Derivatives have taken on an ever increasing importance in the markets. The broad definition of derivatives includes options, futures, and many more exotic instruments that are conjured up by the leading investment banks. For most traders, though, derivatives means options—stock options, futures options, or index options. The virtual explosion in trading volume of options of all types attests to their importance. Moreover, there has been an increased interest in short-term trading— even day trading. This work by the DeMarks addresses both issues with a degree of professionalism reflective of their experience as traders and system designers.

This is not a get-rich-quick book. The setups, signals, and concepts described herein will require some study by even the most astute trader in order to use them successfully. But that is good news. So many books on day trading are published that seem to tout the concept as an easy road to riches. Any serious day trader—and I consider myself among them—knows that day trading is hard work, which is difficult on the psyche, and the concomitant rewards are available only to those who are willing to "pay the toll," so to speak. This book should appeal to both the aspiring trader and the experienced trader as well, for it lays out nontrivial concepts that can lead to excellent profits.

Most of the systems in this book are a continuation of the ones described in DeMark's earlier works—they deal with the timing of the purchase or sale of the underlying security. Options can, of course, be used in place of the underlying in any trading system—buying calls instead of taking a bullish signal on the underlying stock, index or futures, or buying puts instead of shorting the same. However, there is one very interesting new twist present here: the TD % F system. In this instance, DeMark lays out an option trading system that depends only on the price of the option itself! There is no consideration of what the underlying is doing— although the movements of the underlying, of course, influence the price of the option. I have often been a proponent of using options as a technical indicator to predict the movement of the underlying security—option volume spikes, sudden increases in the expensiveness of options, and put-call ratios are all accepted ways of doing this. Now, perhaps, another indicator has been introduced that may help in determining prices reversals by the underlying security.

Options are very useful as sentiment indicators. Unfortunately, most of our fellow option traders are wrong in their market opinions most of the time. That's why the put-call ratios—which measure option volume—are important contrary sentiment market indicators. This book describes a new sentiment indicator. It uses the dollar-weighted values of puts and calls during a trading day or at the close of trading. This indicator is similar to the put-call ratio that is commonly used for measuring sentiment, but because it uses price as well as volume and open interest, it may truly represent a new way of looking at sentiment. As always, though, the astute contrarian will want to be in a position opposite to that of the majority of traders.

TD % F is only one of many indicators presented in this book. It is important to understand that these are indicators—not systems. A system has specific entry and exit points and an exact track record can be constructed using them. However, most systems are hard to use for individual traders because somewhere along the line they conflict with the trader's own penchant for trading. The DeMarks, on the other hand, have given us indicators—rules for determining when a market is ready to be bought or sold, but which stop short of the dictatorial rules of a system. The good news is that this method gives the trader some room to use reason and logic in the way he or she employs the indicator; the bad news is that inexperienced traders might not be able to "reason" very well.

There is little mention in this book of terms you would find in a conventional option book—such as implied volatility, delta, gamma, theta, or vega. But that's okay. This isn't an option theory book—rather it is designed primarily as a trading book and it recommends that you use options to do that trading. When I am trading options for a short-term trade, I prefer to use near-term, in-the-money options, for they have little time value premium and most closely reflect the movements in the underlying security. The DeMarks espouse the same philosophy. You want to be able to capture quick price movements without having to worry a lot about time decay or possibly a change in the volatility pricing structure of the options—that is, how expensive the options are. Day traders of options don't have to worry much about either one—there is little time decay in the course of a single day, and options don't normally have a significant change in their pricing level in one day's time. Moreover, options limit your risk if something especially untoward should happen, but they allow for almost unlimited rewards.

In addition, the beauty of the DeMarks' approach is that these systems are geared toward option buyers. Forget spreads, covered writes, strangles, and so forth. If you can identify the likelihood of a swift movement by the underlying security—and that's what this book is all about—then you can concentrate on buying options as your trading vehicle. There is no need for the hedged strategies. In fact, it's a myth that option writers make all of the money in option trading. Anyone who has written covered or uncovered calls on the major stocks—especially the technology stocks—during the ongoing bull market has suffered the consequences. Even those who have employed bull spreads have found their profits reduced because they limited their profit potential. So the DeMarks' approach— and it is a valid one—is to forsake the exotic and stick with the basic: buy calls if the underlying is going to rise, and buy puts if it's going to fall. Of course, determining what the underlying is going to do is a difficult endeavor, but the indicators presented herein are very useful for that purpose.

While many setups and indicators are presented in this book, my favorite is the TD Camouflage. It is simple, seems to have excellent results, and can be quickly understood by even the most novice trader. If you come away with nothing else, learn this one concept. It should improve your short-term trading results.

Another yery interesting concept that is stressed in this book is that of using the current day's opening price as the point from which to measure net change for the day. Not a single pricing service approaches the markets in this way—from newspapers to the most sophisticated and expensive real-time data services. Yet, as the DeMarks stress throughout, the most important thing for a trader to know about a stock, future, or index is how it is doing relative to today's opening price. I won't get into examples—the DeMarks do that—but suffice it to say that I agree with this concept and perhaps this book's greatest contribution to investment theory will be the realization of that ideology.

Readers who are familiar with Tom DeMark's previous works will find these systems to be similar to ones you have previously discovered. New traders will be intrigued by them as well, and should learn a lot. Again, I stress that this is not a trivial, "make-a-million" (while you lie on the beach) book. It is a serious endeavor and requires study and concentration. But from the myriad of examples and charts that point out how these indicators work, you should be able to see that any serious time spent studying these techniques should prove profitable to you in your trading.

If you want to keep track of these indicators yourself, you will need software to do it. There are just too many calculations and too many markets to expect that you can do it by hand. The DeMarks address this problem, though, by providing a list of potential software solution providers in the appendix. This, of course, necessitates having a computer and a pricing service so that you can monitor these setups at all times. However, for the trader who is interested in only a market or two—and these indicators appear to work well on the biggest market: S&P futures (and OEX traders can be included as well)—it would be possible to keep the information updated by hand, at least on a daily basis.

The summary chapter is extremely well done, for it ties together the concepts laid out in the more detailed portions of the body of the work. In fact, it is so good in describing what the book is about, that you might want to glance at the summary chapter first and then delve into the detail of the book.

Overall, I think you will find this book interesting and will also find that it contributes to your profitability, whether you are a day trader using five-minute, ten-minute, or hourly charts, or if you are a short-term trader using daily charts and planning to hold for several days at a time.

Lawrence G. McMillan

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