Understand what you are doing

Understand what you are doing

Do not blindly do things, it will get you nowhere and you will run in circles.

If you look at any setup or scan or indicator and just run to duplicate it , it will not help you much because you do not understand what it is trying to do or based on.

Every setup has an underlying market structure logic. If you first understand that then you do not need others scan or indicators to trade that logic. From your understanding you can create your own scan.

First try and understand how market operates on different time frame. If you want to be day trader understand how it operates on that time frame and as a result of that what kinds of methods have evolved. If you understand that then you will know if you look a scans and methods of 1000 day traders there will be common element to what they are doing (no matter what jargon they use to make it sound more difficult to understand).

Market behaves in a particular manner on intra day basis once you understand that you can find several ways to trade around that behavior of market. Exact indicators, time frames, scans are small tactics to catch that structural phenomenon.

If you look at 3 to 10 day time frame, markets behave differently. Swing traders operate on understanding of the market structure on that time frame. They understand the market structure for that time frame. If you understand that you can create your own ways to trade the 3 to 5 commonly found phenomenon on swing trading time frame.

If you look at larger moves lasting months or years there is an underlying logic behind the moves and understanding that would give you ways to try and capture some of these moves.

As a beginner instead of running in circles focus your energy on clearly understanding the market structure and what traders do, why do they do it and how do they do it.

Effort involved in it is one time. And if you do not do that first nothing will work for you.

A very strong bullish move

A "V" shaped recovery in market after a 6% drop has brought market back to its high. The rally has been explosive and relentless. Breadth figures indicating daily buying pressure have been good.

Individual stocks have been having big explosive 3 to 5 days move. Some moves are driven by earnings and some are in the speculative sectors like biotech.

For short term swing traders the market has been good if you can find right pockets of momentum. The recent earnings winners have been in gap and go mode offering no pullbacks n most cases.

All in all dream market for swing traders as long as momentum lasts.  


Why is this stock down from a high of 87 to around 5 dollar?

JCP traded as high as 87 in 2008 and now trades near 5 dollars.


There is always a reason why a stock will get down to these kind of beaten down level. Something is terribly wrong in the business. For 5 years it is in downtrend.

When you look at the stocks down 50% plus from 52 week high they will invariably have a catalyst for that kind of drop.

Some of the common reason for a big drop are:
  1. excessive bullishness driving stock to unsustainable level resulting in subsequent drop
  2. loss of earnings power
  3. high cost
  4. high debt
  5. management changes
  6. outdated technology
  7. faulty business model
  8. industry structure change
  9. fashion or craze product loses appeal
  10. overall economic slowdown
  11. replacement product at lower price
  12. mergers gone wrong
  13. product recalls
  14. natural disaster
  15. regulatory action

Many of the stocks down 50% from high do not survive the problem if it is not a fixable problem. If the problem is easily fixable then the stock will bounce back very quickly. If it is not fixable you will have death by thousand cuts.

When going through the beaten down list you need to find out why stock is in the list and what kind of catalyst can lead to turnaround.

The best candidates in beaten down scan are where the problem is easy to fix.

WBMD is a recent example of this:


In 2002 WBMD got in to trouble when its earnings plunged after pharma companies cut back on advertising. Management troubles further created problems with new CEO unable to turnaround company quickly. It put itself up for sale to go private, but there were no good offers.

Activist investors got in to picture. Bought stake in the company. Forced management out. Pushed for share buyback and aggressive cost cuts. As a result company had profit turnaround even though revenue growth has been not that good. This is an example of low hanging fruit kind turnaround. But now it will find tougher to keep going higher as turnaround is now priced in.


Practice leads to pefection

Identifying a good short term swing trading setup is a skill developed through practice. Once you have a setup concept for discretionary traders trading it requires experience over several hundred trades.

Conditions in the market change continuously and setups need minor tweaks in real time trading.

If you go through 5000 to 10000 old setups and identify good from bad and see what worked and how it worked, you will gain expertise in identifying and trading these setups in real time. On Member site I have been posting daily exercise to identify good setups, entry, exit, profit targets and risk. These exercises help you train your brain to identify good setup from bad setup.

Look at the 5 charts below. I have been writing about momentum burst setup since beginning of the year , if you understood that concept , see if you can apply it to these examples. Try and identify good setups on them. Study what was the pre breakout situations. Study how it acted post breakout. Find out how much % move it made in 3 to 5 days post breakout. Study failed breakout.

Your objective should be to become an expert in this setup. If you do that you can make millions over your trading life time.

Example 1


Example 22.png
Example 3


Example 44.png
Example 5


The more you do this better you will become at identifying and trading them in real time. It will also help you identify pre breakout setup. Anticipation of breakout can help you get in to move earlier.

Going through 5000 plus examples of setups like this should be your 3 months goal. If you can do that you will have the setup permanently etched in your memory and you will be able to select good setup instantly.

It will also help you understand where you should exit and put stops.

More than that it will convince you that stocks indeed move in short term momentum bursts and there are 2 ways to trade them, either by anticipating the breakout or by buying on breakout day.

These exercises are posted daily on membership site.


Look for setup like UA

UA was one of the stocks showing up in my scans right near market open on Friday and I entered in first few minutes after open. Stock followed through to make 5% plus move.

UA is the kind of setup I look for everyday. It is a setup you are most likely to find on a momentum stock once it establishes a trend.

It is a continuation setup where a stock goes through orderly consolidation after a momentum is established. During that 8 to 10 days period you get a narrow range consolidation. The end of the consolidation is indicated by range expansion.

This setup can be traded both as anticipation setup or breakout setup. In anticipation setup you enter in anticipation of a breakout. The advantage of that is obviously you get much better entry than a breakout entry. The process flow required to find setups like this fro anticipation point of view requires setting up scans to identify stocks with established momentum and that are in consolidation. After that you have to narrow the universe down to few good setups.

As a breakout setup your signal will be range expansion. The other way to trade this setup is to put an order at breakout anticipation point that will indicate a start of new momentum burst.

In a year you can find 1000 to 3000 such setups once you understand the structural phenomenon of momentum burst.


How to find explosive trends near their beginning

Trends start from low point and some of the most explosive trends happen when a beaten down stock established a bottom. How can you convert this market observation in to a setup and daily method?

OSTK is an example of kind of things we are talking about. It went down from 25 to around 5 in a year or so. Once it established a bottom it went up 700% or so.

These kind of moves are another phenomenon in market besides the momentum phenomenon.

Companies get beaten down to extreme level and investors give up on them. At some stage they surprise the market with new earnings power and then an explosive trend happens.

Obviously all these stocks will show up in your Momentum burst scan on day of breakouts. So one way to find them is using that scan.

But if we want to build large position and hold for longer term position trade then we must have conviction .

To develop conviction we must research or have sufficient understanding of the business to understand whether the turnaround is for real and if it is sustainable.

Once a low point in downtrend is established a new trend starts .

In order to start tracking these kind of stocks in downtrend and researching them before they breakout, we can actively scan for them.

If we scan for stocks down 40% plus from their 52 week high we will get beaten down stocks. Adding a liquidity filter of say at least 50000 average volume  will further narrow that universe.

However if you just run the scan like this you will get lots of small caps stocks with little chance of turnaround.

Adding a filter of Sales 1year>300 million plus  will narrow the list considerably to only stocks with actual sales. Adding a billion dollar plus sales filter will give you very narrowly focused list.

Just because a stock is on this scan does not make it a buy candidate. This list is for research purpose to find out likely catalyst that will lead to sustained turnaround. That is information intensive task. But you have months or years to research these stocks as many will take that much time to bottom.

The most common catalysts for turnaround will be:

  • earnings surprise
  • activist investor building position (this is becoming very powerful catalyst and represent structural change in the market. Now companies face intense pressure to turnaround and that is why you see so many V recoveries. They force management to restructure quickly and put intense pressure to cut costs and buy back shares and improve profits. YHOO and WBMD are two recent examples of this. As this strategy is working well it is becoming more popular among hedge funds.)
  • new management
  • in commodities often bottom happens without earnings improvement as market anticipates earnings.
  • Govt policy change . Solar sector is example of this.

This kind of approach is more suitable for speculators with lot of patience and who has skills to research these ideas. But the rewards are big if just one or two ideas work out. When they explode they can make 500% plus moves. Look at the Stockbee 50 list published on the site and study where they started their trends from.

This method is for thinking speculator with lot of time on their hand.


No shortage of setups

As the market continues to show very good buy pressure, number of stocks are breaking out. In fact there is no shortage of swing candidates currently.

OMER is just one example of this kind of setup. Other good candidates from yesterday were INSY, WBAI, WUBA, CCIH, TASR, TREE, KNDI, LIOX, PACB, ROIAK, and NSPR.

These kind of 3 to 5 days swing moves are very common in bull phases. It is the structural nature of market.

Stocks move in short term momentum bursts of 3 to 5 days and those moves can be of 8 to 40% magnitude.

If you set up proper methods for identifying and trading these kind of setups you can profit while keeping drawdowns small.

Some of these breakout can go on to make multi week or month moves.


Momentum burst setups emerging

The market has bounced back vigorously from a 6% correction. In the initial few days the most beaten stocks rallied. You will see lot of "V" bounces on stocks.

But in last 3 to 4 days momentum burst kind of setups are showing up. Momentum burst setups work best for swing trades of 3 to 5 day hold periods.

Some of the good setups in last few days are: LXFT, RMTI, SGMA

Once you have well defined setup the task is easy as all that you need to do is wait for your setups to show up and act on them. 


Should you focus on beaten down stocks

Where do trends start from is a question worth considering from various angles.

Once a low point in downtrend is established a new trend starts .

If you want to find a trend very early then you need to start with stocks in downtrend. Once they stop going down and established a low , a new trend can start.

If you see last few years you will see bulk of big explosive moves have happened from most beaten down stocks. You can find several hundred examples like NFLX

They go down and in many cases spend very little time near low and then explode many folds.

In most rallies it is the beaten down stocks that have lead the up move.

If you are focusing on stocks near 52 week high or with established momentum , you would often find they are not the leaders that lead advances

Not every beaten down stock is going to start an explosive move once low is established but some would.

If you can find a way to identify those stocks when they are in downtrend then you have an edge.

How can you find stocks likely to explode up after establishing a bottom?

Think about this and research this and if you can come up with logical and structured way to do it you have found a good setup and mountain sized edge.

The problem is many stocks will be in downtrend , not all are going to reverse and establish big trends, so vehicle selection or selecting right stock is the key.

If you can really take this concept to heart and spend some quality time thinking through this, you will have developed significant structural edge.
Recent start of an uptrend in many gold stocks shows the same thing

One of the ways to find explosive moves is to focus on most beaten down stocks. It is not the only way, but for position traders it is one of the best way to enter new up leg early.

there are many points around a trend move where setups can be developed. There are lot of traders who focus on setup near 52 week high once trend is established. That is well documented setup idea.

But if you can identify trends early , you can find earlier entries. For position traders it can give you lot of time to research an idea.


How to detect trends early

Stocks trend from time to time. In order to catch a larger swing move early detection of trend helps. As a swing trader also detecting trend is useful. I primarily look for a confirmed uptrend and then buy a second or third leg of that trend after a consolidation or pullback. 

There are many ways to detect trends and some can lead to lot of false moves and whipsaw while some are better at detecting trends. 

Besides trend detection as a trader you are also interested in identifying explosive trend and not just a slow moving trend. Explosive trends is where big opportunity to make money in short amount of time is.

Let us look at SSRI a silver stock that has recently established a trend. 

Using Stockbee Double Trouble Indicator

The stock showed up on scan this week. The longer term trend detector sacrifices part of the move to avoid whipsaw. But once a trend is detected it tends to be explosive trend.

Using Sockbee Trend Intensity 65 days

The Stockbee Trend Intensity scan detected this trend much earlier. Early detection can be more useful for position traders as it allows you to get in to position early. It also allows you to hold positions longer due to accumulated profit. 

Using Guppy MMA

Guppy Multiple Moving Averages are 12 exponential averages used to detect trends. The 12 averages are 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, 18, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 60. The 3, 5, 8, 10, 12, and 18 period exponentially moving averages are used to show the short-term trend and the 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 60 show the longer-term trend.

A longer term trend is established when all the 12 averages confirm the trend. As you can see the Guppy MMA detected the trend early.

There are many ways to determine trend start and trend end. If you use a very sensitive indicator to detect trend you will find trends early , but you will also find many false starts.

In above example TI65 and Guppy MMA detected a trend start early , but they also gave false signal in August.

There is no one best way to find trends , but whichever way you select you need to be consistent about it and think a lot about it.

If you understand trends and how they progress you can find opportunities to capture part of the swing moves in a trend.

Methods and philosophy


Do you want to improve your trading?

Then learn how procedural memory works.

The day you realize trading success is about developing procedural memory, you will be on path to success.

Trading success is about developing expertise. When you try and develop expertise you train your procedural memory. Procedural memories are implicit memories. They allow us to lower cognitive load. They are learned intuitions.

Procedural memory is memory about how to do a process. It is stored in memory as one schema. A process containing say 32 steps is not stored in memory as 32 discrete step but as one sequence of step. When performing that task the brain efficiently recalls all those steps simultaneously so you can do the task effortlessly.

Procedural memory helps free up the brain to do other things. It frees the brain by reducing cognitive load. We have thousands of procedural memories developed over our lifetime. They make our life easy. For example take a simple skill like flossing your teeth, it is a procedural memory once you develop it you can perform it daily without thinking or while doing some other task without focusing on a step by step sequence.

Procedural memory also allows us to do vast number of day to day tasks. Imagine if you had to learn to drive everyday, or learn to walk everyday. Life would be impossible without well developed procedural memory. Same things happens in trading. As a trader you develop hundreds of procedural memories to make your trading effortless.

Most successful traders who survive the market for many years have developed a procedural memories specific to a style of trading or a setup.

They can instinctively trade those setups without thinking about individual processes or steps  involved in that setup. They are not conscious of the steps.

A novice watching them trade many times do not understand their decisions. Many times they get out of a trade just before it hits a pothole or avoid certain trade that novice will take. Lot of it is instinct developed as a result of procedural memory development. It is like a driver instinctively hitting breaks at sign of something on the road.

For discretionary trading it is all about procedural memory development on a specific setup.

If your efforts at training procedural memory to trade a setup or style are successful then you will become efficient in trading that style.

Once you learn a setup it become relatively easy to develop procedural memory on related style or setup.

But it is difficult to develop procedural memory on another instrument or style. That is why you will see many successful traders focus on very narrow niche in the market.

Some focus on growth investing , some focus on value, some on options, some on futures, some on currencies.

Within that they focus on very niche setup. Some trade say growth stock as swing trades, some trade them as position trades. These two setups require distinct procedural memories.

Most successful traders learn by trial and error that sticking to their setup is best because when they do it the procedural memory automatically kicks in.

As against that novice traders are ambitious, they want to trade as many setups as possible. They don’t want to miss out on any style or instrument like option or futures. So they try and simultaneously develop procedural memory. That obviously leads to failure.
If we know that the key to discretionary trading success  is procedural memory then why is it difficult to develop procedural memory?
To develop procedural memory you need highly structured environment.

When you learn to drive, it is done under structured environment. You learn it in stepwise manner under close supervision. There is someone sitting next to you closely supervising every step and also ensures you don’t get killed. Every month you will see some young kid getting killed in car accident, and the reason is largely to do with lack of well developed procedural memory and bravado.

As against that much of learning to trade on your own is unstructured and unsupervised process unless you join a trading firm or a Wall Street trading house or bank.  You are your own instructor and you need to create your own structure and you need to give yourself correct feedback and you need to ensure you do not get killed by blowing up your account.

If you read the classic Wall Street books like How I made 2 million dollars in stock market by Darvas or Reminiscence of a Stock operator, you will see that much of the struggle depicted in those book is about trying to find a setup and a process and sticking to it. Once Darvas found his setup and developed a process it was easy. In Livermore case he went from setup to setup and from day trading to position trading before making big money.

As a novice trader if you understand the role of procedural memory in trading you would approach the task differently. You will set process goals as against monetary goals. You will focus on well developed setup idea with step by step instructions. You will try and find someone to supervise your process and ensure you do not get killed during the earning process. In most procedural memory development situation a apprentice model has shown to be most effective for learning.

When you attempt to develop procedural memory on your own, unless you are extremely motivated and driven (or the correct word according to psychologists is you have very  high self efficacy beliefs) the task is difficult. That is why you will see few extremely motivated individuals make it in this field.

This is the reason most  ordinary and less motivated traders fail before they can achieve profitability.

They blame markets or other things for it but in many cases the fault lies with failure to train procedural memory.

In order to develop procedural memory for any given time frame or style or set up first you need to start with well defined setup with clear step by step process led out with clear explanation for each step.

For example if you were to decide to trade a swing trade setup, you need clear well defined highly structured process that you can follow and master till you can do it on your own without supervision.

That kind of process requires time and effort. Within that process the external environment plays important role. You might decide to focus on a setup and then market might go in to correction offering you no opportunity to use your setup for some weeks or months. Can you sustain your motivation during that time.

If you look at procedural memory development situations outside of trading then you  will see that all of them impose enormous structure.
Dancing or ice skating is one of the  skills developed through procedural memory development. If you see the process used for training dancers you will see that it is highly structured and regimented. You are given specific skill to practice. There is close supervision of the practice. There is constant feedback loop.

Enormous hours are spent on practice before a performance is attempted. The learning happens primarily from repeated practice. It takes 10 to 15 years of rigorous practice before ballerinas are considered suitable for major performance.   
What does the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow do. It takes young girls from all over Russia and trains them in to ballet using a extremely structured method called Vaganova Method. The effort involved in brutal and the instructors are very demanding. It takes anywhere between 10 to 15 years of training to become good ballerina.

How are surgeons trained. They start early in med school as apprentice, do simple procedures first under close supervision. For next 6 to 10 years they perform hundreds of procedures working under a highly skilled surgeon or group of surgeon. After 10 year or more of developing procedural memory they venture on their own. My brother is world renowned cardiac surgeon and I have seen very closely how they learn this art .

The ballet training, ice skating , heart or brain surgery or trading  is primarily about developing implicit memory.

Implicit memories are unconscious memories. They are formed through automation.

Procedural memory is memory about skill.

In the case of a dancer or a surgeon the procedural memory challenge is about developing a complex skill which require enormous coordination of various muscles and activities.

Through repeated practice the skill becomes automatic and a procedural memory for it is developed. Same way a good trader primarily has developed procedural memory skills related to specific setup.
Developing procedural memory skills requires breaking down a skill in to process and then mastering those processes. S

impler skills are easy to master. For example riding a bike is easy skill to develop as procedural memory skills involved are relatively easy. The time taken to learn it is small.

But if you have to learn extremely complex skills and skills requiring use of multiple skills simultaneously then the training involved for it has to simulate those situations and also allow allow the learner to gain confidence in his own skills.

That is the basis for developing procedural memory skills for commandos. We can use same learning in trading by doing set up practice like we did in January series of posts or through the boot camps held every year.
US Army, Navy, and Air force have world's best training programs. If you study the history of training skills development in these institutions you will find that they were the first to recognize the concept of procedural memory.  

If you read book on expertise development, you will see that vast amount of learning about expertise development process has happened through research on training armies. .
One of the best book on understanding expertise development, procedural memory and implicit learning is Development of Professional Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson

The book focuses on understanding how highly skilled professionals learn their skills.

Professionals such as medical doctors, airplane pilots, lawyers, and technical specialists find that some of their peers have reached high levels of achievement that are difficult to measure objectively.

In order to understand to what extent it is possible to learn from these expert performers for the purpose of helping others improve their performance, we first need to reproduce and measure this performance. The book delves into research in this field.

This book is designed to provide the first comprehensive overview of research on the acquisition and training of professional performance as measured by objective methods rather than by subjective ratings by supervisors.

The book is  collection of articles. In those articles the world's foremost experts discuss methods for assessing the experts' knowledge and review our knowledge on how we can measure professional performance and design training environments that permit beginning and experienced professionals to develop and maintain their high levels of performance, using examples from a wide range of professional domains.
What does the US Army, Navy or Air force do. It takes raw recruits and through a extremely structured program  it converts them into exceptionally skilled warriors.  It helps them develop procedural memory through a highly disciplined and structured program. If you want to understand how this is done watch the video  Navy Seals Buds Class 234 Discovery Channel
If your objective is to become elite trader the training process would be similar.

The only difference is you have to structure your own training and develop your own training material and then have the discipline to train yourself.

Along the way there will be several setbacks and ability to persist under those circumstances is critical. Besides that you should survive the self  training phase without blowing your account (which very few would do).

That is the enormity of the task involved in becoming a successful trader. Which most novice have no idea about. They set goals like to make 500 dollars per day without having a process to do that. Or they spend time developing a trading plan which does not take into account the time required for developing procedural memory. Or they look for shortcuts.

Behind every successful self learned  trader you will find similar story of extreme efforts and extreme frustration and then slowly discovery of profitable method. Unfortunately most people will not tell you that.

The Stockbee Advanced Bootcamp will give you an insight into the process. As many of the traders attending it have been practising their skills and craft for many years before gaining enough confidence to do this for living.
If you want to become good at trading keep  the essence of procedural memory development in your mind everyday :
  1. structured environment
  2. supervised practice
  3. extensive practice

When you try to develop procedural memory on your own, you are your own supervisor, mentor, instructor, motivator and so on. Besides that you are developing your own syllabus. As against that in any structured environment they have studied procedural memory skills required for the job and have template to develop such skills in others.
That is the big challenge for trader who tries to learn trading on his own. And it is also the reason for high failure rate.  What can trader do to survive such learning process and become successful:
Understand that learning to trade is about developing expertise. And specifically it is about training procedural memory.

Understand that procedural memory is task specific. So specializing in a setup is extremely critical.

Once you select a setup then you develop procedural memory specific to that setup. A trader who is good at trading say momentum stocks on 3-10 days has developed a procedural memory specific to that setup.

Understand that selecting your trading time frame is critical. If you want to be day trader the kind of procedural memory development you will need is very different from if you decide to be swing trader.

Understand that less number of setups you focus on better it is.

The entire logic behind the procedural memory development process is that it allows you to overcome cognitive load.

The more setups you try and trade simultaneously more is cognitive load. When your short term memory gets overloaded you tend to make mistake and get frustrated.

First master one setup then you will find mastering other setup easier.

Understand that there are no secrets in this business. The real secret is your ability to develop procedural memory.

Procedural memory can only be developed through "How to " kind of knowledge. If someone gives you a secret way to put stops as a software plugin. It is perfectly useless. Because it does not allow you to develop your own procedural memory skill.

Similarly someone gives you 3 picks daily and does not tell you in significant detail how that person actually arrived at those picks, what scans he used, what software he uses, what analytical methods he used to arrive at those 3 picks from 100 other stocks meeting same conditions , you will learn nothing. It will not help you in anyway to develop procedural memory.

Understand that many profitable traders are not conscious of how they develop their own trading skill and how procedural memory work. in fact most would not have even heard of procedural memory unless they had background in psychology or are involved in training.

That is why instead of asking a trader how and what he does, it is better to meet them face to face and observe what they do. Procedural memory is best developed through face to face interactions as it allows you to clarify process and completes feedback loop.

Understand that profitable traders can not verbalize the process they follow. Procedural memories are implicit memories they can not be easily verbalized. A person who possess a skill in particular kind of trading may not be aware of steps he or she is following.

Psychologist and those who study procedural memory use special techniques to build procedural maps to understand such skills. Often you will read a interview or watch an interview of famous trader and you will see that the person does not tell you much about his process. Often they give you generalities , why because they are not aware of their own procedural skills.

So if you ask the most prolific day trader on the Timeline about his trading , it is unlikely he can help you much because so much of his skill is implicit. He or she knows how to do it , but can not verbalize how they do it. It is not possible for every skilled trader to verbalise their process. There are many gaps in their explanation and actual process.

Understand that once you develop procedural memory it is on autopilot and it is lifetime skill. Once you learn a process it tends to become part of you as long as you keep using it. That is why learning to trade can be your best retirement strategy. You will see some old traders on Stockbee site who are trading into their 70’s

Understand that procedural memory is not developed through hard work. There are many hardworking traders but they do not necessarily make lot of money. Why because they may not be having right procedural memory. In fact once you develop procedural memory you don't really need to work hard. that is the essential role of procedural memory.

If you want to be successful rader there is one thing you can do today and that is to narrow your focus to very small setup idea and develop procedural memory about it.