Sitting on your hands to avoid costly trading mistakes

This is a guest post on trading from Tusk Trader (check out the newly launched site:, an experienced Bay Street trader who will be writing here until Tusk’s own blog is set up. Tusk had a front row seat to the twists, turns, and almost collapse of our capital market systems a few years ago and provides a unique perspective you won’t find anywhere else. For most people, financial literacy is the elephant in the room. Let Tusk Trader help change that. If you are on twitter, make sure to follow Tusk at @TuskTrader

I have written before about the lack of volume in the markets. Low trading volume can kill even the best trading ideas. When volume returns, as it did slightly this week, make sure to notice what brings it back. The market has been drifting higher on light volume for months. On Tuesday, troubles in Greece gave a reason to those who think the market is too high, to sell it down. Volumes were up that day about 30% from the average we have been seeing lately.

There is a widely used trading term, “ Sitting on your hands”. Its meaning is pretty straight-forward in that traders know that they should do what ever it takes to prevent trading out of boredom or with no clear idea of they want to do. When nothing is happening in the market to create a trading opportunity, traders need to ‘sit on their hands’ if they have to to avoid making costly mistakes.

The longer a market trades with light volume and few opportunities, the more the demand for a reason to jump in builds and builds amongst traders. Do not think of it like a bear sleeping through hibernation in cave, but more like a lion crouched in the prone position in the grass, waiting very patiently for an opportunity. Sometimes a small up tick in volume can bring even more volume to the markets and snowball the effects. The greater the volume, the greater the options available and market participants will then ‘stop sitting on their hands’ and start jumping in. As many traders are direction agnostic, the sell off is seen as a positive. (My apologizes to my comrades who came in long. It worked for most of the quarter)

Overall this week, traders were looking for an increase in activity, and they got it. Sellers showed up with a vengeance Tuesday and traders were more than happy to oblige. As traders were waiting for volume, other market participants appeared to have been waiting for a reason to sell the high market down. All it took was some terrible economic news to bring the markets to life, from a trader perspective anyway.

Thanks Tusk. Make sure to check out the site: or follow Tusk Trader on twitter: @tusktrader

Preet Banerjee
Preet Banerjee an independent consultant to the financial services industry and a personal finance commentator. You can learn more about Preet at his personal website and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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  • […] Sitting on your hands to avoid costly trading mistakes …Mar 9, 2012 … This is a guest post on trading from Tusk Trader (check out the newly launched site:, an experienced Bay Street trader … […]