Measuring the modern market in weeks not some weird increment that worked decades ago

I am regularly asked about the indicators that I use in my investment strategy. To refresh your memory, GOPM (Grow on Other People’s Money) is the strategy that I teach in my book, The Confident Investor. It has a couple of main tenets:

  1. You should only invest in truly Good Companies.
  2. You probably do not have enough money to have a balanced portfolio of “buy-and-hold” positions in truly Good Companies.

To get around the realities of the second tenet, I have developed a trading methodology to help. This methodology allows you to invest in companies that are currently experiencing a bull market. It also avoids those that are in a bear market. Almost all companies experience times when their stock price drops. This means that you have your money invested when the stock is going up, and it is invested elsewhere when the price is falling.

For the balance of this article, I am going to explain why I have modified some standard indicators. These indicators help to signal the bull and bear action of the stock. This explanation will only be available for registered owners of my book, The Confident Investor. If you own the book, you can register and log in to see the balance of this article. If you don’t own the book, you can purchase my book wherever books are sold such as AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Books A Million. It is available in e-book formats for NookKindle, and iPad. [s2If current_user_can(s2member_level1)]

The three main indicator types that I use are EMA, RSI and MACD. I suggest you set these indicators to use a multiple of 5 in the analysis. If you read some of the theory behind these indicators and the original math from the creators, you will find that none of them use a multiple of 5 as I suggest. My reasoning is important to understand.

In nearly every case of common usage, the popular value is larger than 5. In the case of RSI, it is 14. In the case of MACD, it typically is 12/26/9 (for the three different signal lines). In the case of EMA, you will often see values as high as 50, 100 or even 200. In my case, it is always 5, 10 or 20.  Why do I suggest a different time frame for all of these?

First let’s look at EMA of 200 or 100.  There are 250 trading days in a year or about 21 trading days in a month. This means that EMA(200) and EMA(100) are basically telling you if the stock has moved up in value for the past 10 or 5 months, respectively. This has almost no relevance if you are trying to decide to buy that stock today, tomorrow, or next Tuesday. The time frame that is relevant to that decision is this week or this month but not 5 months ago.

If you are trying to decide to buy today or not buy today, you need to look at what is happening now versus where the stock was a few days ago. There are 5 trading days (or bars) in a typical week (assuming no holidays). There are 10 days in 2 weeks and about 21 in a month. What is happening within the last week is very relevant. This week is more relevant than what happened 2 weeks ago which in turn is more relevant than what happened last month this time.

Most government indicators e.g. inflation rate, unemployment, etc. are on a monthly basis. By looking at 20 trading days, we are including a full cycle of most government indicators but not two or three. This is important as we want to make a decision based on what is happening now and not in history.

Not insignificant in this timing analysis is that the stock market is incredibly quarterly driven. Looking at a metric that is longer than a quarter is simply not relevant for understanding how most professional investors, mutual fund managers, and company executives are paid. They are paid to influence and capitalize on immediate returns.

Once you are comfortable with the concept of what is happening this week in a stock, you can quickly get comfortable with a 5 day increment. From that basis, it is easy to jump to 10 and 20.

Finally, it is important to remember that these three indicators were originally built in a different era. These indicators were developed when trades were in fractional increments of 1/8 rather than our current system of pennies. This means that stock movement was not nearly as fluid. A stock would jump by 12.5 cents per increment where today it moves in increments of 1 cent. That change in increment calls into question the original logic of the creating mathematician in suggesting the default time frame. Combining that change with the accelerated decision-making of the Information Age and a much larger marketplace, implies that a shorter time frame is necessary.[/s2If]

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