Jan 23

CMU: Did you sell? Always be ready to get back in

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University:

There is plenty of advice on how to get out of the market. Whether that is taking profits when the market hits your price target or bailing out defensively when the market retreats to your stop-loss. But what you don’t hear very often is how important it is to get back in when you realize you sold too early.

The single greatest strength we have as independent traders is the nimbleness of our size. While institutional investors have impressive degrees, decades of experience, an army of researchers, and industry contacts we could never duplicate, what they don’t have is speed. It takes them weeks, even months to establish full positions, something we do in the amount of time it takes to make a few mouse clicks.

But with that nimbleness comes responsibility. Taking profits early and often is always a good idea. But so is continuing to watch the market for the opportunity to get back in. All too often people flip their outlook on a trade as soon as they sell. All of a sudden what was a great and profitable trade transforms into an outdated and used up idea. But a lot of times there is life still left in a good ideal and we should not let ourselves miss out on it just because we sold last week, yesterday, or even an hour ago.

Every time you sell, have a plan on what it would take to get back in. Maybe you jump back in if the market pulls back to a certain level. But what if the pullback never happens? Do you have a plan to get back in if it keeps going higher? While we never recklessly chase a move higher, maybe the stock is more resilient than we expected. But rather than missing the next leg higher because we are stubborn, have a plan to buy when prices exceed the prior highs.

There is nothing wrong with taking profits when your trading plan tells you to take profits. In fact, it would be wrong to not follow our trading plan. But once we are out, always be looking for that next entry point. It could happen a lot sooner than you expect.

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

Jan 22

The dangers of thin ice

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-Hours Analysis:

The S&P 500 bounced back from Tuesday’s small dip and so far most owners show zero interest in extending any selloff. That said, we need to remember step-backs are a very normal and healthy part of every sustainable move higher. The fact we’ve gone several months without a meaningful test of support makes me cautious.

Yesterday I saw people criticizing the market for “overreacting” to these Chinese virus headlines. While I agree this sickness is highly unlikely to impact the U.S. economy in a meaningful way, calling a 0.4% intraday slip a “reaction”, let alone an “overreaction”, is definitely a stretch. In most markets, 0.4% barely rises to the level of random noise. These “overreaction” comments definitely give us a sense of just how complacent this market has become when people become incredulous over a 0.4% dip.

The bigger question is if bulls struggle to comprehend a 0.4% slip, how are they going to react to a very normal 1% stumble? Or god forbid, a routine 5% or 10% pullback? Making money has become so easy people have forgotten what “normal” really looks like. At this point, traders are so complacent something totally benign could send shockwaves tearing through the market. While at this point talk of a 5% or 10% correction sounds extreme, these things happen all the time and nearly every year on record experienced at least one 5% pullback. When the inevitable eventually happens, I expect to hear all kinds of apocalypse predictions because compared to what we’ve seen over the last few months, it will feel like the end of the world.

All of that said, the market is still acting really well and there is no reason to alter our plans just because something could happen. We are definitely skating on thin ice, but the thing to remember about thin ice is it only dangerous if we fall through. Until that happens, expect the good times to keep rolling.

I’m definitely not calling this a top and am still long in my personal trading account, but I do know that when we hit the rocks, there is the potential for a big reaction. There is nothing to do right now other than remain alert. While it is tempting to become cynical, remember, this is still the less likely outcome. The only reason to even concern ourselves with it is if it does happen, it will be big. Remember, the greatest strength we have as little guys is our nimbleness. We don’t need to predict the future when we can simply ride this wave all the way to the edge and then hop off just before the fall.

That said, we don’t need to be fully invested at these levels. It has been a good ride, but this is definitely a better place to be taking profits than adding new money. Keep moving your stops up and consider taking some profits proactively. Once the market consolidates some of these gains, we can start looking at adding more. And if the market falls through the ice, that will present us with the best shorting opportunity in a long time.

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

Jan 21

CMU: Lesson 1: Trading is hard

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University:

I learned many things through my three decades of trading experience, but none have been more all-encompassing than the simple idea, “Trading is hard.” If I’m only allowed to share a single idea with a new trader, this would be the one.

We arrive with different backgrounds and with varying ambitions, but the one thing that unifies all of us is the belief we can beat the market. The concept seems easy enough. Come up with an idea. Move a little money around with a few mouse clicks. And blamo, profit! Or at least that was the notion that brought us here.

But as most of us have already figured out, reality is far different. In fact, I’ve come to believe trading successfully is one of the most challenging ways to earn a living. In most fields it is pretty straight forward, the harder you work, the more successful you are. Unfortunately, there is no such correlation in the stock market. A well researched and thought out idea has nearly the same chance of being correct as a coin flip. In fact, there have been documents cases of dart-throwing monkies outperforming some of the smartest and most experienced professionals in this business. Talk about humbling!

The challenge with trading is the only thing that matters is when we open a position and when we close it. It doesn’t matter how we came up with the idea. It doesn’t even matter if we were right. The only thing that matters is if the market moved in our direction between while we held it. Sometimes we get it right and make money. (Yeah!) Other times we are wrong. (Boo!) But far and away the most frustrating cases is when our idea was spot-on but somehow we still managed to screw it up. (WTF?!?)

The truth is, trading is as much about managing ourselves as it is about having a good idea. Can we control both our positive and negative emotions? Do we have a sound risk management strategy? Do we know how to get in and get out at the most favorable times? Are we capable of admitting our mistakes?

I wish I had a simple or easy answer to help new traders getting started out, but the simple truth is trading is nowhere as easy as it seems. But don’t get discouraged. As long as you educate yourself, have a sensible plan, and stick with it, eventually this gets less hard. (It is never easy)

Over the next few months I plan on writing brief posts covering all of my Trading Rules. If you want to receive the list of my list of Trading Rules and be notified when new posts are published, signup for FREE Email Alerts.

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Jan 17

CMU: You have profits, now what?

By Jani Ziedins | Free CMU

Cracked.Market University:

The indexes are at record highs and anyone not obsessed with fighting this market is sitting on a pile of profits. The question now becomes, “what should we do with these profits?”

The first thing to remember is markets move in waves. Everyone knows this but people often forget this simple idea in the heat of battle. When it feels like all hope is lost and we are on the verge of a far larger crash is the exact moment prices bottom and bounce. The same goes for the upside, the moment this starts feeling is easy is right before it turns hard.

I’ve been doing this far too long to attempt picking tops. And even if I were picking a top, this probably wouldn’t be it. That said, we don’t have to pick tops in order to make decisions that protect our profits. It’s been a good run. Stocks are up more than 100 points since last week’s intraday lows. And we are nearly 20% higher than last fall’s test of 2,800 support. Could we rally another 100 points next week? Absolutely. Could we advance another 20% over the next three months? Sure. But just because we can do something doesn’t mean we will.

We can look back in history and find several instances where the market advanced 40% over 6 months. But when you consider it took 100 years to accumulate that handful of instances, just because something is possible doesn’t mean we should trade using those assumptions. While these things can and have happened, we shouldn’t expect them to happen. Instead, we should treat this market like any other market until it tells us otherwise; two-steps forward, one-step back.

There are two sensible ways of dealing with profits. First, if we are in this to make money, the only way we do that is by selling our winners. No matter how much we like a position, we cannot make money unless we sell it. The problem is selling a position means giving up on further upside and no one wants to do that. But if we remember that most people lose money in the stock market, then we probably don’t want to do what most people do. And most of the time that means selling stocks we don’t want to sell.

Now maybe it is just too hard for us to part with our favorite position. The second alternative is to take this decision out of our hands. Take a moment when everything looks good and the market is not pressuring you in any way. Look at the chart and pick a point where if the market falls to this level, you think you should get out. Write that level down and commit to selling at this price if the market dips back to it. If you are lucky and prices keep moving higher, repeat this exercise every week or two. Keep moving your stops up until that fateful day when the market finally forces you out and you collect your pile of profits.

While this seems like an either/or decision, very few things in the market are binary. Sometimes the best solution is doing a little bit of both. Take some profits proactively and follow the rest of your position higher with a trailing stop. That gives you the best of both worlds. But no matter what you decide, please decide to do something and commit to it. If you wait until the market starts dipping before making a trading decision, chances are emotions will cloud your judgment and you will be moving in lockstep with the masses that lose money.

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

Jan 16

The mistake traders made in TSLA

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Free After-Hours Analysis:

I normally let more time pass before writing about a company again in these free blog posts, but TSLA’s price action has been dramatic enough to warrant a second post. After surging 10% in a single day, I told readers earlier this week, “it would be both foolish and reckless to chase the stock at these levels.” And wouldn’t you know it, in less than three days the stock gave back all of those gains when it opened this morning.

Now I want to be clear, I am in no way a TSLA bear and am most definitely not calling Tuesday a top. But I do know the market and radical surges like TSLA experienced over the last few weeks are most definitely not sustainable. This was a frenzy of breakout buying and short-covering, not systematic, rational, and sustainable buying.

Momentum traders and shorts losing money were jumping over each other trying to buy this stock before it went any higher. But the thing to remember about breakout buying and short-covering is both of these groups are not buying the company for fundamental reasons. They are chasing momentum. And more than just that, both groups of buyers don’t have a lot of money. They quickly move all-in (or all-out in the shorts’ case) and then they’re out of money. Once they trade, their opinion stops mattering and the wave of buying that fueled the explosive breakout evaporates.

This implosion of demand is further compounded by institutional investors’ aversion to chasing prices higher. Even if they like the company, they know these surges fizzle and they will be able to buy at cheaper prices if they are patient. And in a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, when institutional investors wait for lower prices, that creates a lack of demand and prices fall.

So if chasing prices higher Monday and Tuesday was a mistake, what was the right way to trade this? If we wanted to buy the breakout or cover our shorts, we should have done this long before the move became obvious to everyone. In this case, when TSLA initially broke through the old highs near $390. Buying at this point allows us to get in early and more than just that, it gives us a sensible stop near current prices that will limit our losses if we are wrong. And rather than recklessly chasing prices higher earlier this week, we would have been cashing in our profits and looking for the next trade.

As for what’s next, I like the way the stock bounced back today, but I need to see more to be sure. Maybe I will write about this stock again in a few days after it gives us more information about its intentions.

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

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