The Van Tharp Institute

May 10, 2006 — Issue #270

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In this Issue:

Workshops

Peak Performance Workshop, 101 and 202 
$700 Early Enrollment Discount Expires Next Week.

Feature Article

Systems Development - Back-to-Basics Series

Trading Education

How to Develop A Winning Trading System Home Study Course 

Trading Tip

Conviction and Real Money Trading, by D. R. Barton, Jr.

Listening In Limiting Stocks 
Special Reports Reports by Van Tharp: Self Sabotage, Changing Markets

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Workshops 

$700 Early Enrollment Deadline Expires Next Week.

Attend both, back-to-back and save more

Peak Performance 101 Workshop 
June 3-5, 2006
Peak Performance 202 Workshop
June 7-9, 2006
"An absolute must for anyone wanting to become a consistently successful trader." Alex Rudolph

“The workshop succeeded in really pushing my limits and opening my eyes to how the world really operates….I will never see the world the same way again.”  FL, San Francisco

"I met some incredibly wise, wonderful and talented people." Sara Rich

"Excellent resource: A great global perspective on what is important to be a successful trader." S.S., Panama City Beach, FL

Register and More Info..

 

Feature

Van Tharp Back-To-Basics Series

Over the next few issues we'll be focusing on a back-to-the-basics series, which some you may have seen in our new site map.

Whether this is the first time or the twentieth time that you have read this core information, it may just give you a new insight or could be a timely reminder. Both are useful. 

System Development

"When I first entered the business of coaching traders most people thought that a trading system was an indicator."   Van K Tharp 
                                                                                    

People who trade and invest tend to fall into similar traps, becoming obsessed with

1) Finding the right stock that will make them a fortune and they think there is some magic way to do that.

2) Working on developing a trading system to the point of perfectionism; and never getting around to actually trading.

3) Finding the ideal “system.”

4) Just looking for someone to tell them what to do

Do you relate to any of these scenarios?

Every trader needs a strategy or system to form a framework for their trading. Without a repeatable way to identify and execute trades, one can never be a consistent performer.   Basically your system is a roadmap that guides your trading and keeps you from making decisions when you are least able to do so. Trading can be stressful. It's easy to get distracted. Life goes on regardless of what the market is doing. If you hear news about the market changing or you're running late for your next appointment, you are not likely to make good decisions about your trades. 

However, many people believe that a trading system is something that is “bought in a box,” something that other people have created with specific technical skills or secret knowledge of the markets that they just don’t have. Well it isn’t.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of trading systems that work.  But most people, after purchasing a system, will not follow the system or trade it exactly as it was intended.  Why not?  Because the system doesn’t fit their personality or their style of trading.

One of the biggest secrets of successful trading is finding a trading system that fits you. Developing your own system allows compatibility with your own beliefs, objectives, personality, and edges.

Why develop my own system? Isn’t it easier to just go buy a system with proven results?

When someone else develops a system for you, you don't know what biases they might have. Most system development software is designed because people want to know the perfect answer to the markets.  They want to be able to predict the markets perfectly.  As a result, you can buy software now for a few hundred dollars that will allow you to overlay numerous studies over past market data.

Within a few minutes, you can begin to think that the markets are perfectly predictable.  And that belief will stay with you until you attempt to trade the real market instead of the historically optimized market.  Many trading accounts have plummeted from this very thinking.  One “sure-thing” trade placed without proper position sizing can wipe some traders completely out of the game.

And what if the person peddling the system is just a great marketer who makes their money from selling systems – not from actual trading? How would you know?

In Van’s experience very few people have really good systems and one of his jobs is to teach traders what it takes to develop a complete system for themselves. It isn’t rocket science; it just takes commitment and the right knowledge.

You may be thinking, “But I don’t have the computer or math skills to create a system myself.”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there.

If computers, math or anything mechanical terrifies you, that doesn’t mean that you can’t determine how and what you want to trade, which is the basis behind developing your own system. In fact, you’re the ONLY person that really knows what will work for you.

The key thing to remember about system development is that the trading strategy is THOUGHT UP by you because it fits your beliefs, wants, desires and needs. You can hire someone else to computerize your strategy if you want to do that and can’t do it yourself. There are plenty of programmers that will do this for you.

However, not all trading systems have to be computerized! In fact, people have designed and tested successful trading systems for years by hand. Of course computers make things quicker, faster and more efficient, but they are not necessary at all unless you need to use computers to feel comfortable about your trading.

(If you disagree with this, then you probably DO need computer testing to feel comfortable or maybe you believe that when a computer generates numbers, it is more accurate) 

If you truly understand what a trading system really is; then this will all make sense. It isn’t complex, unless you choose to make it so!

So What Is a Trading System?

What most people think of as a trading system, Van would call a trading strategy that consists of seven parts:

  1. Set up conditions.
  2. An entry signal.
  3. A worst case stop loss.
  4. Re-entry when appropriate.
  5. Profit-taking exits.
  6. A position sizing algorithm.
  7. Multiple systems for different market conditions (if needed).

The set up conditions amount to your screening criteria.2 For example, if you trade stocks, there are 7,000+ stocks that you might decide to invest in at any time.  As a result, most people employ a series of screening criteria to reduce that number down to 50 stocks or less.  For example, you might want to find stocks that are great “value” or stocks that are making new all time highs or stocks that pay high dividends.

The entry signal would be a unique signal you’d use that meets your initial screen to determine when you might enter a position—either long or short.  There are all sorts of signals one might use for entry, but it typically involves some sort of move in your direction that occurs after a particular set-up occurs.

The protective stop is the worst-case loss you would want to experience.  Your stop might be some value that will keep you in the trade for a long time (i.e., a 25% drop in the price of the stock) or something that will get you out quickly if the market turns against you. Protective stops are absolutely essential.  Markets don’t go up forever and they don’t go down forever.  You need stops to protect yourself.

A re-entry strategy. Quite often when you get stopped out of a position, the stock will turn around in the direction that favors your old position.  When this happens, you might have a perfect chance for profits that was not covered by your original set-up and entry conditions.  As a result, you will need to think about re-entry criteria.  When might you want to get back into a closed out position.

The exit strategy could be very simple. It is one factor in your trading of which you have total control.  It is your exits that control whether or not you make money in the market or have small losses.  You should spend a great deal of time and thought on your exit strategies. This is an important shift in thinking that you will benefit from right now. You don't make money when you enter the market you make your money upon your exit of the market. Far too many people focus only on market entry, or what to buy, rather than when to sell.

Position sizing is that part of your system that controls how much you trade.  It determines how many shares of stock you should buy or “how much” you should invest in any given trade. It is through position sizing that you will meet your objectives.

Finally, depending upon how robust your trading system is, you might need multiple trading systems for each type of market.  At minimum, you might need one system for trending markets and another system for flat markets. Many professional traders have multiple systems that operate in multiple time frames over many markets to help offset the enormous portfolio dependence of a single trend following system.

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Your system should reflect your beliefs (i.e., who you are as a trader and as a person).  Many people are just looking for “any system that works,” but if your trading system doesn’t match your beliefs about the markets, you will eventually find a way to sabotage your trading. 

In addition, most people have never really taken the time to think through what they truly want from their trading. They don’t have specific objectives in mind.  They think they do, but they really don’t.  They just have a vague concept in their heads of “I want to make a lot of money.”  Yet, objectives are 50% of designing a system that fits you.

Examples of possible objectives:

1. I want to become a full time trader making 30% per year for my clients with potential losses no bigger than half of that.

2. I want to spend less than three hours a week on trading and get the maximum yield out of my system.  While I’d like to minimize my downside, I’m willing to risk whatever it takes to get maximum returns, including losing it all.

3. I want to limit my draw downs to no more than 20% at all cost.  With that in mind, I’d like to make whatever I can, but minimizing the draw downs is my primary objective. 

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No system is a money making machine that you turn on and have it print cash forever.  Systems must be evaluated and revised to adapt to changing market conditions.   And while there are ways to measure the quality of the system, you will never trade a system properly that you don’t feel comfortable trading.  In the same way, you might have trouble following the advice of newsletters because you don’t feel comfortable taking certain trades that they recommend. 

Improving your trading performance will not come from some indicator that better predicts the market. It comes from learning the art of trading and understanding how to create a trading system that fits your wants, needs, desires and lifestyle.

So ask yourself, "How much time and money am I willing to lose trying to trade other people’s systems?"

A great trader asked me once what I wanted my system to do. I responded vaguely about outperforming the market…. He pushed me for the performance statistics I was after. I told him the general statistics I was after, but said that I needed to see what the system would do. He basically told me that I had it backwards. He said very specifically to start with the performance I was expecting in mind, and design a system to that specification. Wow! – Frank Gallucci

 

About Van Tharp: Trading coach, and author Dr. Van K Tharp, is widely recognized for his best-selling book Trade Your Way to Financial Fre-edom and his outstanding Peak Performance Home Study program - a highly regarded classic that is suitable for all levels of traders and investors.

Trading Education

Van Tharp's  

How to Develop a Winning Trading System That Fits You Home Study Program

This course will teach you how to use all the system building blocks to design a trading system in such a way that it fits your personality and style of trading or investing.  

In the process of learning how to do this, you’ll probably come up with dozens of winning systems that will work because they’ll be based on criteria that fit your situation.  

This audio series is about giving you the tools you need to design your own system.  

The concepts and ideas you will learn could easily improve your trading overnight.  

Learn More about this Home Study Program...

 

Trading Tip 

Trading Tip

The Power of Conviction, Part V

Conviction and Real Money Trading

by D. R. Barton, Jr.

 

“Constant repetition carries conviction."
-- Robert Collier

Six weeks after listening to Ken Long present his pantheon of trading concepts (and a stunning set it is…), I still find myself reflecting on his great ability to take ideas and put them into practice – with great conviction.

As I have said previously, the process that Ken uses to develop the idea into a system and then into a tested concept that he can trade with complete conviction is as powerful as I’ve seen:

1.      Observe a potentially repeatable event in the market.

2.      Check to see if the events fit within your belief structure about the markets.

3.      Break the event down into component parts.

4.      Quantify the component parts.

5.      Build a system from those components.

6.      Test the system on historical data.

7.      Test the system in real-time, with real money.

8.      Trade the system.

9.      Monitor the system against performance benchmarks.

Let’s look at the final three items on the list:

7.     Test the system in real-time, with real money.  This may be my favorite part of Ken’s whole process.  

That’s because most people get this step exactly wrong.  They either paper trade ad infinitum and give themselves a false sense of security or they skip right to false bravado and start trading a system or stock tip with entirely too much exposure.  Ken gets it right – here’s how:

a.    He segregates a portion of risk capital to dedicate to the test.  This money is big enough to matter (so he doesn’t take the test too casually) and to use proper position sizing, but not so large amount that it would be a burden if he lost 30 – 50% of it.  This is an excellent optimum spot.

b.    Ken trades with real position sizing and generates real results.  Using real position sizing allows him to see the emotions that are generated when a trade goes very wrong or wildly right.  Are his exit strategies practical?  Does his exit methodology make it easy or difficult to get out?  These are difficult or impossible questions to answer when paper trading.

8.      Trade the system.  This is the step that Ken calls, “going into production”.  The strategy is not part of his overall trading plan.  MOST IMPORTANTLY, because of all the steps that came before, Ken can trade this “production ready” system with full conviction because he already knows it works.  There’s real power in this method!

9.      Monitor the system against performance benchmarks.  I don’t anyone who does this better than Ken.  Using a combination of his back testing data and his real time trade info, Ken sets benchmarks for key criteria such as winning percentage, R multiples, numbers of trades generated per month, and a host of others.  He then routinely checks the system’s actual performance versus these benchmarks (using a review schedule that matches the system’s frequency of trade).  This is the most useful way to evaluate the system and make sure it isn’t broken.

What steps do you take to produce a deep- seated conviction in your trading strategies?  Modeling Ken Long’s procedure is a great place to start!

Great Trading!

D. R.

D. R. Barton, Jr. is the Chief Operating Officer and Risk Manager for the Directional Research and Trading hedge fund group. D. R. has been actively involved in trading, researching, and teaching in the markets since 1986.  D. R. has taught extensively in many investment areas including intra-day trading, swing trading, and cutting edge risk management techniques. 

His writing credits include co-authoring Safe Strategies for Fin-ancial Fre-edom and co-creator and contributing author on Fin-ancial Fre-edom Through  Electronic Day Trading.

D.R. presents the IITM Swing Trading Workshop and Professional Tactics for Day Traders Workshop. Each workshop is only held once each year. 

 

Listening In...  

Trading system : Limiting stocks 
Author: burn0050
Date: 05-10-06

So, I have been reading and reading. I have lots of ideas for trying for a trading system. However, I am really having trouble figuring out how to limit the universe of stocks.

Even things like simple MA crossover systems, or breakout systems - how do people limit the stocks that you are looking at? Pick a sector? Pick an index like the S&P 600? A crossover system can deliver hundreds of stocks in a day that would trigger an entry. I think that finding some way of limiting them - perhaps by adding additional setup requirements?

Can setup requirements be something as simple as requiring that last quarter's EPS was up 20%? Then search for an entry?

Thanks,
Bill


Reply To This Message 

Re: Trading system : Limiting stocks 
Author: PMK

Bill,

The first 6 steps in trading system development (that I use anyway) are:

1 Objectives (what you want to achieve from your trading system)
2 Hypothesis (your idea for a trading method based on your beliefs)
3 Market Selection (what markets/exchange you want to trade)
4 Instrument Filter (what you consider 'fit to trade' in the chosen market)
5 Setup (your conditions that determine a possible trade)
6 Entry (price conditions that signal it's time to open a position)

In my opinion step 4 should be specified to choose the most liquid/orderly trading/efficient/low cost to implement instruments (however you want to define that with whatever data items you believe are best).

Step 5 can be any conditions that highlight a potential trade from the instruments selected in step 4. These can be fundamental, technical, discretionary, or anything at all you believe is relevant.

Hope this helps,

Paul

For more posts from the Van Tharp Trading Forum, click the link below.

Participate on Van's Trading Forum, 
a place for traders and investors to share ideas and learn from each other

 

Special Reports By Van Tharp

Click below to read page one of each report, or to order. 

Self  Sabotage - Two Reports of Self Sabotage

Does Your System Still Work in Changing Markets?

 

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Copyright 2006 the International Institute of Trading Mastery, Inc.

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A computerized version of Van's famous "marble game." 

It is designed to teach you the important principles of proper position sizing. 

Download the 1st three levels of the game for free. Register now. 

 

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2006 
Workshop Mini-Schedule

June 3-5 Peak 101
June 7-9 Peak 202
Jul 14-16 You and Your Money
Aug 25-27 Systems Development
Sept 16-18 Day Trading
Oct 23-25 17 Steps
Oct 27-29 Mutual Funds & ETFs

 More Info...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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