Issue 13

No Doubt All The Futures Truth Systems Are Curve-Fitted - Russell Sands

In response to Vern Nord's letter in the April issue, I thought I'd contribute my opinion. Although I have never personally worked with any of the systems covered by Futures Truth, I have no doubt that they are all curve-fitted. Any 'system' that purports to specialize in one market is optimized for that particular set of data.

Some people will say that different markets have individual characteristics or personalities. This may be true to a limited extent. However, in testing, a computer doesn't 'know' what market it is examining. All the computer knows is a bunch of numbers (highs, lows, closes), from which it attempts to produce an algorithm to explain or predict price behavior.

For a system to be valid, it should work over a given set of numbers (data). Whether those numbers have a name such as 'Beans" or 'Bonds" is (and should be) irrelevant to the data and to the testing program.

Systems Make Money When They Trend and Lose Money When They Don't - No Surprise

The best that you can hope for is to create a system that is profitable over time over a wide range of markets. Systems such as the Turtles use, makes money when the markets trend and loses money when they don't (no surprise).

Since trendiness is a proven characteristic of commodity markets, given a long enough sample period (i.e. ten years) almost all the markets yield positive results.

However, in any given year, since there are only a few good trends, most of the markets will prove unprofitable. This is not a reason to abandon the system, or to eliminate (temporarily) unprofitable markets from the portfolio. In fact, the markets that have lost the most money recently (due to being in a consolidation) will probably be the best in the future (when they finally hit a trend).

Finally, I wish somebody could teach me how to know when the markets will trend and when they will be in a trading range. If I knew this, I wouldn't need to know much else to make money. I can visually eyeball a chart and tell you if it's in a trend or consolidation, but that doesn't tell me much about the future. Unless I've been missing something, Wilder's ADX, or almost anything else for that matter, is more of a lagging indicator, telling where the market has been, not where it's going.

A Minor 1-Tick Difference in Price Makes A Gigantic 59-Tick Difference in Trading Results - David Stone

Most traders fail to realize the major difference in a system's profitability as a direct result of its stop-loss or its target price accuracy.

For example, I vividly remember a T-Bond trade I had with my system that called for a stop-loss to be placed 29/32nds under the next day's opening price. That stop equaled a risk of $906.25.

The target price was 30/32nds above the opening. That could have resulted in a profit of $937.50 if the trade went my way without my stop getting hit first.

For the first 2 days the trade went my way but did not reach my target price. Suddenly on the third day, the market went sharply against me and my resting stop-loss order that I had earlier placed with my broker got hit.

In fact, it got hit exactly! It turned out to be the exact low of the day and low of the entire time period. I lost $906.25 plus commission on the trade.

After my stop got hit (the same day) the market rallied up rapidly and never saw that price level again, until after the target price my system had generated was hit (the next day). If I was still in the market I would have made $937.50.

The swing difference between the loss price and target price was $1843.75 ($906.25 + $937.50). That means all because of a seemingly insignificant $31.25, I ended up with $1843.75 less in my account than if I would have had a 1-tick larger stop-loss!

Do You Know That You're Not Guaranteed a Fill if the Price Hits
Your Order Price but Does Not Go Thru It? - David Stone

A few years ago a very similar thing (compared to my T-Bond trade) happened but in the reverse order, in the Soybean market. I was long July Beans and had the position for 7-days total. On the 5th day the price hit my pre-determined target price exactly.

However, my resting order to take my profits of 12-1/2 cents ($625.00) was not filled because it did not stay at that price long enough to fill my order.

If the order price happens to be a resistance/ support area or the price is in the process of topping/bottoming out, it's possible your order may not get filled at all, even if the price is touched. That's because the price must go beyond the order price before a fill is guaranteed.

After my target price was touched, the price dropped steadily for the next 2-1/2 days and my resting stop-loss was subsequently hit. That resulted in a loss of $550.00 (11 cents).

Consequently, I ended up with $1175.00 less money than if my original target order was filled. In other words, if my target price had been 1/4 cent ($12.50) lower than it was, I would have ended up $1175.00 better off the price!

I have talked to other traders who tell me similar things have happened to them. Perhaps it would be a good idea to always place your target orders slightly closer than your system indicates...perhaps 2-ticks or so. Also, perhaps place your stop-loss order 2-ticks or so farther away than indicated by your system.

However, I am not sure if in fact that will help. It's possible the market may then simply go 2-ticks more (or less) than it would have if it were not for the adjustments. Do any of the other members have opinions on this? Please write and let me know via the next issue of Commodity Traders Club News.

My Dealings With A Chicago Futures Discount Broker - Fred Montgomery

A few years ago I had an unfortunate experience upon opening a trading account at Ira Epstein & Company Futures, a large discount firm located in Chicago.

The main reason I opened the account was because they offered me an extremely attractive rate of $17.00 per round-turn. However, the savings of $3.00 per trade compared to my previous broker turned out to be incredibly minor, and ended up costing me thousands of dollars. That's because I ended up losing thousands of dollars due to an odd series of events and Ira Epstein's alleged strange policies involving new accounts.

The very first trade made with Ira Epstein involved buying T-Bonds at the opening, with a fairly small 10-tick stop-loss order. I did not actually place the stop because I was using a so called mental-stop loss. That meant as soon as I saw the price hit my stop, I would call and exit at the market.

This is the story of the actual trade: I entered the trade on the opening at exactly 7:20 AM. I was watching FNN (now known as MSNBC) on Cable TV and at 7:26 AM they reported T-Bonds were down 7-points from the opening and they had slowly drifted down since the 7:20 am opening.

I knew an important government report was coming out at 7:30 am, so I decided to call Ira Epstein for a price quote before the government report was released, especially since my stop order was fairly tight and within 3-ticks of the CNN reported price.

At exactly 7:27 am, I called the Ira Epstein Price Quote Line to see if my stop was being hit. Ira only offered quotes thru their Computerized Quote Line, which entailed pressing buttons similar to a Voice Mail setup. You would enter your account number and codes for the commodity quote wanted and the computerized voice would give the quotes.

To my shock, the Quote Line automated voice told me "sorry, you do not have enough money in your account to get any quotes today." This was not true as I had over $20,000 in my account.

After this delay, I immediately (7:28 am) tried to call the main number to get the important quote. However, by the time I explained what happened (to a very dense and slow person), and got switched to a couple extensions to get my quote, it was 7:32 am and that important government report had already come out.

As soon as the (construed negatively) Government Report came out, the market dropped like a rock. In fact, it gaped down some 20/32nds instantly, and then dropped another 20/32nds over the next 2-minutes. I know that because I got "time and sale" which showed the ticks and the times involved.

The time and sale also showed that at exactly 7:27 am the price was in fact at my stop-loss price (down 10-points from the open). That was the exact time the Ira Epstein Quote Line refused to allow me any quotes and over 2-minutes prior to the release of the critical government report.

If I would have been able to get that quote at 7:27 am, I would have immediately switched over to the Order Desk and got out at-the-market because my stop was hit (and before the adverse government report was released). There's little doubt I would have been out of the trade at 7:28 or 7:29 am and my loss would have been only 10 or 11 ticks, or about $340 or so.

During past experiebces with a number of T-Bond "Market Order" trades at a different discount brokerage, my trades were always filled within one to no more than two minutes. Therefore, I know I could have got out of the market in time before the U.S. Government Report came out.

Instead, I was not able to get out until 7:33 am and ended up losing 50-ticks ($1,562.50). That was over $1,200.00 more than I would have lost, if not for the refusal of the Quote Line to give me my quote.

The next day I called Mr. Ira Epstein himself to complain about the apparent "computer error." To my complete shock and bewilderment, Ira told me it was not really an error by the Computerized Quote Line at all!

It was a deliberate planned event that took place. For reasons that still puzzle me to this day, Ira said they "programmed their computer to automatically tell all new accounts on their first phone call that they have insufficient money to get quotes," (regardless of whether it's true or not)! Of course, they did not pre-warn the clients of this potentially costly asinine practice.

Apparently they did it so the client will be forced to then call them direct. By doing this they can then manually double-check to verify a new client has money in his account and their check has cleared the bank, etc. They subsequently program the Ira Epsetin QuoteLine to operate normally for new clients calls for quotes in the future (after the first call deliberately fails).

I was originally extremely upset and annoyed, due to thinking the Epstein QuoteLines refusal to give me the critical Treasury Bond quote was a computer bug or error. Subsequently, the amazing revelation that it was not an error, but instead was an idiotic, deliberate and planned occurrence added salt to my wound and caused extreme anger and bewilderment. I was shocked that Ira would have the audacity and nerve to do something which could be so incredibly harmful to their clients' pocketbook.

When I asked for restitution for my loss, all Ira proposed was a token good-will settlement of $200.00. The small offer was ridiculous compared to my plus $1200.00 extra loss, so I turned it down.

Another reason I turned it down was because I thought Ira would change his mind and give full restitution, but they refused and I subsequently closed my account. I was also planning to complain to the NFA or CFTC but unfortunately have never gotten around to it (but may still do so).

Note: After this incredible event occurred I still foolishly made several more trades with "Ira Epstein & Company Futures." I ended up losing another $2000.00 due to more stupidity, incompetence and errors involving their order-clerks and Ira Epsetein's order call back personnel. They did things like not bothering to call back at all with fills or unables, or calling back an hour or so late, and after my stop had already been hit.

One trade in Coffee involved a limit-order where they (admittedly) failed to call back at all with my fill. As a result, I did not know I was in the position and ended up losing lots of money by the time I found out I was in fact in the trade the following day. That was partially my fault for not calling them to verify the order until late the next day. However, that should have not been necessary.

After going thru hell with Ira for about 2-weeks, I finally closed my account. At the time I realized they were not going to reimburse me for my original large Treasury Bond loss they caused, and they were also extremely negligent and incompetent in other ways, which compounded my losses.

I ended up losing over $3000.00 due to their stupidity, deliberate misinformation, incompetence and negligence. This includes the infamous T-Bond trade loss due to their deliberate and planned computerized programming problem with their Quote Line. In addition, I found some people on their staff to be sarcastic and rude.

It is said that over 80% of commodity traders lose money. With thongs like this occuring involving your commodity futures broejr, the number is more likely near 800. Good luck if you trade with them ... you will need it!

A Warning To Traders - Malcolm McNutt

There is a hot neural network program on the market called InvestN32, sold by an outfit called RaceCom, headed by a guy named Joe Sheppard.

I bought this program about a year ago, and have been trying to get my money back ever since. The thing is a joke. I was told it could accurately predict the Deutsche Mark to within one cent (well, that's only a $1,250 margin of error).

The first time I tried to get a refund, Sheppard told me that my licensing agreement stated that once I opened the package, I owned it. What is this, a China shop--you touch, you break, you buy? For all I knew, the box could have been empty inside, how do I know unless I open it. This is not a valid disclaimer.

I was also told that I would be sent an update of the program that worked in real time with Tradestation, it never happened. They were going to sell the 'real time' program to big New York institutions for several thousand dollars, but I suspect that was just the dreaming and scheming of a small time hustler.

Then I read a review by Larry Williams, whose system testing experience I greatly respect, and he said he came to the conclusion that RaceCom worked brilliantly in historical testing because it 'cheated' by peeking into the future before predicting the next outcome. Wow!

So I called Sheppard and again requested a refund, which he again refused. He reiterated that the program worked, and said he had several customers who told him they were currently making huge sums of money in S&P's and other markets. But he would not offer any written proof, and when I asked if he had a real time track record to backup his claims, he acted as though he didn't know what the words 'real time track record' meant.

I don't think he knows what the word 'integrity' means either. Or probably a lot of other words. I told him if he didn't send my money back, I would write this letter and circulate it all over the Futures industry. He threatened to sue me for slander, and then hung up the phone on me.

This guy is bad news. The Better Business Bureau won't do anything, and I don't expect to get my money back. But if enough people read this letter, then maybe guys like Sheppard will be forced out of business, and we can regain just a little bit of integrity to our already tarnished industry.

A Sample Chart Showing How To Use Swing Highs and Swing Lows
(Market Structure) To Trade Successfully - Dave Green

The concept of only selling providing a "Swing- High" has occurred and only buying upon the occurrence of a "Swing-Low" can be very profitable.

Unfortunately, the method is enhanced by using some subjectivity or by using charts of past data. Old charts and subjectivity can combine to make it look highly profitable. In real-time trading it's more difficult due to the issue of what constitutes those Swing-Highs/Swing-Lows, and their identification.

Sometimes saying 2 or 3 lower days on each side of a high point qualifies as a Swing-High, and can be very profitable. Sometimes more days on each side of the swing day are better to more clearly define the Swing-High and Swing-Low.

The problem is the fact the more days on each side we have, the more of the move is over by the time we can get into the market. Conversely, the fewer days on each side of the bar means the move has likely not progressed far. However, it's more likely to be a false or minor Swing-High/Low and consequently less profitable, or a loser.

It's fairly easy to draw the buy and sell arrows at Swing-High and Swing-Low points on the chart appearing below. However, to do it in real-time trading is not as easy at it appears on the chart.

Nevertheless, the Swing-High and Swing-Low concepts (a.k.a. Market Structure) are in my opinion likely the best way to trade the markets successfully. It will "work" in any market, the actual market makes absolutely no difference. Of course, as always, trending markets make it work a lot better. However, keep in mind the concept of buying/selling Swing- Lows/Swing-Highs is simple but it's not easy.

Sleazy Trades?
reprinted with the permission of the Wall Street Journal

The Clintons have provided some commodity-brokerage printouts, than you. But they are not, as widely believed, trading records. After spending two days with these incomplete numbers, we find that they answer fewer questions than they raise.

That is, the printouts don't put to rest the suspicion that someone cut a lot of corners to steer Bill and Hillary nearly $100,000 in commodities gains. These suspicions lurk because amateur commodities players simply don't make such money, because of what the whole Whitewater affair tells us about the way business and government mixed in Arkansas, because a powerful friend of Bill and Hillary loomed in the background, and because the trades were handled by a broker who was repeatedly sanctioned.

The White House will have to go a lot further to demonstrate that Mrs. Clinton did indeed trade commodities as she says she did and not with undue assistance from Tyson Foods lawyer Jim Blair and/or his (and her) broker Robert Lee (Red) Bone.

What the Clintons released Tuesday were two types of monthly statements for the first eight months of activity. One showed the gains or losses being posted to her account as positions were closed; they don't reveal the types, the durations or the prices of the deals. The other statement showed open futures contracts at the end of each month. Except on the open positions, we can't tell a cattle trade from one in soybeans, for instance. Chart in Print Copy

Presumably these records were obtained from the Refco brokerage house or from the family files. Either way, people in the business tell us, we should expect a third type of statement to be part of the package: a record of daily trade confirmations, with amounts and prices.

Once upon a time there would have been time-stamped trading slips that would allow checking the trades against exchange records of prices, but these are typically discarded after a few years.

But confirmation slips would tell us what exactly she was trading, what her price in and out was, and where there were intra-day or adjusted trades-both of which would flag attention to possible misallocations by the broker.

The issue of intra-day trades is particularly relevant because of Mr. Bone's history. One of his disciplinary proceedings, according to sources quoted by Securities Week, "largely related to trade allocations, whereby customers of Bone's choosing would be given the good, i.e. profitable, trades at the close of the trading day and other accounts would get the bad trades."

Allocations are easy on intra-day trades, and very difficult to do on longer trades without raising "as of" red flags. Mr. Bone was found to be playing with margin requirements, which also reflects on the Hillary matter.

To appreciate the essence of this, you don't have to go beyond the two first days of Mrs. Clinton's monthly statements. On Oct. 11, 1978, she made a cash deposit of $1,000. This is a curious figure for a prospective cattle trader, since the margin requirement for a single cattle contract was $1,200.

The next day she closed out positions netting a profit of $5,300. Margins apply to overnight accounts, and since Hillary didn't meet the margin for a single contract, until we see the actual records, we have to presume her Oct. 12 profits came from day trades.

We and others have been asking around for explanations of how one makes 530% in one day, given the fact that, by exchange limits, the most a cattle contract (40,000 pounds) could move during that day was 1.5 cents up or down per pound. As best we can determine, the actual movement of the most volatile cattle contract on Oct. 12 was 0.8 cents. In other words, to make $5,300, one would have needed to own about 17 contracts.

A contract was worth about $22,000. Even if not all of them were held at once, if broker Bone were carrying off a string of amazing buys and sells as the day proceeded (with Hillary at his side, of course), we're talking about a position at any one time that dwarfed the worth of a couple who had a $42,000 income the previous year and didn't even own a home.

The exposure to simply one day's swing would be many times the $1,000 Mrs. Clinton had put down. At the least, any broker actually making these trades had to assume there was a lot more behind the Clintons than showing on paper.

Or maybe they weren't her trades at all. That day's gains in Mrs. Clinton's account, says John Damgard, president of the Futures Industry Association, "very well may apply to trades that were on for some time and were liquidated that day." Indeed, the Washington Post quoted a White House official to the effect that Hillary believed her gains accumulated over several days. But if so, according to the records, they had to belong to somebody else, somebody who was willingly or unwillingly giving up his gain to her.

If Mrs. Clinton's account was cleared that first day, she survived the heavy exposure to loss. But if the records released so far are accurate, on that first day she was able to show profitable intra-day trades that seem wholly out of line with her financial resources.

This raises a question about the rest of her trades, since the released records are ambiguous on which were day trades. Some trades, those held over the end of the month, are clearly of longer duration. But with the bulk of trades, and the bulk of the profits, the positions were closed within the month, and perhaps within the day.

It is true that Mrs. Clinton sustained losses, sometimes sizable ones, such as $17,400 on Nov. 22, but each time the debit was made up with gains on what may have been more of those easily manipulable day trades. It looks as if the inter-month positions were net losers and the intra-month trades net winners. Confirmation records would address what the intra-month deals were.

And, of course, if the balance of the trades were indeed overnight, it again raises the issue of margins. "Significant undermargining" at the outset, Mr. Damgard says, "raises the question of whether someone was arranging her trades."

Trader Morris Markovitz, quoted recently in USA Today , calculated that at one point her account was $90,000 short of margin, and commented, "I defy you to find any other account in the country where such a tiny amount of cash was allowed to risk such massive amounts of money."

While true trading records would tell much of the story, it would also be helpful to hear soon from Mr. Bone under oath. Especially so since he has told the New York Times, more than once, that he did not confer with Hillary over her trades, as the White House says he did, and in fact doesn't even recall doing them.

Perhaps others in the Refco operation, past and present, could shed some light on whether it was standard procedure for a broker to permit an amateur with $1,000 to control perhaps 400,000 pounds of cattle. Refco itself was disciplined by the Merc in 1979 and fined $250,000 for record-keeping negligence.

Any such testimony would require congressional hearings, not yet set for Whitewater. Robert Fiske's inquiry into possible crimes would appear to be irrelevant here, since the statue of limitations has long since lapsed.

When confronted with the messy circumstances of deals by which Mr. and Mrs. Clinton sought to "get theirs" earlier in life, this administration's habit is first to brush off the questions as an impertinence, then to dribble out documents that purport to put matters to rest but (slyly?) don't, and finally to act victimized when the inquiries don't cease.

The President and his wife are not the first to have suspicions about their personal finances follow them into the White House. We remember a guy whose California "slush fund" hung over him for 20 years, until he clumsily gave the press something really to write home about.

We're not suggesting this episode is pointed toward another Watergate, and for the sake of an unstable world and shaky markets we surely trust not. But at the very least, we have to note that the coverup of the Clintons' 1978 and 1979 tax returns got them past not only the statue of limitations but some important political deadlines.

If the commodities trading had come out during the 1992 campaign, for instance, or 1993 tax debate, the Clinton's effective rhetoric about greed in the 1980s would have been exposed as the hypocritical blather that it was.

Now, we've drawn conclusions from two days with incomplete records, and while our inquiries at the White House yesterday were unavailing, further explanations may dispel our suspicions. But by now the administration has welcomed to Washington nearly every Arkansas ally this side of Red Bone and Jim McDougal. So with the record so suggestive of sleazy trading, surely it is time for the Clintons to start doing some real explaining.

If You Can Get In The Winners Circle, You Can Become
Wealthy By Getting All The Money The Others Lose - Jim Ford

It may be true that the majority of traders lose money. However, what happens to all the money that is lost? The answer is, it must be made by the consistent winning traders.

If 80% or more lose money, that means the 20% that regularly make money trading futures are becoming wealthy by getting all that money the other 80% are losing.

That is what makes commodity trading so exciting and potentially rewarding. If it were not for the fact most traders do lose money, the reward for us winners would be far less lucrative than it is.

The fact is you can become wealthy much quicker and easier because of the preponderence of losers money. That gives it great reward potential. You too can get in the winners circle by hard work, the ability to weather the occasional storms and drawdown periods, discipline and money management techniques.

Broker Trading by Computer can be done thru Robbins Trading Co.
or Commodity Research Institute - John Bowley

Dave, your Traders Club News is really great! The following is submitted for publication:

There are now many users with their own systems and those evaluated by Futures Truth. Robbins Trading and Commodity Research Institute (CRI) offer to run these programs and make trades. Robbins uses SystemWriter and CRI uses Excalibur to program, test and general signals. Robbins in Chicago will not allow one to cancel trades or enter stops.

CRI in Atlanta is associated with Futures Truth and says they will offer a simple filter or stop which improves percentage of gains or reduces drawdown. One must buy a system, most under $1,000 to participate. Both charge about $50 per trade.

This type of service represents a big step forward for small users. It allows one to trade automatically without placing orders, and one need run the program only if desired to choose actual trades. Futures Truth publishes results monthly. Now one can trade them with little effort.

FastTrack - A Mutual Fund Traders/Investors Friend - Part II - Jim Hill

You can expand FastTrack's analysis (referred to last month) by developing a combination fund of the two and then develop counter relationships using a new index. This is a very powerful feature.

You create a new mutual fund that represents the counter relationship of the two select mutual funds. Then you develop a counter relationship with another index. If this second counter relationship is positive, then you choose the strongest mutual fund; if it is negative you can be in another mutual fund or a money market fund. This type of pairing is easy to establish, and you can determine its effectiveness, historically.

What type of historical information is provided? Besides the usual mutual fund pricing and dividend data, you will obtain the composite return of the fund and index, paired, a total return of the fund and a money market fund in case you want to invest in a money market fund when your selected fund is weak, the fraction of time the chosen indicator was up or down, the number of sell/buy signals, the standard deviation of volatility, the return unadjusted, correlation coefficients, and the expected return given the standard deviation.

Assistance with FT is readily available from the company. Or, you can communicate with users on the investment bulletin board in Prodigy. The bulletin board participants are helpful, and discuss more advanced selection strategies.

What are some of the disadvantages of FT and its data service? First, the data only goes back to September of 1988. And second, you can not analyze a group of different funds for net profit/loss (in other words, you can not easily do asset allocation beyond two funds).

What is the cost? There is an initiation charge of $69 and a monthly data cost of $30 if paid monthly or $240 per year, if paid yearly. This is the best method of determining FT would be of use in your selection of mutual funds.

As of the date I am writing this article, my indicator for the general market is still negative and it will not be positive in the near future. It is an easy indicator to set up in FT and easy to follow each day.

Editor's Comments

My goal is to make CTCN even more useful to members so we can all trade better and avoid the many pitfalls along the way. With that in mind there are several good articles in this issue that reveals ways you can lose money or not make money thru no fault of your own.


Special Note: Thanks to everyone who has contributed knowledge to this issue of Commodity Traders Club News. Without you it would not be possible. P.S. - Remember, as a special reward for making just one contribution/submission per year, you'll receive an automatic 50% price reduction on your renewal. Submissions can be any length, long or short; typed, handwritten or submitted on a disk. Formal or informal. Please participate by sharing your information and knowledge with other traders. Please make a contribution about your experiences, both good & bad with systems, services, advisors, data vendors, and other trading related product.

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