I started the week focused on maximizing P&L -- not on my goals to limit the number of daily trades to 3 and to limit my profit targets to +2.00 ES points. I wanted to CRUSH the markets. That should have been a big warning sign. Sure, it felt OK that I ended up making a decent profit to start the week, but in the back of my mind, I knew I fell off the program. I know was cheating myself.
CRACKS FORMED ON TUESDAY
Whether it was from guilt or who knows what, the cracks started to form on Tuesday. Just prior to lunch, I called it a day barely exceeding my # of trades goal and although it shouldn't matter, I had a slight profit. Nice job, I'm getting back on track. But...in the final hour, I went on tilt. I took what I thought was solid setup to end the day on a really good note, only to realize I totally read it wrong. Yes, got greedy, got stopped out, revenge traded, and ended down a few points. Ugh.
MONKEYS RAN AMOK
So when Wednesday came around, the monkeys ran amok. Shortly after the NY open, I already had 3 losses in a row and it was all downhill from there. My initial thought was, "We just opened! How could I stop trading so early in the day?" My will was weakened, I took one more trade, realized I did something I shouldn't have, which then snowballed into "what the heck, I blew it", and my behavior for the rest of the day ended up being yet another big ding to my psychological capital.
RADICAL SHIFT / DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT / DO WHAT WORKS
Just around that time, I realized that the S&P was in overbought conditions based on the interpretation of the daily charts that I have used for many years, primarily on the forex charts. The high probability setups only happen once or so a month, and I just don't have the patience to simply wait only for those signals.
|$ES_F - daily chart - 10/19/2012|
But I needed to do something different to change my ways and make new habits after a rough start to the week. Swing trading has worked well for me in forex products, so why not try something similar to that in the ES? And when I am swing trading, the setups are very infrequent, so it's much more difficult to get into the rhythm of impulse trading -- another plus.
So Wednesday night, a plan was made to establish a swing short in the ES, very similar to what I do with the forex trades. A couple indicators I use on the daily timeframe showed a nice clean overbought condition, so it was time to find a good short entry. My target was 1425-35 area. I entered the short Wednesday evening and by Thursday morning, I was up over +5 at one point. But then came the big Thursday morning grind up where I got stopped out just 1 point before the erroneous Google earnings release that spooked the market around lunchtime. It was tough to get stopped out so close to the highs, but I followed my trading plan and felt good about that.
I ended up taking a few solid day trade setups to end the day with a slight profit. And after the market close, the daily charts looked just as bearish, or even more so than ever. So Thursday night, I reentered the short, utilizing some good resistance areas from earlier in the day. That short ended up being 1 tick below the high of the night and following day.
PATIENCE IS TOUGH BUT WORTH IT
At the Friday NY open, something strange happened. The market gap opened below yesterdays close and ended up having an "opening drive" lower. That means it sold off strongly after the open with very little rotation/swings higher. This was very unexpected based on pre-market action as well as other factors.
A very key point to remember is that when there is an opening drive, there's about a 50% chance for a trend day. Since trend days generally happen < 20% of the time, those are pretty compelling stats. As the ES tanked and continued to fall with minimal rotations higher, I knew there was a good chance it's going to be a trend day, and that trend days generally end at the extremes of the day -- in this case, the lows of the day.
|$ES_F 30m 10/19/2012|
I couldn't be near the charts for very long, since the temptation to exit would become stronger, so I took frequent breaks. Having patience to just sit on your hands on trend day is tough.
But I ended up exiting once the market started to consolidate a couple hours before the close, weary of a reversal bottom that would rip higher into the close. And most importantly, it was right in the middle of the 1425-35 range that I had targeted for profits. I followed my plan, although it happened 1-2 days quicker than I expected.
As it happens more often than not for trend days, the market did end up closing at the lows. I left about +6 ES points on the table, but I'll consider myself fortunate that I was able to book almost +24 points.
RANDOM QUESTIONS AND THOUGHTS
The week ended on a good note, but I still have many questions and issues floating in my mind that I will need to evaluate and address. This last trade hardly resolves my many challenges. So although both my financial and psychological capital have been somewhat replenished, there are still a lot more obstacles to overcome.
- Over the past couple years, I've been successful at simply swing trading, so why do I keep trying to trade more like a scalper that goes for big wins?
- Oh, but what would I do during most days just waiting for a swing setup? One part of me likes the "action" of daytrading! [** Flashing lights and "Danger Will Robinson!" alerts going off **] Trading should not be something you do to help pass time.
- Ending the week on a strong note is nice. But this only means I need to be extra careful not to be overconfident on Monday. And how will I feel if the market tanks another 20 ES points...without me on board?
- Am I getting closer to the point where I will stop chasing success? The pieces of this trading puzzle seem like they're starting to come together, but I've said/thought that many times before.
- Cough medicine and the recent correlation to trading performance, so strange. But correlation is not causation! Or maybe not? If so, what does this really mean?
- Why is limiting myself to 3 trades a day so tough? Sounds so easy, doesn't it? What if I had originally set the daily trade goal to 6, would that have made any difference?
- Although I have my fair share of really tough days that have hit my psychological capital hard, I still believe from my core that my dreams of trading success will become true. It's only a matter of time.