It’s Not Just Trading, It’s A War Between The Market And Us.
Trading during the first half-hour of the session.
The first half-hour of the trading day is driven by emotion, affected by overnight movements in the global markets, and hangover of the previous day’s trading. Also, this is the period used by the market to entice novice traders into taking a position which might be contrary to the real trend which emerges only later in the day. Most experienced traders simply watch the markets for the first half of the day for intraday patterns and any subsequent trading breakouts.
Failing to hear the market’s message.
Personally, I try to hear the message of the stock markets and then try to confirm it with the charts. During the trading day, I like to watch if the market is able to hold certain levels or not. I like to go long around the end of the day if supported by patterns, and if the prices are consistently holding on to higher levels. I like to go short if the market is giving up higher levels, unable to sustain them and the patterns support a down move of the market. This technique is called tape watching and all full-time traders practice it in some shape or form. If the markets are choppy and oscillate within a small range, then the market’s message is to keep out. Hearing the message of the market can be particularly important in times of significant news. The market generally reacts in a fashion contrary to most peoples’ expectation. Let us consider two recent Indian events of significance. One was the Gujarat earthquake that took place on 26 January 2001 and the other the 13 December 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament. Both these events appeared catastrophic at first glance. TV channels suggested that the earthquake would devastate the country’s economy because Gujarat has the largest number of investors and their confidence would be shattered, making the stock market plunge. Tragic as both the events were, the market reacted in a different way to each by the end of the day. In both cases the markets plunged around 170 points when it opened, in both cases it tried to recover and while it managed a full recovery in the case of the Gujarat earthquake, it could not do so in the Parliament attack case. The market was proven correct on both counts. The Gujarat earthquake actually held the possibility of boosting the economy as reconstruction had to be taken up, and also because most of the big installations, including the Jamnagar Refinery, escaped damage. In the case of the attack on parliament, although traders assessed that terrorist attacks were nothing new in the country the market did not recover because it could see some kind of military build-up ahead from both India and Pakistan. And markets hate war
and uncertainty. In both these cases what helped the cause of the traders were the charts. If the charts say that the market is acting in a certain way, go ahead and accept it. The market is right all the time. This is probably even truer than the more common wisdom about the customer being the king. If you can accept the market as king, you will end up as a very rich trader, indeed. Herein lies one reason why people who think they are very educated and smart often get trashed by the market because this market doesn’t care who you are and it’s certainly not there to help you. So expect no mercy from it; in fact, think of it as something that is there to take away your money, unless you take steps to protect yourself.
Ignoring which phase the market is in
It is important to know what phase the market is in — whether it’s in a trending or a trading phase. In a trending phase, you go and buy/sell breakouts, but in a trading phase you buy weakness and sell strength. Traders who do not understand the mood of the market often end up using the wrong indicators in the wrong market conditions. This is an area where humility comes in. Trading in the market is like a blind man walking with the help of a stick. You need to be extremely flexible in changing positions and in trying to develop a feel for the market. This feel is then backed by the various technical indicators in confirming the phase of the market. Undisciplined traders, driven by their ego, often ignore the phase the market is in.
Failing to reduce position size when warranted
Traders should be flexible in reducing their position size whenever the market is not giving clear signals. For example, if you take an average position of 3,000 shares in Nifty futures, you should be ready to reduce it to 1,000 shares. This can happen either when trading counter trend or when the market is not displaying a strong trend. Your exposure to the market should depend on the market’s mood at any given point in the market. You should book partial profits as soon as the trade starts earning two to three times the average risk taken.
Failing to treat every trade as just another trade
Undisciplined traders often think that a particular situation is sure to give profits and sometimes take risk several times their normal level. This can lead to a heavy drawdown as such situations often do not work out. Every trade is just another trade and only normal profits should be expected every time. Supernormal profits are a bonus when they — rarely! — occur but should not be expected. The risk should not be increased unless your account equity grows enough to service that risk.
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