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Top Trading Lessons: A Classic Adage and Weakness: Let Your Winners Run

Top Trading Lessons: A Classic Adage and Weakness: Let Your Winners Run

John Kicklighter, Chief Strategist

I have been trading and analysing the markets for approximately two decades, so there have been many lessons learned long the way – most of them with a meaningful degree of pain. Having run the gauntlet to develop market knowledge, risk management and strategy construction it is easy to fall into a lull whereby it seems that learned shortcomings thoroughly evaluated and corrected will be avoided through instinct. However, year in and year out, my experience is that it is the basics that continue to cause problems for traders that do not actively monitor their more ‘human’ behaviours.

This past year, one of the most rudimentary of lessons in trading – one about which I read, experienced and developed a strategy to correct in my first year in the markets – ended up being the most substantial shortcoming amid my efforts to follow a tight routine: letting your winners run.

I have maintained a general ‘risk off’ view for the medium- to long-term horizon for some years. Clearly, if I had stubbornly positioned for that belief, it would have been a near constant bloodletting. The purpose of investing and trading – at least for most – is not simply to be proven correct, but rather to pursue return. Recognizing the prevailing trend but feeling that my underlying perspective remained valid, my approach was to lower my time frame and pursue omnidirectional positions (bullish or bearish) so long as they bore out technical, fundamental and conditional analysis.

That short time frame mentality was firmly in place when late February 2020 started to see the market slip against the growing reports of a fast-spreading global pandemic. With conditions starting to match my lingering systemic concerns, there was a scenario for which the big move was finally at hand. A ‘once in a blue moon’ opportunity. And yet, my routine led me to cut out very early. And while there were more opportunities to arise in the short-term eddies of the flood lower, the big picture was missed until it was over.

It is fairly straightforward to ‘cut losers’. Setting a stop loss can be made an essential part of any position, to be put on at the outset of the trade. Allowing for a sustained charge in your preferred direction is a constant battle against a desire to ‘secure’ profits. There are tools to fight this thankfully. It is time to revert back to trailed stops rather than assume a short time frame operates better with discretion.

DailyFX provides forex news and technical analysis on the trends that influence the global currency markets.