4 Guidelines for Forex Trading I Follow

Forex trading may become a much easier activity if you follow your own or someone else’s well-formulated guidelines. I’ve based my guidelines on my past Forex trading experience and knowledge gained listening to some of the best stock and Forex traders. What’s important is that the guidelines are not the laws and rules — they are not the only way to success, they just help the traders in their endeavor. Here’s the list of my four Forex trading guidelines:
  • Risk only 3% of the total trading capital with each trade. Generally it’s quite hard to come up with the comfortable risk percentage value for your trades if you want to keep a good money management and still let your funds grow at a nice rate. For me 3% is the optimal level — safe enough to save and high enough to gain.
  • Reward-to-risk ratio should be no lower than 1. Many currency traders prefer trading with the ratio not less than 2 or even higher. That’s a problem of risk/gain balance too. For me the opportunities with the ratio above 2 are very rare — maybe, because I prefer high accuracy trades. If your accuracy rate is far from 90% than sticking to reward-to-risk ratio of 2 would probably be a better decision.
  • Don’t leave the positions open through the weekend. The weekly opening gap can be a killer. Don’t underestimate it. As a swing trader, I prefer to open my positions in the beginning of the week and I always close them before trading ends on Friday. The gap in the price rates that usually occurs after a weekend can make your stop-loss trigger far from the levels you planned it to.
  • Wait before opening a new order after you’ve just traded. If you jump into another position right after you closed or opened a previous order is a straight road to overtrading and an empty balance. I always wait some time analyzing opportunities and resting from the Forex market before setting up my next order. Maybe, for the extreme scalpers this isn’t a best decision, but for the absolute majority of the medium-term Forex traders it is.

Forex: Tools of Trade

Although, the success in the Forex trading is largely associated with the trading strategies and systems that can be usually bought for money, those are not the real tools of the Forex trader. They can only be considered as the «shortcuts to the riches». Every professional should employ his own tools of trade and the Forex traders should have them too. Independent on the professionalism level of the trader, these tools help to analyze the markets and to calculate all the necessary numbers for money management and position taking:

MetaTrader 4 platform — perhaps the most important of the tools, a successful Forex trader should have. Even if you don’t trade with MetaTrader broker you should still download this free platform and use it for charts and technical analysis. With MetaTrader you can browse charts and the past history of almost all currency pairs, you can apply dozens of standard indicators and use the custom user-tailored indicators, you can back-test strategies using their strategy tester and forward-test your systems and expert advisors on the free demo servers. MetaTrader is your number one tool if you want to go beyond the beginner’s level in Forex.

Risk and reward calculator — a helpful tool if you prefer to know your reward-to-risk ratio before opening a real money position and manage your risks correctly. This risk-to-reward calculator will only for the chart patterns with the distinctive local peak and bottom. It’s based on the Fibonacci retracements.

Pip value calculator — it’s not a trivial task to calculate the value of a pip if you trade exotic currency pairs and/or have your trading account in some exotic currency. Understanding the value of the pip is important to accurately calculate your profits and losses. The on-line pip value calculator tool will help you to determine the pip value with the minimum efforts from your side.

Pivot points calculator — this tool will be useful to you only if you prefer to trade using technical pivot levels. There are many types of pivot calculators available — floor pivots, Tom Demark’s pivots, Camarilla pivots, Woodie’s pivots, etc. I suggest you using the on-line pivot point calculator, which combines the calculation of all the possible pivot point types.

Fibonacci calculator — if you trade via the MetaTrader platform you don’t need a separate Fibonacci calculator because you can use the standard indicator to build Fibonacci retracement levels. But if you use some web-based or some other inferior platform, you’ll enjoy calculating the Fibo levels with the on-line Fibonacci calculator.

Double Impact of the Interest Rates on Forex

The interest rates, set by the world’s central banks, are widely used in the Forex trading. Their changes are monitored by the traders and investors because the interest rates determine the fundamental value of the currencies. It’s important for every Forex trader to understand the impact of the interest rates on the currencies he trades on. It’s easy to find the interest rate table to know their latest values, but how to interpret them?

In general, the higher the interest rate associated with the currency is, the better it’s for that currency. Higher interest rates attract investors, because they offer a higher yield. Forex traders prefer buying high-interest currencies versus the low-interest ones to gain the difference yield (such trading technique is called carry trade).

On the other hand, the lower interest rates are usually more popular among the traders when the global volatility rises and the world’s financial system experiences problems. The current financial crisis shows that the currencies with the lower yield are the favorites, because they are less risky than he high-yielding ones.

So what to do and how to react on the interest rates? The volatility index (VIX) is a good tool to measure the global interest rates preference. If it’s below the «normal» level of 30%, the high interest rates act as the attractors and the currencies that have high yield grow. If the index jumps up above that level, the traders prefer to move into the less risky assets and the low interest rate currencies gain.

How Do Forex Brokers Make Money?

Many beginning Forex traders wonder how the Forex brokers earn their money on the common traders, if they are not casinos. Understanding the basic principles of the brokers’ economics will help traders to distinguish real Forex brokers from the «bucket shop» scams and the ethical companies from the unethical. Here is the list of the most common ways for the Forex broker to earn money:
  • Currency pair spreads. The largest source of income for the Forex brokers, spread is the difference between the Bid and Ask rates. Broker can execute your orders without a spread or with a minimal spread, earning the money that you lose for the spread.
  • Leveraged spreads. Spreads alone would be too small to be a significant earning source for the brokers. So, brokers offer high leverage. Of course it’s a great tool for multiplying your profit (and also losses), but the spreads are also leveraged. With 1:100 leverage, broker earns 100 times more on spreads than it would without the leverage.
  • Overnight swap spreads. Brokers pay the overnight swaps to the trader if the difference between the currency’s interest rates is positive in the trader’s position and get paid from the trader’s account if that difference is negative. But those payments are not symmetrical and they are changed so that the Forex broker would always get the advantage. When someone is selling 1 lot of EUR/USD and another trader is buying the same amount of that currency pair, the latter is earning money on overnight swaps, but the first one is losing the amount that is enough to compensate the second one’s earnings and to «feed» the broker.
  • Payment processing commission. On-line Forex brokers don’t charge commission per trade (except Islamic accounts) and often advertise that as a feature. But some brokers charge payment processing fees — they are deducted only when you deposit or withdraw money and usually are quite small and fixed in currency units, not percentage points. Of course, such commissions are too small to be a part of the broker’s profit, but they are enough to compensate at least a part of the broker’s expenses.
  • Trading against the trader. The most despised and unethical way the Forex broker can make money is to trade against its customers. And that’s the most profitable way too. Avoid the brokers that earn when you lose. If the spreads are too low, the leverage is insignificant, the overnight swaps are fair and there are no commissions (for payment processing and trading) then the broker is certainly trading against you to make money.

Forex: Keeping It Simple

Keeping everything simple is a nice strategy in almost all types of activities. Sometimes, simplicity is the only way to become profitable in the Forex trading. Of course, not everyone likes to keep everything simple and not everyone should do that. But simplifying some basic aspects of the Forex trading will help you to avoid unnecessary problems and complications:
  1. Simple trading strategy can be as profitable as some really complex systems. By keeping your strategy simple you make it easier to follow and execute it. Adding complexity in the future can be your next level, but trading with a simple strategy is a very good way to start trading on Forex for real.
  2. Try to follow a simple money management system — trading with a fixed percentage of your account equity is easy and effective. Martingale system isn’t simple and leads to losses. So, with money management simple is almost always good.
  3. Fundamental analysis is a nice tool, but it’s better to avoid reacting on all fundamental news you hear. Keep it simple — select only really important releases or indicators and monitor them when you trade.
  4. One of the best ways to simplify your Forex trading is to hold the open positions for a fixed amount of time. This way, your positions are limited not only with the stop-loss and take-profit levels, but also with the time limit. I prefer limiting them to 30, 60, 360 minutes and 1 week periods, depending on the particular strategy.
  5. Try not to trade on currency pairs with the base currency different from the one, in which your account is founded. For example, if you trade USD/JPY, while your account is founded in USD, your profit or loss can’t be adequately measured, because it inversely depends on the USD/JPY rate.
  6. Look for a Forex broker with the fixed spreads, because trading with the variable spreads can’t be easy. You can’t rely on your strategy, especially if it’s a short-term strategy, if you don’t know the spreads values for sure.
Some traders adore simple approaches to the market, while others hate everything that’s easily understood by high-school graduate and prefer complexity. If you think that you are the one from the first group, then this list will probably help you. If you know some nther ways to simplify Forex trading, please, leave a comment to this post.

Must-Read Books of Forex Trader

Knowledge can make miracles happen, especially when you endeavor to succeed in the Forex market trading. And what is the second best source of knowledge (with the first best being your experience)? Books! Learning to trade is an easy, interesting and organized process, if you study the right books. Here is the list of the trading related books that will help you develop your skills and increase your confidence in the markets:
  1. School of Pipsology by BabyPips.com — it is the best Forex trading study manual as of now. And it’s also completely free. It’s written in a very easy language and offers a lot of explanations that are vitally needed by the beginning traders.
  2. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre — this book is based on the biography of the legendary stock trader Jesse Livermore, who is often seen as an icon of the financial trading success. It’s a good half-fiction read that will provide with some interesting thoughts on trading.
  3. Emotion Free Trading by Larry Levin — Forex trading is a very stressful activity with a huge part of your success depending on your emotional control. This book will try to teach to control your good and bad emotions and trade based solely on your strategy rules.
  4. Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom by Van K. Tharp — the author of this book is a financial genius, whose developments in the money management of the financial trading can be applied in any market and will open your eyes on some aspects of the money management that are usually hidden from the beginning Forex traders.
  5. Position-sizing Effects on Trader Performance: An experimental analysis by John Ginyard — it’s a pretty long scientific paper that describes and analyzes the experiments on position-sizing effects. If you lack the hard evidence of the most common money management rules — read this and you’ll have it.
There many other interesting books that are worth reading if you are seriously trading on Forex or any other financial market. But these listed are the marvels of the trading literature, in my opinion. If you don’t have enough time to read them all, try to read at least several pages of them and, probably, you’ll find them to be more important than something else.

Disadvantages of the Automated Forex Trading

In my last post I’ve described the best advantages of the automated Forex trading. But, of course, I understand that the trading using the expert advisors isn’t always something good. Everything has its own pros and cons; so the automated trading has its own disadvantages and I’ll try to describe them in this article:
  1. No intuition to help your trading. Computers and programs simply don’t have anything similar to that mystical human feeling. While some traders don’t think that the intuition can be helpful in trading, others rely on it — such traders probably won’t be pleased with the automated trading.
  2. Smooth trade execution and uninterrupted run-time of the expert advisors is critical with many trading systems. Unfortunately, it’s something very hard to achieve running EA from your home or work PC. That means that you’d require some dedicated server to run your automated trading.
  3. Some types of strategies are simply impossible to implement into the real expert advisors. The chart pattern or wave analysis and fundamental analysis are extremely hard to code in the trading program. At the current level of the AI development these tasks are better performed by he live trader manually.
  4. The expert advisors should be made quality or otherwise their trading results will disappoint you. Unfortunately, not all expert advisors handle errors and other unexpected events correctly — sometimes this can lead to the huge losses. Moving your working EA from one broker to another can also be a problem, since broker servers differ and what works perfectly on one broker can stop working on another.
As you see, nothing is perfect in this world and, while being the extremely interesting and popular tool, automated Forex trading has its own problems. The wise decision here, in my opinion, would be using both types of trading to your advantage. The systems that can be easily implemented as the expert advisor and are too hard to be traded manually are better to be automated, while the simple systems that involve chart pattern and fundamental analysis are better left for the manual trading.

Advantages of the Automated Forex Trading

Trading with the expert advisors is seen by many (especially newbie) traders as the «holy grail» possibility. Such traders expect from each EA they find or buy the fast and risk-free profits. Of course, expert advisors are not the «holy grail» in Forex trading. Automated Forex trading is just another tool that can make the trader’s life a bit easier and sometimes even more profitable. Here is the list of the advantages of trading Forex with expert advisors:
  1. With expert advisors you can trade during the time you can’t trade manually. You can set up an expert advisor to trade for you when you are asleep, when you are away or when you are too busy to be involved in the market. Of course, you can hire someone else to trade for you, when you are away, but that’s rather ineffective decision.
  2. Strict following the trading system is another advantage of the automated Forex trading. If you have a strategy implemented in the expert advisor it will trade according to that strategy without any deviations. If you find it hard to follow your own system without modifying it constantly, try using an EA that would do all the work.
  3. Automated trading excludes any emotions form your market behavior. Computers and programs don’t have any emotions and won’t overtrade if they lose. If you are not very good at holding your emotions down, automated trading will definitely help you.
  4. Complicated strategies are not a problem for the expert advisors. For the live trader it’s not an easy task to monitor a dozen of indicators and compare each of them to the entry conditions, whereas expert advisors can do that easily and in no time at all.
  5. «Errare humanum est» said the Roman stoic; that means that despite your experience in Forex trading, you’ll make a lot of stupid mistakes through your trading career. Computers are not human, and if programmed without errors, expert advisors won’t make any errors during the trading.
  6. There are many things a live trader just can’t do — trading on multiple strategies, timeframes and currency pairs simultaneously is one of them. If you want to use your system on several currency pairs and timeframes — use expert advisor. If you want to test several systems at the same time — also use the expert advisor.
  7. The time of reaction, analysis and decision making can be critical in many Forex trading systems. Where manual trader just can’t do it fast enough, automated systems will work fine.
Perhaps, I’ve missed some important advantages here, but this list looks quite impressive to me. Of course, there are certain disadvantages in the automated Forex trading, but they will be a subject of my next post.
Even the best Forex traders need to regularly refresh their knowledge and gain new information that is related to the currency trading. There are on-line Forex resources that provide information, news, books, communities, tools and other important advantages to the traders for free. Here is the list of the most useful Forex resources that are worth to be visited daily by every trader:

Bloomberg.com — business and currency news that create the fundamental background for the Forex market. I prefer to browse these news everyday before making any trading decisions.

Forexfactory.com — apart from the usual Forex tools, there are forums that are actually visited by many new and professional traders that share their experience with different trading systems, Forex brokers, expert advisors, etc.

Forex-tsd.com — a large Forex community focusing mainly on the technical tools for trading — such as expert advisors and indicators for various platforms (usually, MetaTrader 4).

Earnforex.com — a lot of useful and free information for all Forex traders, including books, brokers’ descriptions, reviews, articles and other goodies with the new updates almost everyday.

Talkgold Forex Forum — a very popular forum in the past, it still remains a place where many «old school» Forex traders share their knowledge and discuss Forex related issues.

Those are the resources that I visit everyday. If you know some other popular and useful sites for the Forex traders, you can mention them in the comments to this post.

The Less Known Evil of the Leverage

Trading with leverage is extremely popular among the Forex traders. High leverage is considered dangerous because of the risks associated with the fast moving money and poor money management tactics practiced by the majority of the traders. Besides the well known danger of multiplying your losses, there is another evil hiding behind the leverage, which can wipe your trading account easily.

High leverage is advertised by many brokers. Some traders believe that the higher their leverage is the faster they will become rich and the Forex brokers that offer ridiculously high leverage are even praised. But in fact, there is a very practical and mercantile reason for the Forex brokers to offer high leverage — higher earnings.

The higher is the leverage the more money is paid by the trader to the broker in the form of the rates spread. The value of the pip that trader wins, loses or pays as a spread depends on the leverage. With 1:100 leverage a 2 pips spread for the 1 standard lot of the USD based currency pair is worth $20. That’s not a big amount if you have $100,000 account, but if your total trading account is just $2,000? That’s 1% lost despite the fact if you win or lose this position. With 1:10 leverage that spread would worth you only $2. Without leverage the spread payment to your broker would be as low as 20 cents.

Remember that the leverage comes with a price, which is quite high and which is often overlooked by the traders. If you want to learn trading profitably on a real account, try to the leverage as low as possible. Switch to the higher leverage only if you really know what you are doing. Don’t try to become rich quick with the help of the leverage. It won’t allow you.

Variety of Forex Scams

Apart from being potentially profitable, Forex market becomes more dangerous nowadays. There many scams in the Forex industry and they vary in types and scales. If you want to start trading Forex you should know a lot about such scams to avoid losing your hard-earned money. And if you are the experienced Forex trader you’ve probably already got hurt from some Forex scam and if not — you should also know about Forex scams to avoid them in the future.
  • Forex broker scam. It was very popular several years ago, but its popularity seems to fade now. Usually it’s just some set-up Forex broker site that promises the good trading conditions and offers some basic «bucket-shop» trading simulation to attract large customer base and run away with their money. Just do your research on a broker before depositing money and you’ll be safe from such scams.
  • Forex strategies selling. There are hundreds «successful» Forex trading strategies selling on the Internet. Many traders tend to believe that they can spend $300 on such a strategy and become rich with it. In reality the best thing that money can buy is education. Sold strategies are usually nothing but crap. Not only they won’t make you rich, they will probably make you lose your account margin.
  • Forex e-books selling. Overrated and hyped e-books with a lot of marketing and a little use (if at all) are the actual problem of many industries. Forex e-books selling for ridiculously high prices and promising to tell you «the best kept secrets of the millionaire traders» are nothing but wasted money. You’d better lose that money in Forex trading, trying to find your own strategy and getting some real practice.
  • Scam Forex managed accounts. Some people like the idea of Forex, but don’t like to trade on this market, they prefer to invest in it. That’s where managed accounts come to play. It’s a good idea to have some company or a private trade to trade for you and earn a share of profit. But unfortunately there also scam players here. They will just take your money and disappear. Some scam managers will probably even pretend that they are really trading and will show you some profit, hoping that you’ll deposit more. Don’t fall for such scams, thoroughly research your manager or better invest in some reputable managing company.

What's Your Forex Trader's Personality?

Knowing your trader’s personality is very important if you want to maintain a healthy, pleasant and, most importantly, profitable lifestyle while working on Forex. People are different and what’s good for one can be bad for other. Some trading methods and techniques will work for the certain kind of traders, but they will fail when you try to use them.

The most notable difference between various trading styles is the frequency of trading. Traders that like action and often «want to do something» perform better when they open several positions per day. Those who don’t like the chaos of the daily trading and like to think a lot before doing something will enjoy the profit from a scarcer trading. There are 4 distinct types of the trader’s personalities by the trading frequency:
  1. Position trader — mostly fundamental analysis driven positions that are opened very rarely — only few per month, often just about 10-20 positions per year. This style doesn’t require constant market monitoring and is recommended for the busy people.
  2. Swing trader — trades more often than the position trader, holding his orders open for the days and weeks. Targets and stops are lower than those with the position trading, but there are many trades per year. This is not a day trading, but it’s neither a long-term trading.
  3. Day trader — one of the most popular types of traders. They trade every day, opening several positions and holding them for a few hours to a day. This style requires a lot of market monitoring and will probably fit only full-time Forex traders.
  4. Scalper — this is the most risky and dangerous trading style. Scalping involves holding a position open just for a few seconds or minutes to gain the small profit from each position. There are dozens of trades each day with the scalping. Almost all brokers prohibit scalping. Another problem with scalping is that the major part of the scalper’s profit is eaten by the broker’s spread.
There some other parameters that can be different for various traders, but the main trading style is the basic difference and the trader that is good with the position trading shouldn’t go for the day trading to remain successful. Try to find out your style as soon as possible and stick with it.

Drawdowns and Money Management

No matter how good your Forex trading strategy is, you will lose some of your positions. There is no such thing as a 100% sure win in trading, so eventually you’ll encounter some loss. This is where the money management kicks in and helps you to limit your drawdowns in order to save your trading account from the complete wipe-out.

The problem with the drawdowns is that if you lose 10% of your account you need to recover 11% of what remains to return to the breakeven point. Losing 20% will require 25% gain over the remaining balance to recover. As you see, if you trade with the percentage risks, recovering from losses is much harder if you lose more. Trading with a little risk ratio is a good idea to prevent such problem from occurring. If you trade long enough you’ll encounter the streaks of losing trades — with 10 losing positions in a row and 10% risk ratio you’ll lose more than 60% of your initial balance. But if you trade risking only 3% of your current balance you’ll end up with 26.3% total loss. You don’t need to be a genius to see that it’s a lot easier to recover after the 26% loss than from 60% loss.

Of course, trading with small amounts of your account doesn’t look very promising, because you decrease your potential profit. But believe me, if you somehow lose 70% of your account — and that’s not a hard thing to do if you risk a big part of your capital with each trade — you’ll have to more than double your leftovers to reach the breakeven point. Remember, that all professional Forex traders (and even professional poker players) always risk only a small fraction of their capital with each trade.