. And as such, the third trader calmly gets in his car and with his eyes wide open, carefully navigates all the twists and turns on his way safely back down the mountain.

If you want to survive in this business, you must react to the market as it comes to you. There is nothing wrong with making educated guesses about what lies on the other side of a blind crest. But by no means commit to that position regardless of what you find when you get to the other side.

In our current environment, there is nothing wrong with having a bullish or bearish opinion about these Coronavirus shutdowns and the unlimited resources governments are throwing at the problem. It’s human nature to anticipate what’s coming. But when we get to the other side of the crest, we must follow the road, not our biases.

Three weeks ago that meant buying a relentless rebound no matter how far we were above the March lows. This week, that meant locking-in profits as prices slumped back to support.

What is coming next week? I’m not sure. But I do know that if we go up, I will be buying and if we go down, I will be selling. What will you be doing?

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May 18

CMU: Why headlines don’t really matter

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

The S&P 500 popped 3% today after an early vaccine trial produced encouraging results. We are still a long, long way from a viable vaccine being ready for widespread public use, but this is the first critical step in that journey. Also feeding into today’s rally, the Fed reiterated their willingness to use its “full range of tools to support the economy”.

While those appear to be obvious catalysts for a market rally, this market already wanted to go higher and these were simply the excuses. If it weren’t these headlines, it would have been something else.

The market reads whatever it wants into the news. Sometimes it grabs on to the half-full portion of a story. Other times it is the half-empty. Then there are the paradoxical “good is bad” and “bad is good”. What is the one thing all of these have in common? The market does what it wants to do and journalists search for the most plausible explanation after the fact.

If we want a powerful example of this phenomenon, we don’t have to look any further than the sharpest economic contraction in modern history. Economists haven’t seen anything this dramatic….ever! Yet stocks are barely off 10%. Explain that one using logic and reason! It can’t be done. Stocks are this far above March’s lows, not because this is where the headlines tell us we should be, but because this is where the market wants to be despite the horrifying headlines.

The market didn’t need vaccine trials or Fed’s reassurances to rally today. If it wasn’t these things, it would have been something else. More important for a trader was recognizing this market wanted to rally. It told us that quite clearly last Thursday when it bounced decisively off of recent lows. The latest dip died Thursday morning and today’s rally was practically inevitable. (Obvious hyperbole since nothing is inevitable.) Lucky for readers of this blog, they already saw this strength coming Is this week’s selloff already over? It sure appears like it.” I certainly didn’t expect a 3% pop today, but I knew the market wanted to go higher and that was the way I positioned myself.

What comes next? Expect more of the same. Volatility is off the charts and that means big moves in both directions, but the up days will be a little larger than the down days and any weakness will be shallow and fleeting. If this market was going to crash, it would have happened by now. This could change tomorrow or next week, but until we have a compelling reason not to, we need to continue giving this market the benefit of doubt.

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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM

May 09

How much risk are you holding?

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU , Weekly Analysis

Free End of Week Analysis and Lookahead: 

The S&P 500 added 3.5% this week and produced its first weekly gain in three weeks. That said, the previous two weekly losses were fairly modest at -1.3% and -0.2%. This continues to be the most epic rebound of all rebounds and the index is towering 30% above March’s lows.

In previous posts I covered the reasons this market is ignoring the horrific economic carnage surrounding us. But for those that missed it, it mostly comes down to the market’s forward-looking nature pricing stocks for where we are headed, not where we are today. The stock market expects the economic situation to be much improved in six months and that is how it is valuing stocks today.

But now that stocks are significantly above the selloff’s bottom, is there still a reason to be buying stocks at these levels? As is usually the case, the answer is both Yes and No.

First, let’s start with the Yes. Momentum is definitely higher and this market is refusing all invitations to breakdown. We just completed the seventh week of this rebound and if it was unsustainable and vulnerable to a crash, it would have happened by now. Compare this to the typical market crashes that are breathtakingly quick and force traders to sell first and ask questions later. The market most definitely doesn’t give us the luxury of multiple months to thoughtfully consider the full situation and allow us to sell in a calm and orderly fashion before the crash.

But just because this market is trading well and will most likely continue trading well doesn’t mean it is a good buy. Successful trading has less to do with the outcome of any individual trade and is more about managing our risks. Let’s say chances are good we can make $20 over the next few weeks. That seems like a no brainer, right? Well, what if that opportunity to make $20 also came with the risk we could lose $80. Does it still seem like a good deal? Probably not.

This market is dramatically higher and most likely it will keep going higher. But just because it goes higher doesn’t mean we should be chasing it here. The big run from the March lows ate up a big portion of the upside and means there is less profit potential left for us to squeeze out of the market over the near-term. And more than just limited upside, if there are any bumps in the road, there is an awful lot of air underneath us right now.

Given how skewed against us the risk/reward currently is, this is definitely a better place to be locking-in profits than adding new money. Just because the market goes up next week and the week after doesn’t mean buying stocks at these prices was the smart trade.

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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM

May 05

CMU: How to trade a market that doesn’t make any sense

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University: 

There are not enough superlatives to describe this economic environment and the subsequent stock market. Unprecedented. Unexpected. Unicorn. Most un-words apply because they all fit when talking about something we’ve never seen before.

So how do we trade something without precedent? Unfortunately, a lot of people kept approaching this market the same way they always have. It doesn’t matter if you use fundamental analysis or technical analysis, this market has broken all of the rules. So why are people still stubbornly applying the old rules?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying to throw out all of the old rules because everything has changed forever. That is absolutely not the case. Soon enough things will return to normal. Maybe it will happen later this summer. Maybe this fall or even next year. But this too shall pass.

The challenge is what to do in the meantime. If your holding timeframe extends beyond this current environment, ignore the noise and stick with has always worked. Find the best companies. Wait for them to sell at a discount. Buy as much as you can. And allow the profits to come to you in 5+ years. That works great for slow-money investors like Warren Buffett and it will work this time toon.

But what about the rest of us traders with a shorter time frame? Well, quite simply, if something isn’t working, STOP DOING IT!!! If your understanding of the market cannot deal with this unprecedented rebound from the March lows, there is nothing wrong with the market. The problem is your system. The same goes for your technical analysis. If it cannot deal with something moving this far, this fast, you need to find a different way of looking at the market.

At best, our rules only apply about half the time. The challenge is knowing which half of the time. That is the art of trading. The other half of the time, we need to be smart enough to change our approach. Unfortunately, there is a an almost imperceptible difference between being patient and being stubborn, but the outcomes couldn’t be more contrasting.

As far as I’m concerned, conventional rules don’t apply to this market. Rather than figure out where this market is going using rules that don’t work, simply follow its lead. The greatest asset we have as independent investors is the nimbleness of our size. We don’t need to commit to positions days or weeks ahead of time. Instead, wait to grab on after the trade is already moving. And if we get in on the wrong side, no big deal, bailout, and flip directions.

Up to this point, many of my more conventional assumptions about this market have been flat-out wrong. But by having a flexible trading plan that can accommodate this unprecedented market, my trades have been on the right side of this market most of the time.

Eventually, our more conventional rules will become useful again. In the meantime, be fully prepared to follow a market that “doesn’t make any sense”. The market isn’t broken, your approach is wrong.

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Tags: S&P 500 Nasdaq $SPY $SPX $QQQ $IWM

Apr 29

CMU: Don’t fall victim to binary thinking

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

The S&P 500 popped at the open, recovering all of yesterday’s midday fizzle and then some. We closed at the highest levels in nearly two months and the stock market is darn close to pushing this selloff’s losses back under 10%. What a turn of events that would be given how desperate and hopeless the situation appeared only a few weeks ago.

Yesterday’s failed breakout to recent highs was a big red flag (read about it here). That very easily could have been the start of a near-term pullback. But today’s price action decisively beat back all of those concerns (at least for the time being).

While a lot of inexperienced traders love to categorize the market in binary terms. Either you are a bull or a bear. Either you are right or wrong. Either you are successful or you are a failure. And they compound those naive categorizations by making such extreme judgment calls based on a single data point. An inexperienced trader would have called yesterday a top and another inexperienced trader would have ridiculed him for being wrong today.

Unfortunately, few things in the market are binary. If they were, this would be so much easier. There is a ton of nuisance in the market that most novices miss. Yesterday’s dreadful price action wasn’t a “top”, it was a big fat warning flag. If it was followed by similarly disappointing price action today or tomorrow, then we could start positioning for a possible top. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the market exploded higher and when it exceeded yesterday’s early highs, that strength invalidated yesterday’s warning and put the rebound firmly back on track.

That said, just because yesterday’s warning was invalidated doesn’t mean we are racing back to the highs anytime soon. Again, that is thinking in binary terms. Instead, things look good until we get the next warning flag. At which point we start looking for another flag to confirm the first. Maybe we get it and maybe we don’t.

If you want to survive in this game for a long time, get past that binary outlook. And if you need a reason, all of the money is made between those extremes. Bull or bear, right or wrong, who cares as long as we’re making money!

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Apr 27

CMU: When to buy and when to wait

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

The S&P 500 continues trading incredibly well and is hovering near recent highs. As much as people don’t trust this record-setting rebound, it keeps defying the odds and it deserves our respect.

As I’ve written previously, there are two “safer” ways to trade this rebound. Long-term investors with a holding period measured in years should be happy to buy this dip, the next dip, and the dip after that. What happens between here and three, four, or five years isn’t important. The most important thing is we get in. For example, during the last stock market crash, the S&P 500 bottomed at 666. Do you think anyone minds having bought the dip at 800? 900? Or even 1,200? More important than how close we get to the bottom is the simple fact we get in. Years from now, the Coronavirus will be long behind us and stocks will be much higher. (If for no other reason than runaway inflation!) Maybe prices go lower first, or maybe they don’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter as long as we buy attractive discounts and hold for better times.

On the other end of the spectrum is our short-term trades. While I’m confident stocks will be higher in three, four, or five years. I’m far less confident about where they will be next week. Stocks are holding up amazingly well and I could easily see this strength persist into next week as governments continue scaling back restrictions. On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me to see infection rates edge higher after this relaxation. If our leaders get cold feet and pull the drawbridge again, that will send stocks into another tail-spin.

Which outcome will we see next week or the week after? I have no idea and I don’t even pretend to speculate. Lucky for me, I’m a nimble independent investor and I don’t need to commit to a position weeks ahead of time. I can buy and sell with a few mouse clicks and rather than fall for this bull versus bear argument, I’m simply standing by, waiting to see who wins before I put any money at risk.

Making money is 80% waiting for the right trade and 20% making the right trade. Right now we are in the waiting phase. Stay patient and wait for the trade to come to you. Making money is easy, the hard part is not giving back all of those profits by following it up with a bad trade. Maybe that next great trading opportunity is coming next week. Maybe the week after. And even if it doesn’t come until June, it’s not a big deal. We made a killing last month and there is no reason to follow that success with an unnecessary trade here.

As for the next good trade, an aggressive trader should wait for this strength to breakdown before shorting. For the less courageous, wait for the next wave of weakness to bottom before buying the dip.

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Apr 22

CMU: If you don’t know how to be wrong, you shouldn’t be in the market

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

Some of the worst behaviors come out when people hide behind anonymous handles on the internet. These trolls use the cover of anonymity to say things they would never have the courage to do in person. Yet somehow, this has become the normal way of interacting online.

One of the most frequent abuses in trading circles is taunting someone for making a wrong trading call. When a person shares an idea, a certain segment of the community eagerly looks forward to crucifying them if that call turns out wrong. While this vulgar act tells us very little about the skill of the person that made the incorrect call, it speaks volumes about the critic’s trading abilities.

Every savvy trader learned early in their career mistakes and losing money are normal parts of this game. They understand trading successfully means being wrong…a lot. The difference between the sophisticated trader and these trolls is the sophisticated trader doesn’t think anything of being wrong. To them, a mistake is a mistake and nothing more. Take the loss, learn from it, and move on.

Savvy traders most certainly don’t taunt anyone for a trading call that doesn’t work out. They learned a long time ago some trades simply don’t work out and the outcome of any individual trade is not an indication of a person’s abilities. They took a chance and it didn’t work out. Nothing more, nothing less. And just as important, when they are right, instead of gloating, they recognize they could have just as easily been on the losing end.

If you see someone criticizing another person for making a wrong call, that tells you the critic doesn’t have a clue how successful trading actually works. If a person believes there is nothing more important than being right or wrong, that person clearly doesn’t understand what it takes to be successful in the market.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of these attacks, shrug it off. It is obvious the troll attacking you knows even less about trading than you do and their opinion doesn’t matter. The most successful traders are the most modest because they have been on the losing end of more trades than they can count. Only novices make a big deal out of individual trades.

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Apr 14

CMU: The Art of the Trade

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

The S&P 500 bounced back from yesterday’s modest dip and the March rebound continues reclaiming lost ground. There wasn’t a definitive headline driving this strength, instead, this relief primarily comes from a moderation of the viral infection rates. We are still a long, long way from resolving this crisis, but at least for the moment, it appears like it is no longer spiraling out of control.

Last week I shared a day-trading strategy that has been working well in this market. It doesn’t matter if the market gaps higher or lower, what we are paying attention to is the market’s first move following the open. If the market rallies, we buy. If it dips, we short. Now, when I say first move, I don’t mean five seconds after the open, but in the first five or ten minutes. Identify that move, jump aboard, leave a stop near the open and see what happens. If the first move fizzles and hits your stop, get out. If you are aggressive, consider flipping directions and going the other way. Take profits in the afternoon and be ready to do it again the next day.

Easy enough, right? Well, today gave us one of the more challenging cases. To this point, the market’s been really good about going in one direction or the other. The handful of times it switched directions midday, that reversal kept on going, making a flipped trade work well. But today’s price-action caught us in the middle. The early rally dipped back to the open and then bounced higher. How this affected a person’s trade depends on the levels they got in at, the stop they picked, and if they switched directions or not.

If a person gave their stop little extra room under the open, they were probably okay and rode the afternoon rebound higher. But if they were more conservative, this midday swoon undercut their stops and knocked them out for a small loss. If they used that trigger as a signal to enter a short trade, they got washed out a few minutes later when that midday false-alarm bounced higher.

If I person got zinged twice today, there is nothing wrong with calling it quits and trying again tomorrow. These losses are measured in cents and not a big deal relative to the profits we’ve been collecting over the last few weeks. We cannot win them all and this is just part of the game. Come back tomorrow and by then today’s trade will be long forgotten.

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Apr 06

CMU: Always have a plan to be wrong

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

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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Mar 30

CMU: The importance of having a plan to be wrong

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

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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Mar 25

CMU: The criticality of timeframe in trading

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

As crazy as the last few weeks have been, far and away the most critical factor determining our success is timeframe. One person is buying with both arms while another is shorting like mad. Who’s right and who’s wrong? As strange as it sounds, they could both be right and make a ton of money from their seemingly contradictory trades. The secret sauce is timeframe.

I bring this up because in these short, after-hours posts, I often neglect to stress timeframe when talking about positions. While it is often obvious given the context, for new readers, I want to make sure everyone understands how important this distinction really is.

Two days ago I wrote a post about the safety of buying these levels and yesterday I told readers the opposite thing when I said this strength was shortable. The difference between these two posts is the first covered long-term investing while the second exploited the market’s daily gyrations.

Despite how it sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, I still believe both of these cases are as true today as when I wrote them. Anyone buying these discounts and holding for 12+ moths will see some really healthy profits. When prices finally reclaim 3k, whether a person bought at 2,300 or 2,400 will be fairly insignificant. The most important thing is they were busy buying discounts when everyone else was desperately selling them.

On the other hand, if a person wants to lock-in short-term profits next week, I would definitely suggest shorting today’s strength. This market is stuck in a choppy basing phase and one day’s gains become the next day’s losses. While today’s stimulus headlines were great and worthy of a 10%+ pop from Monday’s lows, now that we are at much higher levels, chances are good the next move is lower.

As strange as it sounds, I truly believe a person should be both buying and shorting this market. The distinction comes down to whether they are doing it with their long-term investments or in their short-term trading account. (You use both strategies, right?)

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Mar 09

CMU: Trading plan for markets in turmoil

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

The S&P had one of the worst days since the 2008 Financial Crisis, plunging a staggering 7% from Friday’s close and violating recent lows in the process. While the Coronavirus remains front and center, frayed nerves were shattered when Saudi Ariba launched an aggressive oil price war against Russia, going full nuclear and triggering the biggest one-day oil price crash in nearly 30 years. Global markets were already teetering on edge and this news gave us the biggest kick in the pants imaginable.

How do we trade this? That’s a question everyone wants to know, so let’s get to it.

First, we need to bifurcate our approach into two major strategies because our primary objectives have a huge impact on how we approach this volatility. It all comes down to time-frame. Either we are steady long-term investors or we are nimble swing-traders. There is zero room in between these extremes. Pick one or the other and make a ton of money. Find yourself in the middle and other people will be getting rich at your expense.

Now, there is a smart way to straddle these two extremes, but it most definitely doesn’t come from blending timeframes. Instead, we allocate a portion of our market exposure to each approach. Have some dedicated long-term investments and another portion is exclusively for swing-trading. As long as each piece falls firmly within one of these clearly defined strategies, you will be fine. Anyone mixing the two quickly become a wealth doner (If you know anyone like this, please thank them for allowing us to have such a great month!)

Trading Plan

Long-term:
Let’s start with the long-term approach. This is the classic buy-it-and-forget-it. These people shouldn’t be following the market’s daily movements and if they do, it is only so they know when prices dip and they can add more. Anyone selling long-term investments during this crash is making a huge, huge mistake. Don’t be that guy. Buy-high and sell-low never works.

If your trade started as a long-term investment, keep it that way. Stop following the headlines and watching the market’s daily gyrations. If you really want to do something, pick your favorite investments and add more. Scale up your 401k contributions, don’t decrease them. In nine months when pundits are reflecting back on 2020, the Coronavirus will simply be a footnote and life will be back to normal. If you bought the dip, great. If you sold it, well, someone needed to donate their money so the rest of us can have a great year.

Short-term:
While a lot happened over the last few weeks, the short-term trading plan I’ve been sharing with subscribers hasn’t changed in three weeks. When something is working this well, why mess with it?

First, we are small investors and that means we can get in and out of the market with the greatest of ease. This is far-and-away our largest advantage over the big boys and if we don’t exploit this strength, we should convert everything over to long-term investments and forget about trading this chop.

Second, this is often a counter-trend trading technique, meaning we need to be extremely nimble, buy early, and exit losing trades fast. The only way to survive this stuff is by being earlier and faster than everyone else.

Third, start small and only add to winning trades.

Fourth, buy bounces early and short breakdowns just as quickly. Moving decisively allows us to place a nearby stop under the lows on a bounce or just above support on a short. The closer our stops, the less money we have at risk.

Fifth, be prepared for a lot of head fakes and false alarms. There will be inevitable rebounds that fizzle and violations that rebound. No big deal. As long as we start small, get in early, and have a nearby stop, the losses will be minor and inconsequential compared to the towering profits when we catch the next big move.

And Sixth, trade in such a size that when we are wrong, it stings, but it isn’t crippling. Being long into this morning’s open would have sucked, but if we bought near Friday’s lows and only held a small position over the weekend, it actually wasn’t that big of a deal.

Take all of those strategies together and our trading plan is to buy any and all bounces early, start small, keep a nearby stop, and close/short the violation of support. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. I’ve been buying every bounce for two weeks and I keep making money shorting the market. And I will continue buying every bounce until the market stops giving away money. If I make money buying the dip, great. If I make money shorting the violation, great. It makes no difference to me as long as I’m making money.

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Mar 06

CMU: Why everyone is right about this market but they are still losing money

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

The S&P 500 continues whipping around violently. It’s been two weeks filled with 4% intraday price swings and a lot of people are losing a lot of money. But that’s stating the obvious. What readers really want to know is how to turn those losses into profits.

It is impossible to come to the market without some kind of bias. We spend most of our time searching for proof that supports our predisposed outlook. Bulls see the positive in every event and bears see the opposite. While some people claim they “don’t have a bias”, unless they are a robot, they’re lying to themselves and few things are more expensive than fooling yourself.

Rather than deny what we can’t control, successful traders learn to control it. (Exceptional traders even know how to harness that power, but I’ll save that topic for another post.)

What makes this idea so important right now is because it is impossible to come to this selloff without thinking either A) it is totally overblown and unreasonable or B) this is just getting started and we are going so much lower.

The paradox of those opposing statements is both been very true over the last several weeks. And not just once, but multiple times.

Last month the market rallied decisively in the face of Cornovirus fears. But all of that ended last week when prices crashed hard and the bears were finally able to beat their chest triumphantly. But two day later bulls were strutting around again because the market rebounded in spectacular fashion. Then came Tuesday’s second-guessing and not long after, the Biden Bounce. And finally today, the market closed near the weekly lows.

In perfectly alternating fashion, the bulls went from holding all the cards to falling on their face. Then it was the bears’ turn. As soon as one side was feeling pretty good, the next smackdown came. And honestly, I don’t see these alternating reversals of fortune changing anytime soon.

If we tally the score, bulls have been right three times and the bears matched that tally with their own three wins. But if the score is even, how can so many people be losing money? Easy, rather than collect profits confidently, most people wait until they are wrong and they cannot bear the pain of loss before liquidating their positions. Bulls sell the crash and bears buy the bounce (ie cover their shorts). One day’s profits become the next day’s losses. Rather than strut around and taunt the opposing side, smart money is taking profits.

My personal bias is this tumble is a gross overreaction and prices will bounce back soon enough. But rather than argue with the market crash, I’ve been too busy making money following its lead. When it wants to go down, I short it. When it wants to go up, I buy the bounce. And rather than pat myself on the back for a good trade, I’m locking-in worthwhile profits as soon as I have them. As long as I’m making money, I don’t care if anyone knows what I think.

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Mar 05

CMU: Lesson 6: Sometimes the best trade is to not trade

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University

Now that we are nearly two full weeks into the Coronavirus crash, collecting profits is going to become a lot more challenging. The first few swings of any crash are the easiest to profit from because the market moves sharply lower, obliterating all rational support levels along the way. But just when all hope is lost, supply dries up and we get a nearly instantaneous rebound that recovers a huge portion of the crash. Unfortunately, this relief rally is short-lived because the market likes symmetry and a crash that goes too far is immediately followed by a rebound that goes just as overboard. That first overbought rebound is followed by an echo crash, followed by another echo rebound.

After a few days of clearly defined crashes and rebounds, the market starts to settle into a wide trading range. While the intensity of these swings starts to moderate, so does the predictability of the moves. Swings that went too far before reversing are now prone to switching directions in the middle of the range. Gone are the clear indications of too far and prices now jump and crash dramatically at seemingly random levels on less than obvious headlines.

While these moves are still profitable for the most nimble of traders, the speed with which these gyrations come and go makes it challenging to consistently stay on the right side of the market. Rather than try to force trades, sometimes the best trade is to simply sit back and not trade. If a person did well and collected nice profits over the last week and a half, it might be time to protect that windfall.

Spend any time in trading circles and you will quickly learn making money in the market isn’t hard. Even the most clueless of traders stumble into great trades. Winning isn’t the problem, it’s losing all of those great profits in the next bad trade. Sometimes we get a little too full of ourselves after a big win. Maybe we are dreaming of cashing in for something big and we need just a little bit more money. Whatever it is that convinces us to push things too far, that next ill-advised trade is what wipes out most of what we just earned.

Trade when you have an edge. But if you don’t have an edge, there is nothing wrong with taking a step back and waiting for a better opportunity. This market is on the verge of getting really choppy and a lot of people who traded the initial crash well are on the verge of giving all of those profits back. Don’t be that guy.

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