7 Deadly Financial Spread Betting Mistakes – Part 6

Here is the sixth part of our 7 part series titled “The 7 Deadly Financial Spread Betting Mistakes”. Today we will discuss the sixth of the 7 financial spread betting mistakes that financial traders make:

Mistake #6 Day trading – what all day traders should know

A large percentage of people who trade online or use financial spread betting are short term or day traders. With few exceptions these traders lose money. The reasons for this are simple enough but go against the grain of what most people believe or want to believe. This is therefore a controversial post, but it reflects my experience of what works and what does not work in online trading and financial spread betting.

Day Trading has been made popular by brokers and trading firms as each time a trade is placed these firms earn a commission. Earning commissions for these firms is the name of the game. In financial spread betting you are charged a spread (commission) each time that you open or close a trade. It is therefore obvious that these firms want to encourage you to trade frequently, as this is how they make their money.

All of these commissions or spreads reduce the profitability of a trader or trading system. Systems or traders which trade frequently generate very high commissions, making it that much harder to make a profit.

What is needed is a system that trades frequently enough to make good profits without generating too many commissions by constantly going in and out of the markets. The irony is that the shorter the time frame you use as your trading indicators i.e. whatever indicator you use to give you your buy/sell entry signals, the weaker the signal is. So, day trading systems use the weakest trading signals and at the same time generate the highest transaction costs.

Day Trading therefore is a low performing style of trading as the signals are weak, but a high transaction cost generating style, the net result of which makes money for the brokers and spread trading firms but leaves the traders with empty pockets and diminished bank accounts.

The alternative is a trading style that uses stronger signals (medium to long term) and therefore trades less frequently, generating lower transaction costs. Now you have a system that generates greater profits and has lower costs which equates to a profitable trading system. This style of system is good for the trader but not so good for the broker.

It is little wonder then that everywhere you look, short term or day trading systems are promoted, but you rarely hear about medium to longer term systems. Another reason for this is the software vendors and people who want to sell you real time data. To trade profitably you only need end of day data. There are numerous sources on the internet where free end of day charts and prices are available.

You do not need real time data and it is in fact a very bad idea as it leads you to trade too frequently.Ed Seykota, the legendary trend follower once said that having a real time quote machine is akin to having a slot machine on your desk in that you end up feeding it all day long.

The problem with real time data and day trading apart from what has been discussed already is that you are too close to the market. You are in fact so close that you can’t see what’s really happening. Imagine holding a chart in front of you and pulling right up to the end of your nose. You can’t really see what’s going on, but as soon as you move the chart away to about arms length everything becomes clear. You can now see the trend and direction of the market.

Consider the following and see which conveys more about the state or direction of the market

1.      1 minute bar chart

2.      5 minute bar chart

3.      30 minute bar chart

4.      Hourly bar chart

5.      Daily bar chart

6.      10 day bar chart

7.      50 day bar chart

It should be obvious that the information contained in a 1 minute chart is less relevant to the state of the market than a 50 day bar chart. If a market hits a 30 minute high this is clearly less significant than a 50 day high. If a market hits a 50 day high then clearly something is going on in that market which is causing it to rise.

It can be seen from the above that the shorter the time frame (within reason) the weaker the information and the longer the time frame (within reason) the stronger the information. What is therefore needed is an intermediate indicator because as we have seen a short term signal is virtually worthless and no better than random, whilst an extremely long term indicator would severely limit your trading options.

There are numerous indicators that can be used, whether we are using highs and lows over a certain number of days, or moving averages. The same holds true with moving averages as with highs and lows over a period of days. A 5 day moving average indicator is clearly a weaker indicator than a 200 day moving average.

We must also consider that if you are day trading, the maximum amount of profit that you can make on a trade is how far the market can move in a day (most day traders are reluctant to leave trades open overnight and close them before the end of the trading day). Whereas if you are using a medium to long term system you could be in a single trade for weeks or even months, meaning that the potential profits from a trade are many times what can be made in a single trading day.

The LS Trader system, which is a medium term trend following system is often regularly in trades for months. In fact, in 2008 the average duration of a winning trade was just over 80 days. Consider for a moment how much profit each trade is likely to generate if it is open for an average of 80 days whilst at the same time how little spread is paid. The spread is paid upon opening and closing of the trade and a reduced spread paid for rolling the contract over, which in many instances is quarterly.

Compare this to day trading where spread is paid each time a trade is opened and closed throughout the day. It should be self evident that a day trading system has to perform well just to cover the transaction costs. In my experience day trading systems rarely generate enough profit to pay for the transaction costs, let alone leave enough after costs to show a profit at the end of the year.

In addition to the facts that day trading systems are low profit and high transaction cost generating must be added the fact that if you are day trading you have to sit in front of the screen for 8 hours a day. This is extremely time consuming and also highly stressful. This is not the way to trade, either from a profitability angle or a lifestyle angle.

The LS Trader system is a medium to long term trading system that only trades on a weekly basis. Trades are opened on Mondays with stop losses set. Traders can then go away and do whatever they want and not need to do anything on their account until the following week. This leads to low commission generation and high profits.

Next we will discuss Deadly Financial Spread Betting Mistake # 7 “Listening to the news and fundamental analysis”

Until next time, good luck in your trading

Phil Seaton


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