It is not enough to have a successful market timing strategy if that strategy is not traded with discipline. It is also not enough to trade with discipline if you are overly aggressive with those funds allocated to market timing, and cannot handle the resulting volatility.
Many market timers think that the more they trade, the better they will do. But in reality, market timers do not need to trade aggressively to do well. Four critical issues; strategy, discipline, money management and diversification are discussed below.
When the market has a prolonged down trend, such as the 2008 bear market, a more aggressive strategy, using bear funds, will achieve huge gains. But when the bear is not growling, a less aggressive approach usually works much better. And of course, no one knows ahead of time when that bear market will occur.
Our very Conservative S&P Timer, which only averages about one trade per year, has a superb long term track record and was in money market funds for both the 2001-2003 and 2008-2009 bear markets.
So, much depends on a market timer's expectations. Are you looking for gains over a long time frame, during which bear markets are sure to occur, or must you see immediate or constant gains in order to stay with a timing strategy?
Market Timers Must Have An Edge
At FibTimer, our "edge" is trading trends. We know that the financial markets are usually in a trend, either up or down. In fact, history shows us that they are in trends about 80% of the time.
This "knowledge" is our "edge." We know that there are times that the markets are not trending, but that these times do not last long. We keep our losses small during non-trending markets using disciplined risk management. And, by trading every trend that occurs, we know absolutely that we will never miss a trend.
By limiting losses, and allowing profits to ride, we use our "edge" to time the markets with great success. There is an old saying that applies here; "Limit your losses and the profits will take care of themselves."
Once you have an edge, you have to be able to execute. The common trading errors of not taking trades until you see if they are profitable, or jumping the gun and taking trades ahead of time because you "think" a signal will be issued soon, can be a disaster to your profitability.
By not sticking to a plan, you allow emotions to rule your finances, and that places you right in with the majority of investors. Those who are the cause of the market's volatility. The "herd" followers.
At FibTimer, all of our strategies are non-discretionary. Emotions are not allowed. Our strategies offer disciplined execution of non-emotional buy and sell signals.
The reason for following any timing strategy is to "remove" yourself from making emotional trades. To remove yourself from the herd, which is often headed in the "wrong" direction.
A second reason for following a non-discretionary timing strategy is that is gets you "out" of losing buy and sell signals fast while limiting drawdowns. You are not subject to the psychology of trading. To holding onto a trade in hopes it will come back to profitability. Then exiting, finally, in a panic after huge losses.
The disciplined execution of a timing strategy avoids all of these pitfalls. You just follow the buy and sell signals with the absolute assurance that your losses will be limited and you will never miss a trend. Over any fair time frame, you will beat the markets.
Effective Money Management
Overly aggressive investment allocations can ruin even a good timing strategy with excessive drawdowns, while overly conservative allocations of capital will not optimize your total returns.
If you are a conservative investor who wishes to use market timing to protect against losses in a bear market, do NOT invest 100% of your funds in an aggressive bull and bear strategy that you are not prepared for. Yes, they make a great deal of money over time, but aggressive strategies do have more frequent buy and sell signals, and more frequent small losses.
If as a conservative investor you are unable to handle those losses, you are likely to exit the trade, thus locking the losses in, at just the wrong time!
Stick to strategies that fit your emotions. Market timers should know themselves and use timing strategies that they will be able to stick with over long time frames. Patience is the market timing key to success!
Even aggressive market timers should not time 100% of their funds in a single aggressive strategy. Diversification is not just a word., it is a prerequisite to having a successful timing strategy.
At Fibtimer, we rarely invest more than 20-30% of our own funds in bear strategies. The rest is diversified (see the Diversified Portfolio).
Using at least some diversification takes the stress out of investing, and makes it much easier to follow buy and sell signals with discipline.
At FibTimer, we never question buy and sell signals and follow them faithfully. Over the years, our disciplined approach has resulted in superb gains. We hope that we can instill this disciplined trading into all of our subscribers.
It does not take blind faith. What it takes is a realization that our own emotions and instincts are usually wrong, and that a non-discretionary timing strategy that trades all trends and limits losses in non-trending periods, is the most successful approach to profiting in the stock market.
Once you realize this, you will relax and allow the strategies to successfully grow your investments as they are designed to do.