So Many Things Finally Done, So Many More Things to Get Done

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Last few months has been the most productive ones over the past two years. So many projects that have been stuck were finally completed. What a relief!

For one, my book The Art of Chart Reading is now finally published at Amazon. Thanks to everyone who support the book this week, I am proud to announce that, as of this Friday, it is the Top #1 book at Amazon in Investing and Investing Basic categories and also being one of Top 20 Nonfiction books. It is a great start for the book.

The paperback version of the book is still being worked on. If all goes well, the paperback edition will be available by end of this month.

And the site The Art of Chart Reading Online is also in development. It will take a lot more to make it good for the purpose I envisioned.

On DaytradingBias.com side, the move to the new direction has finally started. It was planned at least a year ago but almost everything that could go wrong, did. Although the process has started, it is not even half way through.

It is great that the Trading Success Blueprint is finally completed. It is the grand summary of my knowledge and experience in mentoring traders over the past 20 years. From now on, I have a reference that I can point aspiring traders to if they want to build a trading career the right way.

Yet, the trading signals and trading tools that I have planned to release have been delayed for so long. I could not just roll them out without proper testing. Due to the frequencies of these trading strategies, they do not happen everyday. I need to make sure they are working correctly. It is not only necessary. It is a responsibility as well since people will put money on the line based on these tools. Thus, I have to be patient and get them ready one by one.

On money management side, the process of fully automating the trading has started too. However, it was the most eventful two months we have seen in a long time. Be that North Korea related matters, or all these explosive news about Trump, they swing the markets hard. All these happening while I am manually testing these strategies. It is a huge challenge for someone like me because I created these trading models.

The golden rule of mechanical trading is to follow the rules exactly. But being the creator of the models made me want to override them. After the fact, my interventions worked 9 out of 10 times. But the 10th time is a disaster. In short, if I had followed the rules completely, the performance will be about the same as what I have now. Being 20% better with all the crazy maneuvers is not worth it.

Again, a lot more to do to complete the transition.

oh well, challenges make life interesting.

Story of My Book The Art of Chart Reading

Finally, after three long years of wait, my book The Art of Chart Reading will be available at Amazon in couple of days. I am very excited about the release of the book. But at the same time it feels like putting an end to a very difficult period in my past. Very difficult to explain how I feel at this moment.

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I have created a website for the book called The Art of Chart Reading Online. The purpose of the site is to showcase charts that I study and how they work out afterwards. Since I do my homework studying the charts all the time anyway. This should not put too much workload on my tight schedule.

This book would not be possible without Priscilla’s suggestion some 15 years ago. She knows very well how I feel about the financial industry and how much I hate seeing decent people being rip off in the stock market. She popped the idea that if I can do something about it what would it be. I told her it has to be a complete instruction manual on how to read the charts because it is the only tool that the retail traders have access to that is objective without spins or lies.

Priscilla became the first reader and my collaborator on the foundation sections. Only until I was able to make her understand exactly how the charts work, that those explanations are kept in the book. That’s how I know other people will understand the framework too.

When Card Counting Fails: Learn to Walk Away While You Can

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When I was in Europe last month, it was inevitable that I had to go out and socialize with my business associates. One such night we ended up going to a club with blackjack tables. One of my friends there knows very well I am an avid card counter and would like to see if I can beat the house. So there I was, sitting at one of the blackjack tables with couple hundreds of euro in chips to play the game.

The Game

I asked the dealer like how many decks are there and started playing.

I did my usual counting and noticed that the cards dealt out were collected and put back into the card dealing machine. I knew something was not right but I could not recall exactly what it was at the time, partly due to all night wine and dine activities.

Needless to say, I got cleaned out.

Whenever I tried to increase my bet size, thinking that it was the right time to do so, I encountered significant losses.

The chance for me to count wrong was very low. So low that I knew something did not add up. After I lost my last chips, I recalled exactly what I should have remembered before I started playing.

My associates asked me to keep on going so that I can win the money back. I told them I don’t want to do that because I was low on cash. In reality I had more than enough cash to keep going but I knew better not to. My friends even tried to pool together more cash for me to do it again because they probably feel bad that I lost money.

I ended up telling them the truth. I pointed out the machine on the table is something I cannot beat. Since I do not like playing blackjack to lose money, I told them we should do something else instead. They were quite upset and were afraid that I was unhappy. I had to assure and reassure them that I am perfectly alright.

I was secretly relieved that I did not need to grind at the table. I was happy because I knew this is the right decision.

The Machine

The issue I pointed out being the card dealing machine was not an excuse. This type of card dealing machines is designed to save time for the dealer, prevent cheating through manual card shuffling and, most important of all, to beat card counting. Cards are consistently redistributed back into the shoe hence the chance of these cards showing up again, say, five hands later, would be the same as all the other cards within the machine. There is no more distribution imbalance that a card counter can rely on. Thus, all card counting strategies based on the cards not being reused until next complete reshuffle would fail.

I should have walked away the moment I sit down at the table and noticed that the machine is in place for dealing cards. But I did not.

I suspect that my inability to recall the important fact about the card dealing machine is my commitment bias. I changed my Euros for chips. I sat down at the table. And most important of all, I have a crowd around me watching. My mind swing from being a careful pro into a casual player.

The Crowd

Emotions ran high when the crowd saw the dealer’s hand busted at the fourth and fifth card. Emotions ran even higher when someone on the table getting 21 on the fifth card.

Of course, emotions swing low when the dealer managed to clean the table with 20 or 21 even though many players had pretty strong hands.

Everyone has been participating in the game, with emotions invested into every card being dealt out.

I could see on the face of everyone that they were emotionally exhausted about an hour into the game.

Isn’t it interesting that we all know this is a game of chance yet we would cheer on wishing the dealer to go bust, or that some players were so anxious that it took them forever to decide whether to hit or to stand?

Maybe this is the very reason some people love gaming.

They enjoy the emotional rides and excitement that these games bring to them.

The Odds

Going a bit technical here, I will explain what the difference is between a normal Las Vegas style blackjack and the one I played with the card dealing machine.

In short, the Las Vegas style dealing will give the house a very slight edge over the players if the player is not counting cards, while exercising all normal cautions like not to hit when you cards already total at 20. With a good card counting strategy, a player can, at times, having a significant edge over the house when many high cards are left in the shoe leading to very uneven distribution.

For the card dealing machine I played, it actually offers the players a very minute edge, as long as the player is exercising the normal cautions. This means, if you have a big enough bank roll, you can win a small percentage of your capital as long as you are betting with the same size. Obviously, the goal of using these machines is not to beat the players. These machines are installed for the purpose of facilitating a service, to keep the guests entertained.

However, if a card counter is not aware of the design, the uneven betting based on the wrong projection of the existence of a bias distribution, will lead to unnecessary losses.

The Lesson

It is a good reminder to us, the professional traders, that we manage to make money in trading because we have good strategies and game plan in place. However, we have to be aware of the changes to the game itself that may completely alter the odds of our trading strategies. Keeping up with the environment change is very much part of our responsibility as a pro trader.

Things I Learned from My Hard Disk Trouble While Traveling

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My hard disk trouble started in the early part of February yet I was not able to get it replaced for various reasons. Anyhow, I finally have it replaced by a new hard drive and everything looks fine so far. Throughout this ordeal, I learned quite a few things that’s worth sharing.

Must Have Items While Traveling

Portable Hard Drive is a must-have for quick backup and restore. Without one, trying to buy a decent one with large capacity from a remote city may be very difficult. I have a 3TB one with me all the time while I am traveling. Even if my laptop is reporting a potential failure, I can immediately backup everything so that I know all the latest work I have done with my projects and researches are safe.

USB Boot Drive is another must-have since you cannot really backup your computer efficiently without it. The one I use is the one I recommended for years called Active Boot Disk. I use it to backup my computers regularly and in this situation, I managed to take a snapshot of my laptop the night when I first see the warning message.

With the first two items above, the issue of protecting your valuable data is taken care of. Even if your laptop is toasted while you were seeking for a replacement hard disk, you can still get things working on a new laptop.

To replace the hard disk inside your laptop is a more complicated question depending heavily if you are going to let a computer shop does the replacement for you, or, your laptop can be easily taken apart. Well, I have way too many bad experience with computer stores repair services that I almost always do my own upgrades and replacements now. Even if you are not good with handling computer parts, you should be able to find disassembly videos on YouTube on almost all types of laptops.

You need the following items to complete the hard disk replacement process:

A screwdriver set that can handle all the screw types on your laptop. In my case, my trusted 30+ years old Swiss Army Knife does not work with my Lenovo laptop. I was forced to buy a screwdriver set at the computer store eventually. The story about the computer store in next section.

A replacement hard disk that is at least equal in capacity as your original hard disk.

Finding a Replacement Hard Disk is an Adventure

It took me two weeks in three cities to find a computer store that actually sell decent size internal hard disk. The first two cities are not major ones so my hope was kept really low. But then the third one, being a large city, it still took me multiple attempts before finding a computer store that really sells slightly better hard disk models.

Maybe it is because I am in Europe, but it seems that all these stores are selling both external and internal hard drives at half the capacity we find in America. They are also priced more expensively. The funny thing is that in a big retail electronics store I visited with all kinds of computer related products, their sales people do not even know where the portable external hard drives are located within the store. They have to search the store for like ten minutes before finding the items.

I seriously do not know what to say about that.

Plan Your Backup

It took about 6 hours to backup my laptop with 400G of data. The time it takes is much longer than a typical laptop with same amount of data because I have a lot of highly compressed tick data stored on my laptop. It is very time consuming to backup such data because they cannot be compressed any further by the backup application.

Knowing the amount of time it takes to backup can help you plan ahead of time to schedule a down time for your laptop so that it will not disrupt your normal work schedule. What I did was starting the backup late in the night so that early next morning I can continue with the installation of the new hard disk with restoration right after. Just in case that does not work out as planned, I would quickly swap the old drive back into the laptop to continue my day.

Restoring the hard disk image onto the laptop with the new hard disk is actually a breeze. All it took was just an hour and 20 minutes. Once it was done I just shutdown the laptop completely. When I turned it back on, it was able to boot normally and everything feels the same. Well, in my case, the replacement hard disk is a faster model than the one that came with my laptop so everything actually run much faster.

Lessons Learned

1. Have a traveller set of computer screwdrivers while I am on the road.

You never know when you are going to need to take your computer apart. You do not need to carry the whole set. Just bring the bits for your devices and the handle will do.

2. Do not use SSD on your laptop.

SSD has great feedback from all computer users due to their faster speed. They are also perceived to be safer than the regular hard drives because they do not have moving parts. In reality, however, SSD drives are more likely to fail and have bad blocks developed quickly within first 2 years of usage. Yep, you may suddenly lose some part of your important files on an SSD without knowing it has already happened.

In comparison, the classic hard drives have come a long way as manufacturers of these drives have keep advancing the technology. In my situation, I am very glad that I chose my laptop with a hard drive instead of SSD. My decision at the time was based on the capacity that I need which was not available with SSD. I do not even know that the smart warning ability of the regular hard drives until I get one in this incident.

This smart warning ability gave me the precious time window to replace the drive with ease.

When SSDs eventually fail, they just die on you and you will not get the chance to backup your data first. Hence you will lose your latest work on your laptop one day no matter how frequent you backup your data.

3. Do not use SSD external drives as your backup drive.

For the same reason above, if your data is important to you, you should keep a regular hard drive as your backup drive.

I am sure that going into the future, the SSD technology will improve a lot just like the regular hard drives with better safe guard for our data. Until then, I will avoid SSD on my laptops.

4. Know your USB 3.0 Port on the laptop

The latest external backup drives use the USB 3.0 port for much faster performance. On many laptops, however, not every USB port are USB 3.0 port. Plugging in your external drive to the wrong port, will result in much slower data transfer speed. For example, my backup time of 6 hours will likely turn into 12 hours or more if I plug my backup drive to the wrong USB port on my laptop.

I made this mistake before with my regular backup routine. You can imagine what happen the next morning when I woke up seeing my laptop is not even half way through the backup process …

End Notes

It is not my first time seeing my laptops getting into trouble while I am on the road. To name a few, I have experienced RAM failure, overheating that killed the screen on the spot and bad electricity outlet that fried the power adaptor and the laptop (yes, fire too for those looking for excitement). There are many blizzard situations that we road warriors just cannot be prepared for. My advice is that have the essentials packed with you but don’t panic when things go wrong. There is no point to get upset since computer failure is part of life.

Deal with it and you have another story to tell your friends.

Products Mentioned in this Article

Western Digital 3TB Portable External Hard Drive

List of Western Digital Portable External Hard Drive on Amazon

Active Boot Disk

Portable Screwdriver Set for Electronic Devices

Hang Seng Index: Unbelievably Easy to Work on

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I am working on trading models for trading the Hang Seng Index. It is a cooperation project among multiple parties. I am quite excited by the idea that I am taking my financial technologies and trading experience to challenge the best minds in the Asian arena.

To my surprise, in the initial phase of this project, for which I expected a lot of difficulties in terms of data collection and information gathering, it is so much easier than working with the S&P indices.

For S&P 500 and the other related indices, one of the challenges is to figure out all the historical components of the indices and the exact time for which these components are part of the index calculations. S&P makes it so hard to figure this out even though it is something that should be made available to the public. It took investigative work to track down all the changes that I explained in one of the chapters of Market Breadth Primer.

However, working on Hang Seng Index, it is so easy to gather such information because Hang Seng Index has its own official website with everything you need to know about the indices are made available. I have to praise those working there that they are doing such a great job that S&P should be ashamed.

So why venture into trading the Hang Seng?

Well, I can see that the financial system is not going to be stable going into the future. Counter-party risk will be again in the spotlight soon. That means trading European markets is definitely not a good idea. Trading only instruments in North America is also not a good idea if bad things happen to the brokerages and clearing houses here. So, having presence in Asia now and eventually building this up to include more countries there will be a very good way to take my trading to the next level.

How Scientific Approach to Meditation Revolutionizes this Gift from Our Ancient Past

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Meditation, the mystical practice that has gained so much recognition lately from the Internet, has been around for literally thousands of years in various forms and styles. It gained its flame because of the supposedly superpower you can unlock within yourself like becoming wiser, calmer and perform better in almost everything. However, for normal people who tried to learn this, more than half of them are likely not able to benefit from practicing meditation. In fact, it is creating more frustration and confusion than helping out these people to live a better life. After all, it was called a mystical skill for a good reason. Well, thanks to latest scientific research and technology, this ancient technique of training our mind is now much more learnable than ever.

I touched on this subject of meditation over the years but I tried to minimize the coverage because of several factors. First, it was much less acceptable to even talking about meditation just ten years ago. It was even namely as “evil” when you whisper the name to someone whose religious background somehow tainted by bad information. Second, self learning meditation is always difficult because there is no easy way to track one’s progress in such training. Unlike learning a subject with scientific facts that you can be quizzed later on to see how much you remember or understand, a normal person do not have a simple way to self assess the improvements they have made from practicing meditation.

Modern meditation techniques introduced by many famous gurus actually helped a lot more people because they simplified the whole concept down to something much more tangible. For example, the famous one-moment meditation has been helping so many people in dealing with their everyday stress and hectic lives. There are many scientific researches made public that help people to understand that being more mindful (through meditation) can benefit them so much that their brains are rewired in a good way.

So we now know meditation helps people in a very meaningful way. Its health benefits are tremendous. But these researchers have not been able to solve the biggest obstacle of making meditation something accessible to everyone, until now.

I reviewed a product called Inner Balance at my other site, Essence of Trading, focuses on its benefit on trading performance. This product is basically a portable heart rate monitor that connect to your cell phone through Bluetooth. What makes it special is that it can track your heart rate variability (HRV) in real-time giving the user instant feedback of their current state of calmness. Yep, you read this right. For the first time, there is a way for anyone who does not have access to a good trainer to learn the foundation of meditation, which is slowed down breathing, to finally learn the skill properly, quickly with much less frustration.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a pretty good indicator of one’s calmness which was very difficult to measure before the discovery and deeper understanding of how our heart lung functions are affected by our mood swings. Maybe, in the future there will be even better measurement tools discovered along the way. But why wait if we already have something on hand that can help us now.

Anyone interested in getting Inner Balance can go to their site and check out the products offered there.

(Affiliate disclosure: I have signed up to become an affiliate after I gave out a whole bunch of this device as gifts and see the amazing results on my friends and family)

I will try not to repeat what I wrote in the review here. Anyone interested in that can read it later.

What I like to say here is that many traditional practices from our ancestors could be labelled as mystical but not all of them are bad. Once we start to understand more how they work, the mysticism dissolves, resulting in a more accurate view of what they really are. Meditation, now with enough scientific researches done on the subject, is shining through with real life practical use in medical treatments like reducing anxiety, lowering high blood pressure and improving performance from sports to trading. It is a real gift from our ancient past.

The Lack of Educational Resources for Traders in Hong Kong and Rest of Asia

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I wrapped up my trip to Asia on schedule earlier this week. I did not anticipated that though because there is always something coming up from this type of business trips that you have to extend it until everything is taken care of. Very nice that I get to take a break now going into New Year for much needed rest and relax before the hectic work schedule I planned for next year.

During my stay in Asia I squeezed time to check out various bookstores in every major city I went to. I was trying to find some trading books that are of decent quality to be recommended to my Asian readers. And if possible, I could just buy a whole stack and give them out as holiday gifts. Sadly, I could not find one book that really meet my expectations. It is quite disappointing given last year I learned about the financial scams still rampaging in these countries.

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In many of these bookstores, there is really just one or two columns of books on investments. And trading, being a sub-category of investment, has probably one to two rows of books. These books on trading are mainly translated from books originally written in English. My not so in-depth attempt to browse through some of these books leaves me with a pretty bad impression as I have read the originals and I am quite sure the translated versions of these books are not delivering the correct message to the readers.

Another very interesting phenomenon is that Warren Buffett is over represented in every bookstore I visited. First, if you are a normal person, you should not invest like Warren Buffett. I am willing to go all the way to say that if you are not Warren Buffett, you should never invest like him. It is a very sensitive topic which deserves a complete article written on just this issue alone. I guess I have to do that in the future so that I do not need to answer this same question again and again.

There are rows and rows of books, both translated and originally written ones, on Warren Buffett’s “investment secrets” and “financial wisdoms”. This is classic cult following mentality where these books are there to attract casual readers to buy them on impulse. They do not provide any real value to the readers yet I know they must be selling very well because there are multiple copies of these books on the shelf while other books you see only one copy there most of the time.

I can see the huge potential of trading / investing education market in Asia. Only by lifting the overall standard in investors sophistication in the region will eliminate the continuous scamming activities there. Better education for traders will also reduce the number of tragedies related to gambling in the financial markets that I see dominating the retail trading scene in Asia.

Time to Slack Off 2017

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As a follow up to my Time to Slack Off series, I like to report my results and what I think going forward I will do with my trading. Many doors opened this year for which I am very grateful for and that I get to try out different ideas in such a short period of time is both exciting and exhausting. It is time for me to reflect and plan for the coming year.

Transformation of My Trading

I have achieved my trading goal for myself and for my clients as a money manager back in early October already. Due to serious pile up of all kinds of tasks, I did not get the time to write about it until now. This year is fundamentally different from the years of trading I have done due to the drastic changes of my trading goals and the new responsibility of managing a completely different kind of funds.

Many readers who follow me for years know that I used to trade through the complete US market open hours. I did take breaks during lunch but I tended to squeeze as much profit from the market as possible back then. Last two years my personal trading goals have changed to a more moderate approach for which I am driving for consistent returns with much reduced stress and effort. That took a lot of work outside of trading to further improve my mechanical trading models. More importantly, I came up with an even better trading framework for handling the current trading environment.

Hence I spent a lot less time in front of the screen and more time outside of it. I now usually sit at the screen to watch the open but I can choose not to because my mechanical models would take care of the orders anyway. Even though I have open positions by 11 am (Eastern Time) I can walk away since the positions are managed automatically. In my opinion, the performance is actually better based on the relatively shorter amount of time spent in front of the screen.

My Experiment on Running a Different Type of Fund

Last year I started to manage in a small scale funds that demand stable return in low-teens percentage with a time window of 3 years (or more) of lock-in period. As oppose to classic fundamental based fund managers who bet on fairy-tale information, or those big swingers with so-called macro view that ignores the market dynamics, my approach is to day trade with mechanical strategies that I know are rock solid concepts working consistently over the past 20 years. By controlling the leverage, I make it possible to produce consistent returns without the so-called volatility swings with those funds that have overnight risk. It is a great idea that worked out very well.

In comparison, the responsibility as a money manager managing client accounts, my objective is often maximizing the return with risk precisely defined. I can assure you that it is not an easy task. Although I have been doing my part for years, it is still challenging as the financial markets evolve rapidly.

The Birth of a Private Fund

Inevitably, after the success of the experiment, I am being asked to reconsider my position to run a fund among close friends and families. It is not even going to be the size of a tiny hedge fund. It is just money that a few close friends can spare for speculation purpose (something I called burnable). Since I am so restrictive on the amount of money they should put into the pool relative to what they have and that I am imposing the same 3 to 5 years lock-in period, I am glad that they choose to keep their individual commitment small. Now that the word is out, I have requests from friends everywhere asking me to do the the same.

This is, kind of, completely deviating from my original plan. My original intention was to run this private fund with just my own money and possibly some from my partner. Once the first year return is booked, I will try to convert the individual accounts that I manage for my long term clients into the same pool so that I can streamline the whole operation. That is a longshot though, because my clients really dislike publicity of any kind. Still, I hope to convert them to believe in my new hands off approach.

Anyhow, I planned to launch this no later than February next year. Just the explanation of the risk involved in my kind of trading can take hours to each individual interested in this. It will keep me very busy until then.

Mix and Match of Trading Signals

So what does all these developments have to do with daytradingbias.com? After all I tagged this post with it.

Well, part of the trading models I developed for my private fund will also be made available at daytradingbias.com thru real-time trading assistant and other means. I have looked into many other ways to delivery the signals. The viable ones will be added one by one.

For those interested in managing their own accounts with a subset of signals picked from the set, documentation / a complete course will be made available so that they can adapt the strategies to create a trading plan that fits their risk tolerance. This is what I am planning so far but I do not know if the plan will change again down the road.

On the Road Again

I am heading to Asia as mentioned in my post back in October coming weekend. Once I have internet access there I will continue to post. I will get the chance to meet with many people from the financial industry there. If anything interesting comes up, I will definitely write about them.

 

Past Time to Slack Off Posts

Time to Slack Off 2014

Time to Slack Off 2013

Time to Slack Off 2012

Busy Schedule Ahead

It has been weeks of chaos so far in the development front on deploying my trading models. Unforeseen troubles in live trading of the models forced us to twist our code to handle all kinds of issues like sudden disconnect from brokerage server. Unlike co-location server based solutions, we have now proven retail level client side automation has many issues that cannot be taken care of easily.

Nonetheless, I am still going to push forward with these projects to see how much we can accomplish. In the meantime, I am busy writing up the documentation / instructions on trading these strategies effectively.

While all these things are happening, coming two weeks we are setting up a new remote data centre. This is not our first attempt though. Some of the premium members may remember that the first try was a complete disaster. Once the remote data centre is up and running, I will phase out the current one in Toronto.

Adding to all that, I am also going to hit the road again later this year due to an interesting development that I may work on a special project involving a number of trading firms and financial institutions in Asia. I am not sure what my exact travel plan will be at this point. For those of you in Asia, I will get in touch.

Have a nice weekend all!

My Journey to Fully Automate My Trading: AI vs. KISS

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The latest round of buzz about AI (Artificial Intelligence), particularly the new meme Machine Learning, has triggered many talks on its applications in trading and investing. It is very interesting how it suddenly becomes the latest holy grail in trading. Is it really that much better? Not necessary.

What AI is Good at

AI is very good at picking up patterns from large amount of data based on the framework we have provided them. It also gives AI the advantage to find patterns that human often miss since we are born to identify visual anomalies only. In other words, AI can assist us to uncover useful information from large amount of data. From the game of chess or online games, to industrial design of cars and equipment, AI helps us resolve many difficult problems in much faster and efficient manner comparing to human based discovery approach.

When I use the word “pattern” above, it is not limited to visual or statistics based patterns. It can be patterns of rules that govern a dynamic system. For example, the machine learning process may discover that certain set of rules are failing to produce the expected results, and that they all belongs to the same category of underlying patterns in the data.

By applying this meta logical pattern on the rules, AI can develop new rules itself. This is the technological direction, namely self reprogramming and self refinement, that Elon Musk is so worried about. Think about an AI based program deployed to defend a country that has built-in self management rules to improve itself. What if one day the system produced a new rule that it is better to launch all the missiles to guarantee winning a war, or chose to delete a rule that emphasize on minimizing the casualties of civilians?

AI in Trading

AI has been applied to trading ever since it was introduced many years ago. The earlier approaches are mainly developed to capture patterns in price and related financial data (e.g. PE ratio) to make forecast on individual stock and markets. Later on we have seen successful trading models built for short term trading on indices using patterns recognized from large amount of data including price patterns and market breadth data. The concept behind the development of these models, however, are still very human centric. We were using AI to discover patterns and then we apply the patterns in our trading. In short, we decide what discoveries made by the computer are applied in our trading.

The latest round of AI application in trading, however, is taking on a different direction. Many professional traders and trading firms are now testing fully automated trading models that are managing themselves. What I mean is that human factor is reduced down to the initial feeding of data into the computer with an overall theme specification and subsequent risk management only. In short, we are teaching the computer to trade by themselves instead of teaching human to do the job because we prefer traders to have little or no emotion at all for better performance.

The advantage of these new approach to AI based trading does not stop there. Models will continue to evolve on their own, either in live or simulation environment (which human still have control). This helps proprietary trading firms tremendously with much better control over the consistency in performance.

Context Matters

It is obvious that AI is best fit for trading in short term environment as the amount of data to be processed can be too much for human to analyze. It is also clear that the AI models that self manage can pick up subtle changes in the data much faster than human can. This ability to teach itself to adapt to a changing environment can be a double-edged sword though.

For a changing environment, say, a news driven shock to the markets, can be very short term. Given enough historical examples feed to the AI systems, they will figure out a way to handle these situations. The catch is, however, that certain longer term environment change never repeats themselves, yet they produced all the major characteristic changes that affect the markets for years. As there is never enough historical data on these situations, AI cannot really learn from them nor can they incorporate safety measures to safe guard themselves properly when such tide turning events happen in the future.

In other words, the adaptive AI based trading systems are doing exactly opposite of what many classic (and successful) trading models do. Instead of exploiting one specific bias to extract profit from the market with money management strategies to protect the profits like the classic trading models, the new self learning AI systems keep tuning themselves to outsmart the markets. This approach is not that different from what we called routine re-optimization of deployed trading models. Since we do not know if the set of parameters we use on a trading model would perform best in the future, by optimizing the models based on a subset of the historical data, usually the most recent part, on a regular basis, it gives us a way to tune the model to better fit the current trading environment. The self learning AI systems basically does that themselves.

Human Factor Still Key to Success

Hence, it is important more than ever that the trainer / designer of an AI system to understand the various potential drivers in a market. There are things the AI system would never be able to learn or to adapt to. There are things the AI system should never adapt to. The boundaries necessary to make the AI system safe to trade have to be provided by human.

Seriously, everyone can train their generic AI toolbox to deploy trading models to trade real money. In fact, I am sure every model deployed has a pretty darn good historical performance. But, it is not how good a system perform that matters. As the old saying goes, “If you avoid the losers, the winners take care of themselves”. It is how the system react to adverse situations and not losing too much money in the process that really counts. Only those designers who are well aware of defensive money management principles would do this correctly right from the beginning.

The bottom line is clear – it is still the person behind the machine based trader that matters most.

KISS Still Shines

“Keep It Simple, Stupid!” believe it or not, still holds true even in this heavily bots populated trading environment.

As I explained many times over the years, with more bots trading, the markets evolved into something much more predictable in a very sarcastic sense. Yes, older style of trading no longer produces good performance. And yes again, many trading methods are neutralized by the existence of bots. However, new patterns emerges from the very existence of these bots because they all behave in a very similar way. AI systems are no different. Given the technology are all based on similar toolbox, and that the obvious patterns are picked up by the AI systems one way or another, it is likely the AI systems will all behaviour similarly and go after very similar biases identified by them. In aggregation, they produce consistent footprints just like any other market participants.

So it is not necessary to stay at the forefront of technology or employing the latest trading gadget to make money in the markets. It is your overall approach to the market that matters. KISS still shines in the current trading environment. I know many size traders still focus on a few simple trading setups to make their living. The existence of these smarter AI bots changes the characteristics of many markets in the smallest timeframes only.

A Common Misconception About Day Trading Models

Lots of people spend all their time to discover or fine tuning a strategy so that it trades so many times to give them stellar performance like 300% or even 500% return per year. That may work but it is also dangerous to put all money on such models.

As I explained before in last instalment of this series, it is much better to emulate a good day trader who has multiple trading setups for which each one offers its own independent risk reward profile. It is the combination of these trading setups that produce a balanced approach to trading. With the right combination of these strategies, you get the same spectacular performance with much lower risk of complete melt down in performance like the single strategy approach.

Here is also the main concern with AI based bot traders. Unless you have a way to dissect the trading approach, you do not know the risk profile of each individual decision made by the system. You just know, as a whole, the machine trader you have on hand somehow perform great on the historical data. But we know they their were trained on those data, of course they would perform well on those data. You cannot throw a evolved model back in time to see if they would do well by the same reason.

If you train an AI system with certain part of the historical data, keeping the model not adaptive, it is then just the same old machine assisted discovery method. If you let the system retrain itself from time to time with new data, it is similar to the re-optimization mentioned above with the drawback of not able to gauge the historical performance. I think you get the point – machine learning is not perfect.

Summary

AI based bot traders are sexy for many reasons but they are far from perfect. If you know nothing about the underlying data and its characteristics, using AI to speed up your research is definitely the future as we are going to amass a lot more data going forward. However, it is not going to do you any good if you are an amateur in trading hoping that you can simply train the machine to do the job for you. Your have to be a good trainer (not necessary good trader) to make your trading bot a good trader.

At this point, it should be quite clear where I stand on the subject. I use AI to assist my research. I also use AI based models to warn me of potential changes in the market dynamics. I like the technology as it saves me time on data mining and other tasks in research. But I do not deploy trading models that are based on AI only. I prefer the KISS approach because I need the transparency and consistency with the models so that they are much easier to manage. It is a matter of personal preference. Maybe I have paranoia on AI just like Musk.