While the basic concepts of technical analysis are relatively easy to grasp, it’s a difficult art to master. When you’re learning any new skill, it’s natural to make a lot of mistakes on the way. This can be especially harmful when it comes to trading or investing. If you are not being careful and learning from your mistakes, you risk losing a significant portion of your capital. Learning from your mistakes is great, but avoiding them as much as possible is even better.
So, what are the most common mistakes beginners make when trading with technical analysis?
1. Not cutting your losses
Let’s start with a quote from commodities trader Ed Seykota:
"The elements of good trading are: (1) cutting losses, (2) cutting losses, and (3) cutting losses. If you can follow these three rules, you may have a chance.”
This seems like a simple step, but it’s always good to emphasize its importance. When it comes to trading and investing, protecting your capital should always be your number one priority.
When you’re an active trader, it’s a common mistake to think you always need to be in a trade. Trading involves a lot of analysis and a lot of, well, sitting around, patiently waiting! With some trading strategies, you may need to wait a long time to get a reliable signal to enter a trade. Some traders may enter less than three trades per year and still produce outstanding returns.
Check out this quote from trader Jesse Livermore, one of the pioneers of day trading:
“Money is made by sitting, not trading.”
A similar trading mistake is an overemphasis on lower time frames. Analysis done on higher time frames will generally be more reliable than analysis done on lower time frames. As such, low time frames will produce a lot of market noise and may tempt you to enter trades more often. While there are many successful scalpers and short-term profitable traders, trading on lower time frames usually brings a bad risk/reward ratio. As a risky trading strategy, it’s certainly not recommended for beginners.
3. Revenge trading
It’s easy to stay calm when things are going well, or even when you make small mistakes. But can you stay calm when things go completely wrong? Can you stick to your trading plan, even when everyone else is panicking?
Notice the word “analysis” in technical analysis. Naturally, this implies an analytical approach to the markets, right? So, why would you want to make hasty, emotional decisions in such a framework? If you want to be among the best traders, you should be able to stay calm even after the biggest mistakes. Avoid emotional decisions, and focus on keeping a logical, analytical mindset.
Trading immediately after suffering a big loss tends to lead to even more losses. As such, some traders may not even trade at all for a period of time following a big loss. This way, they can get a fresh start and get back to trading with a clear mind.
4. Being too stubborn to change your mind
Let’s read what legendary trader Paul Tudor Jones had to say about his positions:
“Every day I assume every position I have is wrong.”
It’s good practice to try to take the other side of your arguments to see their potential weaknesses. This way, your investment theses (and decisions) can become more comprehensive.
This also brings up another point: cognitive biases. Biases can heavily affect your decision-making, cloud your judgment, and limit the range of possibilities you’re able to consider. Make sure to at least understand the cognitive biases that may affect your trading plans, so you can mitigate their consequences more effectively.
5. Ignoring extreme market conditions
The RSI can reach extreme levels during extraordinary market conditions. It might even drop to single digits – close to the lowest possible reading (zero). Even such an extreme oversold reading may not necessarily mean that a reversal is imminent.
6. Forgetting that TA is a game of probabilities
Technical analysis doesn’t deal with absolutes. It deals with probabilities. This means that whatever technical approach you’re basing your strategies on, there’s never a guarantee that the market will behave as you expect. Maybe your analysis suggests that there’s a very high probability of the market moving up or down, but that’s still not a certainty.
You need to take this into account when you’re setting up your trading strategies. No matter how experienced you are, it’s never a great idea to think the market will follow your analysis. If you do that, you’re prone to oversizing and betting too big on one outcome, risking a big financial loss.
7. Blindly following other traders
Constantly improving your craft is essential if you want to master any skill. This is especially true when it comes to trading the financial markets. In fact, changing market conditions make it a necessity. One of the best ways to learn is to follow experienced technical analysts and traders.
However, if you’d like to become consistently good, you also need to find your own strengths and build on them. We can call this your edge, the thing that makes you different from others as a trader.
Entering a trade based on someone else’s analysis might work out a few times. However, if you just blindly follow other traders without understanding the underlying context, it most definitely won’t work over the long-term. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow and learn from others. The important thing is whether you agree with the trade idea and whether it fits into your trading system. You should not be blindly following other traders, even if they are experienced and reputable.
Becoming consistently good at trading is a process that takes time. It requires a lot of practice in refining your trading strategies and learning how to formulate your own trade ideas. This way, you can find your strengths, identify your weaknesses, and be in control of your investment and trading decisions.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.