Joined Nov 29, 2008
329 Blog Posts

Caught Between Moving Averages

The general market as well as most sectors are caught between MAs. For the SPX, it’s the 50/100-day. For the XLV ,it’s the 20/50-day. For the XLU, it’s the 20/100-day. They are all different. I expect more chopping today as the market continues to test the 50-day MA. On the 2-mo/60-min SPX chart, it’s clear that we are back inside the neutral range that was created from December. Look for breaks above the 50-day or below 1102. As always, individual stocks should be carefully selected based on the best setups.


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Is Technical Analysis for “Idiots”?

I wanted to bring up the ongoing conflict among two schools of thought – fundamental analysis and technical analysis.

A common question that needs to be answered is “Does technical analysis work“? As a discretionary technical trader with 8 years under my belt, I feel that it is my responsibility and obligation to defend technical analysis as a legitimate and effective approach to profitable trading. I use technical analysis every day, demonstrate it’s effectiveness, have the returns to prove it, and I will champion this form of analysis till the day I die. As “The Chart Addict” nothing less should be expected.

This article is for all of the non-believers, bashers, those holding myths about TA, those that don’t truly understand TA, and for the unfortunate ones – those that lost money and blamed it on TA. The truth is, I could really care less what you think about TA because it works for ME. Perhaps it doesn’t work for you, and that’s perfectly fine. We all trade the markets in different ways, and it’s important to use what works for you. If something simply does not “fit” with you, then you should explore other options. This goes for both TA and FA (fundamental analysis).

Technically Speaking

Technical analysis, in it’s most simplest form, analyzes supply and demand through price and volume action. TA is designed to help you identify the most probable future action based on price history. Note that I did not say that TA is used for predictions the way most people would think. There are jokes that using TA is “voodoo”, “similar to using a crystal ball”, “black magic”, “hogwash”, “hocus pocus”, and whatever else you may have heard. The people that think like this truly do not understand what TA is and how it is properly used. I encourage you to open your mind and explore this realm. For those that have been following me for 1-2 years, you know that I champion TA as my most favored trading analysis.

We are NOT trying to find out the value of a company, and in most cases, we don’t care. We don’t sit here reading 50 page reports day and night. Most technical traders have short-term horizons (day/swing) and technical analysis, in my opinion, has the upper hand for these shorter time frames. Furthermore, there are enough technical analysts that have consistently demonstrated the value of this art.

Proven Success with Technical Analysis

Since I made my Covestor account on March 17, 2009, I still command a return north of +300%. Am I lucky? You have to be really dumb if you think that. In fact, returns for my last 4 years all exceed +100%. How is that luck?

The Stocktwits community is full of tens of thousands of traders, but there are quite a few that I will personally recommend to you. Time and again, these folks have demonstrated exceptional and consistent skill from the proper use of TA: Brian Shannon, Anne-Marie, TheEquilibrium, DowntownTrader, ZMoose12, Steven Place, Kunal, ldrogen, Stewie, John Welsh, Trader Florida, Tickerville, SMB Capital, Zortrades, Misstrade, Gtotoy, and many, many others. The list is too long, but the point I’m trying to make is “how can technical analysis be rubbish if there are SO MANY successful technical traders”?

Still have something to say? Before you say anything, first prove your returns and then we’ll talk or GTFO.

So, you still don’t believe that TA works. Maybe it’s because you subscribe to only one school of thought. Or, maybe you buy an academic’s theory of efficient market hypothesis. For those that don’t know, efficient market theory states that the current price is right and past information is already reflected in the price of a stock, therefore analysis is useless.

There are three sub-arguments with this theory. There is the weak, semi-strong, and the strong forms of efficiencies. The weak form states that any analysis into the history of price movement is useless. The semi-strong form states that fundamental analysis is also nearly useless. The strong form states that all information is already reflected into a stock and neither schools of analysis will help you.

Here’s another “argument”: “Charts are just full of stupid squiggly lines that have no meaning”. Seriously? Each price bar is important. They show you the open, close, high, and low. Put these bars on a chart, and you have a pictorial representation of all market participants. As a technical trader, I am more concerned about how other market participants are behaving and their reactions. A good example of this is with earnings releases. A company could report stellar earnings, but the stock could gap down. Also, a stock could report a huge loss, but gap up. In some cases, a stock barely moves. The chart shows me what other traders are thinking, and that has huge value in itself.

How about “throwing darts on a dartboard”? This is false. Expert technicians sort through hundreds of charts to assemble only a few that are worth playing. Only charts with the best setups make the cut. How is this throwing darts? Are we lucky? Sometimes, but we don’t rely on luck. We rely on concrete data presented on the charts (price, volume, MAs, support, resistance, channels, gaps, etc). Remember? Charts are created by the collective participation in the market or stock. There is significant value in analyzing the psychology behind their behaviors.

There are many arguments, and if you have one to PROVE that technical analysis doesn’t work, then leave a comment and explain your thoughts. Key word is PROVE.

Reading the Charts

A problem with technical analysis comes in the way people interpret charts. Two people can look at a chart but have different opinions. How is this possible? We are human, we have biases, and we all have different opinions. The key is to look at a chart for what it is. I’ve seen people draw phantom trend lines that don’t exist, probably because they have a position in the stock. Manipulating a chart so that it favors you is the wrong approach to analyzing charts (and you are also lying to yourself).

Charts do not lie. They show what has happened already, and it’s all real. How many analysts do you know of are guilty of sticking their personal opinions in their reports? Countless. Funny thing is, many stocks with multiple firm coverage often have conflicting opinions amongst each other. What and who are you supposed to believe? The answer is to believe in only yourself. Use technical analysis as a way to make your decisions without emotions.

Charts don’t move the markets, but people do. People can say anything, but what is reflected in each price bar represents what people do. People’s actions form the chart. Your trades, big or small, help create the chart. So then, does it make sense to bash charts when your trades are reflected in them?

Entries and Exits

If you still have doubts about TA, please tell me how you enter and exit your trades. How accurate and consistent are you? Do you sometimes have to “wait for things to work out”? Technical analysis, among the two schools of thought, has the advantage of lower-risk timing. Keep in mind that technical analysis is highly favored by short-term traders, thus accurate entries and exits are more important to us. Generally, the longer the time frame, the more important the fundamentals. It all comes down to the individual and his/her methodology and style.

If you are a pure fundamental analyst and you are attacking technical analysis = “apples to oranges”.

Follow the Big Money

Most institutions either do not use TA or do not make it a priority. Does this mean that TA is insignificant? No! Expert technicians can follow the footsteps that are created by institutions. A good example is playing momentum breakouts on high volume – prior to the breakout.


Many traders favor a hybrid approach of implementing both fundamental and technical analysis. I believe that this is a very powerful method of trading and it is highly recommended.

In conclusion

There is no wrong method, as long as it works for you. For me, technical analysis is my foundation and it has worked for me all these years. I would not be writing this article if I believed TA and charts were worthless.

Use what gives YOU the best advantage.

-John Lee aka “The Chart Addict”

Twitter @WeeklyTA
Chart.ly: http://chart.ly/user/WeeklyTA
StocktwitsTV: “Charts Gone Wild” Tuesdays /10PM EST

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Stocktwits TV: “Charts Gone Wild” – 10PM EST

I will be covering “Powerful Doji Strategies for both Day & Swing Traders”. I will address the following formations:

1) Main types of doji
2) Doji Floaters
3) Doji Strings
4) Doji Flags
5) Doji Tri-star Gaps
6) Doji Triangles
7) Doji Cradles
8 ) Parabolic Exhaustion Doji
9) User-sent examples

Charts Gone Wild is at 10PM EST on www.stocktwits.tv

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Trader Profile: Vadym Graifer – Trader, Author, Teacher

I’m going to add a few feature to the blog. Once in a while, I will be profiling a professional trader who I believe is someone you can learn something from. I feel that by doing this, you’ll be able to learn a whole lot more and expand your horizons to see all of the possibilities that exist in the trading universe. Each trader is specialized in a certain style of trading and has mastered it. I am profiling these traders so they can tell the rest of us how they became so successful in their own way. After all, no one stops learning, including me, and as long as you take away one big idea from these profiles, then I have done my job in furthering your education and development.

Today I want to profile Vadym Graifer of www.realitytrader.com. I wanted to discuss some of his works, trading methods, and market views. Let me give you an idea what I found about him as a trader, writer, and teacher. Turns out his trading style is very similar to mine (and he’s also a trading coach!). He was kind enough to provide me with an article on “Stops: Why Don’t We Keep Them?”, located be low the profile.

Trader. Vad has been trading for a living since 1996. He is exclusively an equities trader, mostly on an intraday basis. His trading approach is built on the method he constructed upon tape reading principles he carefully restored and applied to today’s markets. His simple but powerful setups can be seen everywhere in the market once you get a handle on them. His approach is very visual, consistent, and disciplined. When I asked him to describe it in one sentence, he said: “Distinguishing the Smart Money action from that of the Crowd by the footprints they leave on the chart.” Vad is one of few who published his verified trading records (http://www.realitytrader.com/vadrecord.html).

Author. Vad’s first book, Techniques of Tape Reading, describes his trading method. The first part of the book is devoted to a trader’s development and psychology. The second is about trading systems, with the principles of tape reading explained and categorized, and setups broken down by elements. The third part contains over thirty examples with all the ifs and buts. If you’ve enjoyed my articles on the application of tape reading, then you should read this book.

His second book is The Master Profit Plan (http://www.realitytrader.com/masterplan/). This book is taking you by hand and guides you through the whole process of turning yourself into trader, making the process understandable and logical. It’s built in a form of choices you need make, explanations of how to make them and showing your next step depending on those choices. It takes you from the very beginning to practical trading, not leaving a stone unturned.

Teacher. Vad has extensive experience as a speaker and is known as being a very clear, concise and logical presenter, keeping his audience at ease, comfortable, laughing and learning a lot. He spoke at many Traders Expo seminars in US, Financial Forums in Canada, and private seminars in both countries and beyond, including annual Cara Trading Advisors Conferences in the Bahamas.

I had a chance to have a peek into Vad’s new project. It’s planned to be finished before the year end and is one of the most fascinating writings on trading I’ve seen in a long while. Not to give away whole thing, but it’s an application of Taoism to trading, based on serious research of this ancient philosophy and turned into incredibly practical trading advice. From the piece I’ve read so far – you will want to read it when it’s published.

Talking to Vad, I sensed what I want to see in people I partner with – integrity and professionalism. Read his writings, I am sure you will too.


STOPS: why don’t we keep them?
With everything said and written on the subject of stops, it should be given that everyone is conditioned to keep them religiously even before they start trading. No matter what source a newer trader turns to, utter importance of stops will be underlined and emphasized up to the degree that keeping them is heralded as the ultimate key to success. We all heard adages like “Take care of your losses, profits will take care of themselves”.

Do all the stern warnings work? Not really.

Time and again traders blow their stops, widen them in a course of a trade, hold losing position in a false hope it will make them whole. If this destructive behavior continues despite all the warnings, there must be deeply rooted reasons for this. As with most trading flaws, failure to keep stops roots in fundamental misconceptions about the very nature of the market and trading. Such misconceptions cause incorrect psychological makeup which, in turn, results in behavioral patterns harmful for a trader’s performance. In order to re-condition oneself it is necessary to work out fundamental, even philosophical if you will, understanding of the market as an environment in which a trader operates.

Let us list and analyze the misconceptions that cause failure to keep stops.

Right action must result in profit.

This misconception stems from misunderstanding of the very nature of the market as an uncertain environment. Newer trader sees a market as a conglomerate of firm links between reasons and outcomes. In such a conglomerate, every reason results in single possible outcome. The simplest case of such link would be “good news – up, bad news – down”. We know it’s not true – price reacts to news in a wide variety of ways.

Similarly, an inexperienced trader applying the setup he knows “should work” expects every trade to be a winner, providing all the components of the setup are right. Have you ever heard complaints like “Everything was exactly like in that book, yet the trade failed”? That is direct result of this misunderstanding. Everything may be right, yet the trade fails – just because markets work in probabilities and not in certainties.

If a system produces certain percentage of wins over time, it’s just statistics – and, as it is always the case with statistics, it cannot predict an outcome of a particular trade. No matter how good the setup is, any given trade can fail. That’s why it’s imperative for a trader to distinguish between two kinds of losses.

The first kind is a loss caused by a trader’s mistake – failure to follow all the rules of system applied, or impulsive entry without any reason at all. Such losses must be taken as a lesson. The second kind is the case where every piece of puzzle was in place, yet the trade failed – such losses must be written off as a part of trading game, as a tribute to uncertainty of the markets.

Of course, if you identify a component of your trading system that regularly causes trade failure, you can and should tweak your system in order to minimize failures. However, during the trade a stop must be taken as soon as signal of failure appears. The line of thinking “The setup was so good, it must work eventually” is a disaster waiting to happen.

Failure to perceive the market as an uncertain environment can result in another misconception:

Losses can be eliminated.

In a paradoxical way, this erroneous notion leads to more losses. A trader tweaks his system endlessly trying to get rid of losses completely. In such constant adjusting and re-adjusting, the system evolves into something totally different, losing its original logic, or even stops producing entry signals at all. As a result, a trader either abandons his system, which was not a bad one to begin with, or in a worst case, simply refuses to take losses. After all, he made his system so perfect by eliminating all the reasons for failures, it just MUST work! Meanwhile, had he stayed with original approach, maybe with some minor tweaks, it would continue producing steady results.

My trade is who I am.

This is one of those hidden subconscious misconceptions that cause us to refuse to take our stop. A trader perceives the result of his trade as a reflection of his personality, his abilities. A trade failure makes him feel as though he is a failure. Winning makes him feel “right”, while losing makes him feel “wrong”. Nobody likes to be a failure, to be wrong. That’s why, in order to avoid being wrong, we refuse to take our stop. You can be right and still lose on this particular trade. You can be wrong and win, too.

It’s important to differ between good and bad trade, and we will be back to this later, in the Random reinforcement part. At this point it’s important to separate your self-perception from the result of your trade. Taking a stop loss, you are stopping your loss – nothing foolish about that. The major trigger for the right approach here is a realization that by accepting the market as an uncertain environment, we already have accepted the possibility of losses. If we haven’t expected the market to work in our favor every time, there is no reason to feel foolish when it doesn’t.

A loss is just a paper loss until it’s taken.

This is a big mistake in thinking. If a loss gets out of hand, it’s very real. It paralyzes you, it clouds your judgment, and it makes you miss plenty of other opportunities. Instead of taking a pre-determined loss and moving on to another trade, you sit and watch your losing one, twitching in pain and feeling remorse. Your chance to take a small stop is long gone. You are agonizing now over big one that is going to deplete your account too much and inflict serious emotional wounds. You hardly notice many other opportunities. The market has moved on, other sectors and stocks are in play, and you still nurture your losing trade, hating it and not being able to finally drop it. At some point you will ask yourself “Why was this trade so important to me? What made me hold onto it?” And this takes us to the next common error:

Putting too much importance into single trade.

A newer trader tends to see each trade as overly important, as if it’s going to make or break him. The market is an endless stream of opportunities. The next trade is right around the corner. No single trade is so important that it would be worth abandoning all other opportunities. Perceive your trading as a process, not as separate events. With the correct approach trading becomes natural, like breathing. Each entry is inhale, each exit is exhale. Breathe in and breathe out. Don’t choke yourself trying to hold onto each given breath.

Random reinforcement.

This is an important concept to understand. The market is not always rewarding right decisions and punishing bad ones. The practical implication is that a trader runs a risk to stop applying proper techniques if he sees wrong ones being rewarded sometimes. Take a stop, observe a stock reversing and going into profit zone – and you get tempted to skip your stop next time. If you try it and it works, there is significant chance that you continue doing just that – the bad habit gets reinforced. You may win several times by breaking your rules. What happens eventually is that one trade that does not reverse destroys your account. It’s important to define what good and bad trades are. Unlike many think, a good trade is not always a winning trade; a bad trade is not always a losing trade.

– A good trade is a trade where you kept all your rules that you know to be working in a long run. A good trade can be a winning one when the market acts accordingly to what your system indicates. It can be a losing trade when the market acts against it, but it’s still a good trade.

– A bad trade is a trade made against your better judgment, against your rules. It can be a losing trade when a market acts as it “should”. It can be a winning trade when the market rewards your bad judgment, and it can be a very dangerous trap as a bad habit gets reinforced.

The last thing to say in conclusion is that a certain psychological barrier for a trader to overcome to start applying his stops with no hesitation. When this barrier is taken, things suddenly become so clear and automatic that a trader can’t even believe it was ever a problem for him. When this barrier is overcome, you feel that stops became natural part of your trading, that you take them with no slightest hesitation and forget about them instantly, moving on to search for your next trade, that taking stops do not trigger any negative emotions. This is wonderful feeling of total self-control. Not only will it do plenty of good to your trading performance, it’s a very rewarding feeling in itself.

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Blank Box for SPX

We are operating within a very large range. The SPX 5-day chart shows the area of operations for today. Remember that any break in these boundaries is absolutely significant and must be paid attention to. If not, then we will continue to trade in a neutral range. Believe me, you don’t want to get chopped up. On the daily 4-month chart, I added the 100-day EMA and 200-day EMA to create a more narrow range and to confirm the 5-day estimation.


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The Three Types of Channel Breakout Entries

The three types of entries are a prerequisite of the third part of the Art of Tape Reading Series. There are three types of entries: Aggressive, Regular, and Conservative. For the sake of saving time, I’ll just use a positive market in my examples.


The Aggressive method is most favorable when the general market is up, increasing the odds of a successful setup. This is when you enter before the confirmation of a breakout. A good recent example was my LXK play, where I got in about 30 seconds before the breakout. This is aggressive because if you are wrong, then you will book a loss. I don’t think I’ve ever broken even on an aggressive entry trade when I was wrong. However, if you are right, then this method maximizes your gains more than the other entries. you get in when there is enough liquidity/activity in the price movements and there is a volume spike towards the high of the channel indicating that it may possibly have a chance to break out. Your stop, mental or hard, would be at the bottom of the channel.


The Regular method is favorable during positive to neutral market conditions. It is when you aren’t as nearly sure, but there is still a high chance of a breakout. Ideally, you want to get in when a consolidation pattern forms at the top of the channel on the same price/volume characteristics listed for the Aggressive method -or- immediately on the actual breakout itself. This entry’s weakness is on fakeouts where you will most likely book a loss and sometimes, breakeven. Your stop would be on the breakdown of the stock from the upper channel to the lower channel. Most of the times, I use this entry because I am able to get in either immediately before confirmation or on the confirming breakout.


The final entry is the Conservative method. This is when you get in after the breakout on the first pullback, usually at the upper channel resistance, which turns into support. The problem with this setup is that sometimes the stock does not pullback for a lengthy time. I use this setup if I am late and actually find it. This entry contains the most confirmation of the other entry methods. If support is tested, then the stock retains it’s strength allowing you a “second chance” entry into the stock. This setup is safer because you are not guessing as to whether a stock will breakout or not.

Since everyone’s risk tolerance is different, you may want to key in on which entry suits you the best. Experienced traders can perform on all three methods, however, I advise beginners to master one type of entry that best suits your personality before you try to do all three at once.

Have a great trading week.


For expert tape reading, I highly encourage you to refer to Vadym Graifer of RealityTrader.com. I spoke with him personally and he’s an intelligent and great guy.

Here is his bio:

Vadym is the author of Techniques of Tape Reading (McGraw Hill 2003), How to Scalp Any Market (2005) and Master Profit Plan (2005). Vadym is a frequent featured speaker at International Trader’s Expos and Financial Forum Conferences.

He is the founder of RealityTrader.com, a hands-on training company, working with a global community of individuals to achieve high levels of trading success.

Vad is a professional trader and an international private trading mentor responsible for turning around the trading careers of thousands of trader. He has also published articles and interviews in industry magazines, corporate product newsletters and trading forums.

For more background information on Vad, please see excerpts from Vad’s book (Chapter 1, Chapter 2)

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