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Everyone's Report Card... Ouch!

Some months have passed since the start of this blog, and throughout those months the stock markets of the world (particularly of the United States) have done rather well. In the US there has been a strong rally since the November 1 of 2016 monthly chart low that has amounted to a whopping 17% gain— in SPY, the ETF that tracks the S&P500 index, as of June 1, 2017, if you had reinvested dividends.

A benchmark that's up on the Retail Backtest website that is based on 10 major ETFs of developed nations is up about 12% over the same period— again that's with dividends reinvested (total return). And so you may ask, "And how is the smarty-pants Proprietor of Retail Backtest doing with his project?" Or, "How are the smarty-pants hedge fund managers and their 'quant' buddies doing?" You had to ask!

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Whipsaws and Stop-Loss Trading

You hear occasionally, in trader talk, the word "whipsaw". While the word can refer to any sharp oscillatory price action in the market that is being traded, it also refers to traders panicking out of losing positions and then having to get back in at prices worse than the exit prices. "Getting whipsawed" is bad!

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The basic message is that the whipsaws are an unavoidable complication— their deleterious effects on your account equity are difficult to minimize and impossible to utterly eliminate (if you trade in and out of positions in a stop-loss manner). And I'm going to explain that a famous formula actually quantifies whipsaw losses and makes them into the price of a certain contract, via an algorithm of course.

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Famous Investor's Real Money Record vs. Buy and Hold

When deciding whether or not to invest in a particular fund, or to follow the advice of some advisory service, there is that concept that what you really need to do is take a look at the long-term record of its management and to give much greater consideration to the management with the longest record of good performance. Really good idea? Maybe not so much.

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Real Vs. Hypothetical

Before investing with some fund or using some advisory service that one way or another provides active portfolio management, we naturally want to first look at past performance. I'm going to discuss the different kinds of performance histories that can be made available, and argue that the kind that is generally considered to be the gold standard is not necessarily what it seems to be.

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So Retail Backtest's backtested program performance is labeled "hypothetical", by me, to match expectations in that regard. However, what Retail Backtest does is the same thing that you would be doing if you were to pick funds to invest in based on their past "real-money" performance. Yes, you would simply be competing with me, performing the same function.

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Trading at the Speed of Light

One of the things that we have to keep in mind when putting together algorithmic means for portfolio management, especially if there is to be a substantial amount of trading, are the other ways in which the trading world has been changing due to electronics. It's not just computation that has changed; it's communication too.

I won't pretend to be a qualified historian of the stock and commodities markets, or of electronics, but it's not too difficult for me to cite some milestones for you— going all the way back into the 19th century. This is all just for a nostalgic look back. And I'm sure that readers under 25 years of age or so will find the discussion of the landlines telephone system to be something like a trip to a museum of natural history.
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