First, I need to relate a painful but valuable lesson I learned last week. In my previous post, I said that the CiG trade had fired a Buy signal on S&P Futures. As a fade strategy, the CiG trade frequently signals trades that I view as bat-shit crazy. It takes some teeth-gritting and reminding myself that this is fake money in order for me to be able to enter the trade sometimes. Last Wednesday was one of those times.
I dutifully entered the trade, but I put a $500/contract stop-loss order in, instead of the $1000 that the script calls for. I congratulated myself a couple of hours later when my stop-loss was hit, closing me out for a $500 loss, on saving the other $500 dollars. Well... go look at a chart for S&P Futures. My max unrealized loss that evening would have been about $700, and over the next two days we had a sizable rally. By the time the exit signal arrived, the trade as designed would have been up over $2000/contract, a big return. Instead, I was sitting on the sidelines with a $500 loss. My "judgement", in this case, cost me a total of $2500/contract. Ouch.
So why did I go against the trade as back-tested by NeighborTrader? My rationale at the time was that this was a fundamental market move, and we were in uncharted territory that couldn't possibly be handled by back-testing. OK, fair enough, and that's what judgement is for. But I took the wrong action based on that judgement: instead of tightening my stop, which cut my max loss by 50% but increased my probability of experiencing that loss by far more than 100%, I should have opted not to place the trade at all. If my comfort level with the risk is insufficient to execute the trade as designed, I should avoid the trade entirely - not cripple it and damn it to fail.
My conclusion was invalid, even if my assertion (these unprecedented times are likely to cause the trade not to work) was valid. But what about my assertion? If we want to look at unprecedented times, let's look at May 7, 2010, the day after the "Flash Crash" (I hate this term, by the way). CiG would have similarly fired a Buy signal at the end of the day that day, and the exit signal would have come two trading days later, for a profit of over $2200/contract. And here's the thing: NT back-tested this trade before May 7, 2010. That's out-of-sample data, and thus can't be discarded as sample bias in his back-testing.
So my assertion -- unprecedented times invalidates the trade signal -- was invalid, and my conclusion on how to act on it -- tighten the stop -- was invalid as well. Look, I'm not perfect, but if I had gotten either thing right, I'd feel a lot better about it. Anyway, $2500 lesson learned: either follow the trade, or don't do the trade - don't adjust the trade on the fly based on my gut.
Oh, and you may recall me mentioning that "by rights, I should be short Ten Year Futures, too". That trade, if entered, would have made another $1250/contract over the course of three trading days. Sigh.
Last Wednesday night, not long after my stop-out, AAII's sentiment survey for March 17 was posted, and those inversely prophetic investors had some pretty negative things to say about the market. Bullishness dropped all the way to 28.5%, just below the CS Buy signal level of 31.5. With SPY trading between its 25SMA and its 200SMA, the MACO component was giving a hearty "meh" signal. Buy + don't-care = Buy. So I bought a unit of SPY the next morning... at 128. SPY is still in MACO's "meh" territory, but up 1.66/share from my buy price; AAII publishes another weekly survey overnight tonight. If my individual investor peers recognize the cessation of the downtrend last week and get more bullish ("bullisher"?), I might find myself selling SPY on the open tomorrow morning. But they'll have to get a lot "bullisher" - 41.5% or more - for me to take my profits and go home. We'll see.
As regular readers of this blog know, I run multiple trades in my paperMoney account at ThinkOrSwim. Besides the ones mentioned above, I also have a bullish NDX option vertical spread on to simulate a collar, a bearish SPX option vertical spread, an Iron Condor in RUT (Russell 2000) and naked-long SPY puts. I'm also looking for a dip in gold to buy back some GLD calls, after having exited my March calls before expiration. The problem that I am starting to run into is that I have too many trades on the stock market - and many of them are nearly perfectly inversely correlated. The worst offenders are the bearish SPX and bullish NDX spreads. CiG and CS|MACO only hold positions once in a while - but the option spreads are there all month long, every month.
This false diversification doesn't benefit me at all - if they were real trades I would be spinning my wheels spending commission on an expectation of about 0 profit. In a paperMoney account, this isn't so bad, because I can use the excuse that I am looking for profitable trades: the unprofitable ones will never "go pro" into a real money account. But this is kind of a hollow argument, because any of these trades can be profitable or unprofitable, depending on the market conditions.
This issue bears more consideration.
And a Micro Rant
"They", whoever they are, changed the Nasdaq-100 ETF's symbol from QQQQ to QQQ last night. WTF??? Didn't they just change it from QQQ to QQQQ a few years ago? Make up your minds!