Trading gold and bitcoin

What am I trading at the moment with the fund?

Gold and Bitcoin. 

To be more exact, in comparison with the US dollar.

Firstly the yellow stuff. 

It is highly liquid, meaning it has no gaps on the chart—even at the lowest measurements like the one-minute bars or 100 tick bars.

Trading over the last few weeks, gold has generally traded bullish at between $1,750 and $1,900 per ounce.

I get a good read on gold with my only ‘where am I to the broader market’ indicator: the institutional volume-weighted average price or VWAP.

Beyond that and awareness of the previous day’s price action, it’s all down to traditional technical analysis.

Is it a good idea for an intermediate to trade gold? Probably not, but if they do only on the proviso that their risk management is faultless. As with any pairing but particularly gold. 

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a very recent trading possibility because its price fell recently by 50% from some $65,000 per coin.

Today trading in the region of $36,500, bitcoin entries are available, but pockets still need to be significant.

But let us go back one. 

I am a big fan of the future of bitcoin. For many reasons but mainly:

  • We can buy .00000001 of a coin (it’s available to anyone).
  • It is decentralised. (Presently a perceived disadvantage that I think will become a significant advantage).
  • It will top out eventually at 21 million total issues of the digital coin. (Compare this to the US dollar that seems to be never-ending printed).
  • It follows fixed rules.

The distribution between competitive financial assets is namely: gold, negative yield bonds and crypto. 

That amounts to some £30 trillion in market cap, with bitcoin presently taking only $1 trillion. That distribution will change and, accelerated by the economic effects of the pandemic, relatively quickly. 

But I get away from the intraday considerations.

Bitcoin characteristics are similar to any other highly liquid asset during the London and New York trading sessions.

However, we avoid the New York close as some significant gapped price changes at this time have occurred.

Moreover, the margin required on bitcoin is significant, which is on a so-called professional 1:500 leveraged account. 

And within that large margin, sensibly, it needs to be a low percentage of one’s overall account. 

So not a realistic consideration to most retail traders.

Other than that, as with gold, bitcoin seems to be represented suitably by the VWAP indicator—but it is early days to determine the VWAPS overall utility in this instance.

I do have a very particular set of skills!

To ponder.

This game requires a specific skill set.

Traders need to be ‘wired’ in a definite way to be able to make money—they need to be able to:

  • React quickly to a large number of variables. 
  • Act with ruthless decisiveness.
  • Commit to a position, and in the next breath, can change their mind if necessary completely.
  • Cope with insane pressure.
  • Get knocked down and get back up again.
  • Stay strong and stay focused for long periods.

Patience, self-belief and self-confidence are essential skills of a trader. Can these traits be learnt? Or do we need to change our personality?

Regularly ask:

  1. How can I make more money from my winners?
  2. How can I lose less money from my losers?
  3. How can I get more trade ideas?

Tom Dante interview notes.

Ditch what does not work

An entry without an agreed setup is a form of overtrading.

We see patterns everywhere, and that is the problem. As a result, we end up trading on feeling rather than probability and a clear risk/reward.

Overtrading is any trade based on a fear of missing out—or any emotion.

All traders overtrade at some point or other.

I refer here to day trading. But, it is a consideration for all styles.

Because of the intensity of day trading, concentrating on the ‘one thing’ is particularly relevant.

The one thing is one market, one session, one strategy, and to master one set up at a time.

The idea of the ‘one thing’ will fly in the face of what most traders do. Many will watch multiple markets across various sessions and apply different strategies and setups.

Suppose we learnt to sit on our hands. Watch and wait. Narrow our trading time, if day trading, to a few hours a day. Or be much more specific than that. Specify a session to trade every day with the same strategy and set up.

A FOREX market, for a while, tends to repeat in volume at similar times.

And how about, instead of bouncing around multiple markets, view only one. Get to know that market. How it moves, how far and how quickly—including spread, commission and expected slippage.

Similarly, with strategy. Do multiple approaches work? What is the statistical result over an extended period of each trade variation on our profit and loss?

Do we know if one works and another doesn’t?

Ditch what does not work—and more often than not, it will leave only one.

Maybe within that one (consistently profitable) strategy, we have different entry and exit criteria. But again, run the results methodically. Are they truly working?

Be ruthless and throw out any that don’t. The more we focus and specialise, the fewer mistakes we make.

And mistakes lead to loss and away from consistent profitability—the last two words being the goal of any serious trader.

To be consistently profitable, I need to…

To move from profitable to consistently profitable is a more significant jump than it sounds.
How do we manage to do that?


Specialisation, focus and discipline are key.


We are trading the same market during the same session with the same strategy day after day.

Specialisation

Why the same market?

We get very familiar with its movement, size, and how it might react to specific news announcements.
Each market has a DNA—the subtle differences in structure and how it often changes from one form to another.
Knowing this movement—intimately—is necessary to be able to execute a setup successfully regularly.

Focus

Trading the same session day in day out helps us focus.
Day trading when you’re on it is intensive and exhausting.
We need to be on our game to win.
We can realistically maintain such intensity for limited periods.
A few hours a day.
So we use that to our advantage and dedicate ourselves to a single consistent trading session each day.
The graph below—provided by Nick—shows the volume for the Pound/Yen. UK time (UTC+1).
The graph shows the highest volume period is from pre-New York open and for the following few hours. We trade that session.

Discipline

Sticking to a tried and tested setup is, ironically, one of the most challenging things for a trader to achieve.
It is for me!
And is, I conclude, why I’ve been good but not consistently profitable.
The best setups are often not crystal clear.
Therefore, by design, each entry needs to follow a clear set of rules.
But at the same time, each setup is unique in detail.
I need to ignore off-script early and late entry opportunities.
Unlike algorithms, our minds see patterns everywhere.
Algorithms, however, make instant binary decisions needing only the smallest of price movements. Way too quickly for us. Minimum size also dictated by spread and commission costs.

Our edge

Our edge is reading the algorithmic price movements of risk and reward within a contextual market structure. And when these movements get to an appropriate size, we join in with proper context and price action criteria.
How will I make this necessity for discipline a strength?
I take every trade with James. I’m the snipper—and he’s the watcher.
That combination (militarily anyway) has always worked better.

Setups

What have you been working on recently?

My focus has been setups.

That is how to recognise better a setup—and how to enter from that setup.

As a price action trader, I’m looking at high to low timeframes to identify a trend and qualify my breakout trade entry.

Nothing too complicated. We look for trend setups utilising high/low-one entries and, more often, high/low-two breaks.

Practised knowledge of price action is essential too.

From the chart below, we can see how volume, when presented on the y-axis, affects the price.

Currency pairings—unlike stocks—are decentralised.

The volume in this instance is a representation from a single liquidity provider.

But it is sufficient to show how high-volume consolidation levels are often formed and become a support or resistance zone.

A zone from which we can determine a setup and consequently an eventual breakout.

The reason we need a setup rather than just a break of a level is the propensity for false indications.

A setup and an understanding of the market structure and other traders’ probable intention strengthens our trade entry.

By determining where traders’ stops and targets are, we can anticipate the subsequent market reaction when the price hits those levels.

Even news events often follow a technical path.

We realise that we need to be focused and highly familiar with all aspects of a (single) pairing.

Even though we trade together—via Microsoft Teams—James as the analyst and me as the trader, we find more than one pairing to be too much.

Which will seem odd to those traders—and that was us not so long ago—that view a dozen or so pairings at a time.

My only reply is to try a single pairing with very selective setups and see if P&L improves.

It helps if the selected pairing has one currency that is open and the other closed.

For example, EUR/USD at New York open would have both currencies simultaneously active and therefore wouldn’t be a suitable pairing for us.

Moreover, like us, focus on a single volume session. Our preference is a couple of hours on either side of the New York open time.

Managing risk is a skill and needs—but is rarely given—as much if not more thought than the setups and entries.

Don’t forget awareness of over-trading. That is essential too.

A simple, focused trading plan

What would I say to my younger self about how to trade?

I’d start by explaining how financial trading works.

In essence, financial trading is no different from any other exchange—buy and sell higher or sell and repurchase it at a lower price.

And the concept of opening a ‘short’ position and repurchasing it at a lower price to make a profit would take some convincing.

So, let’s assume I understand anything that is googleable and get down to what matters.

What matters most is the risk—because the risk is under the trader’s control.

I control risk through overtrading awareness, trade size and my take profit and loss plan.

Each element of the above has to be a thoroughly ingrained and practised habit.

As part of the loss plan, I look at it for what it is and let it go—because every trade has its discrete outcome.

Detachment means the outcome of a trade does not define me. It does not mean separation from risk—as that would be foolhardy.

My goal when I trade is to find my alignment with the market.

I take every setup opportunity. However, if I’m not happy with either the market or myself somehow, I reduce my trade size—but I must take the trade.

I grab small definable chunks in repeatable rotations of the market in a timeframe that’s comfortable to me.

I take one or two trades a day—win or lose. But I often go a few days without a setup and, therefore, without an entry.

I’m interested in the statistical probability of something continuing after a specific event.

That event is defined by price action, zones of support and resistance and bar by bar momentum.

I focus on one currency pairing and one market session.

The pairing is the British pound to the Japanese yen (GBP/JPY). And the market session is a couple of hours on either side of the New York open.

Yes, my approach has become significantly more focused recently. I ought to have had this conversation a couple of years back!

The fund—what’s happening?

Fund results, once posted, are guaranteed. Therefore, I only put them out there at intervals of about nine to fifteen months.

On the other hand, investors can enquire ‘how goes it’ often, weekly if you like.

The fund is up a bit on my last report.

Though I mostly day trade (very occasionally holding a swing overnight), the fund’s object is risk management first.

My experience is that trader’s misfortune is due to improper risk management (over-risk) or over-trading (or both).

Since realising this, my trading style has matured, even recently from the New Year until now.

In that time, we have had success and maintained that position by reducing the currency pairings I trade (actually down to one). A pairing that I, therefore, get to know exceptionally well.

Patience and discipline are crucial to trading this way.

My trade entries these days are decisive but at the same time incredibly selective. Much more so than previously.

I also now trade with more attention to the momentum generated by the market sessions. Namely the London and New York open and their subsequent pre- and post-periods.

Moreover, I am now more risk and goal orientated with my trading—based on one trade, on average, a day. And only one entry per market session, whether that be a win or a loss.

Our losses have to be smaller (much smaller) than our wins—that is an imperative aspect of my approach.

I will keep you apprised regularly on ‘how goes it’ with this subtle but significant change—maybe it will prove to provide a cumulative low-risk bumper boost?

Which trading broker?

Once we’re settled on a particular way of trading and are profitable, we don’t want to mess with it too much. 

That’s not the same with the preferred platform and brokerage. We need to review these from time to time to see if we still have the best setup.

We’ve given both—mainly ‘which broker is best for us’? —a lot of thought recently. 

Each trader has their requirements depending on style and trade frequency. 

As a discretionary day trader, my own needs include:

  1. Low spread (the difference between the bid and ask price).
  2. Speedy and reliable execution.
  3. An intuitive dealing platform. 

Recently I wasn’t getting the first two points from our current broker. The market (the GameStop story) has caused some brokerage turmoil. However, getting trapped in a trade two days running was not calming. Nor was their excessive increase in the spread at any slight adverse change in volatility.

I want to say a thank you to Chris Lee (Pipmaven blog) for his recommendation of IC Markets. 

IC Markets and Pepperstone fit our needs. I particularly liked their associated ctrader web platform. 

Our analysis is via TradingView with the broker’s platform only needed for trade execution. 

TradingView have various brokers that allow entries directly on the TradingView chart. Oanda, for example, who in the last few days were given on-chart trade access for UK residents via TradingView.

(Nick’s preferred option as it more suits his systematic approach). 

For me, it’s IC Markets with their very low spreads. However, anyone following my path should look at Pepperstone and Oanda—as they provide UK regulated account protection.

IC Markets, Pepperstone’s and Oanda’s prices are direct to market—no broker’s dealing desk in the way. And the indication is that Pepperstone will link to TradingView shortly too. 

Some traders (those with larger accounts) might like to have more than one brokerage, which is also useful if they employ different strategies and different timelines. 

Personally, I aim to get as good as I can be at one clear strategy and with the same broker and platforms. 

Data continues

The algorithm data continues at pace. Now at nearly 60% profitability with a 2.88 profit factor or reward/risk ratio for EURGBP. But that is not the whole story.

The above is the figure for our best pairing. The one on which Nick has focused. However, a dozen others (majors and a few significant minors) run a close second.

Each pairing is individually tested, and the algorithm adjusted as needed. For example, best market entry timings are specific to each currency and its pairing based on volatility look back.

And determining the market cycle has been improved by introducing a Japanese line break chart—a movement chart rather than a time-based chart.

A minimum Euro VIX (volatility index) is incorporated in the algorithm which—being USDEUR based—will require testing as to its applicability (if any) on other FX pairings.

Nick’s test is designed for an hourly chart and looks for entry/exit solutions over the past 750 days—figures above are providing trades (tested yesterday) on 223 days. In other words, we’re seeing trade entries from one to three days on average.

This delicate balance of ratios provides the best net profit. However, Nick can make adjustments to the algorithm (in the VIX and others) whereby per cent profitability increases significantly and the reward/risk balloons, amazingly, to well over five.

However, in this instance, the number of trades closed and the net profit achieved decreases substantially. In this instance, we could increase each transaction to a higher average per cent per entry (currently trading at one per cent of account), but we know that to do so is not sustainable or practical in the real world—drawdown for some trades could go through the roof for one.

I do remain a discretionary, rather than a system, trader—for the time being at least. But Nick has brought a quantifiable aspect and improvement to our methodology. This week, I found that taking trade entries from Nick’s quantified indicator system and transferring them to James’ subjective value drawings (rather than the other way around) have worked very nicely thank you.

Data

We needed more trade data, so Nick taught himself to code. In other words, computer programming to test trade conditions. He has become extremely good at it.

Okay, he started from a high baseline. A spreadsheet wizard—and a master’s degree in engineering—he has some mathematical skills!

As a trader himself, he already knows what’s practical. We both spent a couple of weeks of the festive break poring hours into coded trade development.

What I’m talking about here are algorithms that give trade entry and exit conditions.

Did it work?

The surprise was what didn’t work—off-the-shelf indicators for one. We tweaked and adjusted the conditions and continually run the strategy tester. But the results were poor.

That was when we knew that we needed to develop original code, based on an edge.

We went with a (structured and systematic) trial that tested intraday price conditions against the previous day’s daily price levels.

With a trend-criterion agreed it then took dozens of pages of code to run the what-if conditions. Some worked, many didn’t.

Each test looked at the past two years of hourly price movement. We studied the results of net profit, trades closed (total), per cent profitable, profit factor, maximum drawdown, the average per cent per entry and the average number of bars in a trade.

Without a similar test of strategy—carefully coded and adjusted trade parameters—how would anyone know what they’re doing works?

They don’t.

In our testing, each change or addition to a strategy often improved some figures—or increased drawdown slightly —but significantly reduced the number of trades taken and, therefore, the overall profit.

To make a small correction in condition improves one trade but taken over multiple entries is often a loss-maker.

The trial confirmed that the change in profit factor (reward/risk) has more effect on profit (per improvement condition) than an increase in the percentage of wins.

However, our limitation with intraday is the end-of-day close. We elected not to take a trade overnight as brokers’ do not provide an automated exit condition that met our needs.

A trailing stop was not profitable, and other solutions increased the maximum drawdown unacceptably.

However, we achieved some 60% profitability and with wins being twice that of loses, and with acceptable drawdown. We were jolly pleased too.