Author Archives: JLTrader

How To Quickly Identify BS Traders & Trading Material

A reader of my site asked me if I’d ever heard of Arduino Schenato, an apparently successful Forex trader and coach from Italy. I said no, but that I’ll check him out.

My approach in cases involving traders who sell various services (signals, coaching, courses and so on) is to consider them guilty until proven innocent. In a field where over 95% of vendors are more or less frauds, this should come as no surprise.

The first thing I look for is some kind of accountability – for instance a third party verified track-record. The second thing is legitimacy: why should I spend time on this guy’s materials and eventually money too ? You can quickly gauge the honesty of the person by the manner in which he addresses these two issues. There’s usually no point in going through videos, or tens of articles and pages of web content if you’re being taken for a fool at this stage.

Today I’m going to use Arduino Schenato to showcase the kind of tricks these unscrupulous individuals use in relation to the aspects mentioned above. He belongs to the price action trading camp, but adds a personal touch (calling it ‘follow the winner’ (FTW) strategy). If you go to the signals page, you’ll see tables and graphs with performance (which of course can and for all we know is made up, as there is no actual verification of those numbers). In the YouTube channel you can find videos where a monthly account statement can be seen and again the results look great. But although Schenato takes some care to hide the account number, it can be seen clearly in the screenshots below that the track-record comes from a demo account:

ftw3 ftw2 ftw1

So not only we have the guy trading a demo account, but as if that wasn’t bad enough, we don’t even get to see a full year’s statement. All we’re shown are a few fragments of the whole puzzle.

To add insult to injury, Schenato has video testimonials too, in which a few guys scroll through Word documents or Excel tables purporting to show the gains they’ve made since buying Schenato’s coaching services.

As far as I’m concerned, these two facts are enough to put the guy on the list of ‘traders’ to be ignored because he failed both track-record and legitimacy tests and scored high on dishonesty scale.

If you use the approach I described in this article, you’ll not only save a lot of time you would otherwise waste on these pricks, but you’ll also keep your mind BS free and their hands out of your wallet.

Diagonal VS Horizontal Trading Patterns

Over the years I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan of horizontal chart patterns in the detriment of the diagonal ones. It took some time until I was able to articulate to myself why the former are superior to the latter, but now it’s all crystal clear in my mind.

In books or on various websites, formations like symmetrical triangles, wedges, flags and so on look wonderful. Just buy the break-out of the diagonal resistance or support and more than likely you’ll hear the cash register ring. :) Well, in my experience, things are not as easy as they seem. I found the failure rate of such patterns to be inordinately high. To add insult to injury, in many cases, the price will just go far enough to take out your stop loss, consolidate a little bit, and then move without you in the correctly anticipated direction.

Nevertheless, some of my biggest winners (risk-return wise) have involved diagonal patterns, a fact which delayed my identifying the issues with them. But now, that I’ve carefully gone through a lot of my trades to research this aspect, I can say the following: in the majority of successful past trades involving a diagonal chart pattern, a horizontal pattern was also present. Only that for one reason or another, the trigger in those cases was represented by the diagonal formation.

Below is one of my most perfectly executed trades to date: a pyramid on EUR/USD in January 2013. While the most visible and the reason at that time for entering the second pyramid level was the break of the resistance (the first level was entered at the supporting trendline), there are two ‘hidden’ horizontal patterns here.

graff

EUR/USD diagonal patterns

You can see in the picture below the double bottom (coinciding with the trendline) and the break out of the consolidation (coinciding with the break of the diagonal resistance)

graff1

EUR/USD horizontal patterns

I like to keep things simple in trading – I pay attention only to what the price does – the highs and lows of the price bars give you all the objective information there is about where the market has been. Anything else on the chart is either a derivative of the price (indicators for instance) or random lines (Fibonacci for instance). Now, here lies the big difference between diagonal and horizontal patterns:

AUDUSDH1

Horizontal support/resistance on AUD/USD

EURAUDH11

Symmetrical triangle on EUR/AUD

We can see in the first picture how the support turned resistance and then support again is determined by the highs and lows of the price. In the second picture though, both trigger points (blue areas) are not created by the highs and lows of the price itself. In other words, we have only chart pattern confirmation, without price confirmation – this is a very important difference, hence the bold.  The price should have reached a point higher than the previous swing high and conversely a point lower than the previous swing low in order to confirm either move.

What I hope to make clear is that price is the most objective (although far from 100% correct) trade trigger there is. And in many cases, it gives different signals to what a diagonal formation might give. Ignoring the price in these instances will usually turn out to be a costly decision.

My Thoughts on AxiTrader’s Million Dollar Trader Competition

Million Dollar Trader is more of a chance for the next generation of talented traders to show what they’ve got, measure their performance against their fellow traders and, if they’re a top performer, get access to external funds that can help take their trading to a higher level. – AxiTrader General Manager Alex MacKinnon via LeapRate

If I were to make a parallel, I think this whole AxiTrader deal is like a rotten food product wrapped up in a nice, shiny box that just makes your mouth water. But when you open it up, the sight and the smell coming out of it leave you no choice other than to throw it in the trash can.

So here’s how the packaging looks like: open a minimum $5,000 account with Axi, trade for three months (February – April 2016) and if you have the highest return, you get to manage a $1 million account. There are also secondary prizes: $500k, $250k and 2 $100k accounts. You’ll get a 25% cut of all trading profits, paid quarterly, and subject to a high watermark. You’ll also be a part of what Axi calls ‘next generation of talented traders’ and receive a pathway to a career as a professional trader.

Now, the attentive observer has already noticed an important issue with this packaging, namely the assessment criteria – highest return over three months. If we go back to our food parallel, that’s like noticing on the box that it’s 6 months past its sell by date.

Why the content stinks: in a nutshell, because it’s just an advertising campaign masquerading as a search for talented traders. Going into more detail:

  • you can’t assess trading skill by measuring the highest return over a three month period. That’s a filter for leverage and luck, not talent. Someone using a martingale strategy for instance, where it’s just a matter of time till the account is ruined, might get lucky and win this competition.
  • the  draw-down limit on AxiSelect accounts (the ones with the prize money) is 10% (see terms and conditions) not 20% as shown on LeapRate and Million Dollar Competition page.
  • Axi will act as principal ( counter-party) on each client’s trade. In other words, they’re prepared to take the money of the over-leveraged, over-trading, EA running cowboys blinded by this offer.
  • The company risks 10% (draw-down limit mentioned above) of $1M + 500k + 250k + 200k = $195k. If we divide this by the minimum $5k needed to enter the competition we get 39. Axi needs just 39 guys to blow up their accounts in order to cover all the prizes. This part is the one that reeks the most to me. Here they are, deliberately misleading people that what it takes to be a talented trader and go professional is to score the highest return in a 3 month period. They know very well  that going for this goal in such a short period of time means over-leveraging and/or over-trading. And while you, with bleary eyes from that $1 million, deposit the $5k in an AxiTrader account, they’re laughing at you all the way to the bank.

Remove The Noise From Your Trading

I kept my business to myself. It was a one-man business, anyhow. It was my head, wasn’t it? Prices either were going the way I doped them out, without any help from friends or partners, or they were going the other way, and nobody could stop them out of kindness to me. I couldn’t see where I needed to tell my business to anybody else. I’ve got friends, of course, but my business has always been the same: a one-man affair. That is why I have always played a lone hand.

A man must believe in himself and his judgment if he expects to make a living at this game. That is why I don’t believe in tips. If I buy stocks on Smith’s tip I must sell those same stocks on Smith’s tip. I am depending on him. Suppose Smith is away on a holiday when the selling time comes around? No, sir, nobody can make big money on what someone else tells him to do. I know from experience that nobody can give me a tip or a series of tips that will make more money for me than my own judgment.

Jesse Livermore – Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

Technology and the way we access the markets have changed a lot since 1923 when Reminiscences was first published. But the basic human characteristics like fear and greed, the driving forces behind market participants’ actions, have remained pretty much the same. A quick reminder for those who think that laptops and iPhones automatically make us more financial savvy : this month marks seven years since Bernie Madoff‘s Ponzi scheme unraveled. Madoff’s victims lost $18 billion, 53 times the $225 million (inflation adjusted) losses of Ponzi’s scheme. How’s that for evolution ? :)

Along with the trading volumes and the number of financial instruments available, the noise surrounding traders and investors has increased tremendously over the years. We now have 24/7 financial television like CNBC or Bloomberg, scores of websites with up to the minute news and frequently updated chart analyses and commentaries, forums and social trading platforms.

On the face of it, all these services should be very helpful. I mean, having access to the latest news, hearing the comments and analyses of various ‘experts’, interacting with fellow traders and following/copying ‘top traders’ – how can you go wrong ? Very easily. Most of the news are either irrelevant to the instruments you trade or are already priced in. The talking heads and the ‘experts’ on websites are not traders – they’re being paid to fill up air-time or webpages, not to deliver risk-adjusted trading performance. Good quality information in forums and social trading networks ? – that’s about as easy to find as a needle in a haystack.

There’s a very brief book (32 pages), Jesse Livermore’s Methods of Trading in Stocks, written by Richard Wyckoff. He describes how Livermore traded out of his private office in order to insulate himself from the distractions of the customers’ room in a large brokerage. The modern equivalents of those distractions have just been mentioned above. And once we recognize them for what they really are, nowadays it’s much easier to avoid them.

A Key Difference Between Average Traders And Professionals

First off, let me emphasize that by professional traders I mean people who actually trade, have done so successfully for years or even decades and have the track-records to prove it. Your run-of-the-mill internet marketer selling trading courses, indicators or seminars obviously doesn’t fit the bill.

Many people would be inclined to say that intelligence is a key difference. After all, the finance industry attracts some of the brightest minds that come out of universities every year, right ? I’ll show you a Market Wizard’s answer to that:

How important is intelligence in trading?
I haven’t seen much correlation between good trading and intelligence. Some outstanding traders are quite intelligent, but a few aren’t. Many outstandingly intelligent people are horrible traders. Average intelligence is enough. Beyond that, emotional makeup is more important – William Eckhardt in New Market Wizards

There you have it, emotional makeup. Also known as discipline or self-control. These might just sound as overused words for people familiar with trading books/articles. So to better explain their meaning I’ll make an analogy to fitness, an activity similar in many ways to trading.

If you think about it, assuming you’re overweight and want to get a lean body: in theory it is not a difficult process (with very few exceptions where genetics or medical problems play a major part). You just have to keep a negative balance between your food intake (which should have the right mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and your energy expenditure. Add a few sessions of cardio and weightlifting per week and that’s about it.

Why do we have then so many people that jump from one magic diet to another, buy the latest ‘slim in 7 days’ DVD or hire personal trainers and still don’t manage to achieve medium and long term results ? Because of lack of self-control. Sooner or later they lose the discipline to watch their diet and exercise. On the other hand, the fitness professional sticks to his or her plan week in and week out.

Back to trading now: let’s assume you have developed a strategy with an edge and that it fits who you are. By the way, this is an ongoing process, not something you do today and you’re set for life – one of the reasons why buying robots and automatic systems to get rich is just a mirage.

Will you be disciplined enough to stick to it ? Or will you just give it up in the middle of a draw-down in search for something different ? Will you have the self control to follow your plan every day and every week ? Like for instance, doing the chart analysis required, respecting the risk management rules, doing research and so on. Or will you just do everything on a whim ?

The way your trading activity answers these questions will be a clear indication of the path you’re on.

Why I Disagree With Jarratt Davis’ Stance On Technical Analysis

Jarratt Davis has an interesting story: he started as a Forex retail trader some 10-11 years ago,  soon after that got headhunted by a small startup hedge-fund, and for the past few years he’s been head of trading strategy at Smile Global Management. He’s also involved in training and educating traders via his website. I consider him to be one of the very few credible people in this arena.

Having said that, I’d like to explain why I disagree with some of the things mentioned in his homepage video.

jd

You Are Losing Money In Forex Because Of Technical Analysis

That’s a pretty inaccurate statement in my opinion. Most retail traders lose because of a combination of poor risk management and get-rich-quick mentality that makes them regard Forex as some magic land where normal rules don’t apply.

Technical analysis, I think, has a great deal that is right and a great deal that is mumbo jumbo. There is a great deal of hype attached to technical analysis by some technicians who claim that it predicts the future. Technical analysis tracks the past; it does not predict the future. You have to use your own intelligence to draw conclusions about what the past activity of some traders may say about the future activity of other traders.

For me, technical analysis is like a thermometer. Fundamentalists who say they are not going to pay any attention to the charts are like a doctor who says he’s not going to take a patient’s temperature. But, of course, that would be sheer folly. If you are a responsible participant in the market, you always want to know where the market is—whether it is hot and excitable, or cold and stagnant. You want to know everything you can about the market to give you an edge. – Bruce Kovner in Market Wizards

To give you an example, I think the generic term ‘technical analysis’ is similar to another generic term like ‘drugs’. Just as the same word can mean life saving medication or killer substances like heroin, technical analysis can mean a simple chart with support and resistance levels or it can mean this:

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Jarratt Davis states that central banks’ rate decisions are the most important factor in the movement of currencies. Generally that’s true, at least in the medium and long term. But even then you have cases like 2008, when the ECB was tightening and the Fed was easing its monetary policy and despite that, the EUR/USD fell through the floor from 1.60 to 1.24 within just 3 months. Why ? Because another major factor, the financial crisis and subsequent forced deleveraging took precedence over the central banks’ plans.

Another example, during the FED tightening cycle between 2004-2006, the dollar fell hard in 2004 because of concerns about a swelling budget and trade deficit. Or was it because of the global recovery and the roaring bull-market in commodities ? Who knows. The fact that USD rose in 2005 despite the 2 and a half years of FED tightening was due to a temporary tax law that encouraged US multinationals to repatriate profits that year.

The key takeaway from the above is that there are always a multitude of factors that ultimately drive the currency markets. And the lower the time frame, the less relevance central banks have and the murkier the explanations after the fact get (my favorite, ‘it was a technical move’).

Following the news and trying to guess how they’re going to influence the rate decisions might be a valid trading strategy that works for Jarratt and his students. After all, there are many ways to make money in the markets. But saying that watching the fundamentals is the only way to trade, that this is how institutions and professionals do it,  and if you’re different you’ll lose money, is false.

For instance, CTAs are professional money managers that collectively have billions in assets under management. You can see here their performance and AUM. One of the best known among them is Jerry Parker, a former turtle under Richard Dennis. He’s been managing money since 1988 and currently his Chesapeake Capital Corporation: Diversified Program has $218M under management. Below is a quote from their pitch-book:

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We evaluate historical prices only. We do not use any fundamental data.

Don’t Buy Trading Signals Based on Hype – FxRenew

fr1Via an article on ForexLive, I came across Sam Eder and his website FxRenew, where he sells Forex signals (which come with free trading education). There are so many wrong things on that site – all hat and no cattle as the saying goes –  that I felt I have to write an article to address at least some of them.

fr

Signals are a Superior Form of Trading

This is grade A, 100% pure BS. Just think about it for a second. You’re not able to develop a trading strategy so you have to rely on ‘experienced veterans’ to tell you when to enter or exit a trade. All of a sudden, you’re now such an expert risk manager that through position sizing you’re able to attain a trading performance far superior to that of actual traders. Say what ?!

Benefit From a Track Record of 70% Accuracy in Forecasting the Direction of Financial Markets

First off, this track-record is not shown. Secondly, the ‘accuracy’ metric is totally irrelevant. It’s very easy to lose money even if you have high accuracy : for one, making a forecast isn’t the same with actually putting a trade on. Secondly, the market doesn’t go in straight lines – you can be right on the direction but easily get stopped out by the zigs and zags  of the market.

We’re informed that the traders behind the signals (including an anonymous one that goes by the 888 handle) all have  20+ years of experience with banks. Yet, they don’t even have one year’s worth of verified track-record (no one is asking them to disclose their private accounts, but how about the track-record of the signals offered for sale ?). I’m not at all impressed with decades of experience with banks (if that’s even true, good luck in checking out an anonymous guy).

To give you an example, imagine that there’s this patient who needs brain surgery. There are a lot of people who have 20+ years of hospital experience (from janitors, to managers, to chest surgeons) but our patient needs a particular person with specific skills (brain surgeon), otherwise he’s dead. What good is a guy with 20+ years of banking experience who worked in sales or any other field unrelated to actual trading ? He’s going to kill your account just as sure as a hospital front desk manager would kill a patient if she were to attempt brain surgery.

7-Day Free Trial

That’s just bait to attract people unfamiliar with what trading really is. People who mistake buying a trading service for subscribing to an online magazine. There’s no way to properly analyze a strategy after just 7 days and the owners of the site know that very well.

 To sum up: FXRenew is a nicely designed site, full of big words and unsubstantiated claims, all geared towards  persuading inexperienced customers into buying Forex trading signals. I hope that after reading this, you know better than to let appearances make decisions for you.

Following Forex Trading Signals Is Dangerous To Your Wealth

I’m not going to refer in this article to obvious scams, like those robots attached to fake track-records at dubious brokers (Synergy FX for instance). What I’d like to point out is that even the signal sellers who, for all we know, act in good faith, are in 99% (there’s that saying, ‘never say never’) of cases just accidents waiting to happen.

The first thing that should be kept in mind is one major flaw of this business model –  the interests of the signals seller and those of the person who copies them are not aligned. When the signal seller makes money based on the volumes traded by his followers and not based on a percentage of the actual profits he made for them, you know there’s going to be trouble ahead.

The other major problem, not as obvious as the first one, is that the average investor doesn’t have the time or the know-how required to properly analyze the track-records and the statistics on sites like Myfxbook. Most people will look just at gain/draw-down and the higher the ratio, the more attractive the system will appear.

Well, there are many funny sayings about statistics, such as: ‘there are lies, damned lies and statistics’ or ‘statistics are like bikinis; what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital’.

That’s the very case with the gain/draw-down statistic. It reveals that up to the present time the strategy has made money. But because it’s backward looking and limited, it conceals the vital part, how the strategy is likely to do in the future. To give you an example: let’s assume a crazy person plays Russian roulette (where you load one bullet into one chamber of a revolver, spin the cylinder and then shoot at your head) and survives the first 8 rounds. Would you call this low risk ? Just seeing a gain/draw-down chart for this activity, it would appear so. But if you actually look beyond that and see what the guy is doing, you’ll instantly realize both how misleading the statistic is and that you can’t put your money on this guy.

In order to find out who is playing financial Russian roulette (unaware perhaps), you need to know the Value at Risk (VaR), which is a risk measure that takes into account the frequency, leverage and duration of individual trades and also the market conditions (like volatility and correlation between pairs). For the time being, in the retail space, only Darwinex calculates VaR  and they also standardize all investable strategies (called DARWINs) for 20% VaR. For those interested in this important topic, here is a webinar addressing Value at Risk in more detail.

And now I’ll give you an example of  the hidden danger I mentioned above. This signal provider is ranked high (no.7) by Myfxbook in their auto trade systems feature. I chose him on the following additional criteria:

  • manual trader (all other things being equal, I believe a one year track record of a human is more honest than that of an EA. At least it shows there’s some work put in there, to watch the market, enter and close the trades. With an EA, it feels like analyzing the winning lottery ticket – the developer might have bought/developed 20 EAs a year ago and just got lucky with one.
  •  the history is shown
  • there’s at least 1 year of trading
  • no gaming of the gain/absolute gain system
  • I got intrigued by a name such as SPM Capital Management :)

With a 96% return for the past 12 months and a draw-down of only 14.5%, what’s not to like ? I looked up the name and found him on this forum. Seeing how this guy talks was the first sign that he might just be a lucky survivor of a year’s worth of playing Russian roulette:

In the last 12 months I have almost doubled the account, and in the next 12 months I intend to triple it. – post no.7

Digging more deeply into the track-record what do we notice ? Open trades are a mess – 17 trades with no stop loss and several being just averaging down. Going through the history, the same tendency to avoid closing losing trades and instead wait for the price to come back is evident. So far he has been able do dodge the bullet, but this by no means implies safety going forward.

To conclude: I strongly believe that following/copying forex signals is a money losing proposition in the medium and long term. In the short term, it’s a coin toss at best.

The Live Price Action Confidence Trick

urlI’ve touched on this subject before, but after witnessing my old pal :) Chris Capre using this trick twice within a week,  I believe a full article is now warranted.

First off, you should take a couple of minutes to learn what a shell game is, if you don’t know already. I still remember my only encounter so far with fraudsters of this type. I was traveling by coach from Germany to Romania some nine years ago and in early morning, must’ve been around 6 AM, we stopped at a motorway gas station in Hungary. I went inside and on return to the coach, there was this group of passengers surrounding two guys who were working the shell game. A woman appeared to be winning, which encouraged a few passengers to start playing. Long story short, none of them won anything – some lost 50 euros a piece with one woman losing 500 euros. I still remember asking myself how could these people be so gullible ? How could they think that some stranger is waiting at 6 AM in the middle of nowhere to hand them free cash ?

Well, after watching Chris Capre’s latest live trades, first thing that came into my mind was the shell game happening  mentioned above. Let’s discuss the (Video) +100 Pips Live Price Action Trade on NZDUSD article and you’ll understand why.

You’ll notice that unlike the videos done in early 2015 where he was more subtle, now Capre drills into the viewers that he uses a real account.

As you can see, it says real over here. That would say demo, if it was a demo account, it would say demo.

Why, indeed, that’s a REAL account, but don’t break the champagne just yet. What Capre fails to inform us (using a sleight of hand just like the shell game con men) is that it only takes $50 to open a live account with FXCM. We’re also not shown any account number or lot size, so it’s very possible that either a different account is used for each video or the same $50 account is replenished. With the money from just one course for which  these videos act as advertising, he can open 6 different REAL accounts.

Now, even if Capre actually trades a meaningful account (which I doubt) and those weren’t just lucky shots for the camera, there is another problem. One has to be disingenuous to cherry-pick some winning trades in order to show what a skillful trader one allegedly is. If you truly want to prove something, no one stops you from actually documenting a continuous series of trades.

You can learn how to find these trades. You can learn how to make these trades and that’s what I teach you in my price action course.

Almost anyone can handle trades that win right out of the gate, but how about those 5-6 trades out of 10 that end up as losers ? Or does Capre only have winners, like his collection of live price action videos imply ? If that’s not presenting forex trading through rose tinted glasses, then I don’t know what is.

A last point: one might say: yeah ok, but what about the trade analysis ? Isn’t there any value ? Well, in my opinion the right question to ask is this: why would I bother to learn from a thoroughly dishonest person ?

The Logic of Profit Pyramiding in Trading

I believe that pyramiding of profits is a poorly understood concept among the great majority of traders. It is certainly much less used in practice than its exact opposite, averaging down, also known as adding to a losing position.

Reading Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, a book which is almost 100 years old, one notices that even then pyramiding wasn’t a trading novelty:

He sold short one hundred shares of Lake Shore. That was the time Bill Travers hammered the market, in 1875. My friend Roberts put out that Lake Shore at exactly the right time and kept selling it on the way down as he had been wont to do in the old successful days before he forsook Pat Hearne’s system and instead listened to hope’s whispers. Well, sir, in four days of successful pyramiding, Roberts’ account showed him a profit of fifteen thousand dollars.

So why isn’t it more popular today ? To answer this question, let’s see the two psychological prerequisites for successfully implementing pyramiding:

First of all, patience. A winning trade has to be open for a certain period of time to accumulate profit before you can start adding to it.

Secondly, lack of fear. In other words, you shouldn’t be itching to close an initial winning trade and book the profit, for fear that the market will reverse and take it back.

How long does it take a trader to develop the above qualities ? Years. About the same amount of time needed to develop the technical understanding of the markets required to carry out a successful pyramid trade.

So you see, because it’s actually work, it doesn’t lend itself to the usual marketing targeted at traders: sexy, get-rich-quick or no-brain-required. I guess that’s the answer why you’ll hardly ever hear about pyramiding from your local trading guru.

The point of this article is to raise awareness and get the readers to think about this concept. As with anything in trading, there’s no magic formula to tell us exactly when and how much to pyramid. Nevertheless, it has produced trading fortunes in the past and undoubtedly will continue to do so in the future.