Common Mistakes in Trend Trading

Trend Trading Guidelines, Part III

This lesson will cover the following

  • General thoughts on trend trading
  • Why you shouldn’t go against the market
  • Adequate reward for your risk
  • Pullbacks that might not come

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Regardless of the types of trading signals a trader chooses to rely on, he must always take advantage of strong trends and swing at least a part of their position. What is most important however is to not try to fade strong trends, as only a small number of people can successfully do that and the average trader must accept the fact that he is not one of those.

Counter-trend positioning during strong trends is an easy way to lose a certain amount of money with each trade and, upon revisiting your daily result, to be surprised how much you’ve managed to lose. Everyone knows that, but only the experienced traders can resist the temptation to go short at each new high. Novice traders will be lured to short each high, knowing that trends have pullbacks. They think that they can at least short scalp and then buy at the bottom of the pullback. But when the pullback actually comes, they are afraid to buy it because the buy setup does not look so strong and they fear the trend may reverse into a bear trend.

And because, like we’ve mentioned before, reversals succeed in only 20% of the attempts and otherwise become with-trend flags, experienced market players stick to their with-trend positions and even add to them as a pullback progresses.

bullDuring strong trends, a bull trend for example, many traders like to buy on breakouts above prior swing highs. Although this is a sound strategy, buying a pullback before the breakout yields a better profit and carries less risk. The most common problem with entering on a pullback is that traders do not know when exactly it will end and when the price will reverse back in the direction of the trend, thus they are hoping for a deeper or better-looking pullback. In order to protect himself from missing on profits during a strong trend, a trader should place a buy stop above the previous swing high. This way, if the pullback is very short and the trend resumes quickly, the trader immediately joins the long side.

After the trend has continued for a while, it will eventually begin to exhaust no matter how strong it was. As it becomes weaker, pullbacks will become larger and longer, setting up the stage for a trading range. As soon as the sideways trading sets in, the strong bulls will begin to lock in profits above the swing highs, instead of extending their positions. Meanwhile, the strong bears, who have until now refrained from shorting, will begin to scale in into short positions.

However, an increasing number of shorts can not be a sole reason to believe that the current trend has ended or is about to. It is not before there has been a decisive bear move that breaks below the bull trend line, before you can be fairly convinced that the bears have set in control. And even that might not be the decisive factor in some cases, because you can often see a trend line break that reverses and retests the trend’s high.

Adequate reward

treasure-chest-open-iconIn strong trends, traders should ideally swing a part of their positions, while taking profits along the favorable market movement, and then go back to a full position on each pullback. However, many traders are not able to do that. Instead, it would be easier for them to enter early with a full position and scale out along the way, without adding to their position.

It is very important to scale out of the trade and take profit at certain points, so that you protect yourself from an unexpected trend reversal. However, this does not mean you should exit with too small of a reward. After all, you put yourself to initial risk when entering the market, and you should feel compensated for taking that risk, without becoming greedy.

For example, if a trader enters the market long and his protective stop is 20 pips below his entry, you can often see people scale out for example a third of their position as soon as the market rallies 20 pips, then take off another third after another 20-pip rally, leaving the last third of their position on the market until a strong sell signal occurs.

During a good strong trend, however, the situation generally allows you to to aim at a higher profit target for the first scale out. It would be better, if that trader waits until the market advances 40 pips, or twice his initial risk, before locking in his initial profit. You should always try to resist taking profits too early when the trend is good, and aim for a risk-to-reward ratio of 1:2. Of course, if the market presents you with a very strong buy signal, you can always add to your positions, but deviating from a predetermined plan in the course of trading is not advisable for novice traders.

Exclamation-mark-iconRemember that repeatedly scaling into a trade bears the risk of making your position too large, and because that is done in small portions, you might not even realize the scale of it before the market reverses and you score losses.

Once you’ve determined the market is trending and you’ve decided to enter with at least a small portion, you must place a worst-case protective stop that measures your initial risk, which is usually quite wide at the beginning. If the market moves in your direction, you need to tighten that stop, which will then allow you to add to your position, if you see a strong signal. However, it is crucial to remember that by scaling in, you must not exceed your normal level of risk, thus you must not allow your position to become too large, like we mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Pullbacks can be elusive

ninja-iconAs the market edges higher, the majority of traders are expecting it will pull back soon, especially at new highs. We said earlier that newbie traders constantly lose money by betting on reversals at highs in strong trends, but those pullbacks don’t come. Here is why.

As the trend grinds higher, smart traders begin to buy in pieces. Their risk exposure is a movement to the bottom of the spike, and therefore if, let’s say it is 2 times their normal risk, they will enter with half of their usual size to keep the risk in their normal limits. As the smart bulls continue to buy near the tops, this sustains the buying pressure, which tells the smart bears that the market is moving up. There is no point for them to go short now, if they believe that they can short after a few bars at a higher price (better for them). This makes the market one-sided and it edges higher, instead of pulling back. You need to be doing what the smart bulls are doing – buy a small amount at the market or on a small pullback and risk to the bottom of the spike.

Even if the price pulls back right after you’ve added to your position, you shouldn’t worry. When everyone wants to see something, in this case a pullback, the move will be very short, because all the market players, who have been waiting to buy, will immediately hop on the market at the pullback and drive it back up. This will make your position profitable once again in no time. Once the market then advances in your favor, you can look to scale out or alternatively you can buy more on another pullback, which will be higher than your initial entry.

If you have any questions or suggestions you are welcome to join our forum discussion about Common Mistakes in Trend Trading.
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