Effective Stop Loss Strategies

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Losing trades with pullback plays tend to occur for one of three reasons. First, you miscalculate the extent of the countertrend wave and enter too early. Second, you enter at the perfect price, but the countertrend keeps on going, breaking the logical mathematics that set off your entry signals. Third, the bounce or rollover gets underway but then aborts, crossing through the entry price because your risk management strategy failed. The final case is the easiest to manage. Place a trailing stop behind your position as soon as it moves in your favor and adjust it as the profit increases. 

The stop needed when you first enter the position is directly related to the price chosen for entry. As you gain experience, you will notice that many pullbacks show logical entries at several levels. The longer you wait and the deeper it goes without breaking the technicals, the easier it is to place a stop just a few ticks or cents behind a significant cross-verification level. You will miss perfect reversals at intermediate levels with a deep entry strategy, but it will also produce the largest profits and smallest losses. If you choose to take many shots at intermediate levels, the position size needs to be reduced and stops placed at arbitrary loss levels such as 25- to 50-cent exposure on a blue chip and one- to two-dollar exposure on a high beta stock such as a junior biotech or China play.

JC Penney (JCP) breaks out above a nine-month trendline and rallies to a 52-week high at 11.31. It turns lower in mid-September after carving a three-week trading range and lands on triple support at the trendline, 50- and 200-day EMAs. The stock bounces just under support, drawing in dip buyers but the recovery wave stalls, triggering a failed breakout. A pullback play taken on the bounce requires a stop loss below that session’s low (red line) because price action into that level will flash all sorts of sell signals.

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