A Tentative Set of Trading Rules?

There’s been some confusion over what the rules are for the ‘Simon Says’ trading system, which isn’t a single system, but a family of break-out systems that Quill initiated, uses, chooses to share, and that I’ve modestly contributed to. The following is just my version of the “rule set” I use when making trades

Caveat. Each investor’s situation, means, needs, abilities, and goals is different. What might work for Quill, me, you, or anyone else isn’t necessarily anything that you might find useful or align with how you chose to engage financial markets.

My preference for both analysis and execution is minimalist, “Joe Friday” charts, such as the following, that focus on “The facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.”

Some background. This is intended to be an EOD trading system that executes its entries and exits at the following day’s open. On Nov 24, no position was held. So, let’s advance the chart by one day.

Prices close above the MATRI(3), which wouldn’t ordinarily be sufficient reason to initiate a position the following day. But notice the volume spike. One’s bet could be –but doesn’t have to be-- that the buying will continue. Therefore, my inclination would be to dip a toe by putting on half of a position at the next day’s market open using a pre-market, resting market order.

Bingo. The guess was good. The market confirmed the entry was correct, and a gain of 137 bps was achieved.

Now begins the worrying. Given the price spike, will the following day take back some of that gain? What to do? Setting up a trailing stop would be a prudent compromise. Let’s do so and advance the chart another day.

Once again, the trade made money. But notice the candlestick, a Gravestone Doji, and a fairly reliable reversal signal. So the plan might be –though doesn’t have to be-- to sell at next day’s open or just to tighten the stop. (Chef’s Choice.) Let’s be bold and brave and tighten the stop.

Bingo. More gains are made. And now, ironically, the worry can abate a bit, because a trend seems to be unfolding. So, leave the stop where it is.

Holy Smoke. More money is made the following day.

But notice the length of the candle. The reasonable bet is that prices will back off the following day. So tighten the stop.

Bingo. The retracement happens as expected, and we get kicked out of the position at 10.44 for a gain of two-bits for a 5-day holding period. That’s very modest money, an average of just 49 bps/day. But do the math. If you can make 49 bps per market day on a trade, you could be making 122.5% per year if you repeated the trade once a week.

How much money should you be betting per trade? Prudence would suggest no more than 5% of AUM, and 2% is a commonly used guideline.

So, what are “the rules”? Buy on a likely break-out. Sell on a likely break-down.

How to determine “likely”? By ‘tape reading’, which means using the evidence provided by the tape to make informed bets, which means learning how to use Candle Pattern Analysis, rather than just Western-style, math based technical indictaors, and by paying more attention to the psychology of buyers and sellers.

In short, if a set of purely mechanical rules is desired, someone other than me is going to have to write them. I’ve done hundreds of hours of systems testing and building, but have concluded it has little practical value for making actual trades compared with what can be accomplished by informed judgment. Do I ever guess wrong? Lots of times. That’s why ‘risk-management’ is so important, that, and proper ‘position sizing’.

PPS. Lots of people try to explain ‘Candle Pattern Analysis’. Steve Nisson was one of the first, but Greg Morris is one of the best.

The earlier editions, if you can find them, are less intimidating.

NOTE: The links connect to different charts that will open when the link is clicked on. I’ll change the links so the chart itself appears in the post. but later.


Let me second a 5-star for Morris’s book. I have always remembered his comment, after studying in Japan, that using candles for anything less than daily doesn’t matter. There is little “psychology” in the candle movement in 5 minutes. True Japanese candle masters never looked at less than a day interval. Just food for thought-I still look at small interval period candles, just put more faith in daily and above. But then, I’m not a day trader, nor a candle master. I hack and therefore I exist.



Using the history of how Candle Pattern Analysis was developed in the 18th century to trade rice futures on an EOD basis, Morris suggested that their most effective use in “modern” times is as an EOD system in short-term, under ten day time-frames. Hence, trying to find in them Western-style patterns such as Head-and Shoulders or using them for intraday trading is to abuse the tool.

What everyone forgets is that ‘candlesticks;’ is a just charting format, but Candle Pattern Analysis (CPA) is a trading system that focuses on buyer-seller psychology. For sure, insights into the pyschology of buyers and sellers can be capured in the patterns of OHLC bars as well, but just not as graphically or as effectively.

Some more history. Morris teamed up with Norm North, and they marketed a trading program --Candle Power-- that tried to combine Western-style technical indicators with CPA. Then Norm (who lived down the road from me in Salem) died. His son tried to continue the program, but gave up. I have several versions of the program, and it’s the best scanner ever written for finding breakouts, but it is no longer sold --even on eBay–, which is a shame.

Some of its capablity can be reproduced in StockAnalyse, or programs like MetaStock, AmiBroker, OmniTrader, etc. Or one could just cut to the chase and learn to tape read.