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Weekend Project: A Quick Study to Optimize Trading Performance

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December 1, 2015
Optimize trading performance

I’m not a fan of the ’80s rock group Loverboy, but I do have to agree with the premise espoused in their hit single “Working for the Weekend”—that everyone is, in fact, working for the weekend. The weekend is a time to catch our breath and dive into projects we’ve been putting off. And if you are a trader, I’ve got a weekend project for you.

Its goal is to optimize trading performance by discovering factors that are negatively impacting your trading, and then working to eliminate them. You’ll need to set aside a few hours of serious concentration to dig in, and what better time than the weekend? Don’t worry, this project is pretty easy and shouldn’t eat up more than one precious morning or afternoon.

Let’s Get Started

First, download all of your trades from the last year and open them up in a spreadsheet program. Next, match up your opening and closing trades for each position. If you’re a day trader, the easiest way to do this is to sort by date and time, and if you are a swing trader (meaning you typically hold positions for a few days or a bit longer), you can sort by symbol.

Once your trades are matched, categorize them as “winning,” “losing,” and “breakeven,” and give them each a corresponding color code. Now you’re going to do some analysis based on these categories.

Time of Day: Look at the time stamps on your trades and see if there is a pattern you can identify. Do more of your losing trades occur at similar times during the day? If so, this may be a less than ideal time for you to trade.

Trading Vehicle: Some traders do well with equities, but not so great with futures. Others find their sweet spot with options instead of stocks. Look at what you are consistently trading profitably, and consider cutting back on things you regularly lose on, at least for a time.

Length of Trade: All traders have an image of what type of trader they are. But if you fancy yourself a day trader and find you are making all your money in swing trades, it might be time to reevaluate your trading style.

Liquidity: You won’t get this info from your trade history, but it’s easy to put the average volume numbers next to each stock you trade in our little exercise. Is there a pattern? How do you do with thinly traded stocks as opposed to those that are more liquid?

Price: Are you making the majority of your money in stocks under $10? Over $200? Maybe you really hit your groove when you trade stocks in the $50 to $100 range? In other words, does the price of the stocks you trade seem to correlate with your wins and losses?

A Few Hours Can Add Up to Big Change

As you can guess, this project can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. There are any number of variables you can look at to see if they correspond with a trend in your performance. The idea, though, is not to overanalyze, but simply to increase your awareness of how you trade.

Once you’ve tackled this project for the first time, it’s much easier to do a quick review at the end of each month or quarter to make sure you’re keeping on track. In the end, you may find that identifying and eliminating just one or two negative habits in your trading life could go a long way toward improving your overall performance. And then won’t all weekends be that much sweeter?

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