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Enjoy This Bull Market!

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Everything in the market is relative.

Is the market in an up trend or a down trend?

It may depend on the time frame you’re viewing. On a daily chart perhaps a given market may be in a down trend, but that same market could be in an up trend on the weekly or monthly chart.

Also …

Which “market” are you talking about? There is no “the” market any more.

Most people (God only knows why) are referring to the DOW when they ask “So, what’s the market doing today?”

But the benchmark used by most professional traders I know is the S&P 500.

But even that is starting to fade a bit as markets in other countries and in specific sectors have gotten very exciting and much more accessible to retail traders.

This is great because as one of my teachers used to say,

“There’s always a raging bull market somewhere.”

And the opposite is also true: “There’s always a raging bear market somewhere.”

Never before have investors had access to so many markets that do not necessarily have a high correlation with the U.S. stock market.

The advantage is that it provides many more opportunities. However, you must also be a skilled trader/investor to take advantage of those opportunities … and unfortunately most people will fail at that attempt.

Still, for the properly trained, the opportunities are wonderful, primarily through the dazzling diversity of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) which open up the markets of countries around the world, commodities, currencies, sectors and industries.

It’s no secret that the technical picture of the S&P on the daily chart (shown below with the 50 MA) has been rather bearish to say the least:

So everyone has been complaining that “the market” is terrible.

But there’s always a bull market somewhere … if you’re willing to be a little flexible.

Lately the agricultural market has been very bullish. Below is a daily chart with the 50 MA of DBA which is the PowerShares Agricultural ETF:

DBA

Not bad!

You could also look at other Exchange Traded Funds such as FXF (Swiss Franc) or PTJ (Health Care) which have been going up nicely while the S&P has been tanking (though these markets have had dramatic sell-offs as the US equities are trying to bounce).

As a trader I’m always looking for opportunity, and that means being flexible. I watch all the major markets to find the best trading scenarios at any given time.

There’s no easy way to do this, and of course an opportunity today can turn sour tomorrow. But when you do catch the next great bull market, you can enjoy a long and very profitable ride!

For more information about ETFs you may want to visit the following links:

Good Trading MUST Feel Unnatural, Part 2.

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Had a lot of interest and many great comments emailed in from people who read Part 1 (below) of this topic.

Today I continue with Part 2, and it’s very timely as we begin the New Year and make our New Year’s resolutions.

We left Part 1 asking: “How do you overcome those natural (unprofitable) instincts?”

Like many things in life, the answer is simple, but that is not too be confused with it being easy. In fact, it may be one of the most challenging things you ever do … if you actually do it …

… but most of you WON’T do it.

I don’t say that to be mean. It’s simply the truth. And it reflects one of the most basic success principles that applies to all areas of life:

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.”

By the way, notice that the saying isn’t what they “CAN’T” do, but rather what they are “UNWILLING” to do!

So, what is it that unsuccessful people are unwilling to do when it comes to trading?

I almost hate to tell you.

It’s not the answer you want to hear.

It’s not what you’d suspect.

It’s not glamorous.

It’s not exciting.

It’s not fun.

Gosh, I guess those are the reasons that most people are unwilling to do it!

OK, I’m know I’m getting long-winded without revealing the “secret.” I guess I’m doing that because as soon as I mention it I’ll lose 95% of you who will either …

  • say “I already knew that”
  • not believe it’s as critical as it really is
  • hear the answer and then look for a more exciting one somewhere else.

But that’s pretty much the point, isn’t it.

There really isn’t any big, dramatic reveal about how to succeed in trading.

You’ve already heard what it takes. Most traders have just chosen to ignore it, or not believe it.

But for the courtesy’s sake, I guess I’ll spill it.

The #1 thing that helped me more than anything else … where it counts … in making profits is:

Keeping a disciplined trading log!

That’s it.

Here’s what didn’t matter much:

  • Which market I traded
  • Which time interval I used
  • Which indicators I used
  • Which moving averages were on my charts
  • Whose newsletters I subscribed to

What’s ironic, and sad, is that most every trading course I bought encouraged me to keep a trading journal to log every trade I took … but I didn’t do it.

Why?

Frankly, I didn’t really think about it that much. I just figured that I would know if the method of the course was working or not because I’d be making money!

Often I would start keeping a log of my trades, but it became cumbersome and I honestly couldn’t see how keeping a record of my trades would make a difference in my profits.

I believed the trading methodology either worked or it didn’t, and me keeping a log wasn’t going to affect my profitability.

I WAS DEAD WRONG!

What I didn’t realize was that the human element is a huge variable. Way more than I imagined. Way, way, way more!

When I finally did start keeping a perfect, disciplined log of every trade I was absolutely shocked to see that I actually wasn’t trading the methodology faithfully. I made little exceptions here and there, I got in and out of trades a little differently based on something I saw or a hope or a fear or based on a rule or pattern I learned from a different trading course.

Bottom line – my trading was chaotic.

Part of this was because I had no psychological tolerance for even small draw-downs. If I lost money for a day or 2 or 3 … I thought the method was junk, so I would try to “tweak” it and make it better.

I always thought I could make everyone else’s method better. Not sure why I thought that since I wasn’t a successful trader at that point. I was unjustifiably arrogant!

Just keeping a log of all your trades is not really going to change your profitability of course. The log must be used as a tool to make you profitable. You must learn how to analyze the log.

A couple keys in the analysis are:

  1. Use the log as a mirror – face your series of consistent losers. We naturally tend to avoid looking at them, but the more you face them, over a long period of time, the more you will begin to distrust your own trading instincts. Remember, those instincts are the “herd” instincts of mass psychology (see Part 1), so by learning to distrust them, you are training your mind to think differently than the masses. But this only occurs when you prove to your brain, through massive repetition of facing the losses, that it’s natural behavior with regard to the markets is WRONG, WRONG WRONG!
  2. Catalog your mistakes. Amateurs make the same mistakes over and over. Amazingly, this goes on year after year after year! Although they have a general awareness of their destructive behaviors, they are not aware of how pervasive those behaviors are in their trading. The truth is, those destructive patterns actually characterize their trading style, and they do not see that at all. The way to break this pattern is to confront it. Hold the mirror of the log up and see with your own eyes that you are making the same mistakes over and over and over.

Here’s a key insight for you:

  • Amateur traders are always looking for ways to make more money.
  • Professional traders are always looking for ways to make fewer mistakes.

In my trading course I provide the same trading log that I personally use. But that’s not enough. I also provide them with an initial list of the “7 Deadly Sins.” These are the most common mistakes that traders make. That will get them started, but then I encourage them to add to the list the mistakes they find themselves making over and over until they develop their own customized list.

In the log, there’s a spot to indicate which of the Deadly Sins they committed on every trade.

At the end of the week, students transfer their mistakes (“sins”) from the daily logs onto a weekly log where they can see all mistakes from the entire week on one sheet of paper.

Then they calculate how much money they made that week … and how much money they would have made if they simply avoided making those mistakes.

2 things jump off the paper:

  1. They are absolutely blown away by how many mistakes (“sins,” trading rules broken) they made over the course of a week. The comment I hear over and over is: “I had a vague idea I was making some mistakes, but I had no idea I was doing them so consistently! I must be crazy!”
  2. They see the numbers in dollars and sense – if they did nothing other than avoid making the mistakes, they would instantly be a profitable trader making very, very good money!

Which brings me to one of my favorite trading axioms:

“Successful Trading is Simply a Matter of Not Making Mistakes.”

So if you’re going to make a New Years resolution for 2008, I’d encourage you to resolve to make a list of the most common trading sins, then commit yourself to the unglamourous discipline of logging every trade and documenting every mistake and committing to the process of systematically cutting them out of your trading behavior.

It’s not fun, and most traders won’t do it in a consistent, methodical and disciplined manner. But if you do it, that’s exactly what will set YOU apart from the masses!

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Good Trading MUST Feel Unnatural! Here’s Why …

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Does it ever feel like there’s someone in your monitor watching your every move and trading the other side of the market, making your trades fail?

I’ve had many students make that comment.

Some of them were pretty serious and actually accused their brokers of trading against them. I had one student send me a copy of a document from a broker that stated that they may indeed take the opposite side of a position he has. He sent me a copy of a scathing letter he sent them accusing them of doing just that to purposefully profit from his losses.

I know it may feel that way sometimes, but I don’t think anyone’s broker is all that interested in a newbie’s $20,000 trading account. Sorry, it just doesn’t really hold much interest for them.

Still, it cannot be denied that it is often UNCANNY how the market seems to do the exact opposite of our trades … over and over!

  • It does feel like it’s intentional.
  • It’s so consistent that it really seems there’s someone watching us.
  • It feels like there’s a real intelligence trading against us. It can’t be chance.

OK, the truth is that it isn’t chance.

The truth is that there truly is an intelligence trading against us.

But it’s not what you think.

It’s no one trader or trading firm.

And no, though it may feel like it, it’s not the devil.

It’s the collective intelligence of the market. In other words, it’s the mass consciousness. In lay terms, it’s the masses.

The markets move based on the principles of mass psychology.

In trading, a small number of people make a lot of money and the masses lose.

So to be profitable, you must be one of the small minority.

Now here’s a mind twister for you:

Do you think you will be one of the few who can be better than the rest?

If you do, then congratulations … you lose!

Why?

Because the majority of traders believe they will be part of the minority – the winners. So simply by saying you will join the minority, you are expressing the feelings of the majority and have established yourself solidly in the camp of the mass psychology!

Ouch. My brain hurts now.

So what’s the alternative? To think you will be a loser?

Ironically, in a matter of speaking, yes.

Most traders go into the market thinking trading is easier than it is, are under-capitalized, under-educated and overly optimistic.

The winning trader goes in expecting to lose.

Why is this smart?

Because you WILL lose.

Trading is a profession like any other, and it requires a lot of education and … EXPERIENCE before you become successful. While you are gaining experience you will be losing money.

Seriously, it’s completely ignorant and frankly insulting to professional traders, to think you can read a few books, take a course or two, and then start making money in a week or a month or a year or two.

Would you have that expectation of becoming a doctor, or a lawyer or a professional football player?

But for some reason people think trading is easier than other professions.

It isn’t.

I can’t tell you exactly where trading falls with regard to “difficulty” in relation to other professions, but I can tell you this – new traders grossly underestimate the difficulty.

I’ll grant you this. It looks easy from the outside. It is “deceptively difficult.”

It’s a performance-based profession and very, very psychologically demanding. It’s more like being a professional athlete than being a doctor or lawyer.

It’s less analysis and more performance than most think.

Now, back to the beginning of our article …

You ARE part of the mass psychology. The reason your trades seem to go against you in such an uncanny fashion is precisely because you’re thinking and behaving like the masses.

Don’t get down on yourself. What you’re doing is simply “human.”

As much as we pride ourselves on being individuals, the truth is our common traits are much stronger than our individual ones. Humans are by nature social beings. We have a herd instinct.

So when we trade, that instinct comes into play. It’s the most natural thing in the world and everyone does it, because it’s instinct.

But to be successful at trading, you must stand outside the herd. So in a way, it can be said that …

GOOD TRADING IS UNNATURAL!

As I’ve mentored students in my home I’ve been able to witness this first-hand. Student after student honestly believes they are doing something different from other traders. But as I watch them trade and look at their trading logs I see them all making the EXACT SAME MISTAKES! All of them … without exception. It’s almost eerie!

So how do you overcome those natural instincts?

Stay tune for part 2 of this article!

The Energy of Fractals

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I haven’t been posting to the blog as much as I used to. As many of you know this is because of a personal loss I suffered a couple months ago (see the blog entry below). Thank you for the many letters of support. I greatly appreciate them.

I’m back in the saddle again and would like to share a brief video with you about the energy of fractals.

The video is self-explanatory, just make sure to turn on your speakers.

To start and stop the video, simple right click on the video and select the function you want to use from the pop-up menu.

Watch.

Enjoy.

Leave your comments and questions below.



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