Tuesday, November 3, 2009

03/11: Insight into my trading day template

As mentioned in this blog's introductory post of several months ago, behind your laptop display, LCD flat-panel, iPhone screen, or CRT monstrosity, dear reader, sits a Georgetown University student, although that's where the easy characterizations end. This brief post, after a few more words of auto-biography, shall touch upon my current methods -- and these have changed markedly over time -- in my current full-time occupation of trading on the U.S. equity and options markets.

A Georgetown University student by title, I am not taking any university courses this semester, nor do I anticipate taking any at Georgetown during the upcoming semester. I am pursuing a School of Foreign Service undergraduate degree -- not in finance as might be expected, but rather in the syllabic monstrosity of international political economy.

And so I am a maverick, self-employed trader, riding onto the lawless fields of risk and relative value. And that is tongue-in-cheek, it must be clarified. Although I do legitimately enjoy learning about and participating in the markets, and although I am firmly committed to making a profitable living from them, I do not consider my occupation any more glamorous, chivalrous or worthwhile than a whole host of others, not least of which is the happy, frugal and euphorically intimate relationship that ideally exists between a student and her endeavors. And I'm genuinely restless for the day when I will return to that role. But for now, I must make the markets my love. And 'make' is key: my current occupation is entirely a factor of my motivation and drive; it is what I make it to be.

In brief, then, I presently endeavor to begin my days at an early hour, before the sun rises. I have breakfast and am soon out the door, bound for Starbucks where, day-in and day-out, I religiously arrive around 7-7:30a, order a tall-in-a-grande cup bold coffee, and enjoy the drink with a copy of the day's Financial Times. I next sprint back home and load-up my three computers.

Yes, I concur this seems a bit outlandish, to work on three computers (actually, four total displays, as one of the computers has an auxiliary screen hooked up). Yet, following the markets requires a participant to tap information from a variety of sources, and the multiple screens facilitate this greatly. Furthermore, some of my information sources, particularly the thinkorswim trading platform and the software for streaming quotes, requires a fair amount of processing power to run smoothly; and thus, having software spread across three processors and RAM bundles is a significant aid. Finally, the networking requirements are solved with a simple wifi cloud connected to a high-speed (the greatest of four speeds that my phone company offers) DSL line.

To return to the narrative, I am at my desk of three machines well before the market open. And here's where the regularity ceases; every trading day is different. Some are more active, in which case I'm glued to my streaming quotes, news reports, and CNBC chatter with little down-time. During such days, I might print out dozens of physical (i.e. on real paper) charts, so that I can then mark these up with a galore of trendlines and bulleted thoughts. On other days, such as today, I'm away from my desk during times of market action, for instance to make a blog post at Starbucks (and conveniently replenish the caffeine tanks).

As is hopefully clear, my current trading days -- which are, first of all, an ad hoc aberration to my role of student -- contain deliberate structure and considerable activity. As a final point, the above-expounded modus operandi is certainly not without many improvements over my methods of earlier months. Perhaps that's a worthy topic for a future post...

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