Traders have developed lots of rules over the years in an attempt to refine the way they make trading decisions. So it’s not hard to come up with a list of 10 trading rules that can be part of a trading plan. Some are generic and general and not exclusive to any particular trader or trading approach. Others can be very precise as traders tweak rules into their trading system. The rules below have been selected for their broad appeal to many types of traders. They are presented in no particular order of importance
.1. Don’t trade markets about which you know very little.This is not to imply that you have to be a fundamental expert on every market you wish to trade. However, you should know about what fundamentals are impacting, or could impact, a market you are contemplating trading. For example, a person who has only traded grains would not want to jump right into a Treasury Bond futures trade without first doing a bit of homework on how the bond market trades – price increments (dollar amount per tick), trading hours, on what exchange the market trades, etc. A trader could pick up a Wall Street Journal and read the “Credit Markets” section for a week or so to become familiar with fundamental factors that influence the bond market. Also, consider this: Most traders enjoy the process of trading. If they did not, they would likely just hand their money over to a “fund manager” and give the manager discretionary control over their money. Learning and knowing what fundamental factors are impacting or could impact a market that a trader plans to trade is part of the process (enjoyment) of trading.
2. Don’t trade hot “tips.”You may trade for 20 years and never hear a good trading tip. Reason: There aren’t any . . . at least not any that are any good for regular individual traders. Markets are way too big and too tightly regulated to be impacted by any tips or inside information. Any legitimate “early information” has almost certainly already been factored into the market price structure by the time most individual traders could ever benefit from it. Don’t confuse tips with rumors. Markets do move on rumors more than just occasionally. Rumors are a part of trading but still fall into the category of “not much use” to off-floor traders. Besides, many rumors are never confirmed as fact and are often self-serving to those who try to start them
.3. Don’t get too fancy with your market orders.Entering a trade “at the market” with a market order may be the best way to enter a trading position, especially in markets that are liquid (have high open interest). It’s certainly the easiest way to enter. Fiddling around with limit or stop-limit or other multi-step orders to save a tick or two or three can cost a trader a good entry point or even a missed trade altogether. It’s certainly easy to be guilty of this offense because every trader is always trying to get just a little better price. This doesn’t mean that limit or stop-limit or other types of orders are not useful in certain circumstances because they are. However, most trade entries are best made “at the market.” Look at pitchers in major league baseball who “nibble” with their pitches around home plate. Most wind up with a walk instead of an out.
4. Don’t form a new market opinion during trading hours. This rule goes hand in hand with the rule that says you need to stick to your trading plan of action. Day-to-day market “noise,” or the minor up-and-down price fluctuations of a market, can be at least distracting to a trader and at most prompt the trader to make a hasty and poorly founded trading decision.5. Don’t force trades; if you don’t see a trade, stand aside. Don’t chase a market just to put on a trade. Try to exhibit patience and discipline in trading – easily said but hard to follow. Patience and discipline are not easy virtues for any trader to learn because a typical futures trader has a “Type A” personality with a competitive nature who hates to wait in lines. However, to have even a chance at success in trading, you have to control your impatience.
If you happen to miss a trading opportunity because you waited too long, other trading opportunities will come along. A good trade is usually profitable right from the beginning. If the market price moves “your way” in the first couple days after you’ve executed the trade, then odds are significantly higher that your trade will be a winner if you have waited patiently for the right position. This rule reinforces the notion that tight protective stops are an important part of trading success. But there is a time to be impatient: If a straight futures trade is under water after two or three days, more times than not it’s prudent to take a small loss and move on. Do not be patient with losers.6. Use intermarket analysis to spot trading opportunities.No market trades in isolation but is influenced by what is happening in a number of related markets. Don’t focus on just one market as much of today’s single-market technical analysis does. Instead, take into account developments in other markets that are likely to affect prices in your target market. If you trade stock indexes, you have to be aware of what is taking place in interest rate, currency and commodity markets such as gold. The price of a market you want to trade may be the sum of what is happening in ten or more interrelated markets.
7. Watch open interest statistics, especially in options. When you are contemplating trading any contract, make sure to first check the open interest for that specific contract or strike price. If a futures contract or options strike price has a low open interest total, it is probably best to seek out a more liquid contract. Fills on both entry and exit can be tough and may produce more slippage than is desired. When you get into a position, be sure it is liquid enough so you can get out on favorable terms.
8. Know what you can and cannot control. You can control the market you want to trade. You can control the type of market order you want to give your broker. You can control when you want to enter the market. You can control the amount of contracts you wish to trade. You can control when you want to exit the market. But you can’t control the market, which often has a habit of doing unusual and unexpected things. Knowing and prudently managing the market factors you can control and knowing that you cannot control the market gives you a trading edge.
9. Make the market’s action confirm your opinions. If you have a particular market on your “radar screen” for a trade, don’t just jump in based on a hunch or a “gut feeling” or because you want to get a fill right away. That’s when a market order advised above may not be in your best interest. Make the market first confirm your opinion. Make the market show you some strength if you want to be long, or make it show you some weakness if you want to be short.
10. Do not overtrade. Trying to trade too many markets or too many contracts in one market can create problems for an undercapitalized trader. There is no set rule for how many markets a trader should trade at one time. Some traders can trade many markets at the same time and not have a problem. However, if you are feeling stress about a position you are carrying or can’t keep up with what’s going on in all the markets you are trading, then you are likely over-trading. For those traders who are really not sure how many markets to trade at one time or how many contracts to trade for each position, it’s always better to take a conservative approach. Step in slowly until you become comfortable trading in a larger size or in multiple markets.