Investment U's  Instablog

Investment U
Send Message
It’s a shame, really, that much of what is offered here – at no charge – is not taught in the public schools. Why is it that you can graduate in the top of your high school class and know next to nothing about credit card debt, adjustable-rate mortgages, or 401(k)s? Founded in 1999, the goal of... More
My company:
My blog:
Investment U
My book:
The Gone Fishin' Portfolio
  • Do Trailing Stops Really Work? 2 comments
    Jun 14, 2010 5:01 PM

    by Alexander Green, Chief Investment Strategist Monday, June 14, 2010: Issue #1280

    source: Do Trailing Stops Really Work?

    While I was in Baltimore last week, one of our Oxford Club researchers, Matt Carr, told me over lunch that one of the most controversial aspects of our investment policy is trailing stops.

    But they shouldn't be.

    If you don't have a premeditated sell discipline - and the vast majority of investors don't - you're flying by the seat of your pants. And that rarely leads to superior investment performance.

    But do trailing stops really work?

    Survey Says: Use Trailing Stops

    In a word: Yes. Trailing stops protect your profits and your trading capital. And there's much more than just anecdotal evidence.

    In a study published in The Journal of Portfolio Management, Christophe Faugere, Hany A. Shawky and David M. Smith - finance professors at the State University of New York at Albany - researched the performance of money managers who oversee pension funds, endowments and high-net-worth accounts.

    Because most institutions work under strict investment guidelines, these academics were able to analyze performance based on differing approaches to selling stocks.

    The result? Institutional managers who fared best were those with restrictive rules that didn't allow much leeway for holding stocks for emotional reasons. Managers who relied on "flexible" sell strategies did far worse.

    Count me as unsurprised. Institutional money managers are just as prone to rationalizing as individual investors when they make a mistake. (Hence the old Wall Street chestnut, "What does a broker call a trade gone wrong? A long-term investment.")

    Trailing Stops: Providing Protection... Securing Profits

    The culprit is almost always pride, ego, or emotion. Without any kind of sell strategy, emotions come into play. And emotions are almost always wrong.

    But by adhering to a disciplined trailing stop strategy, our Oxford Club investment system mows down emotion-driven trading errors like a field full of dandelions.

    It cures greed. Eliminates fear. And does away with wishful thinking - as in, "I hope this stock turns around and starts going the right way."

    Of course, trailing stops aren't the only sell discipline out there. But they're one of the easiest to implement. They serve two purposes...
    • They make sure we never let a small loss become an unacceptable loss.
    • They keep us from selling stocks while they're still trending up.
    According to the independent Hulbert Financial Digest, over the past 10 years our Oxford Club portfolios have beaten the S&P 500 by a wide margin. Part of our success has come from diligent research and careful stock selection. But part has also come from cutting our losses and letting our profits run.

    Maneuver Past the Market Makers With

    The one knock against using trailing stops is that unscrupulous market makers will sometimes take out your stop order right before a stock takes off.

    But Richard Smith, President and Founder of - and a PhD in mathematics - has a service that provides an ingenious solution.

    If you visit, you can enter the stocks you own, the price you paid and the percentage trailing stop you want to use. There are several valuable benefits...
    • If any of your stocks close beneath your selected stop, TradeStops sends a message - to your cell phone, e-mail, or account page - alerting you.
    • Some brokerage firms, like Fidelity, offer trailing stop alerts with their accounts. But they generally expire after 30 or 60 days. TradeStops information never expires and even offers a 30-day risk-free trial.
    • You can track up to 50 stocks at a time. (And whenever you stop out of one, you can replace it with another.)
    • TradeStops is easy to use. It's specifically designed for technophobes.
    • It's reasonably priced. Ordinarily, the cost is $7.95 a month or $79.50 a year. (If you're an Oxford Club member, you get a special rate of $39.95 a year.) There are additional services available for dedicated short-term traders who want even more.
    • It's important to note that TradeStops notifies you of stops, not your broker. And it doesn't enter sell orders. But the key is to make sure you have an acknowledged point where you'd be willing to sell any individual stock.
    Trailing stops don't just offer to cut your losses and protect your profits. They guarantee it.

    Good investing,

    Alexander Green

    Disclosure: No position
Back To Investment U's Instablog HomePage »

Instablogs are blogs which are instantly set up and networked within the Seeking Alpha community. Instablog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors, in contrast to contributors' articles.

Comments (1)
Track new comments
  • sfgsmart
    , contributor
    Comments (4) | Send Message
    The problem Alexander becomes the fact that many users will then arbitrarily set their stops at a % number that is not optimized and has no bearing on the individual equity's behavior or overall macro trends. Setting stops is indeed important and we are glad to see you promoting it. It is the right way to manage risk. In fact it is the first step in the buy equation as you need to determine your correct position size. But the "where to set it", "when to adjust it", lead to the user needing a significant amount of training and time in order to determine where the stops should be placed. Should you always just have a 10%, 25% trailing stop? The answer is know. Basing it off just price was a good way for the industry to start, but its time now to bring in the smart intelligence that can adjust it daily based on key factors.


    TradeStops is a great site and I know personally Dr. Smith, but investors and traders need something more sophisticated but easy to use. Which is why we brought SmartStops to the marketplace. We would be happy to set you up with an account to evaluate us further.
    22 Apr 2011, 05:21 PM Reply Like
  • seanadkinson
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
    Another shameless plug:


    I created this site as a simple alternative for tracking your trailing stops. It doesn't provide the kind of guidance that the previous commenter mentioned, but for those who know when they want to sell and just want to be notified, it works perfectly. It is also free for your first 5 stocks, which is nice for trying it out.
    8 Jan, 01:28 AM Reply Like
Full index of posts »
Latest Followers

Latest Comments

Most Commented
Instablogs are Seeking Alpha's free blogging platform customized for finance, with instant set up and exposure to millions of readers interested in the financial markets. Publish your own instablog in minutes.