Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Two Iteration Monte Carlo Simulation on Trading

This is something that I have posted in a comment some time back. I thought I would just expand it for discussion and see if it makes sense.

First let’s work through some assumptions and no.s and see what’s the expected return for trading.

1. The capital base is $100,000
2. $10,000 is utilized per trade
3. 10 trades is done in 1 year
4. Take profit at 20%
5. Cut loss at -10%
6. Winning rate 60%
7. Transaction cost $20

Based on these:

a. The 6 winning trades will bring in $12,000.
b. The 4 losing trades take away $4,000.
c. Transaction cost is $400.
d. Total winnings: $3800
e. Return 3.8% - Yeah that's life for a trader, my darling. Why don't you put the money in CPF and earn the same return?

Ok, there are a lot of assumptions, some might be skewed to put traders down. After all, this is a value investing blog. :) What if we tweak them around? Say the capital base is just $20,000 – then the return becomes 20%! However the rationale would then be it won’t be possible to realize 10 trades in 1 yrs with just $20,000.

Anyways let’s do a more aggressive one

1. The capital base is $50,000
2. $10,000 is utilized per trade
3. 10 trades is done in 1 year
4. Take profit at 15% (rationale being that the time horizon is now shortened)
5. Cut loss at -10%
6. Winning rate 60%
7. Transaction cost $20

Based on these

a. 6 winning trades will bring in $9,000
b. 4 losing trades take away $4,000
c. Transaction cost $400
d. Total winnings: $4,600
e. Return 9.2%

Ok that’s better than market return, but that’s probably also a high hurdle. To do 10 trades with $50k in 1 yr, reach trade can only go for 6 mths.

I think the appropriate scientific experiment we should do is a Monte Carlo simulation of 1,000 iterations to see what’s the true expected return. But my guess is it’s actually going to be less than market return (of 8% or so). Yes, actually if you do it correctly, a trader should earn positive return, not negative ones. And in all those books, it always says academic studies show that trading cannot beat market return after factoring in transaction costs.

Well this also implicitly means, if you get your transaction costs low enough, you might beat market return and becoming a Big Swinging Dick.

Ok, daydreaming over. Trading is hard. My sense is, it is actually much harder than value investing. If you do it right, you might just make average return. Most people don't do it right in the first few years. Think about the time and effort that is needed to execute these trades during the year. Basically it’s a full time job in itself. Not forgetting that it's gonna be one helluva emotional rollercoaster ride every day!

Well, that’s why I stick with value investing.

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