Has Your Automated System Failed You

Michael Gutmann’s Futures magazine article: Minimizing loss: Run-length trade statistics

I read the article in Futures Magazine last month by Michael Gutmann; he goes into a lot of detail on how you can know if your automated trading system is doing what is expected, or if it has broken down. How can you know?  When you run an automated system, you will have (or you should have) statistics from back testing that show the percentage of wins versus losses and the maximum number of consecutive losing trades. That second number, the number of consecutive losing trades, is a pain threshold for traders watching their automated system trade and lose. How many trades can you watch your system lose before you pull the plug? Is there a way to determine this number for a particular trading system?

As it turns out, there is. Using some statistics math, Gutmann shows how you can determine the most probable number of losing trades you should have to endure, providing an objective measure to determine if you should stay with your system, or bail. (Or at least, re-tune the parameters.)

In the article, Gutmann shows a nice table of trade statistics, based on 250 trades; the rows are runs of length N and the columns are the probability of that number of consecutive runs for a 30%, a 50% and a 70% win ratio system. For example, with a system that wins 30% of the time, you should expect to see 9 losses in a row 60% of the time; with a system that wins 70% of the time, expect to see 5 losses in a row 25% of the time. Gutmann uses some heavy math to show how he arrived at those numbers, but the table captures much of the data in an easy to read format.

So, if your automated system presents you with a 9-loss losing streak, you can take a look at the chart and see that that should only happen 5% of the time; it might be time to toss that particular strategy.

The article also states that you can write Mr. Gutmann and request the C++ code for running the numbers on your own trades. I did write him, and I received a nice reply from him with the C++ code. I have yet to run it on my trading data, but I plan to do so soon, and will provide an update here when I do so.

See also Michael Guttman’s book: The Very Latest E-Mini Trading, 2nd Edition: Using Market Anticipation to Trade Electronic Futures

Forex Trade Log

Forex Trade Log, by Forex Smart Tools

How it will help your trading: You’ll have a record of all of your trades, for review and to help correct mistakes in trading

Forex Trade Log is awesome. If you do any manual back-testing at all, you need this program. Almost every course or book I have read on trading mentions the need to practice the strategies and keep a record of your trades. Some suggest using an Excel template, or a paper notebook, or some online tool. But I swear by Forex Trade Log.

Forex Smart Tools has a couple different versions of this tool — Lite, Standard and Pro. I first bought Lite, and was so impressed, I upgraded to Pro very shortly afterward. And, as an automated systems developer, you need Pro. The features most helpful in the Pro for us are the the ability to import statements from various brokers into the trade log, and also sort them by strategy. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. First things first.

So, what is the trade log? It’s a place to keep track of your trades. Whenever you place a trade, record it in the trade log. It’s that simple. What do you record? Well, the obvious entry and exit time and price, stops, trade size, buy/sell and profit or loss. But how about Stop Needed, and Ideal Stop, and Reason for Loss; maybe Entry trigger and Exit Trigger? And the best one? Screen shot. I use this all the time. When I am back-testing a strategy manually, every trade goes into the trade log, and I take a screen shot of every one. When the trade results in a loss, I record why it lost: Dumb mistake (I get a lot of those), Strategy Failed, Market Anomaly and Barely stopped out. Then, later, I can go back and look at the reasons for the losses. If there are a lot of dumb mistakes, I need to read up on the strategy again. If there are a lot of places where the strategy failed, then maybe it’s not such a good strategy. Other things I go back and look at are Notes and Lessons Learned. Both provide invaluable information that helps me later.

Recently, I needed to find a file of real trading information–of real trades taken–as input to an analysis program. I realized I could export my data out of Forex Trade Log into a csv file, and was able to use that file for my analysis. That was the only place I had that information; the actual trade information had been long gone. Because I had stored all of that information in a the trade log, I was able to easily analyze my trading and look at certain metrics.

Forex Trade Log is also useful for the automated system trader. I like to import trades from Metatrader 4’s Strategy Tester results into the trade log; there are some metrics on the summary and analysis tabs that show me things about the trades that are very helpful, such as equity graphs, and the ability to create my own time periods in which to see the trade results. Additionally, it’s just a good place to keep records of a strategy’s individual trades, that otherwise would be erased by the next run of strategy tester.

Here’s the best part though: the creators of Forex Trade Log are documentation fanatics. There is so much good documentation out there, I haven’t even seen it all. There are FAQ’s, help files, and videos, videos, videos! Every feature has an associated video that shows you how to use it. They have a newsletter that has amazing information in it, and the developers use this tool themselves.

For both the discretionary trader and the automated systems trader, the Forex Trade Log is invaluable.

Forex Trade Log, by Forex Smart Tools
Pricing: Lite $149, Standard $297, Pro $389