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Dealing With Market Uncertainty

Jun 4, 2008
The nature of the markets is uncertainty. Human beings do not like uncertainty. In fact we fear it at the very depths of our soul. Much of our society has evolved in an effort to reduce the uncertainty we face in day to day life, through controlling the environment, and implementing a structure of laws, rules and regulations. This has been largely successful. Although uncertainty in life cannot be totally removed, we have managed to create a structure in which people can live with relative safety and generally a higher standard of living compared with previous generations.

The markets though are different. Unlike society, where we can influence the actions of other people, and where we have some level of influence over the environment, the typical retail trader will have no influence over the action of the market. None, at all!

When you enter a trade, no matter how skilled you are at analysis, there is no certainty in outcome.

So how do we, as technical analysts, attempt to work within the uncertainty of price action?

Generally the first step, because we're human, is to create structure where there is none. My preferred approach is through a framework of support and resistance lines, but there's certainly no shortage of other approaches - whether through an indicator based approach, trendlines and classic charting patterns, wave patterns, or cycles of lunar and planetary movement. Whatever approach people choose, they're overlaying price with an approximation of market movement that provides structure.

The purpose of this structure is to provide a framework within which the trader can identify low risk and/or high probability trades.

That's where a problem occurs for most novice traders. Not used to accepting uncertainty, these traders mistake the structure they've applied to the market, and the entry trigger they've chosen to get into trades, for the truth. They say they understand the probabilistic nature of the markets, but their actions do not show that. Rather, the novice trader trades as if their approximation of the market is actually the reality of the market. They act surprised when the trade goes against them, and wish and hope and pray for the trade to turn out profitable, rather than acting quickly to minimize risk. The novice trader consistently demonstrates poor risk control, poor money management and poor trade management.

Knowledge of technical analysis, whether indicator based or via classic charting patterns, is not the same as knowing the future direction of price.

The structure you apply to the markets does not, and was never meant to, provide certainty. Rather it simply provides a framework within which you can understand past market movement, and hopefully identify low risk and/or high probability trades.

Note that I did not say zero risk, or guaranteed 100% profitable trades. No matter how certain you are, you're dealing with probabilities, and some trades will lose. Even a 99.9% profitable system will lose 1 out of a thousand times, and if you're betting everything on each trade it's only a matter of time till you're account is wiped out.

Successful traders have not found some magic system that provides certainty in the markets. Rather, they've learnt to live with the uncertainty.

How do they do this?

a. They have developed and tested a positive expectancy system.

b. They trade that positive expectancy system in a consistent manner, secure in the knowledge and understanding that the outcome of any single trade is not important. Success comes from consistent trading over a long series of trades.

c. They manage risk. No single trade is EVER allowed to place their future survival at risk.

d. And so they trade with confidence that the market cannot hurt them, and a confidence that they will take the correct actions to ensure consistent implementation of their trading plan.

So, if you're stuck in the never-ending cycle of going from course to course, or from forum strategy to forum strategy, STOP NOW. Ask yourself if you're trying to find certainty in the markets. Certainty doesn't exist - your approach is wrong. You're looking in the wrong place.

Rather than continuing to look for a better way to define market structure or enter your trades, just find one system that others are trading successfully, learn it, and learn how to manage risk, and improve your trading edge through better trade management and exits.

Do not confuse knowledge with knowing!

You may be a master analyst, but you cannot ever know future direction of the price.

Stop searching for certainty. Stop trading as if you can know the future. And just manage your risk.
About the Author
Would you like to learn more about how I trade the forex and equity index markets? Check out the articles, videos and trading resources on my website right now at www.YourTradingCoach.com
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