Great traders are created, not born. Those who lack discipline, persistence and self-confidence lose the never-ending challenge of trading profits. But those who survive the battle by using the tools used by the masters enjoy the fruits of consistent success.
Different master traders use different methods and approaches. But what is that one aspect that the greats all agree on, masters ranging from George Angell, day-trader, technical analyst par excellence; Gerald Appel, father of MACD, one of the most widely followed timing tools; Bruce Babcock, developer of trading software; George Lane, father of stochastics and one of the most experienced technical analysts in the world; Robert Prechter, the pre-eminent Elliott Wave analyst whose forecasts are followed by traders throughout the world; Welles Wilder, the man behind Delta and RSI and developer of technical tools that have revolutionized the trading world; and Larry Williams, colourful, controversial - a legend in his own time.
No, it's not some glamorous or sexy new fail-safe technique. Rather the one aspect of universal agreement among master traders is the importance of discipline. Discipline is probably the most worn-out term in trading. But that doesn't alter its importance. Also, saying the word is one thing; truly understanding its dimensions on an operational or behavioral level is another. Here are the golden rules of disciplined trading.
This is perhaps the single most important quality a trader can possess. Trading requires the ability to continue trading even when results have not been good. Due to the nature of markets and trading systems, good times frequently follow bad times, and bad times frequently follow good times. Some of a trader's greatest successes occur following a string of losses. This is why traders must be persistent in applying their trading methods and continue using them for a reasonable period of time.
Another important quality that the market masters emphasise is the ability to accept losses and to take them promptly. Perhaps the single greatest downfall of all traders is the inability to take a loss when it should be taken. Losses have a nasty habit of becoming worse rather than better. Unless they are taken when they should be, the results will not be to your liking.
Too many traders feel that they must trade every day. Such traders are addicted to trading. The fact is that some days offer few if any trading opportunities. The trader who wishes to preserve capital and avoid losses as well as unnecessary commission charges should understand that trading, other than mechanical day trading, is not an everyday event. There will be days when no trades are indicated. This is for the best.
Successful trading is a time-consuming undertaking that requires close attention. Which is why many market masters specialize in certain markets. In most cases, successful trading requires diligence, follow-through and persistence. Because most trading techniques require close attention, traders should not be involved in too many markets at one time.
I suggest that five to seven markets are sufficient for most traders. In fact, for new traders, I recommend specialising in one or two markets and attending to them thoroughly to develop your skills and increase your overall profits.
Begin with sufficient capital
Perhaps one of the worst blunders that any trader could commit is to trade with insufficient capital. Virtually all the market masters agree on this point. The argument may be made that the futures trader does not need to have substantial capital in his or her account since trades are closed out at the end of the day and therefore the necessity for sufficient margin to maintain positions is eliminated.
While this may be true, those with limited funds cannot play the game as long as those with larger funds. In any venture it is important to start with sufficient capital so that the trader will not feel pressured to perform and can allow the particular trading system or methods sufficient opportunity to ride through periods of poor performance.
Use news to your advantage
Many a trader has learned the hard way that following the news frequently leads to losses. However, I have discovered ways in which the trader can use the fundamental news or developing international, domestic or political news to his or her advantage.
Do not be a follower of the news; rather 'fade' the news. Use the news to exit positions that you probably established before the news became public knowledge. I firmly believe in the old market dictum: Buy on rumor, sell on news.
On an intra-day basis, markets are very sensitive to news well before the news is known by most traders. Insiders buy and sell on expectation, sometimes based on rumor, frequently based on fact. They establish positions before the general public is aware of the news; once the news has become public knowledge, they take advantage of the surge or the drop in prices to exit positions.
Take advantage of brief price surges
At times, markets will drop or rally quickly, seemingly in response to no news. What may be happening is a rumor on the trading floor, a large buyer or buy order, or large seller or sell order of which you are unaware. Such brief price surges or drops are opportunities for you to exit positions at a profit or to establish a new position. It is important to develop this quality as a futures trader since it is entirely consistent with the futures trading objective.
Stick to your goals
Above all, remember that as a trader you have one major goal: to make money. To do so, you must be particularly aware of your net profits at all times. My advice, which is based on many years of trading, is to set yourself specific standards and conditions under which you will begin to liquidate positions. Do so while the trend is still in your favor. You may either begin to close out your positions at that time or you may use a follow-up stop loss procedure to 'lock in' existing profits.
Use market sentiment to find short-term and day-trading opportunities
I have already discussed the importance of going against the majority opinion to find profitable trading opportunities. I believe that this is one of the most important qualities a trader can possess. While there is certainly a great deal of money to be made in trading with the existing trend, it is also important to know when the existing trend has reached a possible turning point.
One of the best ways, if not the best way of doing this, is through the use of market sentiment. The trader must also be a contrarian. This does not mean that you must buck the trend, but it does mean that you must always be aware of whether sentiment is very high or very low.
This will give you important clues as to whether you should be quick to take profits, whether you can allow profits to run and whether you should look for trading opportunities on the opposite side of the existing trend.
I have learned, after many years of trading, that the major difference between those who are successful traders and those who are not is found in their discipline, their psychological makeup and in the skills they have acquired as traders rather than in the trading systems, they use.
(Excerpt from Market Masters (http://www.visionbooksindia.com/details.asp?isbn=8170944112) by Jake Bernstein. Published by Vision Books.)
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