Stop loss orders are great insurance policies that cost you nothing and can save you a fortune. They are used to sell or buy at a specified price and greatly reduce the risk you take when you buy or sell a security. Stop loss orders will automatically execute when the price specified is hit, and can take the emotion out of a buy or sell decision by setting a cap on the amount you are willing to lose in a trade that has gone against you. Stop loss orders don’t guarantee against losses but they drastically reduce risk by limiting potential losses.
Trading the markets is a challenging but profitable opportunity for educated and experienced traders. However it is not easy, without a great trading system, and even traders with years of experience still incur losses. Finding a good trading system and trading in small increments with a stop loss in place will allow those relatively new to futures trading to be successful. Once you have learned the skills you need to trade with consistent profits it will not be a problem but until that time it is absolutely critical that you do not take unnecessary losses. If you are new to trading futures you should never trade until you have a trading system that gives you consistent profits.
A great way to protect profits if you have not established an exit strategy is the trailing stop. The trailing stop loss is an order that is entered once you enter your trade. Your stop price moves at a specified distance behind the market price. Trailing stops are raised when a price rises, in a long trade, but will remain stationary when it falls. Trailing will only occur when the market price moves in favor of the trade to which the order is attached. The trailing stop order is similar to the stop loss order, but you use it to protect a profit, as opposed to protect against losses. Trailing stops are designed to lock in profit levels and they literally trail along your increasing profit and adjust your stop loss levels accordingly. Often traders will find tailing stops confusing because they change them while in an open position. This is not a wise practice, and should be avoided. It is an indication that you are not sure of your trade and if one is not sure of a trade it would be wise to exit immediately. Trailing stops are ideal because they allow for further profit potential to enter due to momentum, while limiting risk. Trailing stops are an important component to a trader’s risk management unless they have an exit strategy in their system that might serve them better.
The market order is the simplest and quickest way to get your order filled to enter a trade or to use as a stop loss. A market order is a trade executed at the current market price and they are often used to exit trades to ensure that the order has the best possible chance of execution. A market order to exit is simply an order used to exit the trade immediately. Be aware that in a fast-changing market sometimes there is a disparity between the price when the market order is given and the actual price when it is filled.
Stop loss orders are used to exit trades, and are always used to limit the amount of loss, but some day traders use them as their only exit, while other traders use them as a backup exit only. If one uses them as their exit they will risk more than is necessary and might want to find a better system to trade. Stop loss orders allow you to define your risks before you open a position and in my opinion that risk should be minimal. Stop loss orders are one of the easiest ways to increase your chances of survival when trading and they are a powerful risk-management tool.
Additional links worth reviewing on this topic:
- truths about stop losses that nobody wants to believe
- mit paper on value added or subtracted by stop loss rules
- determining optimal stop loss thresholds