It is the end of second quarter of year 2020, I am so busy with so many things I could not really sit down to write something for this series for months. Since this series is a documentary, I guess I should write something so that looking back, I have what happened on record. After contemplating on several ideas, I decided to talk about the impact of extreme volatility on my trading strategies.
There it was, March 2020, the fastest and steepest decline in S&P500 in its history. And then even more amazing, was the miracle rally from that swing low pushing S&P500 back up to almost unchanged for the year. Nasdaq 100 has even made new all time high now.
So many of you have asked whether my trading models are doing fine? I can detect the undertone even though English is not my native language. My guess is that they are wondering if I lost a lot of money during this time.
In short, I am doing fine. If I were trading mostly discretionarily, I will not be. The automated trading strategies saved me from making major trading mistakes many times during this period. I am so glad that I managed to convert about 50% of my trading method to fully mechanical trading models right before the start the extreme trading environment.
What Went Right
The strategies managed to avoid most of the trading days that has extreme swings. Some of you may wonder why avoiding those days. Isn’t it the purpose of day trading to capture the intraday movements?
Yes, day trading strategies are designed to capture the intraday price movements based on the microstructure for which price would move a certain way given certain pre-conditions are met. However, when the volatility is way too high, even if you are on the right side of a move, the strategy will still be stopped out easily thanks to the extreme swings every few minutes.
Of course you can increase the size of the stop losses to participate in the game. But my research shows that is absolutely counter-productive. First, increasing the overall risk taken per contract means you need to reduce the total size of each trade to protect the trading capital from an overall risk management perspective. Second, the equity swings can be nerve wrecking which can disable you from take care of your everyday tasks. In other words, you see extreme swings in your equity and likely ended up doing almost nothing.
One very good thing that stands out is the data and order server stability with all these firms I work with. Comparing to the financial crisis back in year 2008 and 2009, the experience is so much better. Back then we have so many outages making trading nearly impossible. Just the fear of being trapped in an open position was bad enough. Again, the advancement and maturity in technology and infrastructure with these firms are something I greatly appreciated.
What Went Wrong
I was caught off-guard several times when the brokerages made sudden announcement to change the margin requirements. There was once that the change was made in the middle of a trading session. These sudden changes caused me to miss several trades due to the orders being rejected by the brokerage system.
Not happy with these incidents mainly because the missed trades are all winners. LOL
And I learned from this experience that the brokerages are reacting to the situation very differently. For example, Interactive Brokers and Tradestation at times raising their day trading margin requirement to full exchange overnight maintenance margin while some pro shops just double up their promised day trading margin requirement. What the brokerage firms do is not to protect their clients. What they are doing is protecting themselves. This shows that the pro firms understand their clients are professionals so there is no need to exercise extreme caution.
The worst part of the experience so far is the next to none support from many firms as the lock-down due to COVID19 forced many to operate remotely with very limited access to their staff. So anything that requires human intervention or help becomes not available or that the waiting queue is so long that you just have to give up. Can’t complain about that since this will probably become the new normal if the outbreak continues for a prolonged period of time.
What Could Be Improved
Technically, highest priority is the integration of position size into some of my trading strategies so that they can change the order size should there be a sudden margin change. This is not difficult but takes time to develop and test the code. Just one more project on the table that jumped my long queue of other things I need to get done.
I already have remote control of everything setup so that is not a problem. The remaining disaster scenario is that we have some form of global internet outage while I have an open position. For this scenario, I am still working on a way to minimize its impact.
The time I saved from manual trading gave me the freedom over the past few months in completing a few business deals. The main benefit, however, is that I have more time to spend on automating even more of my trading strategies. It is just fun watching these bots going live and doing their things.
It feels like playing Legos when I was very young or playing SimCity as a teenager. The satisfaction coming from the accomplishment is very hard to describe.
As I mentioned in my weekly blog, the success I have achieved so far with the conversion process has given me the confidence to keep going until everything is automated. One fund manager who is a long time friend sum it up nicely – once you have converted to automated trading, you will never go back.