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A Logical Method Of Stop Placement

Discussion in 'Forex Discussions' started by painofhell, Jul 13, 2016.

  1. painofhell

    painofhell Content Contributor

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    Trading is a game of probability. This means that every trader will be wrong sometimes. When a trade does go wrong, there are only two options: to accept the loss and liquidate your position, or go down with the ship.

    This is why using stop orders is so important. Many traders take profits quickly but also hold on to losing trades - it's simply human nature. We take profits because it feels good and we try to hide from the discomfort of defeat. A properly placed stop order takes care of this problem by acting as insurance against losing too much. In order to work properly, a stop must answer one question: At what price is your opinion wrong? In this article, we'll explore several approaches to determining stop placement that will help you to swallow your pride and keep your portfolio afloat.

    Hard Stop
    One of the simplest stops is the hard stop, in which you simply place a stop a certain number of pips from your entry price. However, in many cases, having a hard stop in a dynamic market doesn't make much sense. Why would you place the same 20-pip stop in both a quiet market and one showing volatile market conditions? Similarly, why would you risk the same 80 pips in both quiet and volatile market conditions?

    To illustrate this point, let's compare placing a stop to buying insurance. The insurance that you pay is a result of the risk that you incur - whether it pertains to a car, home, life, etc. As a result, an overweight 60-year-old smoker with high cholesterol pays more for life insurance than a 30-year-old non-smoker with normal cholesterol levels because his risks (age, weight, smoking, cholesterol) make death a more likely possibility. If volatility (risk) is low, you do not need to pay as much for insurance. The same is true for stops - the amount of insurance you will need from your stop will vary with the overall risk in the market.

    ATR % Stop Method
    The ATR% stop method can be used by any type of trader because the width of the stop is determined by the percentage of average true range (ATR). ATR is a measure of volatility over a specified period of time. The most common length is 14, which is also a common length for oscillators such as the relative strength index (RSI) and stochastics. A higher ATR indicates a more volatile market, while a lower ATR indicates a less volatile market. By using a certain percentage of ATR, you ensure that your stop is dynamic and changes appropriately with market conditions.

    For example, for the first four months of 2006, the GBP/USD average daily range was around 110 to 140 pips. A day trader may want to use a 10% ATR stop - meaning that the stop is placed 10% x ATR pips from the entry price.In this instance, the stop would be anywhere from 11 to 14 pips from your entry price. A swing trader might use 50% or 100% of ATR as a stop. In May and June of 2006, daily ATR was anywhere from 150 to 180 pips. As such, the day trader with the 10% stop would have stops from entry of 15 to 18 pips while the swing trader with 50% stops would have stops of 75 to 90 pips from entry.

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    Figure 1
    Source: FXTrek Intellichart

    It only makes sense that a trader account for the volatility with wider stops. How many times have you been stopped out in a volatile market, only to see the market reverse? Getting stopped out is part of trading. It will happen, but there is nothing worse than getting stopped out by random noise, only to see the market move in the direction that you had originally predicted.

    Multiple Day High/Low
    The multiple day high/low method is best suited for swing traders and position traders.It is simple and enforces patience but can also present the trader with too much risk. For a long position, a stop would be placed at a pre-determined day's low. A popular parameter is two days. In this instance, a stop would be placed at the two-day low (or just below it). If we assume that a trader was long during the uptrend shown in Figure 2, the individual would likely exit the position at the circled candle because this was the first bar to break below its two-day low. As this example suggests, this method works well for trend traders as a trailing stop.

    [​IMG]

    Figure 2
    Source: FXTrek Intellichart

    This method may cause a trader to incur too much risk when they make a trade after a day that exhibits a large range. This outcome is shown in Figure 3, below.

    [​IMG]

    Figure 3
    Source: FXTrek Intellichart

    A trader who enters a position near the top of the large candle may have chosen a bad entry but, more importantly, that trader may not want to use the two-day low as a stop-loss strategy because (as seen in Figure 3) the risk can be significant.

    The best risk management is a good entry. In any case, it is best to avoid the multiple day high/low stop when entering a position just after a day with a large range. Longer term traders may want to use weeks or even months as their parameters for stop placement. A two-month low stop is an enormous stop, but it makes sense for the position trader who makes just a few trades per year.
     
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