The Strategic Trader
Detailed Strategy Evaluation

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MACD Part 2: Signal Cross (Long Only)

In this article we will explore the viability of trading the 5 minute ES when the MACD crosses the signal line. The signal line is nothing more than a moving average of the MACD values. To start with, we will test a very common strategy (going long when the current MACD  value crosses above the signal line).


Strategy #1
For the first test, we will enter any trade when the MACD crosses above the signal line.

Results: Exit at 5 Bars
A common theme is starting to emerge. Buying on up moves is generally a losing strategy. Buying when MACD crosses above its signal line and then holding for 5 bars is a pretty bad idea. Not a single optimized parameter set was able to turn a profit in this scenario. Winning percentages were decent, but not above the threshold required to be meaningful.


Strategy #2
Buy when the MACD crosses above the signal line and MACD above the zero line

Results: Exit at 5 Bars
Although we are still buying on an up move, the fact that we are above the zero line appears to make a difference. Based on previous testing results related to the zero line, I did not expect the strategy to do well. However, there were quite a few combinations of parameters that were profitable.  The 4,2,2 parameter combination was even able to (slightly) exceed our percent profitable threshold, but fell short of the overall profit goal.


Strategy #3
Buy when the MACD crosses above the signal line and MACD below the zero line

Results: Exit at 5 Bars
Not surprisingly based on the results from Strategy #2 and Strategy #1, this strategy does not perform very well.


Strategy #4
Buy when the MACD crosses below the signal line

Results: Exit at 5 Bars
Some profitable combinations, but no where near significant.


Strategy #5
Buy when the MACD crosses below the signal line and MACD below zero

Results: Exit at 5 Bars
Once again, we come very close to passing our thresholds on percentage and profit, but fall short.


Strategy #6
Buy when the MACD crosses below the signal line and MACD above zero

Results: Exit at 5 Bars
As logic would dictate, because Test #5 performed well, Test#6 did not do so great.

Summary
MACD signal line crosses mostly reinforce the theme that buying after an up move is a losing strategy. However, strategy 2 had an unexpected result. If you buy on signal line crosses and the MACD is above zero, the strategy performs well. In future tests we will need to examine this behavior more closely.

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RSI Part 7 – Bullish Regular Divergence

In this article we will be testing Bullish Regular Divergence using RSI.

Bullish Regular Divergence
Price: Lower Low
RSI: Higher Low

Using Bullish Hidden Divergence we were able to significantly exceed our targets and prove that there exists a statistical edge when using that method. However, the same can not be said for regular divergence. The strategy produced several combinations which were profitable, but all of the returns were well below our targets. Therefore we can not rule out random chance accounting for those results. Here is a P/L chart from the best combination:

Notice how “random” and volatile the results appear? When compared to the chart produced from the Hidden Divergence article, you can clearly see the difference.  Here is a P&L chart from the Hidden Divergence article.

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RSI Part 6 – Bullish Hidden Divergence

A common technique for trading oscillators such as RSI is to use divergence. There are two types of divergence, regular and hidden. Regular divergence is commonly used to signal trend changes, and hidden divergence is used to signal trend continuation.

Bullish Regular Divergence
Price: Lower Low
RSI: Higher Low

Bearish Regular Divergence
Price: Higher High
RSI: Lower High

Bullish Hidden Divergence
Price: Higher Low
RSI: Lower Low

Bearish Hidden Divergence
Price: Lower High
RSI: Higher High

In this article we will be testing Bullish Hidden Divergence. This method is commonly used when a stock is in an uptrend and pulls back to test support. To find divergence we need to look at the lows of both RSI and price. Since RSI moves smoother than price, I used it as a way of finding lows. Once a low has been identified in RSI, I start looking for another potential low. If one is found I compare the price of the stock at the time of the first RSI low to the value of the stock now. I then compare the first RSI low with the new potential low. If RSI has made a lower low and price has made  a higher low I continue. Next, I check to see how many bars have passed since the first RSI low. This is to help ensure that enough distance has been created between the two valleys.

I optimized the strategy on 3 parameters:

1. RSI Period
2. Number of bars to look back when calculating a low
3. Number of bars to pass between lows

Initial (5 bar) results were decent. Most optimized pairs performed very well. However, only one combination was able to exceed our target value on both percent and profit. The strategy used a 9 bar RSI, 3 bar look-back, and required at least 9 bars between low points.

The (3 bar) results also did well. The same combination that exceeded our targets for 5 bars also exceeded for 3 bars. Here it the PL screenshot.

Further Enhancements:
Commonly Bullish Hidden Divergence is used to continue an uptrend. Therefore, I tried to only take trades when the stock was in a confirmed uptrend such as above a moving average etc. This method did not result in any performance gain. As we explore more indicators and determine which are ideal for identifying trend we can revisit this strategy.

Source Code:

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RSI Part 5 – Optimized Thresholds

In this article I want to explore which threshold values are the most significant (long only) and also see what happens when applied to other markets. To test this, I optimized the strategy on both threshold and RSI period while counting the number of times the resulting combination exceeded our statistically significant levels for both percent profitable and net profit.

Results for 5 Bars Into Future:

First I looked at the various threshold values and how often when using the threshold I was able to surpass either our target percent profitable or target profit levels. Threshold values of 25 and 30 seemed to be the most robust.

Threshold Count Beat Percent Count Beat Profit
10 0 0
15 1 0
20 3 1
25 3 2
30 2 3
35 2 0
40 4 0
45 6 0

Each of the above threshold values were used against various RSI periods ranging from 2-30. Below is a table outlining which periods resulted in surpassing our targets. Interestingly the lower periods 2-5 performed the best. I believe this may have something to do with our target holding time. Since we are only looking 5 bars into the future, the smaller RSI periods reflect the upcoming moves more accurately.

RSI Period Count Percent Count Profit
2 2 2
3 4 1
4 3 2
5 1 2
6 1 2
7 0 1
8 0 1
9 0 1
10 0 1
19 0 2
30 0 1

The combination of RSI(3) < 30 was the only pair to result in both a beat on percent profitable as well as target profit level. I wanted to see how robust this pair actually was, so I ran it against all 30 of the DOW stocks. The method was profitable on 25 of the 30 stocks. With PG performing the best, and CAT performing the worst. Over 436 thousand trades were recorded during this test, resulting in 54.2% profitable trades.

The strategy was able to beat the target percent in 17 of the 30 stocks, and beat the target profit in 7 of the 30 stocks. Considering the period/threshold combination was optimized on a different market, I believe these results are very promising.

Next I wanted to see what happens if I flip the combination and entered long when RSI(3) > 70. The results were horrible as expected. Further lending support to their being an edge when below a threshold as opposed to above a threshold. Only 6 of the DOW 30 was profitable in this test. With a combined 50.06% profitable trades.

Results for 3 Bars Into Future:

The same methods used for 5 bars into the future were used for 3 bars. Here are the two resulting tables:

Threshold Count Beat Percent Count Beat Profit
10 3 1
15 7 2
20 7 1
25 11 0
30 12 3
35 24 4
40 23 0
45 12 0

The results stayed similar to what we saw with 5 bars. Thresholds between 25-35 do very well. One thing to note is using 3 bars into the future we are having a lot more values beat our targets. This may indicate predicting 3 bars into the future is easier than 5 when using RSI.

RSI Period Count Percent Count Profit
2 11 1
3 11 1
4 9 1
5 6 1
6 5 0
7 2 1

I had way too many RSI periods beat our targets. Therefore, I am displaying only the top performers. The lower periods seem to predict better than the higher periods for this time frame.

Summary:

It looks like any threshold between 25-35 is ideal with a period less than 5. I would like to point out that while I am only showing the count that beat our targets that this does not mean the other combinations did not fare well. In fact, combinations in the ranges I outline were uniformly great. We have  strict requirements in the targets we are after. This is to ensure the results produced are not due to random chance. Its hard to go wrong when predicting either 3 or 5 bars into the future using a threshold of < 40.

The RSI(3) < 30 combination performing as well as it did against the DOW 30 stocks is very reassuring.


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DOW 30 Baseline (Long Only)

As we continue to explore trading methods, we will need a way to compare our results to other markets. Below are the baseline figures for each of the 30 DOW components.

NOTE: I started with just 15,000 trades and 5 bars initially as these are the results relevant to the strategies I am currently testing. The remaining baseline values will be updated as we continue testing and need the results.

15,000 Trades – 5 Bars (Long Only)

AA
Percent Profitable: 52.35%
Expected Return: -$25.92
Target Percent: 54.14%
Target Return: +$34.17

AXP
Percent Profitable: 51.59%
Expected Return: -$5.02
Target Percent: 53.41%
Target Return: +$77

BA
Percent Profitable: 52.19%
Expected Return: -$4.89
Target Percent: 53.8%
Target Return: +$93.36

BAC
Percent Profitable: 52.45%
Expected Return: +$12.12
Target Percent: 54.29%
Target Return: +$99.14

CAT
Percent Profitable: 52.12%
Expected Return: +$16.57
Target Percent: 53.9%
Target Return: +$129.27

CSCO
Percent Profitable: 53.07%
Expected Return: -$13.07
Target Percent: 54.84%
Target Return: +$33.04

CVX
Percent Profitable: 51.97%
Expected Return: +$9.15
Target Percent: 53.82%
Target Return: +$116

DD
Percent Profitable: 52.29%
Expected Return: -$4.24
Target Percent: 54.11%
Target Return: +$67.23

DIS
Percent Profitable: 53.84%
Expected Return: +$9.88
Target Percent: 55.8%
Target Return: +$61.68

GE
Percent Profitable: 52.14%
Expected Return: -$18.58
Target Percent: 54.12%
Target Return: +$31.94

HD
Percent Profitable: 52.12%
Expected Return: -$10.14
Target Percent: 53.75%
Target Return: +$57.14

HPQ
Percent Profitable: 53.73%
Expected Return: +$25.61
Target Percent: 55.68%
Target Return: +$94.37

IBM
Percent Profitable: 51.34%
Expected Return: +$28.61
Target Percent: 53.23%
Target Return: +$185.3

INTC
Percent Profitable: 52.83%
Expected Return: -$6.83
Target Percent: 54.96%
Target Return: +$50.88

JNJ
Percent Profitable: 51.73%
Expected Return: +$4.5
Target Percent: 53.47%
Target Return: +$77.85

JPM
Percent Profitable: 52.26%
Expected Return: -$.16
Target Percent: 54.11%
Target Return: +$88.05

KFT
Percent Profitable: 54.4%
Expected Return: +$11.26
Target Percent: 56.22%
Target Return: +$52.33

KO
Percent Profitable: 53.4%
Expected Return: +$19.82
Target Percent: 55.28%
Target Return: +$96.66

MCD
Percent Profitable: 52.23%
Expected Return: +$15.27
Target Percent: 55%
Target Return: +$74.2

MMM
Percent Profitable: 51.14%
Expected Return: +$1.98
Target Percent: 52.86%
Target Return: +$127.42

MRK
Percent Profitable: 52.07%
Expected Return: -$9.47
Target Percent: 54.05%
Target Return: +$75.55

MSFT
Percent Profitable: 53.02%
Expected Return: -$3.09
Target Percent: 54.96%
Target Return: +$77.03

PFE
Percent Profitable: 52.87%
Expected Return: -$16.74
Target Percent: 54.74%
Target Return: +$26.48

PG
Percent Profitable: 52.77%
Expected Return: +$32.26
Target Percent: 54.41%
Target Return: +$112.04

T
Percent Profitable: 53.01%
Expected Return: -$6.74
Target Percent: 54.8%
Target Return: +$56.14

TRV
Percent Profitable: 51.4%
Expected Return: -$2.12
Target Percent: 54.74%
Target Return: +$65.6

UTX
Percent Profitable: 51.39%
Expected Return: -$3.14
Target Percent: 53.18%
Target Return: +$93.14

VZ
Percent Profitable: 52.63%
Expected Return: -$4.41
Target Percent: 54.3%
Target Return: +$59.05

WMT
Percent Profitable: 52.01%
Expected Return: -$13.17
Target Percent: 53.16%
Target Return: +$58.17

XOM
Percent Profitable: 52.36%
Expected Return: +$10.13
Target Percent: 54.22%
Target Return: +$108.32

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RSI Part 4 – Moving Average Strategy

Our next strategy will explore what happens when RSI crosses above/below a moving average. In RSI part 2 we discovered that the RSI is effective at predicting the future when below a threshold. Now we need to determine if we can eliminate the need for pre-set threshold values and just rely on being below a moving average instead.

Test 1: RSI above its moving average (long only)

This test will be conducted by optimizing on two variables. One variable representing the look-back period used in the RSI calculation, and one variable representing the bars used in calculating the moving average. The strategy will enter long when above its moving average. Based on prior results, we would expect this strategy to be sub-par.

Results:

As expected the strategy performed horrible. No variable pairs resulted in producing a profit.

Test 2: RSI below its moving average (long only)

This test will be conducted by optimizing on two variables. One variable representing the look-back period used in the RSI calculation, and one variable representing the bars used in calculating the moving average. The strategy will enter long when below its moving average.

Results:

Most variable combinations resulted in profit. However, neither profit nor percentage was high enough to meet our standards. Because nearly every combination resulted in profit, it appears there may be a slight edge here. We will need to look closer at how we can better exploit this edge to meet our requirements.

Test 3: RSI crosses below its moving average (long only)

This test will be conducted by optimizing on two variables. One variable representing the look-back period used in the RSI calculation, and one variable representing the bars used in calculating the moving average. The strategy will enter long when RSI crosses below its moving average.

Results:

The results were very similar to what was seen in (RSI Part 3). The percent profitable as well as profit factor remained fairly stable. Only thing that changed was the number of trades taken.

Source Code:

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RSI Part 3 – Threshold Cross

In this article we aim to discover the significance of actually crossing a threshold. Because RSI is a momentum based indicator it stands to reason that the actual act of crossing a threshold may signal a better trade.

(Comparison Results With RSI Part 2 – Long Only)
Method: RSI(3) < 10
Percent Profitable: 60.36%
Net Profit: +12,100
Trades: 1559

Conclusion:

Requiring an actual cross only seems to decrease the number of trades. Profit factor and percent profitable remain nearly unchanged. Therefore we can conclude that the act of being below a threshold as seen in “RSI Part 2″ is sufficient and that watching only the cross is not required.

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RSI Part 2 – Oversold Strategy

In the last article, we looked at RSI when it is above a threshold. This time we will explore what happens when RSI is below a threshold. To test this, we will optimize on two variables. One variable representing the look-back period for RSI and one variable to represent the threshold to cross below.

(Example results looking 3 bars into future – Long Only)
Method: RSI(3) < 10
Percent Profitable: 60.15%
Net Profit: +36,550
Trades: 5069

Conclusions:
Dozens of parameter combinations surpassed our targets on both percent profitable and/or on net profit. Especially combinations that involved RSI being below 20. This was seen in both 3 and 5 bars into the future. These findings suggest that there may be a statistical advantage when RSI is below certain thresholds.

In a future article we can explore which threshold values are significant and if there are any values that remain significant across multiple markets. We will also explore if there is a difference when RSI crosses above/below a threshold instead of just being below that threshold.

Source Code:

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RSI Part 1 – Momentum Trading

RSI is a momentum based indicator which stands for (Relative Strength Index). Because it gauges momentum, people recommend using RSI when it crosses above a threshold. Hopefully the stock’s momentum will continue to carry it higher.

To test this we created a strategy with 2 inputs. One input for the RSI look back period, and one for the threshold. We then ran an optimization against our 5 minute ES data.

Results looking 5 bars into the future (Long Only):

(Best Percent)
Percent Profitable: 53.06%
Trades: 35,073
Profit: -$43,275

(Best Profit)
Percent Profitable: 51.09%
Trades: 9,594
Profit: +$3,900

Results looking 3 bars into the future (Long Only):

(Best Percent)
Percent Profitable: 54.44%
Trades: 59,890
Profit: -$16,525

(Best Profit)
Percent Profitable: 52.96%
Trades: 22,748
Profit: +$6,037

Conclusion:
Trading RSI based on being above a threshold does not provide any statistical advantage. Most of the results were actually below the results obtained through random testing. This indicates that being below a threshold may perform better. We will explore this option in our next segment.

Source Code:

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