Featured Article

Are You Struggling With Moving Averages?

samseiden
Sam Seiden
Online Trading Academy, Chief Education, Products, and Services Officer

The Moving Average… It is a tool that is talked about in almost every trading book that has ever been written. Every day on TV, CNBC, Bloomberg, and others are telling us where the S&P and other key markets are in relation to the 200 day moving average, for example. Every charting package on the planet comes with every possible configuration of a moving average for you to use. Because of all this, moving averages must be one of the most important tools for traders and investors, right? You start to think that it must be impossible to make money in the markets without using moving averages. When we take a deeper look into the purpose and result of using moving averages, you start to see that not only do you not need to use them, but more importantly, they can actually hurt you if you don’t understand the risk that comes from using them as a primary buy and sell decision-making tool and that is the focus of this piece.

Instead of going through many charts to find the perfect picture to use as an example to illustrate my logic, I like to use real trading examples from our live trading rooms in the Extended Learning Track (XLT) program. In our live Futures trading XLT, January 13th, we identified a demand level for our students during our pre-market analysis. This was a demand level in the S&P Futures of 1271.50 – 1274.50 (red box). Once price declined in the S&P to our demand level, the plan was to buy it when it reached our demand level with a protective sell stop just below the level to manage the risk and have our profit targets above the level.

How to use moving averages

Shortly after the stock market opened, price declined to our demand level where our students were instructed to buy. Price moved higher and the trade worked out very well for our students; they executed our rule-based market timing strategy. Now, let’s go over the same trading opportunity, but instead of applying our strategy, let’s use a moving average which again, is a tool talked about in almost every trading book ever written. Most people are taught to buy when the moving average turns higher. As you can see here, by the time the moving average turns higher, price has rallied quite a bit already which means high risk and lower reward if you use your moving average as a buy signal. Furthermore, notice that the moving average was sloping down when our rules gave the buy signal. Have you ever read a trading book that said buy when the moving average is sloping down? Also, notice that the short-term trend of price was down when our strategy gave us the low risk buy signal. Again, have you ever read a trading book that said to buy in a downtrend? Of course not, yet this is the action you take when you properly buy and sell anything in life, don’t you? This is exactly how you make money trading as well, but the trading books almost teach you to do the opposite which is very flawed. Many of the traders following indicators such as moving averages are really smart people who have the best of intentions, they’ve just been taught wrong. It’s not rocket science; traditional technical analysis can be overly complex, often inaccurate and may cause “paralysis by analysis.” This is why we focus on teaching students our simple rule-based strategy using the principals of supply and demand aimed to help them find “real” low risk, high reward, and high probability trades. Waiting for the moving average to turn higher, you certainly get confirmation, but at the cost of extremely high risk and lower reward. Furthermore, that confirmation is an illusion because you still don’t know exactly what price will do next; this is all about probability and entering a position when the odds are stacked in your favor.

charting moving average

Again, there are so many books on trading and most people start the learning process by reading the trading books, yet the vast majority of traders and investors fail when it comes to achieving their financial goals. For the most part, the books say the same thing and teach the same conventional concepts. Specifically, most of what those books teach is conventional technical analysis including indicators and oscillators such as Stochastics, Mac-D, moving averages and so on. Here is the problem… Conventional technical analysis is a lagging school of thought that leads to high risk, low reward, and low probability trading and investing. All indicators are simply a derivative of price meaning they lag price. By the time they tell you to buy or sell, the low risk, high reward opportunity has passed. They have you buying after a rally in price and sell after price has already declined. At Online Trading Academy, we don’t use conventional indicators, oscillators, or chart patterns that you read about in the trading books as primary decision-making tools because adding any decision making tool to our analysis process that lags price only increases risk and decreases reward. Why would we ever want to do that? I know the information in trading books has been around for many decades, but that doesn’t mean it works or helps people. Like learning anything else in life, there is the book version way of learning it and the real world learning. At Online Trading Academy, we focus on how proper trading and investing works in the real world which is what our core strategy is made of. Again, if you think about it, most people read trading books and most people lose money; maybe they should stop and consider how flawed the logic is in that conventional thought and action. My goal in this piece is not to beat up books and theories, it is simply to open your mind to a lower risk, higher reward way of trading and investing.

Hope this was helpful, have a great day.

– Sam Seiden sseiden@tradingacademy.com

Disclaimer
This newsletter is written for educational purposes only. By no means do any of its contents recommend, advocate or urge the buying, selling or holding of any financial instrument whatsoever. Trading and Investing involves high levels of risk. The author expresses personal opinions and will not assume any responsibility whatsoever for the actions of the reader. The author may or may not have positions in Financial Instruments discussed in this newsletter. Future results can be dramatically different from the opinions expressed herein. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Reprints allowed for private reading only, for all else, please obtain permission.