Trading Lesson of the Week

Check back weekly for another free trading lesson:

Trade Less, Make More

In This Week's Issue:

  • Stockscores’ Market Minutes Video – Add to Your Winners
  • Stockscores Trader Training – Trade Less, Make More
  • Stock Features of the Week – Abnormal Breaks

Stockscores Market Minutes – Add to Your Winners

Many traders are looking to sell their winners and lock in the profit. If you have a trade that is working, it is best to add to it as new entry signals arrive. That topic plus my market analysis and the trade of the week on CNET.

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Trader Training – Trade Less, Make More

Traders, particularly those who need to make money rather than those who would like to make money, tend to have a fear of missing out. They hear about a trading idea or find an opportunity with their own effort and make the trade with less thought than they might put into buying a microwave. They can invest thousands of dollars on an impulse, much like the drunken gambler who throws down $1000 on Five Red.

One reason for this sort of reckless approach to trading is the belief that trading ideas are like gifts. They only come along from time to time and you should feel grateful for the opportunity. If you spend 10 hours researching a company or receive the occasional bit of insight from someone who should know more than the rest of us, it's easy to understand why you wouldn't want to let a seemingly promising trade slip through your fingers. The problem is that this gratitude for trading ideas leads you to lower your standards and place trades that are not much more than a gamble.

Have you ever made a trade and then, just a few minutes or days later, asked yourself what the heck you were thinking? If you are normal, then it's likely that you have because it is easy to focus on the dream of making a profit. You should focus your attention on the trading situation as it has been presented to you by the market rather than the words of an expert. Some trading opportunities are so well marketed that it's hard to see the truth because you fixate on the profit potential that has been dangled before you as the prize.

It is critical to only take trades that meet the criteria of a strategy that you have found to have a positive expected value. Rather than look for a reason to take the trade, which is easy, look for a reason not to. Ask yourself, "If I buy this stock, who will be selling to me, and what does she know that I don't know?" Looking at the other side of the argument will often highlight considerations that you have missed.

Being fussy is a lot easier when you recognize that the market-even a slow market-will give you opportunities. The markets have been pretty quiet this year but there are still stocks outperforming the market every day.
And if you can't find a trade today, tomorrow or in the next week, eventually you will. There is always another bus coming down the road. If you miss one, just wait for the next.

I have found that you will actually make more money by trading less. If you maintain a very high standard for what trades you make, you will always pass on some trades that end up doing very well. By being selective, however, you will also avoid many marginal trades that would tie up your capital and then incur a loss. By being fussy and trading less, you end up taking only the very best trades and your results will be better overall.

It is easy to be fussy when the market is strong and there are lots of opportunities. It's like fishing when every time you cast your line you get a bite. With that kind of success, you will quickly throw back any fish that is too small because you know there's going to be something better coming along soon. You only take the best of the best.

When the fish stop biting and you spend hours with no bounty, you take the first fish that grabs your hook. It could be a tiny fish that you would never keep on even an average day, but with your desire to catch something, you keep it anyway. It would be better to have just not gone fishing at all.

You'll do the same thing when trading a slow market. Eager to make a profit, you will take trades that show some potential even if they don't meet all of your requirements. You will work hard to uncover a trade rather than wait for the obvious no-brainer trades that you take when the market is in a giving mood.

I like to say that in trading, when the going gets tough, the tough get lazy. You can't control the market, so if the market is not giving you opportunities, it's better to do nothing. Your hard work will not change what the market does.

This is hard for many people who have been programmed to relate hard work to success. If you try harder than the next person in a sport, you should get a better result. If you study harder for an exam, you should get a better mark. If you work longer hours at your job, you should make more money. In the stock market, if you work harder to find good trades, you will probably lose money.

The best trades are easy to find. Working hard to uncover something leads you to find questionable trades that you have to talk yourself into. It's better to walk away when you have doubts.

This is not to say that hard work is not rewarded in trading. Traders who work hard at practicing their analytical skills or developing new strategies will be rewarded. People who devote their time and effort to improving their emotional control will be better traders. These are things that you can control and affect with hard work, but hard work won't change what the stock market does.

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