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When I first started trading, many traders pretty much scalped in one form or another. Trading near to an exchange/exchange hub with mostly just other traders to worry about (far fewer algos) gave a disciplined and skilled trader a very good edge. Doing 50+ trades per day was not especially unusual, but never really looking for more than a few ticks at a time either.

 

I ask myself what has changed. I know a good number of people changed their styles somewhere in the last few years given the change in conditions. There are certainly more algorithmic systems these days. I think the level of volatility is higher. Also the way prices move has changed. This could just be due to algos mind, but also a criticism of some markets was that in certain conditions they were ‘manipulated’. I believe that although traders were way too quick to blame their losses on manipulation which probably didn’t exist, there were certainly times when specific markets were ‘played’ with. However, the line between dark manipulation and natural rebalancing of books such as a short squeeze is not always well defined. Anyway.

 

So things are quite different now but could it be done again and what would be required to do it? Scalpers certainly still exist. The question is how successful are they compared with the past?

 

My feeling is that if I were to scalp now it wouldn’t be a whole heap different from how I would take any other position. That would equally apply to any other of the various methods used by traders. But it would have to be taking a trade at a place where there is good potential for a reaction. The difference being over a normal trade that you would only give it a little space. So you’d let it run if it moved straight for you, but take the trade off quickly if it didn’t or started reversing. Here’s a list of factors I feel are important:-

 

Realization that you cannot lean on the order book (a limit order fill is not an edge).

- It used to be that a limit order fill let you take at least a tick and sometimes more on most trades so long as you had a good position in the queue. This is why EPIQ came about for X-Trader and OrderQ (if I remember correctly) was popular before it. Not anymore. If you get filled on a limit you have to assume it will trade through you. If you’re accurate with your entry however, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

Accuracy in prediction of possible supply and demand changes at specific prices/times/indicator values/whatever else.

- To make sure you have the best chance at taking at least a few ticks whether or not the market moves much further from any given price, you will need to identify good areas to trade. This can be based on any method, but should show a high level of some sort of reaction at the areas you identify.

 

Ability to read any reaction and change in supply and demand in real-time.

- Nothing always works. With scalping you need to get a good win rate. Your wins are never likely to be huge so they need to be plentiful. To improve your chances it is important to be able to see what is happening at you potential point of entry. If you have a DOM with good information (TT X-Trader historically was the best for this) you see it here, or if you have a bid x ask footprint as popularized by Market delta, you will be able to get a good idea from this too. Simple equivolume candles can help too and watching cumulative volume delta and how it changes relative to price is also useful.

 

A liquid and lag free market.

- Scalpers need to react quickly. A market which ‘jumps’ for any reason can particularly hurt a scalper if they have no time to react to the market (i.e. it moves before they see it move). Scalping the likes of the Dax or Crude is possible, but because of how they move most of the time changes to your methodology are necessary to be successful. Not saying it can’t be done. I know people who do it. Also, is it possible to scalp on a high quality retail feed over the internet or is it necessary to trade say from an arcade or somewhere with a leased line at least? My feeling is probably it can be done retail depending on your feed, your ISP and your hardware quality.

 

Identification of favourable conditions for scalping.

- It’s very important in my mind to make sure you are trying to trade in the right way given different conditions. If for example you position trade and you sell at a good level into a market which has bolted from open, you’ll probably take a hit and a standard stop out. Do that as a scalper and you might have to take a larger than normal loss.

 

Strong risk control.

- You simply must get out when the market moves against you whether you think you are right or wrong. Scalping is a numbers game and you must minimize your losses.

 

Quick and easy order entry platform.

- To react quickly you are going to need a quick and easy order entry platform. So that means no delays whatsoever on order entry/mod/cancel (obvious this depends on the connection too) and if means you should be able to alter orders easily and accurately (preferably with keyboard function trading in addition to mouse).

 

Low trading costs.

- As I’ve already said, scalping is about numbers of trades. So your costs per trade must not be prohibitive to making a profit. You couldn’t scalp if you were paying $5 per round trip or more for example or it would make it very difficult at the very least.

 

Mental focus.

- Trading requires mental focus at the best of times. Scalping requires even more. You have to be able to concentrate for long periods sometimes and that can be tough.

 

If you're at all interested in scalping, I hope this information is useful to you in some way. If anyone has any other important points to discuss, please share them. If you’re currently a scalper, it’d be great to hear your thoughts on how it is and what your challenges are these days.

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The game has changed, but it isn't dead.

 

The game is dead for the pit trader and for anyone else trying to use the same strategy as a pit trader.

 

The game has moved way beyond being over for the pit trader in many cases (in terms of scalping). It's really product dependent though. But even for the screen-based locals the game has changed massively.

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The game has moved way beyond being over for the pit trader in many cases (in terms of scalping). It's really product dependent though. But even for the screen-based locals the game has changed massively.

 

Not sure how someone can scalp unless they are so huge that they can put up size to stop price if that makes sense. I trade slightly smaller size than that.

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Not sure how someone can scalp unless they are so huge that they can put up size to stop price if that makes sense. I trade slightly smaller size than that.

 

That kind of assumes that a scalper always has to be right no? Scalping is about talking advantage of a change in order flow, meaning they are just hopping in front of others to make a quick buck. No need to be so huge to reverse the market at all.

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That kind of assumes that a scalper always has to be right no? Scalping is about talking advantage of a change in order flow, meaning they are just hopping in front of others to make a quick buck. No need to be so huge to reverse the market at all.

 

If you are looking to hop in front of a change then why scalp....why not let it run?

Plus scalping often was going with the flow, and the trend for the day......

 

For me, scalping is tough work, requires a lot of capital as you will get hit every now and again, and largely just feeds the brokers, and those who do it properly really have low low costs. Basically why scalp when you might be able to make the same money for less trades....maybe traders are getting smarter :), or maybe they have burnt up and blown away.

I am sure it is still profitable for some who attempt it, but in simple terms for me, it has never made sense, unless you have an edge to that scalping - ie; low low costs, some trade flow edge (eg; the old pit), or something similar.

 

The HFT may have also made it harder to scalp, but I dont really know....maybe they are the new scalpers.....

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re:

Accuracy in prediction of possible supply and demand changes at specific prices/times/indicator values/whatever else. -

To make sure you have the best chance at taking at least a few ticks whether or not the market moves much further from any given price, you will need to identify good areas to trade. This can be based on any method, but should show a high level of some sort of reaction at the areas you identify.

 

Could you expand or clarify on this one ? Maybe I'm misreading it but In my view, "good areas" or not, generally someone who is applying a method that needs to wait for “a high level of some sort of reaction at the areas…” probably shouldn’t be “scalping”. thx

 

Also, is that list prioritized ...or was that just the order they came to you ...or... ???

Edited by zdo

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re:

 

 

Could you expand or clarify on this one ? Maybe I'm misreading it but In my view, "good areas" or not, generally someone who is applying a method that needs to wait for “a high level of some sort of reaction at the areas…” probably shouldn’t be “scalping”. thx

 

Also, is that list prioritized ...or was that just the order they came to you ...or... ???

 

Yeah, it's a good point. However, if you can pick good areas then you can normally get a few ticks on side in most cases, whether or not they end up being good to run. Plus you might be able to take the trade 3/4/5 times before the market moves away from the area properly.

 

The list isn't in a particular order. Just some thoughts.

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First, we need to define what you mean by scalping because it means different things to different folks. Scalping for 1 tick = $12.50 - $5 COST= $7.50 profit per trade - Lose a tick and lose $12.50+$5 = $17.50...

 

Second we can define scalping based on whether we hit or take liquidity on entry. Next we need to know frequency... someone might come in and take 1-2 trades per day with large size to capture a few ticks.. another might take 15 trades per day

 

IMO, scalping huge size for a few ticks isn't all that desirable... However, if one can take more trades per day with EDGE then the sharpe ratio will go up.. this is one reason why HFT firms almost never have losing days

 

I wrote about this on my blog.. ( I believe) under small bet vs big bet trading. It makes sense everyone would like to make small bets because such a method would be highly scaleable.. not much risk. The concept is at odd with EMH... EMH implies only rare opportunities will exist... scalping requires MANY opportunities

 

I do take some scalp but only 3-4 ticks minimum... I am typically looking for a bigger opportunity though. I take many 1 tick profits but I dont enter to take 1 tick

--

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HI

 

 

i cant say that Scalping as how i mean it .. and that is trading based on the DOM , (no charts) isnt Dead.. and i cant even say if it has changed! s i first looked into scaslping via DOM .. like 1 or 2 years ago...

 

 

and i started to read about TapeReading and Reading the DOM etc...

 

and i say i have understood how markets work (mechanics) and therfore i can read the action on the DOM and position myself on the market on the most favourable way...

 

so it is not dead.. thats the same as saying trading is dead! lol , ie .. if scalping is dead then trading is dead.. the mechanics didnt changed.. markets move because of the same principles they moved 100 years ago.. maye it got faster ? but then what do i know .. i didnt traded 100 years ago.. ;)

 

 

just an example...

 

first u need to know where to do business @ ie. wich level.. (and that doesent mean that price reacts on thiose levels) .. but u need a reference point , a point on wich u can rely your market analysis on.. else u are trying to see something within a dark room.. u know?

 

lets say price moves torwards yesterdays high.. well only two things can happen.. it either breaks above or rejects .. right ?

 

now u just have to look HOW price moves torwards that level and HOW it reacts there..

and position yourself accordingly.. if it looks like it may will breakout then go long..

but then again.. it may just breaks out 2 ticks.. and reverses.. but that is not in your hands. u can react to that quick and get out at BE or 1 tick profit or a lil loss.. but u have to react!

 

u know its different if u open a position or maintain an open one!

 

ie.. if u have opened one.. does the market react in the favour of your position?

if so u need to watch teh momentum and let it opne till tehre is a change in behaviour/momentum..

 

if not .. get out immediately as u dont want to be exposed to the market for to long

or watch the action and if the current action is hazardous to your posi ... get ot.. else let it open..

 

 

does the market even goes agianst your initial position? well... then there is only one choice ... get out! ... ;)

 

 

scalping aint dead.. ... its a skill well worth learning.. as reading the market on its pulse.. will do any trader good!

 

i heard of trading floors/firms.. wich let the freshmen and newbie traders first stare them on the DOM for a full month before letting them..even consider to look or even trade based on charts .. etc..

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As others have hinted, I think there was a natural progression from traditional market-making and pit trading into HFT. Many of the original HFT firms were controlled or backed by former successful floor traders.

 

Manual scalping may still be possible for the skilled and well trained stock trader; for trading a liquid futures market I would expect the process would now need to be machine-implemented. Just for starters, you'd need a naked access zero-latency data feed and then intelligent algorithms to publish filtered tick streams minimizing flutter etc.

 

There seems to be a general idea (although unless you know someone involved in HFT there would be no way to verify this) that scalping strategies operated by such firms employ modelling techniques, usually cribbed from non-financial disciplines, to measure trade intensity and search for liquidity.

 

I've attached a paper that might be of interest.

 

BlueHorseshoe

 

Particle Filtering.pdf

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Traditional futures scalping was done with a theoretical advantage by traders who were talented at spotting opportunities where they could buy at the bid and sell at the ask, almost at the same time. It was a sort of arbitrage. A trader's relationship with other floor traders or floor brokers in the pit was an important factor.

 

Those opportunities don't exist for small traders in the electronic markets.

 

I am not sure how a HFT can have an advantage attempting to scalp when the bid is stacked in the 4 figures on each side of an instrument like ES and the hft still has to get at the end of the queue with his orders no matter how fast he enters it.

 

It would make sense how a hft would be able to benefit from arbitrage, but not scalping, unless I am missing something

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I dont see that scalping is really that different from any other form of discretionary trading.

 

Patience, discipline, understanding,..... you've read it all before.

 

There are some differences of course - like low fees (deepdiscounttrading.com makes this more viable for retail traders) and a good platform. Although I use TT and the EPIQ facility is pretty good, other platforms like CTS T4 are used by loads of scalpers in Chicago and is way cheaper. I sometimes ask why I still use TT....

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Might M wrote:

I am not sure how a HFT can have an advantage attempting to scalp when the bid is stacked in the 4 figures on each side of an instrument like ES and the hft still has to get at the end of the queue with his orders no matter how fast he enters it.

 

I recommend you read "Dark Pools." Here is an example:

 

The HFT is always ahead of you on the queue. It withdraws if it is going against you. Say you are on the bid. The HFT will be ahead of you- always. The book explains how. If it "sees" that there are a lot of bids behind it, it will probably take the trade. If it "sees" that the bid won't hold, it pulls its bid before it gets hit, you get hit, and the price continues down.

 

It operates at a speed of 600 nanoseconds, and has algorithms it spend millions on developing.

 

My scalper friends used to make a very good living. Now, they are making nothing.

 

see: Amazon.com: Dark Pools: High-Speed Traders, A.I. Bandits, and the Threat to the Global Financial System (9780307887177): Scott Patterson: Books

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I always love these post that amount to 'is scalping a viable'. It is for me, and many other. It does not always stay the same and you need to me around long enough to recognize when it changes and be able to adjust with it... (being testy... forgive me nothing belligerent intended) even Formula 1 racers change to wet tires in the rain, and making the right decision (Dry.Med/Wet) can be the difference between winning and losing.

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Manual scalping may still be possible for the skilled and well trained stock trader; for trading a liquid futures market I would expect the process would now need to be machine-implemented. Just for starters, you'd need a naked access zero-latency data feed and then intelligent algorithms to publish filtered tick streams minimizing flutter etc.

 

Those opportunities don't exist for small traders in the electronic markets.

 

I can assure you that certain futures markets used to be heavily scalped by smallish traders electronically. It was very profitable in the past and to some extent still is.

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It would make sense how a hft would be able to benefit from arbitrage, but not scalping, unless I am missing something

 

I suspect you may be missing something. Unfortunately I am also missing the same thing, so I can't tell you what it is.

 

The reply from Windsurfer gives a good idea though.

 

Incidentally, I spent a lot of time at the start of the year trying to develop a procedure for seeding the order book with limits pre-market and then sweeping them before they were hit if they were not required. In other words, a way to pretty much ensure a fill at limit.

 

I did not succeed.

 

BlueHorseshoe

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I suspect you may be missing something. Unfortunately I am also missing the same thing, so I can't tell you what it is.

 

The reply from Windsurfer gives a good idea though.

 

Incidentally, I spent a lot of time at the start of the year trying to develop a procedure for seeding the order book with limits pre-market and then sweeping them before they were hit if they were not required. In other words, a way to pretty much ensure a fill at limit.

 

I did not succeed.

 

BlueHorseshoe

 

Scalping ticks isn't a game that I can do profitably so I stay away.

 

Yes I am missing something. As I stated, I don't see how HFT can approach a market like ES and get in and out with a tick or 2 of profit without getting at the end of the queue. They can certainly enter muck faster than you or I, but they still have to get at the end of the queue. The market doesn't part for them simply because they are so fast.

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Scalping ticks isn't a game that I can do profitably so I stay away.

 

Yes I am missing something. As I stated, I don't see how HFT can approach a market like ES and get in and out with a tick or 2 of profit without getting at the end of the queue. They can certainly enter muck faster than you or I, but they still have to get at the end of the queue. The market doesn't part for them simply because they are so fast.

 

depending on the market, some of the HFT actually were able to see orders before others....dont know if thats the same.

More than anything they can load up and pull out faster than you and so with enough of them doing it they are the Q.

Plus they use all sorts of tricks - like loading up the bid, seeing what is getting hit, disappearing, selling down etc.....it is all about speed.....but its a different game IMHO.

 

(Thanks for the heads up on the book windsurfer i just downloaded on kindle for next time i have a few hours......)

 

Scalping still can be done, but I think its not for everyone due to the limitations, and I feel the same things are true....scalp with the trend, cut, cut, cut, and do it with an edge....ie, you buy on the bid, or something similar.

Too often people sell it as a low risk, high profit, fun adrenalised game.....not for everyone.

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Scalping ticks isn't a game that I can do profitably so I stay away.

 

Yes I am missing something. As I stated, I don't see how HFT can approach a market like ES and get in and out with a tick or 2 of profit without getting at the end of the queue. They can certainly enter muck faster than you or I, but they still have to get at the end of the queue. The market doesn't part for them simply because they are so fast.

 

Maybe the HFTs don't scalp futures. Who really knows? Maybe all that short term volume is arb against baskets and ETFs. Like you, I have learned to stear clear and not waste my time searching for these opportunities.

 

For anyone who's interested in manual scalping, then it would be intresting to try and find out whether 'The Flipper' is still flourishing (I believe he was eventually unmasked as 'Paul Rotter', if I remember rightly).

 

BlueHorseshoe

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HFT is not scalping

 

HFT is a broad term used for many different tactics.algos and procedures

HFT dont trade for tick movements...

 

They go for example for statistical arbs wich will occure in split seconds

Or go for rebate trading ie. Adding liquidity

For flashing and internalization but i guess only on equitys

Trading inside the bid and ask spread etc.

Algos against algos

 

And so forth

 

Not scalping for ticks

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Got a few minutes before a tennis match so...

 

I don't understand quite a few things being said...ie I'm "missing some things" even stranger than what some of ya'll are "missing"...

I'll just go through quoting snippets from posts and comment.. in not very good order,btw... and.not really disagreeing with anyone... just reporting this unit's experience.

 

I have a "scalping" / taking a few ticks per trade session almost on a daily basis!

 

Back to the part of TN's list I questioned re "you will need to identify good areas to trade. This can be based on any method, but should show a high level of some sort of reaction at the areas you identify. " For entries, I don't look at it in terms of chart "levels" ever... I look at in terms of "setups" appropriate to the current MarketType I know what he's saying but the incongruity I was experiencing with that list item was about needing "reaction" first. I have no "confirmations" period.

Another way of putting it - Basically I'm entering on the 'setup' ... Better results than if I wait for a 'signal' ... in some cases I start clicking in on the setup and don't stop until after signal / "reaction" / 'confirmation' is showing up... even pre HFT, that's the only way I've ever figured I could ever "get in front"

 

re "scalp with the trend" - For me that holds when it's a 'parabolic' trend only

(which seems to be rare(r and rarer ) :) I wish it would rain parabolic - but "nature abhors a parabola" ;) )

Anything else (including when it's trending) - Nope, I don't scalp with the trend.

... and btw I don't use the book, the dom, or the tape (except under some relatively rare MT conditions)

re "do it with an edge" My comment would be "an" edge is not enough. Multiple edges are required PLUS a way of knowing when to use what.

 

I "cut, cut, cut," in only about 75% of adverse price action... The other 25%... because the setups are high probability... I ride the trade out out as is ... or sometimes beat it up with size - up to four times - at predetermined intervals - all depending on the conditions and system...

From another perspective, stoploss orders are OSO'd in about 2/3 of the trades... then usually moved in... again system and condition specific...

 

Speaking of size re "Not sure how someone can scalp unless they are so huge that they can put up size to stop price if that makes sense. " That would be sweet! :) Actually I did do it once long ago (pretty sure it wasn't 'coincidence')... late one night... no real euphoria resulted... should have been in bed asleep anyways...

 

re: "buy at the bid and sell at the ask" and limit Q's, etc.

Regardless of conditions or system(s) being implemented I always enter at the market. Exits vary on the system (but btw they do pay attn to the nearest SR level's ;) )

 

re: "low low costs" Yep, but don't depend on them... do it regardless of what costs or obstacles present themselves...

re: "intelligent algorithms" - A definite must!

re: "machine-implemented" - Not a must at all ...am working on that but that work is as painful as the orginal development work..

 

Not "able to see orders before others"

- Again that would be 'nice' but on one hand I'm not sure I would even being interested at this point in learning how to fully utilize that information

and so... I don't "use all sorts of tricks like loading up the bid, seeing what is getting hit, disappearing, selling down etc..."

 

And re: "it is all about speed" and "you'd need a naked access zero-latency data feed "

I do it from far away...not colocated at all... medium grade T1 connection - lower latency would be 'nice' but I still don't find it to be required

 

re "not for everyone" and "HFT firms almost never have losing days"

It is "low risk" but it is not "high" profit... it is very good steady income (and it is only occasionally adrenalinizing)

If it didn't produce runs of 100+ and often 200+ without a loss I'm pretty sure I would lose interest in doing it at all. When I do get behind, I get serious and get it back before the day is over and if I don't... I know precisely what figure I've got to surpass the next day.

 

fkn BO probably deeply believes (at least enough to use it to wedge class warfare) that I didn't build it own my own ... that I "had help"...

Well I did attempt to "cribb[] from non-financial disciplines" and maybe some of that fortunately came over and I did look to many others for help (both paying for it with money and just asking)... but in the end, I had to grind it out on my own...

 

"Find your own way" zdo

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HFT is not scalping

 

HFT is a broad term used for many different tactics.algos and procedures

HFT dont trade for tick movements...

 

They go for example for statistical arbs wich will occure in split seconds

Or go for rebate trading ie. Adding liquidity

For flashing and internalization but i guess only on equitys

Trading inside the bid and ask spread etc.

Algos against algos

 

And so forth

 

Not scalping for ticks

 

I don't think that HFTs conduct StatArb. Pairs often have a half-life of weeks or months; HFTs are in and out of positions within seconds.

 

And surely trading inside the bid ask spread is pretty much scalping, no?

 

Most of the approaches you list are market neutral - it is reasonably well documented that HFTs frequently experience a volatility of returns that at least partially preclude this.

 

However, enough has probably been said here about HFT - the topic was manual scalping afterall.

 

BlueHorseshoe

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Got a few minutes before a tennis match so...

 

 

Hi ZDO,

 

Thanks for an informative post.

 

What do you trade, and what is a typical adverse excursion for you when trading for a one tick profit?

 

BlueHorseshoe

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Traditional futures scalping was done with a theoretical advantage by traders who were talented at spotting opportunities where they could buy at the bid and sell at the ask, almost at the same time. It was a sort of arbitrage....
Exactly, everything else is thrown into a catch-all term as scalping.

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      The problem with taking a loss is really two fold. First, the trader has to admit that he is wrong. As you all know, as human beings we all hate to be wrong. The ego simply gets in the way and we all want to always be right all the time. The first secret in this business is to check the ego at the door. The market does not care about your the color of your skin, religion or anything else. It will move in the direction of the money and that is the bottom line. Once a trader or investor goes into what I call 'hope mode' the trade is over. I'm sure everyone has been in this position at one time or another. Simply put there is no room for ego or hope in the stock market. The market is always right and there is no reason to fight it. 

      Here is the second problem with taking a loss, it hurts. Pain and pleasure are the two reasons why humans do anything at all. As a human being, we are always looking to have pleasure and avoid pain. Well, losing money is painful and many people would rather simply hold a losing equity than lock in a small loss and move on. I cannot tell you how often I see a trader hold a losing trade only to see the position move further out of the money. Many years ago I watched a day trader blow up a $200,000 account in a single day averaging in on a bad day trade. To this day I can remember the look on his face as his money vanished in thin air. Believe it or not, this trader could have exited the position with a $500.00 loss, but instead he kept averaging in and fighting the position until he was wiped out. As a rule, once you have your full position you should never average in on a trade. At that point, it is critical to know where your max loss is going to be and stop out if that level is breached.

      Now when should we stop out? The answer to this question is not that simple, but here is what I personally do. I always place my stop loss below an important breakout or pivot on the chart. You see, prior breakout or pivot levels are usually defended when retested. After all, this is usually an area where institutional traders and investors got involved, that is why there is a pivot low or high on the chart to begin with. If that level is breached on a closing basis then I will move out of the position. So If I took a trade based on a daily chart pattern then I will usually check the daily and weekly chart levels. If there is a major pivot on the weekly chart then I will use a week chart close as my stop out level. While this method may not be perfect, it has saved me from much bigger losses when I have been wrong.



        Nicholas Santiago
    • By trading4life
      Hello, My name is trading4life.
      I just joined this forum.
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