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Trailing Stops

Deciding on when to exit a position is the most important part of trading even more important than the entry.  How much profit or loss you have in the trade is always in the exit not the entry. After all you cannot book the profit until you exit the trade.  This is why we never count a profit or loss in the STHQ portfolio until the position is closed.  The exit will determine how much money you make or lose so logic says that the exit should be more important. Unfortunately the novice trader often fails to realize this. 

Obviously the better the entry the better your chances of profit but it is how we handle the sell that will lock in that potential profit.  The sell is the more emotional part of the trade.  Buying is less emotional because there is no profit or loss to decide to take when you first enter a position. 

We know that selling will always be an emotional part of the trade. Emotion is something that we as humans find almost impossible to control so we need mechanisms to control that emotion for us.  Enter the cure for emotional trading it is called the trailing stop order.  These orders serve two purposes. They are placed to:

1. control emotion and
2. ensure an acceptable profit while guarding against unacceptable losses. 

A trailing stop order maintains a stop loss order at a precise percentage (that you determine) below the market price (or above in the case of a short position). If we use a trailing stop order our stoploss order is adjusted continually based on fluctuations in the market price always maintaining the same percentage below (or above if short) the market price. If used we are then guaranteed to know the minimum profit or maximum loss that we will have if our stop gets filled. 

Deciding what constitutes appropriate profits (or acceptable losses) is up to the individual to decide.  We at STHQ have recommended 2% to 3% initial stop loss. Then as the trade becomes profitable you can always adjust the stop to allow the position to either run or lock in the gain.  It will all depend on your risk tolerance and how much profit you want to give back in order to stay in the trade to allow the stock to run up further.  There is no doubt that the most difficult aspect of establishing a trailingstop system is deciding how much risk you are willing to accept.

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