Issue 22

Small "House Advantage" Is Preferred over Wild
Claims - Werner from Germany

I want to congratulate CTCN newsletter. It is really a great product and thinks every trader, no matter how experienced, can benefit from it.

There are several reasons for writing this letter. I have been trading Futures since 1983. I started with an account of about $10,000 and haven't added any fresh money. After some great profits in the late 80's, there came some great losses. So, I realized the most important purpose is to achieve constant results. I developed mechanical systems for my own use. I trade strictly with a confidence that arises from trade-to-trade. Never in this time, have I acted against my plan. So what I want to say is, the only way to achieve constant results is a mechanical system with some restrictions. You must develop a system of your own.

Referring to the contribution of Bjorn Rump from Switzerland in the 12/94 issue, it is absolutely true, that gold becomes worthless if everybody can make real gold. If you develop your own system, you know the weak points. If you have done a serious job, you can rely on it and know in which cases it is absolutely vital to pay great attention.

According to Dr. Mandelbrot (I hope you know his work) and other "Random Walkers." I think we are acting in 'efficient-markets', better I should say in nearly efficient markets. That means, as traders, it is our only chance to find out the few times when the market is not quite efficient.

In other words, there cannot be a great percentage of inefficiency, otherwise the market will quit to exist. (See Bjorn Rump). If everybody takes the same highway to get to certain destinations, this highway will be blocked and nobody will get there. I don't know whether you have a similar proverb in America, but in Germany we say, if you want to get to Rome, there are many ways to do this.

I absolutely agree with Dave Reiter (CTCN 12/94 issue), to get the 'house-advantage'. This advantage is somewhat from 2 to 5%. In my opinion, if you get a trading system brochure with figures like 82% winners and say $10,000 in the test period, there is something wrong with this system.

Either it isn't a serious work from the statistical point of view (for instance: sample size), or the system is optimized, I should say over-optimized. My experience in testing systems, are the fewer filters you choose and the closer you get to the 50% level (presupposition >50%), the better your chance this system will work in the future.

I read the 1-95 issue and got a hit reading the article by Randy Stuckey (Major Problems with Tick-Data) because the vital point in any testing is how reliable the data is. How has Randy discovered that the data is defective, because by my information, Tick-Data has no bad name.

My question to you Dave, or Randy: Are there other services that provide tick-data, say 5-minute data of S&P? If anyone can help me, write in.

Second question: I am interested in the following books, mentioned in several CTCN issues:

Dr. Elder - Trading for a Living; Jack D. Schwager - Market Wizards and New Market Wizards (soft cover issues). I am interested in the book Dave Reiter mentioned in his article (12/94 issue) about casino gambling. Perhaps you can get the title and author and tell me where can I order these books?

Editor's Note: See Pg.13 Editor Reviews for book sources.


Don't Let CTCN Degrade with Negativism & Constant Vendor
Bashing & Arguing Like A Similar Competing Newsletter - Joe Ross

I admire what you are doing in CTCN. You must be very careful not to allow it to become like a very similar competing newsletter. It is one of the most disgusting rags I have ever had the misfortune to read. Their membership has a lot of pitiful saps hungry to learn from the phony wolves who write from time to time. Mostly, these phonies tear each other apart, call each other names, and never allow the readers to know anything of value. It has become a piece for the benefit of a few "famous" (or should I say "infamous") names to promote themselves and the crapola they are pushing.

When I first read that similar competing newsletter, I wrote a few articles for the benefit of the members. My articles were positive and upbeat. I called no one names, insulted no one, and tried to present useful and helpful essays. I soon realized that I was a voice crying out in the wilderness. Rather than expose myself to possible attacks from some of the "big" names who write there, I quietly quit reading and writing anything for it.

When I received CTCN, I was appalled to see some of the same fakes and phonies writing here. Have any of these guys ever really traded? Have any of them anything of value to teach? Are any of them even willing to show others how to trade, or are they just there for the sake of publicity'?

Dave, I am very particular about the company I keep. I will not get involved in writing for a publication where the contributors argue, insult, or carp at each other.

Dave, if you are going to continue to allow articles like a certain negative article in Vol. 2 No. 12, then please cancel my subscription and send me a refund. This article, in which this vendor does his usual howling, bitching and moaning, is precisely why the similar competing newsletter I mentioned before has never grown. I don't want to read about anyone's personal arguments with someone else. If I want this kind of sensationalism and garbage, I can pickup "Star" at the checkout counter of the supermarket.

On the other hand, please continue to feature articles by the people most of us have never head of. They are genuine and heartfelt and a real joy to read. One person trying to help another - great! Commodity Traders Club News should be strictly for the little guy. That's its appeal. You should exclude anyone who has something to sell. Therefore, I have to exclude myself from writing any articles and signing them with my own name. If I do write, I will send it under an assumed name. You will never know from whence it came, or that it was from me. That way, I will not be promoting myself or anything I sell. It will simply be one trader talking to other traders via CTCN. I tried that with the competing newsletter, but the Editor will not publish anything written by a nonmember. This, much to the deprivation of his membership.

Dave, I have been an active trader for 38 years. I've seen it all. There is nothing left for me to learn, but I'm learning always. Please do not allow commercialism to get into your publication. If the big names want to write for it, make them do so under an alias. Frankly, you don't need the big names - including me. There were some wonderful articles by "nobodies." I read the whole notebook (back issues). Those nobodies are the real somebodies of trading. Without them, we would all be a lot worse off.

I'm not trying to dictate your editorial policy, but you have a chance to break new ground with your publication. It has the potential of being a great benefit to those who read it, and can be a refreshing relief from the kind of garbage usually made available to traders.


Opinion on the Kent Calhoun/Futures Truth Controversy - Al Dougherty

As a new subscriber, I was struck by the vitriolic nature of the Kent Calhoun letter about John Hill and Futures Truth (12-94 CTCN issue).

I've used Futures Truth on occasion for detailed examination of systems that I might buy and have always found their materials to be very helpful. Vendor materials are always full of hype. Unless you have the means to do detailed, trade-by-trade testing, you'll never know whether you can withstand the inevitable drawdowns of any mechanical system without help from an outfit like Futures Truth.

Based on my own experience, I'd never take the word of the vendor, or even the word of his references, his happy customers to whom he refers you, about the numbers concerning a system. If they'll give a full refund after you've traded a system for a period, whether profitable or not, that's another thing. Most won't. Guess why!

So, back to Futures Truth. It's my impression that it's being systematically undermined. Maybe it will be destroyed as a useful service, by vendor attacks on its methods or publication of the results of the performance of the systems it tests. You can well understand vendor discomfort, if you've ever bought and traded most of the heavily hyped systems out there. God forbid, that we'd have an independent Consumers Report for commodity trading systems!

I'd like to know more about the flap between Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Hill. I propose that both sides release all of their correspondence with each other for publication by both CTCN and Club 3000. With a release from legal liability for such publication or disclosure from each party. If this is not satisfactory, I call on Mr. Calhoun to publish all of his correspondence with Mr. Hill in CTCN.

I'd also like to know if either side has threatened legal action, especially Mr. Calhoun. I suspect the threat of legal action and the attendant costs of lawyers, discovery, etc., is what's really behind the demise of Futures Truth. We need more, and hopefully more complete information on this dispute.

Editor's Note: I do not believe Futures Truth has in fact demised, as mentioned by Al in his interesting article. However, they have announced to no longer sell their own Universal and S&P Daytrade systems due to a possible conflict of interest situation. Futures Truth is to be commended for their action in deciding to no longer sell their own systems, even though it means a loss of revenue. I also spoke to John Hill who said "we do not plan to quit." John also prefers not to air this dispute by releasing correspondence for publication.


Build a Fortune by Using Volume, Open Interest, Commitment of Traders Data & Probabilities - Michel Arimoto, CTA

I would like to see all members of CTCN make money. How can we do it?

Unless you are a God, you may find that the market is not always predictable. To make money, you must try to keep the odds in your favor. To begin with, make sure that you program or remember the seasonal moves as an overall direction. You should always go with the direction of seasonal moves after carefully combining data from at least, two seasonal chart service companies.

1. Program the Open Interest daily. The Open Interest will peak right at price top or price bottom.

2. Watch the large speculators' moves in the Commitment of Traders Report. This is inside information, and make sure that you note the direction of the money: is it going South or North?

3. Watch the Volumes. The volume will tell everything. If the price is up, but the volume is down, watch out for the reaction. If you watch only the numbers, or believe in the day-trading systems, you could be getting killed many times. Unless you know for sure that you are trying to find out "peoples' reaction to news" or "mass psychology" through the volumes, make sure you know that there are equal number of buyers and sellers. It is up to you to find out which side is the right group.

More on this subject, please read my book which is advertised in this issue.

4. The entry point can be chosen using any software, as long as the condition in items 1 through 5 are met. But, use a bar chart which is at least one hour long or more, and go with the direction of the weekly chart. Never forget the Gunning the Stops Trick ( explained in detail in Appendix of my book).

Editor's Note: In case you're wondering what "Gunning For Stops" means, there was a detailed article in the first issue of CTCN, Vol. 1, No. 1, titled "Gunning Plays Can Claim Victims in the Futures Pits." Note: If you do not have all our knowledge packed back-issues, you can get all 21 back-issues at the special low price of $77.00, plus $3 Shpg within USA/Canada, overseas add $15 for Shpg.

Basically, the trick is to buy below the Support and sell short above the Resistance (Just Do It) because "they" always come after the stops to generate commissions.

This is a "probability game" and make sure that you know it. The probability of the price to be lower during the harvest time is much higher as the demand for copper for housing is higher in March year after year (construction picks up after winter).

However, if the price advance from 1,2,3,4,5,6, up to 7, the probability of going up to 8 or coming down to 6 is 50/50, unless you pay very close attention to the Items 1 through 5, and try to keep the odds in your favor!

As stated in my book, the trader should not forget the importance of the Last Trading Day, the First Notice Day, important Government Report days, etc., because on these days or the next day, the price tops or bottoms, or moves in one direction all day long, etc.

Make sure that you know that a PC is a dumb animal (it cannot think), and only you can think or judge and you must combine Items I through 5 to make money. To encourage members, I have enclosed my latest monthly statement from the brokerage which showed over 400% return. Editor's Note: Dec 94 Broker Statement was enclosed.


Traits of a Winning Trader - Gary Smith

The select few winning traders that I've encountered the past 29-years all shared this trading characteristic. Sadly though, the public has been manipulated into erroneously believing that tops and bottoms can somehow be miraculously picked. Gann, Elliott Wave, Astrology, cycles, choose your poison. Everyday your mailbox is inundated with outrageous hypothetical claims from vendors on how to pick tops and bottoms with pinpoint accuracy.

Most traders spend a lifetime seeking a totally mechanical system, so they won't have to think. If not using their brains in trading is their goal, then they would probably be better off working as extras in some of those Night of the Living Dead zombie movies. In a July 1990 article in Futures Magazine, Jack Schwager said that of the 17 traders profiled in his book, Market Wizards, only two were system-based. I note that both of those 800 mechanical wizards have had some disastrous trading years since being profiled. You should be aware of estimates that 80% of the commodity fund advisors are 800 mechanical in their trading. Over the past 10-years, the commodity funds managed by these advisors have averaged a paltry return between 6% and 7% per annum. Much of that return however wasn't from trading profits, but from interest income from T-bills. This historic under performance by the funds is in itself an indictment against using a totally 800 mechanical approach.

Kudos also to Dave Reiter on his insightful comments in the last issue of CTCN. This fellow has my utmost respect, since he is willing to backup his talk with his trading statements for the past three years. Dave was right on in taking to task those who rush out to purchase the hottest new systems and trading products. As Dave relates, these types always will be disappointed in finding the vendor's claims aren't as advertised, and then off they go in search of the next promised Holy Grail.

Before concluding, let me address Harold Fowler's article regarding the Precision Day Trading Method. Harold wrote an exemplary letter and should be complimented. The purpose of CTCN is well served when members such as Mr. Fowler come forward with their experiences. Harold is probably kicking himself though for being blinded by greed. He could have saved himself a lot of grief by demanding that either the vendor prove his rhetoric by means of real-time trading statements, or by allowing Futures Truth to independently test his creation.


Excerpt from Perry Kaufman's book "The New Commodity Trading Systems and Methods" & Keltner Channel Definition - submitted by Philip Toh

The 10-Day Moving Average Rule - The most basic application of a moving-average system was proposed by Keltner in his 1960 publication, How to Make Money in Commodities (The Keltner Statistical Service). Of three mechanical systems presented by Keltner, his choice of a moving average was based on performance and experience.

The system itself is quite simple: a 10-day moving average based on the average of the daily high, low and closing prices, with a band on each side formed from the 10-day moving average of the high-low range. A buy signal occurs on penetration of the upper band and a sell signal when the lower band is broken: positions are always reversed.

The 10-day moving-average rule is basic, but it does account for the fundamental volatility principle and serves as an example of the actual use of moving averages. Keltner expresses his preference for this particular technique because of its identification of minor rather than medium or long-term trends, and there are some performance figures that substantiate his conclusion.

As an experienced trader, he prefers the speed of the 10-day moving average, which follows the market prices with more reasonable risk than slower methods. A side benefit to the selection is that the usual division required by a moving-average calculation can be substituted by a simple shift of the decimal place; who knows how much impact that convenience had on Keltner's choice?

Keltner's Minor-Trend Rule - One of the classic trading systems is the Minor-Trend Rule published by Keltner in his book How to Make Money in Commodities (The Keltner Statistical Service). It is still followed closely by a great part of the agricultural community and should be understood for its potential impact on markets.

Keltner defines an upward trend by the failure to make new lows (comparing today's low with the prior day) and a downtrend by the absence of new highs. This notion is consistent with chart interpretation of trendlines by measuring upward moves along the bottom and downward moves along the tops.

The Minor-Trend Rule is a plan for using the daily trend as a trading guide. The rule states that the minor trend turns up when the daily trend sells above its most recent high; the minor trend stays up until the daily trend sells below its most recent low, when it is considered to have turned down. In order to trade using the Minor-Trend Rule, buy when the minor trend turns up and sell when the minor trend turns down; always reverse the position.

The Minor-Trend Rule is a simple short-term trading tool, buying on new highs and selling on new lows. It is a breakout method in the style of "swing" trading and can be used as a "leading indicator" of the major trend.

It requires frequent trading in most markets, with risk varying according to the volatility of the commodity, Keltner's Minor-Trend Rule is the basis for a number of current technical systems that vary the time period over which prior highs and lows are established and consequently increase the interval between trades and the risk of each trade. An advantage of the Keltner approach is that it imposes no arbitrary restrictions on the analysis of prices (e.g., breakouts of 100 points).


All Trading Products Should Qualify For Inclusion in CTCN - Ron Gruen

This may be a minority view, but I think your newsletter is doing a disservice by not publishing articles concerning experiences Swing Catcher owners have. I don't see this issue as a conflict of interest (nor does Bruce Babcock, publisher of CTCR & sells trading systems). When I receive his newsletter, it's accompanied by literature concerning his systems for sale.

Articles (about your own products) published in moderation and without censoring the content because of bias of the editor, may serve a need by current owners of the system for a useful interchange of ideas, comments, problems and solutions.

There is no significant conflict of interest when a newsletter is permitted to carry articles, good, bad or indifferent about products, including the publisher's own system. Through the exchange of ideas in an open forum, they may be of benefit to a portion of members. I hope you give your policy some serious thought. I for one, believe it is misconceived.

Editor's Note: I have received a number of letters and phone calls about this issue. Almost all the feedback was in favor of Ron's viewpoint on this matter. In fact, much of the feedback echoed what Ron Gruen had to say almost exactly! Especially about SC being referred to by its users only (never the developer),and covered moderately (both positive and possibly negative viewpoints), and in proportion to other miscellaneous trading systems and products that are mentioned in CTCN.

Starting with this issue (for example, see Harriet Hodges' article ) you may occasionally (but not often) see articles referring to Swing Catcher. Normally, as part of an article on a more general subject, so non-owners of the software will also find the articles informative or interesting. In addition, you should know that the vast majority of CTCN Members are not SC owners. In fact, only about 15% are owners (which is a comparatively small percentage).


A 20-Minute Time Period Price Difference Resulted in My
Losing $2,300 - Bob Meaders

We all know that brokers confirm a fill by phone followed by a printed confirmation in two or three days, depending on postal service. Please note the following experience: I sold T-Bonds. The fill was confirmed close to the real-time quotation by phone. 14 days later, I received confirmation at a price sufficiently below the original confirmation to equal $2,300 loss. Unfortunately, I had no reason to carefully check the phone fill price, but I believe it was 20 to 25 minutes after the phone fill, before the price hit that contained in the printed confirmation.

I wrote the CEO of Alaron (broker was Alaron) about this matter. He did not acknowledge my letter. I'm not suggesting that one should trade or not trade with Alaron. I'm simply giving my experience.


Trading Insight - Harriet Hodges

I've settled down into a fairly comfortable routine with the Swing Catcher System. I made $2,300 last week, and I'm reading a good book on stops (J. R. Maxwell, Commodity Futures Trading with Stops) which may help me keep a bit of that.

Its been exciting learning this stuff. I came out even for the months of active trading I did in 1994, which I think was pretty good for a beginner. The mistakes I made were relatively minor, thanks to good advice from you and books. Now I'm looking forward to some long-term profits from my carefully worked out six-year plan. This plan calls for doubling, after taxes, my $15,000 stake by the end of the year. That's an average monthly profit of $1,765. Knowing it's much harder to make money with a small start than a large.

I 'm resolved to be cautious and patient until that $30,000 mark. That is, one contract at a time, negative correlations in the markets chosen, a limit of 4-markets at a time, all signals taken (if possible).

My Trend Index program works well. It has small peculiarities that I wish a programmer could iron out. I'd wish for a flexible "Report" capacity, but the quality of the information seems excellent. I'd love to see a good editor (and indexer) clean up copy, organize and present the manual better. I won't say too much about that because I should offer to do it (an ex-editor and indexer), I don't have time. All in all, I think I am very lucky indeed to have stumbled on you and Trend Index. I have avoided the horrible experiences others write about. My computer system (a bottom-of-the line 386 with a math co-processor, black-and white monitor, cheap modem) with Commodity Systems, Inc., data works well. My brokerage firm, Jack White, is excellent--although extremely expensive. Trend Index delivers about the mix of wins and losses it promises.

A beginner should start with a reliable system. It should be understandable by an average intelligence without great pain. A mechanical system, I think is an absolute must. Do exactly what it says (harder than you'd think, given the tendency of the mind to second-guess) until you've traded enough to know where you may begin to veer off. Do your homework.

Know at all times what each trade stands to lose and what the exact level of your account is. Pick markets of average volatility, good volume, average or modest margin requirements. (Forget for the moment the S&P 500, orange juice & lumber).

Start with a brokerage firm that gives no advice, but answers calls within 10 seconds night and day, is scrupulous in calling back with fills, gives good fills. (Don't be unreasonable here) After you read them your order, it should be their standard policy to repeat it in brokerese. They should make certain whether you intend a day order or an open, good-till-cancelled one.

They should know and tell you what markets accept a one-cancels-the-other pairing of stop and limit orders. They should question you if you've done something silly, such as placing a sell stop on a short position or a limit order to sell that's below where the market is at the moment. Then plunge right in, reminding yourself that you have to log four losses for that first win. That's the rule.

A question: Why is Robert F. Wiest's - You Can't Lose Trading Commodities and scale trading never mentioned by subscribers? It would seem that a systematic buying at preset levels as the price of, say, cotton drops, and a systematic selling when a contract's price rises 10 points would (as Wiest claims) over the months and years give back a steady 20-40 per cent profit.

Is there some fatal flaw here? Or is it just that none of us want to settle for steady 20-40% profits? If someone handed you $100,000 and you knew you only needed $35-40,000 a year to live on (we're farmers; that's a lot to me), would scale trading indeed be a safe place to put that money? (I'm assuming the usual daily attention any commodity account requires).


Opinion on Scale Trader Book (You Can't Lose Trading Commodities) - David Stone

In my opinion, the Scale Trader method involves incredible risk and very deep pockets. If I remember correctly, it involved only buying long (never selling short) a commodity when you perceived it to be at historical low levels. You would then hold it forever (if necessary) until it went up in price.

In other words, say you bought long (an old trade of some years ago) Sugar at say 6 cents because you thought it couldn't go much lower. Little did you realize at the time that it was going to drop below 3 cents. Subsequently, Scale Trading said you had to hold it regardless of how low it went or how long it took, until you had profits.

As a result, you may have held that Sugar trade perhaps several years, until it finally reversed and you had profits. In the meantime, you suffered a huge paper loss or drawdown per contract for that entire period. Sitting thru such a large drawdown for such a long time requires nerves of steel and tremendous discipline, not to mention deep pockets!

I can show you even more extreme examples where the drawdown was even more (i.e., over $30,000 per contract), and it required staying with the trade for very long time periods before it was profitable. At the same time, you had a large debit balance the entire time (perhaps months or years)!

As you can see, Robert Wiest's Scale Trading technique requires nerves of steel and patience of a Saint and very deep pockets. However, it's probably true that (as the book name states) You Can't Lose Trading Commodities. However, using the Scale Trader method to win (eventually) is certainly a hard and difficult road to say the least.

Editor's Note: Perhaps this contribution answers Harriet Hodges' question as to why she doesn't read much about the successful use of the method outlined in the heavily advertised book by Robert Wiest. It seems to me that very few traders would (or could) successfully use this methodology.


Spreading Basics - The Mechanics of Profitable
Spread Trading - Bob McGovern

The concept of commodity futures spread trading appears simple. The trader enters a long position on one side of the spread, while simultaneously entering a short position on the other side or "leg" of the spread. The long and short sides can be in the same commodity, or they can be in two or occasionally three different commodities.

If the spread consists of commodity futures contracts of different months in the same commodity, it is called an intracommodity spread. An example would be Long December Wheat vs. Short July Wheat. If the long and short legs of a spread are in different commodity futures contracts, the spread is an intercommodity spread. Example: Long March Soybeans vs. Short March Wheat.

Everyone does fine up to this point. It is only when the words, "bull spread, bear spread, inter-crop, crush, reverse crush, carrying charge spreads and crack spread" are mentioned, when some confusion arises. Understanding these terms, besides the unique verbal protocol required to place spread orders, has kept many confident open position traders away from spreading.

Comprehending the activity on the floor once the spread order is entered is a definite requirement for the trader; for what he might consider a "bad fill " may in reality, have been a very good execution.

Consider a Long July Corn/Short July Wheat spread, entered "at the Market." The trader's screen may show a difference of $1.04 per bushel between the two commodities, and he may expect that difference to be his spread differential. However, the trader must understand that the trade has to be executed in two different trading pits, so the physical aspects of the trade execution must be realized.

It is possible that the actual spread trade could be made at $1.04, or even greater, but the trader can't assume that. The logistics of the trade are much simpler on intracommodity spreads, as they are made in the same pit.

The mechanics of the spread itself should be studied. To establish order in spreading, the "buy" or long position is always mentioned first, then the "sell" or short side of the spread is mentioned last. This protocol should be used when placing orders. Then, if the spread order is a limit order, the trader states the premium on the "buy" or "sell" side. An example: "I wish to place a spread order as follows, buy 3 April Live Hogs and Sell 3 October Live Hogs, plus 300 points (or $3.00) to the sell side." (What I am saying is that I want this spread, but October must be sold at least 300 points over the April, which I am buying).

So, let's assume this spread has filled, with the October Live Hogs sold at $42.60 per hundred, and the April Live Hogs bought at $39.60 per hundred. I didn't care what the individual prices were; October could have been sold at $90.00 per hundred, just as long as the differential between that contract and the April contract was $3. If the October were at 90, then the April would have been at 87.

Now, what next? My reasoning for making the trade was that I felt the difference between the two contracts was too great, and a seasonal tendency to narrow existed. Therefore, I want to see that difference narrow. I don't have to figure how much my short October is making or losing, or calculate how much the long April contract is making or losing. All I have to check is the difference in price between the two contracts. If it's less than 300 points, I have a profit; if it's more than 300 points, I'm losing.

Let's assume the spread has narrowed to 200 points, October over April. I decide to take the profit, which is 100 points ($400) per spread, before commissions. I don't want to enter a market order, so I place the following: "On a spread, Buy 3 October Live Hogs (I am covering my short) and Sell 3 April Live Hogs (I am closing out my long); plus 200 to the Buy side." Say I "luck out" and get a better fill. Would it be a differential less than 200 points, or more?

The Long April /Short October Live Hog spread happened to be a "bull spread," which meant that the nearby month was expected to be the stronger price performer than the October. The spread was also an intracommodity spread; both sides of the spread were Live Hogs. The spread was also a "seasonal" spread. I'll cover more on Seasonals, carrying charge spreads, crush spreads, etc., at a later date.

Spreads normally have less margin requirements than open positions, and in the Live Hog spread above, current initial margin requirement is $164 per spread. The initial margin requirement for an open position either long or short is presently $540.

Another point to consider in spreading, besides lower margin, is the multiplicity of ways a profit can be made in a spread, as opposed to an open position trade. Here are some factors to consider:

1. There is only one way to profit on an open long position; it must go up in price. There is only one way to profit from an open short position; it must go down.

2. To profit on a spread position, the long side can go up, while the short side stays the same; the short side can go down while the long side stays the same; the long side can go up and the short side can go down (most ideal); the long side can go up more than the short side is going up; the short side can go down more than the long side is going down.

Let me reiterate again; I don't care where the individual prices are, I only care about the relationship between the two.

Here's another spread situation with a different twist: Buy July Coffee and Sell March Coffee, plus 200 points to the Buy side. Say the order fills with the July Coffee bought at $1.7000 per pound and the March Coffee sold at $1.6800 per pound. Is this a bull spread or a bear spread? Do we want the spread to narrow or widen to make a profit? How would we word an order to close this spread out?

Any other reasons for entering spreads? Well, for the most part, there are certain seasonal factors which ultimately have influence over commodities. Most spreads are based on these age-old seasonal influences. Examples include harvest pressure in June-July on Wheat; in Oct-Nov on Soybeans; and Corn harvests in early fall. All these influences set up new-crop/old-crop spread situations; intercommodity spreads such as Wheat/Corn, etc.

I'll cover more aspects of spreading in a future letter (no pun intended). To me, they have been a fascinating avenue for trading?

(Bob McGovern is the author of "Commodities Futures Spreads" a biweekly newsletter. He is also CEO of R. B. McGovern & Associates, Member NA, NASD, MSRB, SIPC, and is a Registered NA Introducing Broker, CPO, and CTA).

Editors Note: I have dealt with Bob and he is extremely knowledgeable, experienced and helpful.


Exit Strategy - A Possible Improvement to Welles Wilder's
Parabolic Stop - Adam White

I have an idea for an exit strategy. At this point, it is only an idea because I cannot test it on the software I presently have. The exit is a variation on Wilder's parabolic exit.

The traditional parabolic exit initiates a stop X percent of price away from the market upon the entry. Then each price bar the stop takes an N percent step towards price. Eventually the stop and price hit, triggering the exit. The thinking is twofold: Trends that are moving in the desired direction are allowed to run, and the longer a trend endures the more sensitive the exit becomes, thereby allowing less equity to be surrendered at the position's end.

The variation I have in mind is to make 'N', the step, a function of price volatility. In fast-moving markets the parabolic would move quickly towards price, in slow-moving markets it would progress slowly. In this way, fast-moving moves against a position will trigger exits sooner than they would when N is a constant. Additionally, since slow-moving markets imply less risk, allowing a trend a greater opportunity to develop when the market is slow does less relative damage to the risk/reward outlook.

The necessary calculation for the variable 'N' could be quite simple. As usual, start the variable parabolic X percent away from price at the entry (X itself could also be a function of volatility, but that's another story). Then, move the stop towards price an amount equal to the absolute value of the last close to close price move. In fast markets, the absolute value of the last close to close change will generally be great, and in slow markets it will be less. As before, the stop does not make net progress towards price when the market moves in the desired direction. However, since all trends do carry adverse movement, the stop and price will eventually meet.

Another interesting upshot of this strategy is that X, the original distance between the stop and the market, is the amount of risk the position can absorb during its duration. Thus, the amount of adverse movement the position represents is always known; what is unknown is the amount of time it will take for the adverse movement to accumulate.

Those interested in this line of thinking and possessing the necessary software is encouraged to do some research and share their results with fellow CTCN readers.


Why I Like Lind-Waldock - J.S.M.

I am writing to express my approval and appreciation of Lind-Waldock & Co., the Chicago-based discount futures broker. I have traded commodities for 40 years. In the first 30 years, I dealt through various major brokerage firms, all of which handled both stocks and commodities. About 10 years ago, I opened an account with Lind-Waldock. I now do all my futures trading through them. Here are some reasons I like them:

» They specialize in futures, and thus can do a better job, than a full-service firm that tries to do "everything." Quotes are available around the clock.

» Orders can be placed 24-hours a day. I like to do my analysis in the evening, usually finishing by midnight. I can then call on their toll-free line and place orders for the next day. This way I don't have to get up super-early (west coast time, you know) and place orders for the opening or whatever.

» They are very accurate in carrying out all of their functions. Not only are the fills good, but all of their paperwork is of high quality. In the past 10-years, only a couple of procedural mistakes have occurred (wrong commissions applied to day trades, for example), and these were corrected by them even before I could complain.

» I like dealing with people I don't know. This avoids the emotion, which comes from dealing with a broker you know, who therefore feels (as most of them seem to) that he must comment on everything you do - agreeing or disagreeing with your intended position, praising or sympathizing with the outcome, and just generally laying on the TLC. I don't need or want any of that. I try my best to keep emotion out of my trading, and sometimes succeed.

» I like trading with a firm that is financially solid. I could get lower commissions elsewhere, but dealing with a well-managed and efficient organization is worth the difference to me. Also, I don't trade a lot. The difference in commission rates would probably mean more to someone who trades frequently.

These are good reasons for me. What do you think? I have no connection with Lind-Waldock other than as a customer. My thanks to all Club News contributors. After 40 years of trading, I still have lots to learn.


The Adviser's Dilemma - Traders Want Easy Answers
John Piper from England

I have very much enjoyed the last few issues of CTCN. I thought it might interest your readers if I set out a dilemma I face in my business always.

First let me say who I am. I write and publish the leading technical newsletter in the UK "The Technical Trader" but my main endeavor is as a trader. Last year I made 18.75% on my account, which is acceptable in that I aim to make a consistent return of 20% pa. However, as I'm only trading around BP20,000, it's easy to see that most of my income comes from my newsletter business.

It is one of my dilemmas that I realize to reach my full potential as a trader, I will need to distance myself from the newsletter business. However, this is not the dilemma about which I write. This dilemma is far more intractable. The problem is that novice traders do not really know what they want. I use the word novice, but this can be applied for some years into a trader's life.

There have been many articles in CTCN agreeing that the key to success lies within ourselves, but the novice often does not want to know this. What he/she wants is an easy answer (don't we all - but as we progress we realize that - it doesn't exist outside of ourselves). When someone appears to offer such an answer, they will jump at it. If instead, I try and did some marketing setting out the true picture, do you think I would get much response? Probably not, especially not in competition with some US marketing I have seen.

But the novice really needs help. I set up my service to provide that help. I consider it very important to reach these people, not only for the benefit of my business. I am not a marketing man. I do run a one-man business, so I have to deal with this aspect also. I'm forced to offer something which the novice thinks he wants, whereas he actually needs something different. I then try and give him what he needs in the service I provide. Only my readers can judge whether I succeed. The response I get suggests I do meet with some success.

This dilemma then continues when I offer other services, be they seminars, systems, hotlines, etc. My criteria are very simple. I will only offer something to my clients if I find it useful in the first place. I cannot do much more than that. I have no way of knowing the stage of development of all my clients. I cannot judge how useful such things will be to them. They may buy it for all the wrong reasons, even if I warn them against doing so (which I try to do) and then possibly blame me if it doesn't do what they want - i.e., make it easy.

I suppose ultimately, I see myself as a guide along the way. If I can provide a few signposts and help traders get over some problems they encounter, then I have succeeded. The traders I don't help, I can do little about, but at least I try. The point I am trying to make, is that when an adviser wants to do his best for clients, it's sometimes difficult to do this in practice because few traders actually know what they need. They may think they do, but because of the true skills required, they are often mistaken.

As an illustration, I recently designed a trading system which works well on the UK FTSE Futures. I didn't want to sell the system to a large number of traders and decided to release it to just six individuals. The reason for this is that the future development of the system would benefit from having more minds than just mine working on it.

I did this openly advising them of the full facts. I now believe that one or two of these traders bought the system thinking it was the Holy Grail (which, of course, it's not) and that they are unlikely to actually make it work for them. This is unfortunate, because I sold this on the basis that I would share their future trading success (although there was a down payment also). The system also works well on the S&P Futures and I am now pondering how I should achieve my aims in the US. Any ideas?


Tidbits on Financial Astrology -Carol Murphy

For Gann Lovers - Many years ago, I took a course on technical analysis. One afternoon after the course, we started chatting with the instructor about Gann. He was so intrigued with Gann that he hired someone to do an out-of-body experience, so he could meet Gann. He then told me he met Gann and he answered all his questions. In Jan. 1987, I saw a chart of his projection for the Dow for 1987 - guess what - there was a big drop in October. Now you all know how to find the answers.


Duplicate Charts - Don McCullough

At times I get an awful lot of confusing trendlines on my charts. I can delete them, or even some of them, but often refuse to do so for fear I might forget to include some important ones when I redraw them.

I do at times delete all of them or some of them, but have discovered another alternative. I make a new directory in my MetaStock program and call it Dupe. Then I copy this chart to this Dupe directory without any trendlines, moving averages or indicators of any kind. This allows me to retain the original, and sometimes very important trendlines, etc. and yet be able to see the duplicated chart from a fresh viewpoint. You'd be surprised how helpful this can be at times.

The importance of each of the trendlines changes over time and this helps one to concentrate on the newer, often more important trendlines. A word of caution. Sometimes the old trendlines can be very important. What trendline to keep and what one to delete will be determined by the quantity and quality of your market experience.

Here's a "saying" I have on the wall by my computer and think you might enjoy:

Persistence - Calvin Coolidge - said "Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unrewarded talent. Education alone will not: The world is full of educated failures. Persistence alone is omnipotent."

Editor's Note: By coincidence, I have a plaque with this 'saying' hanging on my office wall.


Trading Book Recommendations - Robert Miner

I'm a recent subscriber and have recently reviewed all the back-issues. Your service is a welcome addition to the reference material available.

As all traders are aware, there seems to be an overwhelming number of books released each year for traders and investors. Unfortunately, the quality of the material presented seems to deteriorate each year. Most financial publishers must have cut back on their staff. I find that almost all trading and investing books are desperately in need of an editor and proofreader. I read fewer trading books each year, as I find most have not been worth the time.

However, in the past year, I was fortunate to read two books which I consider outstanding and required reading for every trader. A Short History of Financial Euphoria by John Kenneth Galbraith (Whittle Books, 1990). This is a small, inexpensive paperback that is an excellent discourse on crowd behavior in financial markets. It should be available or easy to order from your local bookstore. What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Jim Paul (1994, Infrared Press). This book is an easy and entertaining read, yet cuts to the very heart of the primary reasons why traders and investors are usually unsuccessful and includes practical solutions to overcome the most common problems. I would put this book far above any other book on the "psychology" of trading. It should be a best seller, but probably won't be because of the title.


Optimizable Parameters Should Be As Few As Possible - Ashif Jumma

Optimization of a trading system is a logic which generates a lot of controversy. Some traders go crazy over optimizing. Some do not want to go anywhere they hear it. A lot of vendors love it, because it can generate eye popping hypothetical profits which has no connection to real-time trading.

I prefer a system to work without optimization. But if I have to do it, I would make sure that the optimization is robust in the following manner:

1. Make sure the sample size of data is large enough to represent real-time market conditions - bull, bear and sideways markets.

2. The look-back period should be as large as possible for the same reasons.

3. The testing of optimizable parameters should be on out of sample data using walk-forward analysis or another method.

4. The Central Limit Theorem says that for a sample to assume the characteristics of the population, the size of sample should be large. The minimum sample size should be around 30. But since an uptrend or downtrend can last for say 50 periods, I would have a minimum sample size of 100 periods making sure that the full market cycle is there (uptrend, downtrend and congestion).

5. The optimizable parameters should be as few as possible and tested in a wide variety of markets.

Curve-fitting is like rolling a fair dice with 1/6 probability of getting any number from 1 to 6, rolling it 5 times, getting #6, 4 out of 5 times (80%) of time.

A lot of traders fall in the trap of curve-fitting without being aware of it. So when designing a system, it is important to keep your guard up as far as curve-fitting is concerned.


1995 Trading Contest: Robert Miner

Each year, Robbins Trading Company sponsors a year long trading contest for futures traders. This is a real money contest, not one of the silly hypothetical contests that are unrelated to real trading. Anyone can enter. The contest lasts for the calendar year. A minimum account size of $10,000 is required, plus a $1,000 entry fee. All of the entry fees are divided between the top three winners in each division. Last year the three divisions were professional, non-professional and system trading. I believe they are going to have a day-trading division this year. Why am I giving the Robbins trading contest a plug? They haven't requested it. I have no connections to them, other than as a customer. I'm going to enter the contest again this year and would like to see lots of contestants. The more entries, the more prize money in the pot to win. I intend to win again.

It's a mystery to me why all of the self proclaimed trading geniuses, who are so prolific with their advice in various trading publications, newsletters and advisory services don't enter the contest. Since this is the only real money, year long trading contest available, you would think it would be easy money for these folks. I entered the contest in 1993 and won first place with a 118% return on account. The prize money was a substantial bonus, as the first place winner receives half of all entry fees in each division, the balance divided 30%/20% to the second and third place.

In my opinion, Robbins provides a great service by sponsoring this contest each year. This contest provides a completely unbiased, level playing field for traders who want public recognition of their trading skills or anyone who wants to take a shot at the prize money.

Why aren't the names of the top three winners of the Robbins contest each year the same names we see so often in trading publications, as system developers, newsletter advisors, etc. who keep telling us how smart they are? Am I the only one whose business is trading education and advisory, who actually trades?

Come on guys and gals. Put up or shut up. Don't tell us how much you know, show us. For those who are interested in the 1995 Robbins Trading Company World Cup Championship of Futures Trading, contact Rita Karpel, 1-800-453-4444. As I mentioned above, I have no business or financial relationship or interest with Robbins Trading Company. There is a risk of loss in futures trading.


Psychology Is More Important Than Mechanics/Technicals - Daniel North

I believe these ideas could possibly help traders in their pursuit of more focused and hopefully more successful trading or speculating.

The points are in outline form, and they address a very important issue I encounter when I trade, having a good start. I believe the psychological portion of trading is more important than the mechanical or technical side of trading. If you examine your mental and psychological state first, you should find solutions to your trading problems. Following points are for Making the Perfect Start:

1. Know exactly what you want
2. Enjoy the project/journey
3. Be confident in your inner forces
4. Concentrate on one area at a time
5. Collect all available information
6. Dismiss wasteful and negative attitudes
7. Cease pointless actions
8. Score a series of small successes/victories
9. Make the most of every opportunity
10. Harmonize with the natural laws of success


Opinion on Dial Data & Fact CSI Is Price Competitive & Opinion on Mendelsohn's Neural Net Software - Al Dougherty

I use Dial Data for end-of-day data for about two years. I'm satisfied with the quality of the data; it has improved since the purchase of Warner. My only complaint is that S&P futures are based on Globex, so often gaps that exist in day only trading get closed. I've asked them to offer day only service as an alternative and they seem receptive. Note Dial Data used to be the least expensive vendor, now others (CSI seems to be very price competitive as long as you can avoid long distance charges).

I purchased Mendelsohn's T-Bond system about two years ago and used it for about 4 to 5 months. I spoke with other users, a few pleased and several who felt ripped off. The hype and sales pressure is intense. Once you're on their list, they try to sell you the moon, cheese and all. I could never see the advantage of the neural net over what I got through conventional analysis, even though I believe John Murphy's intermarket analysis is very sound.

Since it's a black box, you can't tinker with it. Since I used it, they have come out with an upgrade, I suspect "reoptimized" version. If the system was disclosed, I might be willing to give it a chance. Also, I'd like to see a real track record, with brokerage receipts, from someone who has successfully traded it. Based on my experience, I'm suspicious of the Mendelsohn systems and could not recommend them to anyone.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone using Vilar Kelly's Daycare system, Chuck Hughes' Deliverance or Gary Smith's system for day-trading the S&P futures. Lets also hear from anyone who has updated the testing on Hughes' system or has modified Smith's system successfully.

Editor's Note: We have an excellent and very detailed Special Report available to CTCN Members written by member B. Radke on Neural Nets.


Opinion on Recurrence System - G.M. Sun

If Members of CTCN need further information about Recurrence IV Trading System, please call me at 1-516-484-9405. I am very glad to answer your questions about this "Wipe-You-Out-System." I just want to alert the public about this so-called "make you a ton of money" system.


Why Was Hillary Allowed to Trade Like That? - H. L. Huber

I would like to call attention to an article that appeared in the 2-20-95 issue of National Review, p.23. This article is the most detailed, about the inconsistencies in Hillary's cattle trades. The article elaborates on a 10-part checklist used as a guideline to determine the legitimacy of a series of futures trades. Needless to say, the Hillary/REFCO combined didn't measure up to well.

Two things really bother me after having read this article. Why was her account allowed to operate to the extent it did, while so far below margin requirements? If she was able to do this, are there others, and is this common practice. Doesn't a policy of this nature give an unfair advantage to these people over the rest of us, who must meet margin requirements?

The second thing concerns statements by Kroll and others about small retail trading clients of organizations that they had worked for, never, without fail, being successful. If this is true, then most of us are wasting a lot of time and money.


Member Requests

Al Resnick is evaluating various automated systems. Does anyone have working experience and comments on Bond-Pat by Lee Gettess and Platform Software from Omega Research?

New Cherry Picker, S&P daytrading system by David Wright: Who has tried this system in real-time or knows of someone who has? Please write c/o CTCN.

Daniel wants to buy a used FNN Signal receiver. Call him at 713-466-6090.

Dr. Claus Hallmann of Germany is interested in recommendations, comments or evaluations on Ed Kasanjian's Nature's PulseSystem. Also, several requests for info on Bruce Gould's Money Machine & Omega SuperCharts.

Editor's Note: We have an excellent and highly detailed Special Report on SuperCharts written by member Tom Dyste. Contact CTCN to get it.


Editor's Comments

Many of you were very interested in last month's excellent contribution by Dave Reiter. Dave sent his many account statements to me for review. Unfortunately, they are of little value (to me) because none of his trades show, and other pertinent and important information has been obscured or blocked-off. In fact the statements are almost entirely blank except for the net profit for the month, which appears on each statement.

Most all information that normally is part of a broker's monthly statement has been deleted from the photocopies. In Dave's cover letter, he said he did that because he thinks someone could figure out his trading method by studying the trades, etc. I do not feel Dave's concern is in fact much of a possibility, but Dave feels otherwise about that. Perhaps Dave will reconsider this matter.


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Special Note: Thanks to everyone who has contributed knowledge to this issue of Commodity Traders Club News. Without you it would not be possible. P.S. - Remember, as a special reward for making just one contribution/submission per year, you'll receive an automatic 50% price reduction on your renewal. Submissions can be any length, long or short; typed, handwritten or submitted on a disk. Formal or informal. Please participate by sharing your information and knowledge with other traders. Please make a contribution about your experiences, both good & bad with systems, services, advisors, data vendors, and other trading related product.

The reproduction, copying or publication of any part of this work beyond that permitted by Section 107 or 108 of the United States Copyright Act, and also World-Wide International Treaty Provisions, is unlawful. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Written permission from the Publisher/Editor is required for reproduction in any form (with proper credit to CTCN, including our address and phone number being required), and may be withdrawn at any time. Commodity Traders Club News (CTCN) is a 'Clearing House' or 'Information Exchange' for members only. We do not verify, (and we have not) verified the accuracy of the mathematics or numbers published herein, or accuracy of comments and remarks made by the authors. All information and remarks in the contributions are the opinions of the author or contributor, not the Editor or CTCN. You should be aware that P&L reports and advertisements are frequently based on hypothetical (not real-time/actual) trades. Article headlines or Sub-Headlines sometimes may be changed or written solely by the Editor, using verbiage the Editor believes highlights important points being made by the contributor. CTCN Membership, which includes our bi-monthly CTCN newsletter is "Your Guide To Profitable Trading and How To Save Money Along The Way." It's regularly priced at $100 (US) for 1-year. . . and includes free postage within USA & Canada (add $20 for Overseas Air Mail). Publisher: Webtrading.com, D.B.A. Our E-mail address is: ctcn@webtrading.com Our Website address is www.webtrading.com Editor is Dave Green. The opinions and recommendations are those of our writers and not those of Webtrading.com, CTCN, or its editor. (Note: There is high risk of loss in futures trading and past results may be difficult to achieve in the future and also may be based on hypothetical trading, with benefit of hindsight, and not actual trades) Note: We operate open member forums and consequently reserve the right to publish e-mail and other communications received. Therefore, please indicate "confidential" or "not-for-publication" on any e-mail or other correspondence sent us which you want kept private. Please contact us if we publish your comments and you object. Thank you.