What to Include in a Forex Backtest Spreadsheet

Thursday, September 29, 2011
One critical step on your Forex journey is going to be backtesting. Once you find a system or method which you like, you are going to need to run through historical data and see how your method would have performed on real trades over the past few weeks, months or years (depending on the timeframe you’re planning to trade). It is recommended you do at least a couple hundred of backtest trades for any given system to establish a really good idea of how the Forex system will perform in those market conditions. Market conditions do change, so a backtest still doesn’t give you all the information you need, but it can sure give you a good lead in to your demo testing. If you record a lot of important information you can also learn specific things that work and don’t work and how you can refine your system to statistically improve your profits.

On a Forex backtest spreadsheet you will want about six columns. The first will state whether each trade was a buy or a sell. The second column should list the date, and the third column the reason for the trade. The fourth and fifth columns should be the entry and exit prices respectively. The last column will be the sum of pips you gained or lost from each trade. The column where you list the reason you entered the trade can be a good place to take specific notes along with the triggers which caused you to enter. Those notes will come in handy later, so be detailed, especially on trades you lose. Later you can look back and find patterns which will help you to refine and eliminate losses.

Write your Forex trading rules at the top of your spreadsheet. They will help you focus and also remind you of what your rules were on this backtest when you look back on it later. If you make changes as you go to your system, note those changes and the historical dates on which you implemented them.

Some statistics to calculate from your data, which will be useful to you, include net pips from your entire Forex backtest, along with the values of your average win and average loss. You’ll want to tally how many wins and losses you have, and what your win percentage and win to loss ratio is. Remember that the spread will cost you some profit on every trade, and breakeven trades are technically at a very small loss as a result. You can calculate an adjusted net which takes these losses into account. Take note of your biggest losing streak, and how many losses in a row you endured. Also find out your average net winning trades per month, week, day, or whatever is an appropriate unit of time for you to overview your trading. Another good quotient to add up is your net profit divided by your maximum loss. This will tell you how many of your largest losses you could endure before blowing all your profits.

Forex backtesting can be pretty overwhelming at first, but eventually you’ll get used to it and get into a rhythm. And it can be incredibly rewarding—it can make the difference between whether you blow your account in real life or become a profitable trader.

Tips for Trading Forex at Night

Thursday, September 22, 2011
For a lot of us (especially in the US), the best times to trade Forex fall at the worst times of day—either during work hours or while we’re asleep at night. Fortunately for those who trade the dailies in the US, the start of the new candle tends to happen in the afternoon, but that often means that trades will span overnight on this and other timeframes. What do you do if your trading schedule is this inconvenient? Suggestions online usually range from “quit your job” to “move to Europe.” This is hardly feasible for most of us. Most of us are going to be faced with examining an option which is more viable but still challenging: trading Forex at night.

For many people, trading overnight is just a given since position traders who trade longer term charts like weeklies are going to be in trades for many days on end. These timeframes move slowly though and are easier to keep an eye on during the daytime than other trades on faster timeframes. What if you trade the dailies or hourly charts? You could be stuck making critical trading decisions in the dead of night.

Unfortunately many FX traders arrive at the solution, “I’ll just not sleep.” This is the road to disaster though. You cannot function without sleep. You need sleep to be healthy and also to keep your mind sharp and fresh. Trading on a sleep deficit is like trading inebriated. It’s just a really bad idea; it’ll destroy your health and your finances. So you have to sleep. How do you balance sleep with currency trading at night?

The trick is to set up alerts in such a manner that you can maximize your rest, minimize the complexity of your decision-making process, and maximize your returns. You want to only have your alerts wake you up at critical junctures, and you want those junctures to be clear cut. Making difficult, complex decisions in the dead of night will rob you of sleep and also harm your judgment, resulting in losses. The alerts should wake you up in order to make simple, straightforward decisions.

One technique you can use to trade during the night is to set alerts at pivot zones. Different techniques will be appropriate for different Forex systems, but if for example you exit trades partially based on support and resistance, then you will want to identify important pivot areas and set alerts in those areas. Choose a sound to signal when a trade is moving toward profit and another sound to signal when it is moving away. That way if you hear the “good” sound in your sleep you can roll over and go back to sleep (or get up and trail your stop). If you hear the “bad” sound you can get up and choose whether to exit. By letting the sound itself give you information, you can optimize your sleep. Also make sure to have the alert beep at you more than once so you don’t miss it in your sleep the first time.

Trading the foreign exchange market at night is one of the most challenging real life integrations you can do, but with some tweaking you should be able to make it work for you. You don’t have to move to another country or quit your job to trade during the day if you can learn how to trade at night and get adequate sleep!

Trading in Real Life: Why You Need to Demo Test

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Have you backtested a fantastic system over hundreds or even thousands of trades, and achieved a high win percentage and otherwise excellent statistics? If so, you may be tempted to go live. Some traders struggle to bring themselves to actually take their Forex systems live, but for others it is impatience and not trepidation which is the enemy. If you are thinking of taking this great system which you’ve backtested live without demo testing, think again. Backtesting and trading in real life are completely different, and you may have quite a bit of work ahead of you to achieve the same kind of results in real time as you did backtesting.

The first thing a lot of us discover while demo testing is that we completely forgot that in real life we do stuff like work, eat, and sleep. Something which worked fine in backtesting may be impossible to fit into our real life schedules, or take some very serious workarounds. You may need to learn to trade using a cell phone if you are at work during trading hours for example. Or what if your Forex trades tend to fall in the dead of night? You’ll need to trade in your sleep, and that means setting a lot of price alerts. Those alerts will have to wake you up at useful times though, and even figuring that out can be like designing an entirely new system. The wrong system of alerts can cause you to lose the same trades you’d have won while demo testing!

Another difference you’ll discover quickly is the role which time plays in your trading psychology. When you move the Forex charts forward a candle at a time and make trading decisions in a few seconds or minutes while backtesting, you don’t have a lot of time to second guess yourself. The same trades though, spread out over a time period of hours, days, or even weeks, can cause a lot of traders to experience a wide range of conflicting emotions. Many times we ask ourselves “What decision would I have made backtesting?” only to discover that we don’t know anymore! It takes a lot of practice to find out how timing is impacting your trading. You may find you need to trade on a different timeframe, or just get a grip on your emotions.

While all this may again sound simple in theory, most traders discover Forex demo testing presents a lot of unexpected situations which need resolution before they can go live. We highly recommend that you demo test until you are profitable for at least 2-4 consecutive months before you go live with your system. There is no reason for you to lose a dime in this business unnecessarily since you can demo test for as long as it takes for you to master your trading, completely free! Your drawdown live should reflect your backtesting figures, but it won’t unless you invest some time and effort demo testing and finding out how to integrate trading into your real life first.