Friday, November 20, 2009

Las Vegas Trader's Expo

I went to a session by longtime traders John Carter, Hubert Senters and a bondtrader. I like these guys as they work well together and have the most successful trading business on the web at . They charge $3000 for a 3 day seminar and $1500 for the DVDs. They also charge $500 a month and have over 500 in their chat room every morning. A multi-million dollar business + trading. They do it well.

The bond trader had trouble getting his connection to the internet. So Hubert said, 'here use mine'. The bond trader moved over to Hubert's laptop and entered a bond trade right after the open. The trade immediately went south with about a $500 loss on one contract and there was a question from the audience. "What exactly were you thinking when you entered that trade?"

The bond trader (who is probably not so much a friend any more) thoughtfully replied:

"Well.... I was thinking.... this is Hubert's account so 'WHAT THE HELL' !!!"

The auditorium broke the morning stillness with complete derision and laughter. The comment summed up most of the presentations and all of the exhibits this year.

With that I decided to cut my time at Trader'sExpo short and head home.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trading and John Boyd

From an article published in the September, 2002 issue of SFO magazine.

When Linda [Raschke] needed a model for guiding her recent training project for traders, she did not turn to the fields of finance or psychology. Rather, she turned to the military and the writings of Colonel John R. Boyd.
============ From the article:

Col. Boyd of the Air Force was a fighter pilot known for his challenge to fellow airmen. He allowed himself to be placed in a position of tactical disadvantage in an airfight and promised that, within 40 seconds, he would be on his adversary's tail, ready for the kill. Col. Boyd was never known to have lost this bet, earning him the nickname "Forty Second" Boyd.

During his career, Col. Boyd developed his approach to airborne combat into a comprehensive philosophy of military strategy. He described combat decision-making as a function of Observing, Orienting , Deciding, and Acting (OODA). These processes form loops, with new actions providing fresh observations and requiring renewed efforts at orienting and responding. The goal of military training, Boyd stressed, is to accelerate OODA loops, becoming more efficient than the enemy.

Trading futures and options requires especially tight OODA loops. There is always new action to Observe across multiple markets and indicators. This requires an ability to rapidly Orient and assess whether we are in trending or non-trending markets, volatile conditions or non-volatile, near support/resistance or away from it, etc. From our Orientation, we must rapidly create and update trading Decisions and then find the will and clarity to Act on these plans.

Ask yourself: Am I preparing myself to trade like Col. Boyd? Am I training myself to observe my market data, size up the action, craft a trading plan, and execute it all within a matter of seconds?

A glance through the Ranger Handbook offers some helpful clues as to how this might be accomplished. Much of the book is taken up with descriptions of drills and procedures, each broken down into easily identifiable components. By breaking complex processes down into clear components that can be reviewed and rehearsed, the Army ensures that they are in "an instinctive and familiar way of thinking for a platoon leader."

Making complex skills instinctive and familiar is the key to tightening OODA loops. Col. Boyd could never have overcome his adversaries in forty seconds if he had to consciously analyze and plan each of his maneuvers. It was because these maneuvers were overlearned to the point of becoming automatic that he was able to operate within his opponent's mindset.

Elite traders of futures and options also need to make complex decisions within a time frame measured in seconds. This can only happen if they have broken their trading down into easily identifiable processes that can then be rehearsed under pressure until they are second nature. The process of development being followed in Linda's training project can be described in three stages:

Skill – A trading skill or pattern to trade is taught to the trader or identified by the trader as having profit potential. This corresponds to the Observe phase in Boyd's OODA loop.

Drill – The trading skill or pattern is rehearsed, first via walk-throughs (simulated trades on historical data) and then by paper trading live markets. The trader learns to recognize opportunities to utilize the skills and patterns as trading conditions unfold and formulate trading plans based upon the incoming data. This corresponds to the Orient and Decide phases of Boyd's loop.

Fulfill – The trader's development culminates in the fulfillment of actual trades in real time utilizing the entry, exit, and money management skills that have been rehearsed. This provides practice in "pulling the trigger" on one's decisions: the Act phase of Boyd's loop.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rydex Asset Allocation Trading System

I have 3 trading systems that I have used for the past 2 years that are very solid but also very short term.

With fixed income returns down to 1-3% I need something that will give me a 'modest' risk return of 8% a year.

While searching for a longer term system I found

They move money around using a very simple method of active asset allocation and use Rydex family of funds to keep costs to a minimum.

Searching for rules to trade such a switching system I found an old AIQ Opening Bell Newsletter from October 2002 in an interview of Jay Kaeppel who described a relative strength mutual fund trading system.

"The Relative Strength System buys and holds the five Fidelity Select funds at the top of the Relative Strength Long-Term Report (with the caveat that the low for the most recent week must be above the 28-week EMA). A fund is held until it registers a weekly low that is below the 28-week EMA at the end of the previous week. Then it is sold and replaced with a new fund from the Relative Strength Report."

This approach moves too slowly for me although I agreed with the general approach and goals.

In the August 2001 issue of Active Trader magazine there was an excellent article on "Dynamic Asset Allocation" by Michael De La Maza where he shows how to combine short-term risk management with a long-term trading horizon. This article uses the Sharpe ratio to allocate capital among a set of mutual funds and the re-balancing is done daily (what I want).

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Learning Matlab: Installation

After reading Ernie Chan's "Quantitative Trading" I became interested in MatLab as a way to develop new trading systems to diversify my trading approaches. Today I have a java application that reads in InteractiveBroker statements and does simple MonteCarlo tests. I would like to move all of these simple risk measurement functions to MatLab.

Priced at $1000 MatLab seemed to need more consideration. An open source alternative called Octave looked like it would do everything I want and cost nothing. The Octave developers have worked to make

Octave completely equilivent to MatLab. It seems, from reading forum posts, that Octave is almost compatible and that most script files developed in MatLab will run on Octave. But, not all Octave scripts will run on MatLab because Octave has many additional commands that do not exist in MatLab. Octave has also been reported to be much slower than MatLab, for me this is not important.

I will use Ubuntu as all new software development is free of anything related to Microsoft. This is mostly because of an intense dislike for Windows anything. The decision is made easier as Ubuntu runs my InteractiveBroker and custom trading apps with no problem.

Step 1: I downloaded "Octave", "gnuplot" and 'QtOctave' using the Ubuntu Package Manager and had them running within minutes without a single configuration change. Very nice.

Step 2: Study - I ordered 'MatLab Dymistified' from Amazon (because it was the cheapest MatLab book...). Then discovered the very complete Octave tutorial at:

Save yourself some money - the free tutorial is better than the book....

Step 3: Script Compatibility - try some of the scripts from Chan's book and in the public domain....

Friday, May 1, 2009

Irrational Behavior in the Markets

Prof. Daniel Kahneman received a Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on irrational decision making. I have seen him in interviews tell his often repeated story of the 'map':

"But the story Kahneman recalls when asked about the economic models at the root of the current financial crisis is actually taken from history, not an experiment. It concerns a group of Swiss soldiers who set out on a long navigation exercise in the Alps. The weather was severe and they got lost. After several days, with their desperation mounting, one of the men suddenly realized he had a map of the region.

They followed the map and managed to reach a town. When they returned to base and their commanding officer asked how they had made their way back, they replied, "We suddenly found a map." The officer looked at the map and said, "You found a map, all right, but it's not of the Alps, it's of the Pyrenees."

According to Kahneman, the moral of the story is that some of our economic models, perhaps those of the investment world, are worthless. But individual investors need security - maps of the Pyrenees - even if they are, in effect, worthless."

Ok, fine. but there must be some way to measure the relative worthlessness of a economic model.... If there was you would think that a Nobel prize winner would know how to do so.

You can read a very good interview with Kahneman at:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ubuntu as good as Mac or Windows 7?

A lot of articles like this one since Ubuntu's new release this week. The fact that Linux is being compared directly as a desktop competitor is a great success for a product that is free. I am using Ubuntu more and more and I am very pleased with the ability to download software that doesn't cost me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

LTCM 10 Years Later from an Insider

Eric Rosenfeld who was part of the core LTCM team gave this very interesting presentation at MIT on LTCM looking back 10 years.

Plenty of different information than what was reported in books and documentaries.