The bulls have broken through once again (had we any doubt?) to close the week at what appears to be a new closing high, and perhaps a new record high. The soybean bull continues unabated! (See Chick Goslin's Law #2 from my earlier post today.)
I exited at the first red candle after the run-up in prices. This pattern, when confirmed by lower prices, is very close to a bearish engulfing pattern. A true engulfing pattern would have shown the open price above the close for the previous candle. However, in highly liquid markets like futures, the closing price for one candle is frequently the opening price for the next one. Many candlestick pattern purists trade primarily stocks, where gaps and price jumps are common, if not the rule. In futures and currencies, where liquidity is better and price depth is more ample, gapping prices are quite rare, although certainly not unheard of. Thus, a purist interpretation of candlestick patterns may not be appropriate for futures. We adapt.
Needless to say, I missed out on additional profits, but at the close of the session and week, I wasn't going to re-enter the markets so close to the close. I wish I had, but no one trades perfectly. I certainly could have. My rule is not to place a new trade after 2:05 pm EST. The green candle following my exit occurred at 2:02 pm EST.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Note the green and red dots at the zero line on the histogram for the Bollinger Squeeze indicator (bottom subgraph, both charts). Note also that the 3 minute chart shows flat Bollinger Bands, MAs, and prices. At the same time, the tick chart has gone dead. There is little activity, which on a tick chart indicates that there are few buyers or sellers. There are no buyers or sellers, so tick-based candles don't continue to tick by, while on the time-based interval chart (left) tiny candles continue to tick the time by as it passes. The market is indecisive, and no one is willing to commit. That includes me! Therefore, now we wait.
This is NOT a time to go to lunch. Once the Bollinger Bands are breached, a flurry of buying or selling activity will emerge very rapidly as volatility rapidly rises again to a fever pitch. This would create the perfect trading conditions that Philippe Cahen describes in incredible detail in his book, Analyse Technique et Volatilite.
Note also, however, that both the Bollinger Squeeze indicator (the histogram has changed from bright green to dark green, indicating a loss of buying momentum) and the Klinger indicators (red downward-slopped line in the 1st subgraph below prices) are universally indicating selling pressure. Corn, on the other hand, is showing pressure to the upside right now (not shown).
The Three Natural Laws of Trading
- The future is unknown
- Continuation is more likely than change
- Prices fluctuate
Law #1 above is manifest in this next graphic (see below with further explanation) at a point of uncertainty. Law #3 is obviously a constant. If I was forced to place a bet, which I am, I am going to bet that Law #2 will re-emerge and become dominant -- eventually. I am going to prepare or at least expect to go long, but will exit my short position if prices stagnate into a consolidation (I have placed a stop loss to prevent me from losing money). A consolidation would at least allow me to take some limited time picking an optimally-profitable exit point. Prices don't appear to be poised to continue downward for now, so I will want to do it fairly soon, before buying strength re-emerges.
Given Laws 1 and 2 above, how is it possible to make profits in the futures markets? Chick provides a much better answer than I ever could in his book.
Conflicting Signals = Market Indecision
There are some conflicting signals in this chart. Interestingly, the chart for corn today looks nearly identical. Wow! On the 15 minute and 3 minute charts, prices are showing dynamic support at this level via the EMAs. We are also seeing strong buying in the 3 minute chart Klinger indicator (see the rising green line in the middle chart, 1st subgraph below the candlestick chart). If the Bollinger Squeeze indicator (in the 2nd subgraph, with the histogram and coupled with Stochastics) begins to show one green and then a series of red dots, I will look to exit quickly with a small profit. Probability appears poor for continued downward prices, especially since the overall trend is UP. My short position is just slightly profitable, and I'm not going to risk it going negative. A much higher probability is for prices to consolidate (go flat), or for the uptrend to resume. The Bollinger Bands and Bollinger Squeeze indicators will tell me which (uptrend or consolidation) will emerge.
On the other hand, the MACD on the 15 minute chart has turned down, and the 15 minute Klinger appears to indicate further selling, despite the green color of the current candle. Times of conflict in the charts tend to favor a consolidation, at least temporarily, until the battle between buyers and sellers is resolved.
Another Head and Shoulders Top
This is the tick chart again. I honestly don't know how people trade without a tick chart. It measures orders coming into the system rather than by time intervals.
This chart shows a head and shoulders top, which is very common in soybeans trading. Head and shoulders tops weren't one of my favorite candlestick patterns, but they work because they show a marked change in both sentiment and the underlying trend. The green arrow is the position where I exited my long position (prices crossed the dotted yellow Bollinger Moving Average line, which appears almost white in this screen capture), and the bottom of the red arrow is where I entered my short position. The green arrow was also the place where prices crossed the 8-period EMA on my 3 minute chart. I am a little worried that this pattern is showing up so early in the trading day. It may suggest other unexpected events later, perhaps a consolidation(?). I need to be prepared for more unexpected or difficult conditions. If prices go flat, I won't take a new position until a new trend becomes clear. There are times when NO position is the best position.
(Sorry, but Tradestation doesn't really have very good arrows in its software. In the first few days of my blog, I attempted to add better arrows and explanations using MS Visio, but it was too time-consuming, so now, I just use the Tradestation graphics and provide explanations textually.)
Trading Multiple Contracts
One of my emerging trading habits is to trade contracts in even-numbered blocks (2, 4, 6, etc.). As soon as the first signs of a turn in the opposing direction manifest themselves in the Klinger indicator, I exit 1 contract, taking my profits. If this indicator turns before the position is profitable, I exit both contracts. However, by taking profits on one contract and leaving the other, I am providing myself with a profit cushion, and I am leaving a longer-term position in place for the continued rise in prices. There is one problem with this, however: in a rising trend, I can no longer take short positions, even temporarily. Thus, it is a somewhat double-edged sword. I am not sure which is the more profitable way to trade.
In an overall bullish trend, I will NOT take add-on positions after my original short position. Retracements tend to be short-lived, and are not worth the additional risk. Thus, my risk is more limited and positions tend to last for shorter periods. I am quicker with the exit trigger, so-to-speak, on a retracement.
I've have noticed a common pattern in the rise of soybean prices. After a rocky open in which prices fall briefly or (today) consolidate, prices then begin a solid rise to new or near-new highs. Then, we tend to see a sell-off later that erases a good portion of the gains, but doesn't retrace all the way to their lows. This makes for a solid, sustained, and healthy uptrend in soybean prices. This type of pattern is very typical of soybeans, as seen in the first chart at right (3 min chart).
The chart at right represents two trades for me due to the dip you can see more prominently in the 2nd chart below (30 tick chart).
Note: I started trading the March 08 contract today. Open interest is more than double the January contract, but daily volume is still below the January figures. However, I like to stay a little ahead of falling volume, so I have now changed to the March contract, which the Chicago Board of Trade has shown on their home page as their dominant soybeans contract for approximately one week now.
The rollover to the March contract increases the likelihood that soybeans will reach a higher price due to contango. We are very close to reaching the $12.00 soybean handle that has been speculated in the media somewhat. Most soybean traders that I know have been expecting -- even predicting -- this for awhile. One report I read last week said that a price of $12 would be required to encourage more farmers to grow soybeans, replacing some of the acreage that corn has garnered over the past year. Interestingly, as farmers change acreage from corn to soybeans, soybean prices may moderate, and the lower production levels of corn should be bullish for corn prices.
This second chart is beginning to show some signs of price weakness and the potential signs of a top. Note what appears to be (not yet, but may develop into) a possible divergence on the Klinger+ATR volume indicator (1st chart, above) . The yellow (on my charts, but in the screen captures here on my blog, it appears almost white) "trigger" line, which is an MA of the Klinger line, has already turned bearish, and the Klinger indicator is below it. The rather deep correction of that one red candle is indicative of further weakness in the price structure, and I am anticipating the strong likelihood of a price correction downward before the bullishness continues its uptrend.
Core PCE for November shows growing inflation concerns, especially in the yearly rate. And American consumers go even deeper in debt. Here is the story at marketwatch.com
Consumers outspend incomes in November
All the more reason to keep buying commodities!
Also, did you see the news this week that the ECB injected 500 billion Euros of newly-created fiat money into the financial markets this week? $500 BILLION! And the BOE injected 100 billion Pounds? Those are enormous amounts of new money. I was flabbergasted. If that's not inflationary, what is?!
Wall Street will love it, because most of that capital will be injected into the financial markets. But it all spells more inflation, and more commodities profits. And fools gold corporate profits. But it may temporarily and partially restrain the US Dollar's fall, if that may be considered a thin silver lining.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
As a trader, I don't try to anticipate or position myself before the move begins. Remember what Bill Williams said, "...the Holy Grail is simply wanting what the market wants." Once I create in my mind a bias, I close my mind to what the markets wants, and that bias creates a greater likelihood of sabotaging my trading effectiveness because I want something that the the market doesn't. Thus, I make errors in judgment and bad trades! I give the market what it wants and strive to forget and nullify any biases. Go with the market flow!
Very few people enter a trade precisely at the top or bottom, and no one does it with any consistency. Far more lose money trying to do so.
I was able to make two very good trades today. One was excellent. I consider a trade that earns more than $400 per contract to be a good trade. About 50% of my trades net less than $100, so when a trade makes more than $200, it's a good one. If it nets more than $500, its a great one. Only about 2-3 trades a week net more than $700 per contract. But I have to be "in it", to "win it".
Today's trading is an example of why I like trading soybeans so much.
Note the top is shown in the left-hand side chart with the bearish divergence on the Klinger+ATR indicator. I have drawn a red line with a red downward arrow to indicate where it is. This same top is shown in the tick chart on the right as a head and shoulders top. I got out just before prices crossed the dotted yellow line on the right chart, which is the Bollinger MA (20 period SMA). The short trade on the right is a bit rough, but profitable so far. I shorted at the bottom of the first green candle that straddled the EMA and the Bollinger MA on the right chart. It will most likely accelerate downward as the close of session approaches.
The soybean bull market builds again, but hasn't yet reached its most recent high prices, which are still about $.10 higher than current prices. After a much-needed retracement following last weeks' parabolic rise in prices, it appears that the next leg higher is now beginning to emerge. I fully expect that $12 soybean prices are not far away!
The sell-off in wheat also shows good movement and reasonable good liquidity. We'll have to see what the session open looks like. I don't typically trade during the evening hours because spreads widen, especially this week. Thin pre-holiday trading has widened spreads during evening trading to 4-5 ticks. If I have to pay 4-5 ticks on entry, another 4-5 ticks at exit, plus slippage of one tick each direction, it becomes almost impossible to make a profit. Statistically, traders make their most profits on less than 5% of their trades. Most trades, the primary objective is to prevent loss. Repeated entries and exits are necessary to be in position to profit from the stronger moves.
Good liquidity and smooth trading is of critical importance to a day trader. Without it, trading is unreliable and profits can't be predicted. Note in this chart the S&P 500 Mar 08 contract. It is very smooth and is much easier to trade than the futures in my last post. I only trade futures where the charts look smooth and reliable. Trading others is financial suicide. This is the first thing I look for at the beginning of the trading day. It also allows me to keep a cool head and prevent emotional reactions to market noise.
While I personally don't like to trade the stock index futures, it is more important to me to get good liquidity with smooth trading than to always trade just one or two favorites. I will probably trade the S&P 500 today.
I don't like to trade the stock indexes because they often move so rapidly that I have a difficult time getting in and out of my trades fast enough. The grains move somewhat more gradually, so I can get better executions, both on entries and exits.
Looking at soybeans overnight, the charts appear to be unusually erratic. This is fairly typical for pre-holiday trading. If the open doesn't show stronger liquidity, I may be finished trading until after the holiday. Ugh! I hate to miss trading days, and with two holidays back-to-back just one week apart, many traders take a vacation, so regular trading with good liquidity often doesn't begin again until the first full week of the new year. One of the troublesome issues I'm dealing with today is whether to continue trading the January 08 soybean contract, or change to the March 08 contract. The March contract has much more Open Interest, but in electronic trading, the January contract still has greater volume. This perhaps may be an additional factor in the poor liquidity showing on this chart. This transition may continue for the next day or two.
Image #2 shows the 10-year treasuries this morning. It is also too erratic to be traded. Treasuries are one of the most liquid of a futures contracts, and the 10-year is the most liquid of the treasuries. Only the S&P 500 futures can match it for liquidity, which I measure by a combination of Open Interest and volume.
The last image is of CBOT gold. I don't trade COMEX gold because I have to pay a separate fee of about $50 just to trade COMEX gold. Since COMEX was purchased/merged with the NYMEX, you would think that a single fee would be sufficient to trade both. But the charge fees for each one. Thus, I discontinued my membership with COMEX, and only trade gold on the CBOT. Open Interest on the CBOT is much less, but liquidity is excellent and fills are superb. Why pay more money for the same service?
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Let's certainly hope so. I've had the flu today. However, much of the futures market was fairly quiescent and lethargic, perhaps due to the impending Christmas Holiday and many traders taking time off. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, because stolid markets are when I am most likely to lose money. Volume is often low and prices are often unusually volatile in the days immediately before and after major holidays. However, I plan to trade through the end of the week, if I am feeling well.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
let's short the Aussie!
Saving Money Trading Forex
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange allows futures traders to trade Forex with tighter spreads and lower commissions.
Most of the Forex brokers claim that their trading is commission-free, but this isn't entirely truthful. Weren't they ever taught by dear old Mom to tell the whole truth? Instead of charging a commission, they just widen the bid/ask spread and make their profits that way. It is much more expensive for a trader to trade that way, because that bid/ask spread ultimately comes out of of the trader's pocket! There is no free lunch, and we traders are paying for the lunch!
I have come to learn that it is to the benefit of traders for orders to be processed through a centralized exchange like the CME. Since all orders are processed through the exchange, spreads are generally only 1 tick for liquid futures contracts. With a commission of only about $4 per trade, the break-even point is only 1-2 ticks.
Contrast that with the typical Forex broker. They charge no commission (so they say), but instead, they widen the bid/ask prices to 3-5 pips. Thus, your cost is at least $30-$50 just to break even. You must make from 4-6 ticks/pips before you can make a profit. And that's assuming there is NO slippage! This is the dirty little secret that the brokers of the retail Forex industry hope traders will never learn. They make their livelihoods from trader ignorance! But ultimately these brokers shoot themselves in the foot; because the churn in retail Forex traders is so high, they must constantly replace their client base. Their marketing costs sky-rocket, and they spend astronomical amounts of money seeking to constantly bring in new business. No wonder they widen their spreads so much!
Which would you rather do? Trade the retail Forex market, where you must make $40-$50 just to break even, or trade the currency futures through the CME, where you need to only make 1 tick ($10-12.50) to break even? The answer should be obvious!
As an example of this, my own broker funnels their Forex trades through one of the world's largest, most prominent Forex brokers. If I trade Forex (major crosses) through my broker, they charge me $2.67 per trade with a bid/ask spread of about .5-1.5 ticks (pips). However, if I trade directly with the same Forex broker at the retail level, instead of through my own at the wholesale cost, that same Forex broker widens the bid/ask spread to 3-5 ticks (ticks=pips), a difference of at least $30 in cost to the trader! The orders are both processed through the same company!
That's why I trade Forex through the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where I pay about $4 plus 1 tick spread on futures processed through the CME exchange, rather than trade Forex through a retail Forex broker. I can also trade through my futures account rather than open a separate account just to trade currencies. It all comes down to MONEY - MY money!
In a business in which most people lose money, I'm not going to throw money away by spending more than I need to. The bid/ask spread is of critical importance in trading profitably. The tighter the spread, the more money in MY pocket.
While soybeans have shown some weakness this morning, wheat and corn have been largely stagnant, which may be indicative of a bottoming out.
Even the soybean weakness shows some lack of strong conviction, perhaps because the overall uptrend is intact. However, the retracement or consolidation that I have hinted at over the past week is being demonstrated by soybeans in early trading today. I don't know how long it will last, but I feel that this is a healthy retracement for soybeans over the short term (hours or days, not weeks). Soybeans and the other grains were looking somewhat overbought after last week's run-up in prices.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Financial Market Stress
Last Friday, I wrote an article in this blog advising fellow traders that the financial markets' turmoil is increased by government interventions. Now, in the following article on marketwatch.com, others are echoing the same sentiment. In addition, Treasury Sec. Paulson is traveling the country to promote his plan to help troubled mortgage borrowers. He startled me when he said that without this intervention, we could experience "market failure". I could hardly believe my ears that he would sound so alarmist until CNBC printed the same at the bottom of the screen, confirming to me that I had not heard him wrong.
All I can say is that I'm glad I'm NOT trading stocks or stock futures right now. I am going to build my short positions in the financials, housing, and some emerging markets ETFs.
From marketwatch.com this afternoon:
Here is the entire article. There are some startling things in it that are worth the read:
Gold's Odd Price Move
After its retracement with the other grains today, corn is showing a very nice trend upward. This chart shows all three time frames (15 min, 3 min, 50 tick) of my corn triptych.
So far today, after a sympathy retracement among all the grains (corn, wheat, soybeans), the corn price has recovered and moved higher, wheat prices have continued to sink (poor manic-depressive wheat), and soybeans prices have gone flat. I lost a few points today on soybean trades. The later consolidation became so tight I couldn't even make a few ticks on my trades. I couldn't even break even. If it wasn't for corn, I would have lost money for the day.
Trading other futures
Typically, if my preferred soybeans go flat and consolidate, I will check charts for my other favorite futures until I find one that shows promise. I usually check soybeans first, then wheat, corn, gold, treasuries, and currencies, usually in this order.
When gold is consolidating, as it has been in the past few weeks, it becomes more erratic on the longer-term charts than some other commodities. However, on very short-term charts, it can be very enjoyable to trade, because shorter-term charts for gold have a certain orderliness that some other commodities don't have. I don't know how else to describe it. For example, I enjoy trading gold on CBOT. However, after the European markets close about 12:00 pm EST, gold sometimes can be thinly traded (but not always), so I am reluctant to trade during those post-European hours. I have been trading long enough that now, I can take a quick glance at the charts and decide instantly if it is worth trading.
The key to selecting which futures to trade is to trade ONLY the most liquid ones. Liquidity ensures that spreads are tight, executions are quick, and slippage is minimal. All the financial brains in the investment banks should have know that this is "Derivatives 101". You don't create financial instruments for which there is no market, no market value, and no liquidity. Duh!
After hitting another new high during overnight trading near $11.77 per bushel (see the first chart at the top showing the new high), soybeans, like the other grains, traded lower and retraced. I did NOT trade this new high, by the way. I have noticed that prices frequently reach new highs during the evening trading hours. However, I am somewhat reluctant to trade these hours because spreads widen to 3 ticks. If you have a spread of 3 ticks at both entry and exit of a trade, it is costing you $75 to execute and exit a trade. That must be strong momentum to risk that much in addition to your stop loss on a single trade, in my opinion.
Off about 25 cents from its high, soybeans prices have now found support at about $11.50 and are showing signs of moving higher again. This $.25 retracement is shown in the second picture below. Clicking on the picture, by the way, will open a larger version of it in your browser window. I usually try to name the pictures in such a way that they describe and match my writings here.
I have been feeling over the past few days that the rise in soybean (and other grain) prices has been too steep for a healthy bullish trend. Therefore, a retracement or consolidation for a few days should be expected. If prices rise too rapidly, then a sharp (painful) pull-back, either temporarily, or as a complete reversal, can be expected. A healthy trend tends to be more gradual rather than parabolic in nature. This retracement today in soybeans is a healthy one and to be expected.
This third chart shows what appears to be a bottom in soybeans at about $11.50 per bushel, and a new rise or the beginning of a consolidation phase. I am interested in securing a position for the next rise toward higher prices. However, I will use my two favorite indicators, EMAs and the KLinger+ATR indicator, to enter, exit, and re-enter positions repeatedly over the next few hours to find a good position for the next bullish rise in prices. I am willing to make trades, take a few ticks, and then exit again, waiting for the next opportunity to repostion over and over again.
Too many traders place one trade, set a stop loss, and then wait and hope on a wing and a prayer that their trade will turn profitable before the markets happen to take our their stops. This is pure foolishness, and will eventually break the bank and send the traders home with their tails between their legs. Better is to use extremely tight stops, (I use an EMA for this), exit a trade, and then look for a new opportunity to take a subsequent trade when conditions improve.
EMA is a rather intriguing indicator. I suggest reading about it in Robert Colby's superb book, Encyclopedia of Technical Indicators ( not sure that's the exact title, but you can find it on Amazon.com or Traders Library). He points out that the EMA indicator only reverses direction on the candle in which prices cross the EMA. Because of the way it is calculated, it represents a true change of sentiment in the market. That's why I like it so much.
Each time I place a trade, I imagine in my mind what the trade will look like if it is successful. As soon as the trade falls short of that image, I'm OUT! I never wait for the market to hit a stop. NEVER! My stop losses are only to prevent catastrophic loss if a sudden shock hits the market. Otherwise, I watch my trades and exit as soon as it doesn't meet my image expectations in my mind's eye. Then, I'll wait and watch for another opportunity. I learned this thought pattern, in part, from reading "Phantom's Gift". Never permit the market to prove you wrong, he says in this great book. I only allow the market to prove me correct. The only way to do that is to know what the trade is supposed to do and look like if it is a good one. As soon as it starts to disappoint or depart from that image, I get OUT!
Wheat is proving true to its history of being an up-and-down grain. After hitting a new high overnight (1st chart at right) and reaching its lock limit price, it has retraced until prices have fallen below the close on Friday. That's a fluctuation of more than $.30, and representing 120 ticks. Since each tick is worth $12.50 per contract to a trader, that can amount to good money for a good swing trader. How many Christmas presents could you buy for your family with $1500 ($12.50 x 120 ticks)? The truth is that it is never this easy, so don't be fooled. Most futures traders (90%) consistently lose money. But there are many of us that are able to make a good living at it.
Everyone tends to think that they are the exception to this rule. If you think you are the exception, you AREN'T! If you think this way, you have the pride that will ruin you financially, and humble you in the futures markets! You are literally competing on every trade with the brightest minds in the financial world. If you think you are the cream of the crop, you are probably proud enough to be taken to the cleaners by the experienced traders at hedgers, hedge funds (not the same as hedgers), and the various investment houses. The financial markets have an uncanny ability to humble everyone, even the finest minds in the world, from time to time. Not that I include myself in this category of great minds, but I do include myself in the category of being humbled many times by the futures markets.
However, looking at the daily (and weekly) chart, wheat is still in a solid uptrend. The daily chart is shown here (2nd one from the top of this post). I like these retracements, because they give me a chance to add positions or to position well in trends that I might have missed earlier. "Buy on dips" is a trader's bread and butter during a sustained trend for any commodity.
In my early days of trading, I remember reading that traders who were able to survive for 3-5 years in the market without without losing all their money eventually were able to improve their trading skill sufficiently to become very wealthy in their trading. Over time, they are able to develop both the skills and the temperament to trade successfully and well.
On the other hand the short-term charts are very erratic, and until the market indecision is resolved, conditions are difficult to trade, as shown in this 3-minute chart (bottom). I personally don't take trades during these consolidations, because I don't have the patience to wait for the market to move in a profitable direction. There are people who specialize in these trades, but I have found that price movements between channels/bands is less like a sine wave that is smooth and methodical, and more like a radio frequency wave that is erratic and unpredictable. It's just not worth it to me.
Keep in mind, however, that a consolidation in one time frame may show several trends in a smaller time frame.