Monday, January 30, 2006

Quote of the Week - Cowboy Up!

"If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya."

We are so busy blazing our own path through the markets. We often forget what really matters...equity performance. Our job is to wrastle that equity to higher ground. All the talk, debate, yip-yap, and how often you're right isn't worth the bucket it sits on...if your equity isn't still there with ya!

Later Trades,

MT

Friday, January 27, 2006

Melba Toast - First Test

If you've read my first post on the system idea of Melba Toast...then you're probably wondering just how that simple little idea performed in market history. Now, remember...all we did was apply a few simple filters. We haven't gotten our hands dirty yet. That happens when we start focusing on patterns. And thanks to Damian for his pattern idea submission...which we'll be sure to use when we get to that point.

Now, when I get a rough set of filters built...I'll usually start looking for stocks that I want to pick up in the system. I do in this in two ways. The first is by using stocks that I've experienced the idea I'm trying to develop with. And I shared those with you in the first post. The second thing I do is run a quick backtest on a small subsection of the market to see what other stocks it's selecting. And to get a rough idea as to how on the mark the filters I'm using work.

Typically, I'll use the Nasdaq 100 to test with in the very beginning. Yes, I know...the Nasdaq 100 is a current snapshot of the Nasdaq 100. And it is the cream of the crop of stocks in the Nasdaq Exchange. So, if I'm looking for big gainers in the past...well the current Nasdaq 100 has them (and only them). In other words...the dice are loaded. But, regardless of these loaded dice I'm rolling with...using these stocks help initially in the test...let's me know just what the filters are picking up. And helps me find more examples to use in my development.

So, here are the results of the first test on the Nasdaq 100:
Win Ratio: 69.23%

Avg Profit: 180.34%
Max Consecutive Winners: 8

Avg Loss: -30.68%
Max Consecutive Losers: 2
Max Drawdown: -8.12%

Profit Factor: 12.54
Actually, not bad considering it's a first run. The profit factor of 12.54 is really nice considering I typically receive profit factors on first runs in the 5 to 8 range...if the idea has merit. Maybe we're on to something? :)

Here's some example trades from the backtest:

MelbaToast_test1_RHAT

MelbaToast_test1_XRAY

MelbaToast_test1_RIMM

As you can see...some potential...but for the most part we're catching the stock a little too early in the process. I'm also worried that we might be filtering down too much. So, for the next test we might open the filters, especially the average price - the max closing low piece. Maybe less than 1 ATR is a bit too tight. We'll see. Until then...

Later Trades,

MT

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Developing Melba Toast

I usually keep system ideas and designs to myself. I let my readers in on the mechanics of system trading such as money management, position sizing, etc. But, the actual generation and creation of a system has always been personal. And to be honest...never wanted to give away an edge.

I guess, times are a changing. I've decided to develop and test a system idea in real-time here on the blog. My point isn't to build a system for you, the reader. The point is to share my process...how I capture an idea logically. And more importantly how to continually develop and test until a) the idea's acceptance into the trading library or b) the idea's admittance into Heavenly Hills System Cemetery.

So, what's the idea?

Ever sell a stock out of boredom? When you bought the stock...it looked great. But, after months of underperformance...no better yet...after months of the stock doing nada...you sell. The good news is you didn't really lose money on the investment. But, sure as hell didn't make any either.

A few weeks or months after closing out your position...the stock breaks to a higher level. Not by a whole lot...still higher than you've ever seen while holding the melba toast. Since the price isn't that much higher than your selling price...you ignore it.

Weeks...months...maybe years go by. Then, like the curiosities of an old flame, the mind wonders...what ever happened to that stock I held back in the day? Pulling up the quote in Yahoo Finance hits you like a Mac truck. That melba toast gained more than 10 times the price you sold it for. Oh, if only I had held it. If only I could stand a little fiber in my diet.

How many of these stocks have you encountered in your trading life? I've experienced plenty. Here are some examples.


MelbaToast_LGF

MelbaToast_CDE

MelbaToast_NOIZ


About 90% of my equity is allocated to my systems. Around 10% is left as fun money. I can buy stocks for any reason and hold for as long or short as I like with this fun money. The examples above are trades made with this fun money. As you can tell...the trades were horrible. But, this fun money does two very important things for me.

  1. Allows me to release the self-destructive side of my trading where I can participate a bit with the market masses without destroying my bottom-line.


  2. By participating in the euphoric buying and panic selling sprees I feel all the things the masses feel. I know what it's like to put 100% of my fun money into one position and get hit like The Equities Research Center's FCL trade. To experience those feelings enable me to observe the patterns and more importantly generate system trading ideas.


And with that we get to the main point. How do we logically capture the stocks that go from nothing to something? The Melba Toasts of the world?

My initial thoughts are to identify areas in the time series where buyers are not rewarded. Basically, no new highs are made within a certain time period...let's say one year or 50 weeks.

What about the downside? I think it's okay for the market to make new lows...but not too much on the downside. So, maybe we can check the max closing low for the past year and compare against the average. How many ATR's is the lowest closing price from the 50 week average? Less than 1 ATR sounds about right.

What else? Hmmm...trend. Yes, we need to check the trend of the stock. We basically need a stock that is not trending upwards. So, trending downwards to a degree...or better yet...no trend at all will provide the maximum frustration for holders of the stock while still keeping them in it.

Let's also add a minimum volume filter of at least a 50 week average daily volume greater than 20,000 shares.

So, what do we have?
  • No new highs within the past 50 weeks;

  • (50 week average close - 50 week lowest closing price) less than 50 week Average True Range (ATR);

  • No uptrend in place;

  • At least 20,000 shares traded daily for the past 50 weeks.

  • We'll slap a 2 * ATR disaster stop and a 3 * ATR trailing stop from the closing price.

Results? Here's what we've captured on the LGF chart with these rules in place:

MelbaToast_LGF_System


Looks good, huh? Well, believe it or not...we've got one heck of a long way to go. LGF is just one stock. Now, the real work begins. And I'll have to leave that for another night. Until then...

Later Trades,

MT

Monday, January 23, 2006

Quote of the Week - Winners

"Winners compare their achievements with their goals, while losers compare their achievements with those of other people." -- Nido Qubein

Gotta admit, I'm guilty of this losing trait...comparing against others. And it's one I'm determined to work on for 2006. But, first...gotta make some goals. :)

Later Trades,

MT

Monday, January 16, 2006

Quote of the Week

"All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem." -- Martin Luther King Jr.

Great quote isn't it? And very true.

Sidenote:
Looking for more information on money management/position sizing? There's a nice little thread from EliteTrader discussing the topic. Read here.

Finally, investors tend to believe sentiment is too optimistic if a top magazine's cover is bullish. Do we give equal attention to bearish magazine covers and their potential implications? It looks like we have a new test case: the current cover of The Economist. And it seems most people are missing the contrarian indications.

Have a great week everyone!

MT

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ed Seykota Student Interviews

Insightful post from Michael Covel on Ed Seykota's Class of 2002 here. Interesting bytes:

"To me trend following is more than an investment philosophy it is a way of life. Once I became familiar with how to stick with what is working and get rid of what is not, my personal life as well as my trading saw vast improvements. Unhealthy relationships and losing trades are cut and all I am left with are winning trades and rewarding, supportive relationships." -- Jason Dekker

"Trend following at its core is "simple", but the key lies in the consistent execution of a positive expectation system over time." -- Michael Covel.

Yes, simple is the trend following system. The complex is the consistent execution. It is amazingly hard to stick to a trend-following system year after year. Harder than this old country boy would like to admit.

Have a great weekend!

MT

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Update on Innovating Exits...Graphs

I've updated the Innovating Exits post with graphs from one of the system's past trades. I've also described a bit of the system in the comments section of the post. Check it out.

I shared some quick research on Trader Mike's beloved T2108 indicator in a recent post of Mike's. You can read my comments here. Trader Mike uses the T2108 as an overbought/oversold indicator on a daily timeframe. I find it useful as a trend strength indicator on a weekly timeframe. Just goes to show...more than one way to skin a cat.

You know, there are just times when you need to jump on bike and get the hell out of dodge. What better bike than this new one from Triumph...The Scrambler.

TriumphScrambler
Source: Forty Years on Two Wheels.

Later Trades,

MT

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Innovating Exits

I haven't written much on system trading lately. Mostly, because I've been wandering out in the deep jungle of quantitative finance and to be honest...got lost. I got so engrossed in theory that I forgot just what I was after.

Luckily, I found an old creek that led me back to my entry point. A little weary but a little wiser and more appreciative of the systems I currently trade. What's really amazing is after 5+ years of developing systems and trading them...the very first one is the most successful. And the second one is the second most successful. And the third is the third...and so on...and so on.

This reminds me of a programming conundrum that I run across all the time. When tackling a problem of how to program a certain piece of logic...my very first solution to the problem is always the best. And I don't know why. Because the solution I come up with isn't an "Aha!" moment. It's basically a thought that you "could" do it this way...but I'm sure there's a better way. And notoriously, there isn't. It's always that first split-second solution that is the most adept at cutting straight to the heart of the problem and getting the job done. Crazy, ain't it? Especially, if you're a logical type of person who believes the more thought applied to a problem, the better the solution will be. Wanna know what's crazier?

There are programmers out there who do not have this type of split-second solution ability. Or...they do and don't honor it. Allowing themselves to stew on the problem too long. Thus, the corresponding logic and code is horrible. These "gifted" programmers have a name...The Innovators. And know what? Nobody wants to support or work on an Innovators code. Funny.

Anyways, back to the post. One of my original systems (2nd one) has always had impressive entry logic. But, I never focused on the exit piece just because the entry worked out so well. The exit to the system is a cut-and-paste job from my first system's exit logic. Your basic run-of-the-mill ATR trailing stop. Take a stock's current price and subtract it's ATR multiplier. For example:
XYZ stock closed at $30.00.
Average True Range (ATR) for 5 days: $4.00
ATR Multiplier: 3
ATR Trailing Stop := Close - (ATR * Multiplier) := $30.00 - ($4.00 * 3) := $18.00.

This ATR Trailing Stop would scale up...never down...as the price of the stock closed higher and higher or as the stock grows less volatile. And then, if the price were to close below the ATR trail...you'd exit your position.

Get the picture? Now on to my system. The problem I've noticed after trading this system for a number of years is that investments (stocks) would exhibit very small ATR's for the majority of time but every so often experience a huge expansion of range for just one day taking the price many points higher. As a result, I'd get kicked out early in the long-term move because volatility would sink back down, price would sink back down, while those price spikes scaled me up on the trailing stop to a level that didn't fit with the overall move in the stock. Cause as I said before...we always scale our stops up...not down.

InnovatingExits_Standard

What to do, what to do? The easy solution was to change our ATR Trailing Stop formula to use the Average price instead of the Closing price to determine our trail. The new formula would look like this:
XYZ stock closed at $30.00.
The average closing price of past 20 days: $27.00
Average True Range (ATR) for 5 days: $4.00
ATR Multiplier: 3
ATR Trailing Stop := AverageClose - (ATR * Multiplier) := $27.00 - ($4.00 * 3) := $15.00.

As you can see, we decreased our trail 17% from the original trail. This might not be the right thing to do in most trading systems. Since most systems are trying to capture range expansion in some shape or form. But, if you're one of the few long-term traders out there who try to capture long-term moves...expansion is not your friend. It will shake you out prematurely. Changing the calculations in your systems to moving averages instead of just one or two price points...may help keep you with the trend longer.

InnovatingExits_New

Note: Please check out the comments for further detail on the type of system being used in the ATR Trail example.

Later Trades,

MT

Monday, January 09, 2006

Quote of the Week

"Only as you do know yourself can your brain serve you as a sharp and efficient tool. Know your own failings, passions, and prejudices so you can separate them from what you see." -- Bernard Baruch

The brain can be a wonderful tool or a horrific set of tinted glasses that bias everything you see. And these tinted glasses can be an extremely expensive accessory to wear in the market.

On to other things. My daughter and I are planning a Spring vegetable garden. Should be lots of fun. I figure there's no better way to teach her the following:
"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

And I hope the teacher learns as much as the student. :)

Later Trades,

MT

Monday, January 02, 2006

Quote of The Week

"In these times, when so much is written about the "money supply" and when some observers assert that an abundance of money will forestall a slump, it is interesting to note this comment by Senator Burton: "...paradoxical as it may seem, the starting point for crises and depressions may be found in abundance rather than in scarcity, whether of money or capital." -- Humphrey B. Neill in his book, The Art of Contrary Thinking, which was first printed in 1954.

True words of wisdom by the great Vermont Ruminator. In seeing all the wasted words spent on the yield curve conundrum this past week...I figured I'd waste a few more...

"The reason the contrarian needs to be aware of history, in this regard, is because changes in trend occur before the masses are consciously observant of the fact. Also, because when socio-political conditions seem to revolve and repeat, the average person (of brief memory) is unaware of the "cycle" and is likely to think that a "new" condition has developed." -- Humphrey B. Neil

So, what's that leave us with? Well, possibly we need to analyze the current trend in the markets. For a few years, the markets seems to have priced in a good sound economy. Do you believe the next year will see more of the same? Or will markets need to price in a little risk with that cup of joe?

Happy New Year everyone! I hope all have enjoyed their holidays. And gained focus on the tasks at hand for the new year. This year will be filled with many new events for yours truly. Found out last week that we're having a boy! Yeah! We are excited but our daughter is a little bummed. She was hoping for a little sister. But, once we told her that a little brother wouldn't play with her girl toys...she quickly warmed up to the idea of having a brother. Kids are funny that way. If only we as adults could be so adaptable.

P.S. This weekend I watched one of my favorite movies...Open Range with Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, and Annette Bening. If you haven't seen it...you're missing out...Bucketmouth! :)

Later Trades,

MT