If there is one is universally true statement that I can make about trading systems in general and in specific, it is this – they sure are fun when they work.
When I first started trading – back in what I longingly refer to as the “Hair Era” in my life – I figured that I would be a “gut” trader – i.e., I was determined to rely on my keen instincts and intuitive reasoning to decide when to buy and sell based on current market conditions.
That was not fun. After continually getting sucked into the swirling vortex of emotion – not to mention the abject fear associated with seeing your money disappear – I found that I was getting the, um, back of my front so to speak, burned so many times that I was having difficulty, um, sitting down, so to speak.
Eventually I evolved into a systematic trader. Now I am able to sit down much more often. A few strategies that I have developed over the years have stood the test of time and become something of “bread and butter” strategies. And they sure are fun when they work. To wit….
Jay’s Pure Momentum System
In 2001, I published an article in “Technical Analysis of Stocks and Commodities” magazine titled “Trade Sector Funds with Pure Momentum”, which detailed one specific and simple trading method. While in fact this is only one of many sector trading systems that I have developed over the years – and not necessarily the best one – it remains one of my favorites. Probably because it is just so gosh darn simple. When I was young my Momma told me to be a simple kind of man (or was it a Freebird she told me to be?). Well, in any event, here are the “simple kind of rules” using Fidelity Select Sector funds:
– After the close of the last trading day of the month identify the five Fidelity Select Sector funds that have the largest gain over the previous 240 trading days.
– For this system, ignore Select Gold (ticker FSAGX). If FSAGX appears in the top 5 funds then skip it and include the 6th highest rated funds.
– If fewer than five funds showed a gain over the previous 240 trading days, then hold cash in that portion of the portfolio (i.e., if only 3 funds showed a gain, then 60% of the portfolio would be in those funds and 40% of the portfolio would be in cash).
– If you sell more than one fund at the end of a month, then rebalance the proceeds in the new funds being purchased (example, you are selling Funds A and B and buying Funds C and D. You have $12,000 in Fund A and $10,000 in Fund B. Split the difference and put $11,000 each into funds C and D).
And that’s all there is to it.
My opinion as to why this system has performed well over the years is, well – what else – simple. The effects of a positive change in the fundamentals for a given industry or sector typically take a long time to play out. Thus, by finding the sectors that are performing well you very often find the sectors that are most likely to continue to perform well for a while.
Obviously 2013 was a banner year for this system. There is nothing like a rip roaring bull market to help things along. A couple of caveats:
*First off, sometimes people new to momentum investing will look at the charts in Figure 4 and say “Whoa, these things have already rallied sharply, I’m not jumping into those.” That’s something you’ll have to get over to use this system.
*Secondly, while the long-term yearly numbers look pretty good, there was about a 45% drawdown along the way in 2008. So it is not for the faint of heart.
*One other danger is that some people see +48.8% for the year in 2013 and get it in their head that this will occur again often. History suggests otherwise.
Still, an average annual return of +20.7% since 1990 (versus +8.9% for the S&P 500) isn’t bad – especially for a “Simple Kind of System.”
Best of Good Fortune in 2014.