The Greatest Game in the World!

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JesseLivermore_1Over the years I have traded for a variety of different reasons. During the dot com bubble I traded because it was easy. I was in college and could buy a stock before a class and sell it before the bell pocketing several hundred dollars. Ya, it wasn’t huge but it was more than enough to pay the weekend’s bar bill.
 
After college I became a broker, cold calling people night and day pushing garbage stocks and insurance products. I hated it. I basically stopped trading and spent the first year of my career with a phone to my ear.

 

After I launched my own firm, the market had already topped and started its descent. I was ignorant about shorting and so I traded the vicious counter-trend rallies. It was hard and while I made some money, on balance I probably lost years of my life entering trades far too early, buying lower and spending a lot of time on my knees praying that a bounce would come. When it did, I lightened up and swore off dip buying. That is of course until the next time when I repeated the process.

 
Finally, around 2004 I stopped trying to trade and spent the next several years learning. I read every book imaginable. Marked up charts, journaled every trade and listened much much more than I talked. In 2005 I landed a partnership with an incredible trader who spent the next 2 years teaching me the game. From 2004 – 2007 I traded to learn and soaked in every move, every trend, every win and every loss.
 
In late 2007 when I again went out on my own I started to put all that I had learned to work. I had two homes, a new baby and a new advisory business. I primarily traded my own capital and at that time I traded to live. Each winning trade put food on our table, paid bills and kept me going while I worked evenings and weekends to bring in assets and grow the business. I never took trading as serious as I did during that time because each tick literally was the difference between success and failure. I traded well, grew the business and slowly moved from a short term, hypersensitive trader into a more methodical trend follower. Trading slowly to a backseat and longer term management became my primary focus.
 
Fast forward to today. Our management company now handles $60M in separate accounts. I’m sure this is small by many institutional standards but for someone who basically started over in 2007 with nothing, trading to pay bills, I’m beyond pleased with our progress thus far.
 
Until just recently I had all but stopped trading. I spent a majority of my time handling day to day business operations. Trading was replaced exclusively by longer term trend following. My personal capital mirrored that of my clients and in addition to my advisory firm, any spare time was spent within a manufacturing business I had invested in two years ago.
 
Then it hit me. For the first time in my life I was able to trade not out of necessity, not out of fear, not to learn and not because my life depended on it but rather out of pure enjoyment of the sport. I know it sounds strange but after stepping back from the manufacturing business and having more time to devote to the markets, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why not take this opportunity to once again trade, but do so out of love of the game rather than anything else?
 
You want to know the funny thing? I’ve been trading better than ever. I don’t care what the stock is, what the direction is or most important, how long I hold the pig. My only objective is to extract money from the market day in and day out. Sure, it won’t always be sunshine and butterflies but this freedoms allows me to, at the drop of the hat, sell every single stock just because I want a day off or maybe don’t like what I see. It’s probably the most refreshing and exhilarating feeling I’ve had in my career.
 
It has taken me a long time to be in the position to trade in this manner and my hope for you is that you too will eventually find yourself in the place of freedom such that you can trade because you love it and for no other reason other than to use that love and passion to extract money from Mr. Market as you choose.
 
I’ve been trading a long time. I’ve gone through great successes and experienced horrific losses. At the end of the day I can confidently still proclaim, trading is by far the best game in the world!

 

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Smoked in Twitter

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CheechFew people will discuss when they get smoked in a stock. Sadly most novices will search the interwebs and only hear of the victorious wins placed by those who never fall on the wrong side of the trade. I’m here to tell you first hand, if you haven’t gotten your butt handed to you by a stock yet, you will, and the longer you trade, the more it will happen. In my career I have seen everything from failed FDA trials, 2ndary slams, accounting errors, government contracts gone awry, fat finger trading errors and everything in between.

Today was one of those days. I have been trading Twitter from the long side for several months now. The bottoming pattern around the Holidays first got me interested in the name and the consolidation after the Q1 earnings gap had me confident in follow through. As earnings approached there was no question I was going to hold something through the number but the only question was, just how many shares.

Typically whenever I’m going to hold something through earnings, something I used to never do but now am forced to since I trade only weekly trends, I will look at the options chains to see what the anticipated move is. While this is certainly not always a guarantee, it’s one way to at least mentally accept the risk should this play out.

Coming into the Twitter earnings, the options were predicting around a 10% move or approximately $5.00. Up until just a few weeks ago I was holding a full position with a healthy profit. With a $5 expected move, I evaluated the risk of losing 10% in this trade vs. the reward of earning 10% on a gap higher. Since I’ve been having a decent year, I had no intention on swinging for the fences, thus I cut 50% of the position over the last couple days deciding to hold half of my shares through the report.

Clearly I was a bit surprised when I ventured over to the computer watching my open P&L jump wildly and noticing that my once healthy profit in TWTR was now flat to lower. Ironically, I did a quick Twitter search to see what was happening and learned all I needed to know.

So now I hold a half position in TWTR shares and have suffered quite a turn of events as the stock has now moved 2x the expected amount. Over the next few days I’m going to have to see when the dust settles if the stock can stabilize at some point and NOT give up the December lows, which was my original area of interest. For now, I view TWTR as dead money unless the stock manages some dramatic recovery in the next few days.

While I believe it can be an excellent longer-term name, the trade I was in is now broken and I must move on in order to start looking for other opportunities. The loss is not anything that will knock me out of the game and the minor ding is just another lesson in remaining humble in a market where anything can happen.

I hope you managed to come away from today unscathed but at some point you won’t. Sometime you’ll get knocked around and it will be all part of the business. Always keep your risk appropriate, leave emotion at the door and live to trade another day.

 

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Anatomy of a trade: EBAY

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Trade management is one of the trickiest parts of the business. It is for this reason that any chance I can walk someone through an entire trade, I think it is helpful to do so. It is easy to look forward and develop a plan, it is easy to look back and see where errors were made, it’s difficult to plan the trade, trade the plan and be content with the results, whatever they may be.

My personal trading strategy as laid out in TtT is really quite simple. I take an initial position with a quantified stop. The risk amount becomes my profit target whereby I take a partial gain and raise my stop. My goal is to take partial profits while letting a final piece run as long as it can.

EBAY1

 

On February 17th I took a position in EBAY on the idea of the stock forming a darvas box and my anticipatory read of a pending break out.

EBAYchart1

 

Shortly after my buy the stock acted well and moved out of its range, hitting my first profit target and allowing me to sell 1/3 of my shares.

EBAY2

 

EBAYchart2

At this point I raised my stop to break even and watched as the remaining shares languished and the stock traded back to my entry level. While the trading plan was sound my dilemma came into play with two issues. The first was that while the stock was trending back towards my break even and thus my stop, the longer term pattern hadn’t changed and therefore I wasn’t too anxious to rid the shares and move on. The second dilemma was in the fact that earnings were quickly approaching. I suspected that this would be the event to either make or break the chart. If I stayed in and not exercised my stop I would be the only one to blame had the stock reacted poorly on the announcement and thus resulted in a winning trade turning into a losing trade. On the other hand, since the pattern was sound, had the stock reacted positively to the earnings announcement, I would have certainly been kicking myself with being completely out of the name despite the pattern remaining in tact.

 

I settled on a compromise and rather than shed the entire position at my break even I sold another 1/3 and resolved to hold the remaining position through the report. I accepted the risk, adhered at least in part to my disciplined trading plan and was ready to watch the action.

EBAY3

 

EBAYchart3

 

On the earnings announcement the stock reacted positive and thus far looks like a real break out may be coming. In fact, due to the reaction and even better chart, I took the opportunity to add back another 1/3 to the original position and will keep my stop at my original entry level thus allowing the trading plan to either work out, or again stop me out resulting in a small net gain or wash on the entire trade.

 

Regardless of what would have happened with earnings I would have written about this trading anatomy as I feel it is a perfect lesson in not only remaining disciplined but flexible enough to adapt when the environment mandates it. I’m pleased with my execution regardless of the current profit or profit potential. I set a plan, followed it, made some small adjustments and remain in the stock.

EBAYchart4

 

If the market has shown me one thing over the years it is that humility is the only common thread among traders who find success. If you’re not willing to learn each and every day you may as well throw in the towel now.

Trade ‘em well!

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Insomnia & Charts

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Lately my sleep pattern has stunk. If it isn’t the kids waking up with a cough or a bad dream it’s a mental alarm clock messing with my Zzzzs. This morning it was 3:30 and after reading in bed for about 30 minutes I decided to get up and at least be productive. I thought I’d share with you a few of my longer term, favorite stocks. We hold all of these in client portfolios and have for a long time now however none have run to extremes. In fact, most have just started to get moving. Until charts like these start failing and breaking down, I remain long and bullish in this market.

 

4.21_KRE 4.21_JPM 4.21_INTC 4.21_CSCO

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