An excellent question that I received today in regards to balancing risk, reward & total gain/loss exposure when trading a volatile sector like the shipping stocks. I expanded on a few closely related points to consider when determining the optimal profit targets, stop levels & position size on trade ideas with above average gain/risk potential:
Randy, I’m having trouble understanding how to invest in the shippers while maintaining a R/R ratio of 3:1 or better. I use the R-value method of calculating position size and thus determining R/R. Pretty sure you must be familiar with it, but it’s explained concisely here: https://www.stocktrader.com/2013/09/14/van-tharp-risk-r-multiples-successful-investing/
The formula looks like this:
((Account size)*(risk as a %))/(initial price per share – stop price per share) = # shares to buy
The R/R calculation is related:
((target price per share – initial price per share)*(# shares held))/((Account size)*(risk as a %)) = the R:R ratio
So for a shipper like TOO my spreadsheet calculates the share size to buy at: 800 for a position size of $5000 (at yesterday’s closing price of $6.25 and a stop set at $5.00 for a hypothetical account of $100,000 and risking no more than 1% or $1000). The R/R on that is a compelling 5.8!
The problem arises when I artificially adjust the position size down to $1000 (175 shares) without tightening the stop, I get an R/R of 1.3. Not so compelling.
What to do in this situation?
1. Buy the big position and trust the stop but risk a big gap down on bad news for a low-priced stock?
2. Buy the small position and set a tighter stop based, not on a logical T/A placement but on maintaining a 3:1 R/R?
3. Buy the small position with the stop set at a logical place based on T/A and chill out about the R/R?
I take a similar but more simple approach in determining my position size as well as my stops & targets. Essentially, I break it down into two parts:
1) First & foremost, you need to use favorable risk/rewards rations on every trade. Unless you have some magic formula that produces an 80%-90% plus success rate, I like to use an R/R of 3:1 or better. In doing so, I first analyze the chart in order to determine where my entry (or entries, if scaling in) will be and where my target (or targets, if scaling out) will be. To keep it simple, if my sole price target would be a $3 per share gain, then my stop would be $1 below entry. I will add that I typically adjust my stops at or near that level to be placed just below the nearly support level, assuming there is a clearly defined level such as a gap or horizontal support.
2) Now that the R/R is taking care of, I will then simply adjust my position size down based on the EXPECTED volatility of the position. In my book, basing your position size on recent volatility & measures like the current ATR can be akin to driving while looking in the rear-view mirror. For example, I love trading breakouts from falling & rising wedges. The closer prices get to the apex of a wedge, the less volatility & smaller the price range become. However, wedge patterns, along with most other chart patterns, are like coil springs, with the stock ”building” energy in a consolidation type phase with that energy released like a bullet when you pull a trigger & the firing pin hits it. After a breakout, stocks often explode higher (or plunge lower on a short-setup), as such, I anticipate the likely future volatility when determining my position size.
To expand on that, let’s just say that I was only trading one security in a sector, such a NUGT for the mining stocks (which already provides me diversity among many stocks in the sector), I might simply reduce my position size in two steps: 1) By 30-50% to account for the above average volatility of the mining sector/GDX and 2) Then by a third to account for the 3x leverage of NUGT.
As far as the shippers, where I often take a shot-gun approach in order to diversify among numerous stocks vs. just one or two, I simply determine how much of my overall portfolio I want to allocate to the sector (whether buying into that full exposure at once or scaling in), and then try to get a feel for how many total stocks that I might ultimate hold in that sector. If I decide to put 20% of my account into the shippers & I decide that I will probably hold 10 stocks, that would be about 2% of my portfolio size into each stock. To take it one step further, I might knock that down to 1% or less for any very low priced, micro & nano-cap shippers (e.g.- SEA, EGLE, SALT) while increasing to 3% or so for the less volatile, higher priced stocks with small to medium sized market capitalizations (e.g. KEX, SSW, MATX).
That might sound complicated & although maybe I should, I don’t always pull out my calculator to get an exact numbers of shares but rather quickly glance at the market cap, stock price and most importantly, the historical trading history (which I’m pretty familiar with anyway, having trading the shippers long & short for many years) in order to come up with a quick rough total value for each position that I decide to take, again, keeping the total current AND eventual allotment to the sector in mind.
Looping back to that whole R/R thing that you were struggling with, it’s all relative.. meaning if you use a 3:1 or better R/R on each position, regardless of the position size, that is all that matters. Don’t get tied up in the fact that you are adjusting the total position size down to account for the above average volatility/risk of loss potential because it is all relative. If you would normally put $10k in a typical trade with a beta of 1.0 (vs. the broad market) and you decide to put $2k into a shipper that has a history of running 50-200% in just days or weeks when the sector is hot, you will make (or lose, if wrong) about the same DOLLAR amount as you would on a typical trade. That assume that you might normally target a 15% gain with a 5% loss allotment on a typical swing trade but, using that same 3:1 R/R, you are risking a 25% loss for the change to make 75% on the shipping stock. I never get tied up or swayed by percentage gains & losses… its the total DOLLAR gains & losses that will make or break me.
So it seems like what you are saying is that continue to use the 3:1 R:R discipline to select trades as those setups where the price action supports a 3:1 R:R are more likely to succeed, and as a trader it keeps you out of the lower percentage trades. But go ahead and adjust position size manually when necessary. It’s that part where, lacking experience, I find it more difficult to judge.
I have to say, it’s very helpful when you say things in your videos and posts like, ”please be cautious and don’t put your whole portfolio in these stocks…” and your description using NUGT was great because that was my next question (how to translate stops, targets and position sizes between the 1x and 3x ETFs).