How to profit & still lose

ES 03-14 (5 Min)  2_13_2014 - VikramThis is the story of how I made $1762.50 yesterday in a demo trade in the E-mini S&P [CME:ESH14], while failing as a trend-follower and a trader. If I, or you, look just at the final profit, we’ll be missing the story.

The markets do allow you to recover from stupid mistakes sometimes. That doesn’t mean I should turn it into a habit or a “system.”

Note: This example comes from the demo account NinjaTrader kindly provides me to test trading ideas and keep an eye on how our calls perform. The usual disclaimer applies (see the footer of the page). In a demo, you don’t feel the same pain as with real money. Then again, I’ve had losing trades where after a while, I became numb to the numbers.

It’s your mind’s way of protecting you from the pain, and it was part of the story yesterday. Again, please don’t see this as an example of how to recover from a mistake profitably, even if a lot of trading gurus would sell it to you as exactly that. It’s an example of ego and stupidity and needless suffering. You don’t want to trade like this.

Since most of the key steps to the $1762.50 are on the chart, I’ll just highlight a few points. The morning started nicely with a couple of quick one- and two-tick scalps, which added up to $62.50 in profit, before commissions and fees. My goal was to show that you could do quite well taking a lot of small profits, if you were not yet confident enough to do a big swing trade.

I like pitchforks almost as much as this guy

And yes, that is how my charts look. The lines are prices that have been significant in the past and which the market is likely to remember. Look how beautifully the market hugged the middle tine of that large red pitchfork! And respected 1817, 1814.50, and 1811 as support and resistance. [SNP:^GSPC] Those levels acted as magnets, as they did last month.

At the beginning of the big rally, before the 8:30 AM CT open, I “sold the rally” a couple of times for small profits totaling $62.50. It was quick and easy and so I imposed my idea on the market that the market would and should go down. First big mistake: telling the market what to do.

Then, I ignored the uptrend, ignored my own super-secret proprietary indicators, and stayed short as the market took back most of my $62.50. I could have gotten out and kept half of it, but I didn’t. Being right was more important to me than keeping whatever money I could from leaving my account.

I used what is called “dollar-cost averaging” to increase the price from which I was effectively short. For example, if I get short from 10 and the market goes against me up past 20, I could sell a second contract at 20 and thus be short 2 contracts at 15. Sounds smart, right?

No. It was my way of fooling myself that I was being clever. But the simple question is this: the market was in a clear uptrend. Deciding to be long and profit from that trend was so easy “even a caveman could do it.” And here I was, trying to push back the tide. Why?

That the market did eventually turn my way and yield a profit is beside the point. I left more money on the table than I put in my account, all because I fought the trend instead of following it.

Look at the missed opportunities. $1000 on the first up rally, another several hundred back down, then the perfect Fibonacci correction. And my MACD and moving averages were showing them as well. (Oops, I just revealed my secret formula…) I ignored it all.

Instead of blending with what the market was doing, I was dancing to a different tune and the two did not harmonize.

I failed to do the thing I know works: listen to the market, shut up, don’t question it, and just follow the trend. As Jack Broz, who will be back next week, told me, “If you have a method you trust, then just trust it.” Reminds me of one of my favorite Springsteen lyrics: “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of.”

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