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In the Charts or In Your Head

In the Charts or In Your Head
If you were to make a list of some of the basic technical elements to conquer on the road to trading mastery it would likely include things like scanning entries stops and targets. Each of these areas requires much time to learn and practice.  Given some time and the proper education most traders can learn the necessary technical elements to handle each of these areas. 

Even when learned these areas continue to present problems for most traders in one form or another.  The reason is because each one of these areas must be conquered on both a technical and psychological level. Many traders ignore the psychological level because this is the hardest one to master. 

Stop orders are a good example of the difference between the technical and psychological elements of trading.  We know that various strategies require stops. We know that pivots support and resistance trend lines and retracement levels among other things will determine where our stops will be placed.  The skill comes when we can determine where the stop should be placed and then give it a little wiggle room (cushion) to avoid the little overruns and shakeouts below support levels.  We will often have stocks go below support levels during the trading day only to bounce back and close above those levels.  This action is called a shakeout where the Market Makers and Specialist take out the stops at and below support and then when there are no more sellers the price rises again.  This is why; it is the closing price that really matters and not the intra day fluctuations.  If the stock were to close below the support level and not bounce back then it would be a real sell signal. 

Knowing this we want to give a stock some wiggle room but still end up losing a large sum of money because a trade was allowed to run way past the stop. This is what happened with a recent trade of ours (FTO).  It was in the strong oil group and the stock pulled back to below our stop and support level.  We held expecting a snap back bounce that did not happen until we were far below the stop and the pain was to the extent of a 22% loss at on point.  Was this due to not understanding the technical aspects Not likely. Most of the time when we avoid a stop that we have predetermined to be correct it is because of the greed that sets in on a winning play and the refusal of the subconscious mind to be a 'loser' when a trade goes bad

Look at the other areas. Think about the last time you had a trade that hit your intended target but you sold the position way before the target price. Did you sell because you did not understand the appropriate resistance levels or did you sell because the fear of losing what profit you had overwhelmed you and you used the first excuse you could find to sell Did that reason to sell even exist in your trading plan or did you invent it to satisfy an emotional need

You can continue this process through all of the other elements of trading and you will discover why many traders have difficulties with what seem like basic concepts.  They have the technicals down but face the psychological emotions of trading and cannot get that aspect of trading under control.  The bottom line is you can be a great technician and still fail as a trader if you cannot conquer your emotions psychologically.  Chances are you have read the chart correctly but it is your emotions that are telling you when to sell.  Let the chart tell you instead and chances are you will become a very successful trader. .

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