Many systems nowadays promise profits without effort and easy pips right to your account. You probably know by now that real life doesn’t work that way. A genuinely profitable system is hard to come by. In this article I will describe three simple tips that help you enhance your existing trading systems. The goal is to make them more powerful and accurate.
Stop and Limit Entries to Catch Trends
Many trading systems use market orders to enter and exit the market. Market orders frequently exhibit low entry efficiencies. They get you in the market at a price that is not optimal. Placing a buy or sell order 10 pips from the price you wish to enter, in the direction of the trend for trending systems can make a big difference. For long trades put a buy order 10 pips higher than price, and for short trades put a sell order 10 pips lower than price. Range trading systems might consider limit entries, which would place the orders in the opposite direction of the example above.
Using ATR to Account for Volatility
Many novice system designers use constant pip distances in their forex trading system, i.e. 15 pips for stop loss, 10 pips for take profit, etc. This is a mistake as it doesn’t take into account changes in volatility. If the pair you trade exhibits changes in volatility, the system faces an increased likelihood of failure.
The Average True Range indicator (a.k.a. ATR) gives the average range of a forex pair or stock, and accounts for gaps as well. Instead of using constant numbers, use a percentage of ATR such as 50% ATR or 30% ATR. Once you do this change your system will automatically take into account volatility and will become much more flexible. Such systems will work better and will maintain profitability even in changing market environments.
This is a tip especially for the programmers of you: over-optimization is the kiss of death of a trading system. Over-optimization, a.k.a. curve fitting, means that you add many Forex indicators and filters and use them all to confirm your signals, and optimize them all for maximum profits. In the backtest it will seem that your system is becoming better when in fact it will become good only for the past and will fail in any forward-test on real, live data. Therefore, it is crucial to only include the most important parts of your system and do not add indicators that don’t make sense at the price-action level. Remember the principle of Occam’s razor: “The simplest solution is usually the most efficient one”.
Michael Wells is an FX programmer and trader. His site contains his insights about Forex trading systems.