Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Are You Struggling With The Technicals.? The Moving Averages?

The Moving Average... It is a tool that is talked about in almost every trading book that has ever been written. Every day on TV, CNBC, Bloomberg, and others are telling us where the S&P and other key markets are in relation to the 200 day moving average, for example. Every charting package on the planet comes with every possible configuration of a moving average for you to use. Because of all this, moving averages must be one of the most important tools for traders and investors, right? You start to think that it must be impossible to make money in the markets without using moving averages. When we take a deeper look into the purpose and result of using moving averages, you start to see that not only do you not need to use them, but more importantly, they can actually hurt you if you don't understand the risk that comes from using them as a primary buy and sell decision-making tool and that is the focus of this piece.
Instead of going through many charts to find the perfect picture to use as an example to illustrate my logic, I like to use real trading examples from our live trading rooms in the Extended Learning Track (XLT) program. In our live Futures trading XLT, January 13th, we identified a demand level for our students during our pre-market analysis. This was a demand level in the S&P Futures of 1271.50 - 1274.50 (red box). Once price declined in the S&P to our demand level, the plan was to buy it when it reached our demand level with a protective sell stop just below the level to manage the risk and have our profit targets above the level.

Figure 1
Shortly after the stock market opened, price declined to our demand level where our students were instructed to buy. Price moved higher and the trade worked out very well for our students; they executed our rule-based market timing strategy. Now, let's go over the same trading opportunity, but instead of applying our strategy, let's use a moving average which again, is a tool talked about in almost every trading book ever written. Most people are taught to buy when the moving average turns higher. As you can see here, by the time the moving average turns higher, price has rallied quite a bit already which means high risk and lower reward if you use your moving average as a buy signal. Furthermore, notice that the moving average was sloping down when our rules gave the buy signal. Have you ever read a trading book that said buy when the moving average is sloping down? Also, notice that the short-term trend of price was down when our strategy gave us the low risk buy signal. Again, have you ever read a trading book that said to buy in a downtrend? Of course not, yet this is the action you take when you properly buy and sell anything in life, don't you? This is exactly how you make money trading as well, but the trading books almost teach you to do the opposite which is very flawed. Many of the traders following indicators such as moving averages are really smart people who have the best of intentions, they've just been taught wrong. It's not rocket science; traditional technical analysis can be overly complex, often inaccurate and may cause "paralysis by analysis." This is why we focus on teaching students our simple rule-based strategy using the principals of supply and demand aimed to help them find "real" low risk, high reward, and high probability trades. Waiting for the moving average to turn higher, you certainly get confirmation, but at the cost of extremely high risk and lower reward. Furthermore, that confirmation is an illusion because you still don't know exactly what price will do next; this is all about probability and entering a position when the odds are stacked in your favor.

Figure 2
Again, there are so many books on trading and most people start the learning process by reading the trading books, yet the vast majority of traders and investors fail when it comes to achieving their financial goals. For the most part, the books say the same thing and teach the same conventional concepts. Specifically, most of what those books teach is conventional technical analysis including indicators and oscillators such as Stochastics, Mac-D, moving averages and so on. Here is the problem... Conventional technical analysis is a lagging school of thought that leads to high risk, low reward, and low probability trading and investing. All indicators are simply a derivative of price meaning they lag price. By the time they tell you to buy or sell, the low risk, high reward opportunity has passed. They have you buying after a rally in price and sell after price has already declined. At Online Trading Academy, we don't use conventional indicators, oscillators, or chart patterns that you read about in the trading books as primary decision-making tools because adding any decision making tool to our analysis process that lags price only increases risk and decreases reward. Why would we ever want to do that? I know the information in trading books has been around for many decades, but that doesn't mean it works or helps people. Like learning anything else in life, there is the book version way of learning it and the real world learning. At Online Trading Academy, we focus on how proper trading and investing works in the real world which is what our core strategy is made of. Again, if you think about it, most people read trading books and most people lose money; maybe they should stop and consider how flawed the logic is in that conventional thought and action. My goal in this piece is not to beat up books and theories, it is simply to open your mind to a lower risk, higher reward way of trading and investing.
Hope this was helpful, have a great day.

Today in A Short Recap with Me and Ze Capital Management

Chancellor Merkel indicated yesterday that there may be a delay in finalisation of a debt deal for Greece by saying "we won't have a thorough discussion of Greece because the troika is in Greece and we don't have a result of the talks with the banks." Fundamental cracks are appearing between Greece, where opposition is growing to German led calls for increased oversight and veto powers for Greek budget decisions, and other European leaders. European leaders want to be able to enforce budget decisions on the Greeks while the nation see such moves as an attack on their sovereignty.

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said yesterday that "Europe is no longer at the edge of the cliff." The question has to be 'what has changed since Europe was at the edge of the cliff?" We fear not much. Certainly markets have been less volatile in response to news developments in the new year. However, even as European leaders work towards rules that are designed to bring about greater fiscal union and budgetary control, member states such as Greece want to play by their own rules. The talk is becoming increasingly tough with the the economic spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union saying, "The free lunch is over: no external controls, no money." European history shows that the continent is least united when nations try to exert their influence on each other. Attempts to "unify" the continent have always led to conflagration.

Yet markets have been once again been gripped by europhoria surrounding EU summits and more announcements surrounding plans to save Europe. European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed on a fiscal treaty that will allow for action against high deficit states and calls for members to introduce legislation to limit budget deficits. Markets have rallied on the news even though these reforms actually do nothing to resolve the current debt crisis. Britain and the Czech Republic have declined to sign the pact. The EUR has rallied above 1.3200 after having traded closer to 1.3100 in early Asian trade.

Equity markets have recovered from a soft start to the week with Asian shares rising on optimism surrounding the latest EU summit. After falling yesterday over Greek resistance to outside influence in its budgetary affairs, rising bond yields and the collapse of Spanair, European bourses are now higher by 1% mid session today. After losing ground yesterday for the third day as European leaders lectured to Greece over the nation's second rescue package, S&P 500 futures are signalling a rise in trade today.

Commodities News
Commodity prices moved lower yesterday with the CRB index losing more than 1% to 313.91. Today, there has been a broad recovery. WTI Crude oil has gained 1% to trade at $99.85 as tensions in Iran once again dominate trader's mentality. Precious metals have recovered from yesterday's falls with gold rising 0.4% to $1,742 while silver has gained 0.7% to $33.75.  Soft commodities are broadly stronger while copper is higher by 0.8%.
GOLD continues to consolidate after last weeks boost by the Fed Reserve which now sees gold firmly in the $1,700 territory. The range last night was $1,716 to $1,733. Gold opens the morning just below $1,730. As we had suspected gold held up much better than other commodities overnight as markets jitters surrounding Europe resurfaced. We took up our own advice to buy the metal on the dip to $1,720 overnight. This position now has a stop loss at entry and we will seek to trail this stop higher as the market continues take gold higher. We maintain our bullish bias in the short term and medium term for gold although we are currently reviewing our view on commodities in general. An escalation of the European debt crisis is increasingly likely and this will have a negative impact on commodities in general. However, even last year we saw both the USD and Gold manage to gain and expect that this trend will continue especially in the event of a meltdown in Europe. 
FX News

The Brussels Summit ended yesterday with no favourable resolution for the Greek saga leaving the market showing its frustration on the EUR/USD driving it down to 1.3075.  Apparently German Chancellor Angela Merkel shared the same frustration with the Greek government's failure to carry out its economic reform.  Euro found its base at 1.3135 during early Asian session and the theme today for Asia was sell dollar.  However moving towards the London session we may see EUR/USD take on a different theme in the form of volatility.  With a whole battery of macro data expected today from the Euro zone, it may be touch and go.  We have German retail sales (MoM); French Consumer Spending (MoM); German Unemployment Change; Italian Unemployment Rate; Eurozone Unemployment Rate.  In New York expect Chicago PMI and more importantly US Conference Board Consumer Confidence.  Euro support is seen at 1.3120 but the psychological level of 1.3000 is possible if all the 'bad' stars align.  Top side try for 1.3230.
USD/JPY tested 'BOJ waters' as we predicted yesterday when it broke the76.55 base today reaching as low as 76.16.  At the time of writing USD/JPY is trading at 76.20.  We are once again approaching the  post war low of 75.35 prompting Finance Minister Azumi to say "we are ready to act decisively against excessive and speculative currency moves if needed".  Factors which sent the yen on a three-day rally include industrial production rising more than forecast in December and unresolved Greek debt restructuring which triggered yen buying as a safe haven. In other news the nation's jobless rate rose to 4.6% in December from 4.5% the previous month.  For Tuesday, we are cautiously bearish on the USD/JPY with top side limited to 77.01 without BOJ intervention or 'rumoured' intervention.  Downside 75.76 may be first support level.  Then it will be exciting to see if we will test the post war low.