If you’re a beginner in trading commodities, currencies, stocks or markets in general, the following information will save you from having to ask the same questions we have already answered from previous inquiries:

What is a margin account?
Before you can trade, you need to place a certain amount of money in a margin account with your broker. He will monitor your account as you trade, and usually will not allow you to risk more than what is in your margin account. The margin account is there so that, as you win on a daily basis, he has somewhere to deposit your money – or withdraw it, in the event you lose.
What are futures?
The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is the biggest derivatives market in the U.S. Derivatives consist of options and futures contracts. They are used to hedge risk against a turnaround in a current market price. When traders are queasy about the price of a bond, commodity or stock, they buy futures contracts or options to limit the downside risk of the underlying asset. Futures and options are now an integral part of today’s trading reality. As long as there are risks and volatility in bonds, commodities, currencies, indexes, interest rates, or stock activity, there will be a need and a use for these products.
Am I buying actual commodities when I trade?
No. With your margin account, you are buying one or more ‘futures contract(s)’ of a commodity.
What is Day Trading?
This is where a trader buys and sells his stocks the same day. He is in and out of the market the same day. He does not hold his position overnight, or for a week, etc., as is the case with position and swing traders.
What percent of traders really earn money trading?
10% make money, and 90% lose it all! Why? The 90% who enter the market are driven by the emotions of greed and fear. They do not have a sound money management plan, and know very little about the proper techniques of trading. The fact is, they do not have the proper training to succeed in this endeavour. This is where TradingSmarts comes into play. We are here to guide you in the right direction with your trading, and to make sure you have enough information to proceed confidently and with success.
Why do professional traders earn so much money?
Professional Traders make up the 10% earning money. This group of winners actually rakes in the 90% that is lost by the speculators – or the ‘dumb money,’ as the pros are wont to call them. If the 90% are paying the 10%, you can easily see why the 10% are paid so well. After all, they know the rules, and play by them. You can too! Just stay close to TradingSmarts.
Can I become a successful professional trader?
We actually call them ‘Big Dogs.’ Certainly! Trading is a profession that most anyone can master. However, it doesn’t come easy and doesn’t happen quickly. We provide the same foundation that all professionals acquire. More and more, we are being inundated with national ads that promote trading as being something simple and easy to do. Well, the good news is, it is. But, again, that’s assuming you are dealing with the right professionals. And, here again, we refer you to TradingSmarts.
Is trading a form of gambling?
Yes, trading is gambling, if you don’t know what you are doing – in which case, you would be far better off buying lottery tickets. Traders are after price fluctuations, and investors seek return on investment. Both require that you accept a certain amount of risk, which is minimized through the acquisition of knowledge. Trading is no place for ‘hot tips,’ and your emotions are best kept in your hip pocket. When you trade, not knowing what you are doing, or off a tip, you are gambling for sure. When you trade, after you have been coached and trained by a successful program such as that offered by TradingSmarts, you are then taking a calculated risk, but you are well on your way to becoming a ‘Big Dog.’
If your trading approach is so good, why are you promoting your trading knowledge and wisdom?
I enjoy it. I have enough other work to do, but I find this personally rewarding. It’s a great feeling knowing I’m helping others, and that’s why I do it. The testimonials we receive speak volumes about the kind of work we do, and the level of commitment and service we provide. I just plain get a big kick out of dealing with the variety of people I meet in this business. It is very rewarding to me to see people turn their trading around, and get it going in the right direction.
How much money do I need to get started?
Check with your broker. Each situation is different, be it commodities, currencies or stocks. The beauty of trading currencies on the forex is you can get away with limited capital investment, usually in the low hundreds of dollars, or even lower in some cases.
What is technical analysis?
Technical analysts use charts to help them assess what’s likely to happen next – to examine past price movements to forecast future price movements. Technical analysts are trend followers who interpret price movement and trading volume via charts to determine tradable up or down trends.

They use momentum statistics, such as moving averages and trading volumes (where available), to predict the direction of the market. Historical patterns can provide clues about so-called ‘resistance’ and ‘support’ levels, where rising prices will stall, and falling ones will hit bottom.

To the extent that technical analysis works, it is because human psychology plays a big role in investors’ and traders’ decisions to buy or sell, and that doesn’t change much over the years. Convinced devotees don’t really give a tinker’s darn about a company’s business fortunes or outlook. All they care about is sheer momentum. They believe that everything that is known about the business fundamentals is already reflected in the stock price, and could care less about valuation or business fundamentals.

Momentum traders believe that price will move in the path of least resistance, and that path is defined by the trend in the price.

What steps can I take to help me trade successfully?
Start with a plan, but keep it simple! Know the trend, and stick with it. Set your own rules, and trade by them – i.e., carve out your niche, figure out what your edge is, use stops, never average down or up, know where to cut your losses, use trailing stops when your profits are running, stick with the number of contracts or positions you are comfortable with, set a time frame for each trade, and trade for profit – not for fun. Use the right firm.

Use just two or three great trading strategies, and stick with them – only them. As Anthony Robbins stresses, do the same thing over and over again. Focus on making small, but consistent, short-term profits. Do not use ‘rocket science level’ technical analysis. The old joke on Wall Street is “I never met a rich technician.” There is no ‘magic’ technical approach to winning consistently in the markets. Make sure your approach is executable, simple, and highly profitable, with just a smidgeon of technical analysis thrown in to help you with timing trades you intend to hold for a couple days.

Today’s markets are very profitable to trade. There are several great trading opportunities that happen EVERYDAY, and you don’t need complex technical analysis to find them and profit from them. Care about making money by taking profits when they present themselves, while managing your losses. As hard as it is to take a loss, it’s crucial that you do. Your survival as a trader depends on it. Keep your long-term investments separate from your trading account. Don’t let losing trades become long-term holds!!! It’s a deadly mistake. Cut the losses, and move on.

The most important element of any successful trading plan is your own mental attitude. This is something you need total control over. Without the proper mind-set and the necessary mental attitude, even the soundest of all methods will lead to losing money. A winner is more defined by his winning mental attitude than his winning methodology. What exactly causes one trader to play a stock and win, while another absorbs the same information and loses? The difference lies in the mind. Winners consistently win, because they are confident and certain. No method, however sound, will work for the trader who mentally pictures himself losing, even before each trade is placed.

An old saying goes, “Nothing kills a successful trade like emotions.” Check your emotions in your hip pocket.

Last, by not least, believe in yourself. It is the quintessential universal dream: “You can do it!”

Can you give me some simple trading tips to get me going?
– Successful traders focus on four or fewer strategies, master them, and ignore a) the so-called ‘experts’ who’ve never traded, and b) the frenzy, hype and spin of Wall Street.

– Strong stocks tend to resume their up-trends after three-, five- and eight-day corrections.

– Winning in the stock market is directly correlated with how well we lose. No whining! Blaming yourself or others for bad trades (which we all make from time-to-time) is a sure sign you’re doomed as a trader. Complaining doesn’t make you a better trader.

– It’s OK to stay on the side lines when the stock market is going nuts. The material in my publications and on my Web site shows you how to make money regardless of market conditions, as long as there is some kind of movement; but, just remember, whenever things get uncomfortable for you, you can always elect not to play.

– The criteria you would use to identify a stock you’d want to own for the long term may not be the same set of criteria you’d use in finding stocks to trade, although they both complement each other.

If you are a beginner in trading commodities, currencies, markets, stocks or whatever, and still have questions, please feel free to contact us at TradingSmarts using the Contact link on each page. I would be delighted to make your acquaintance and be of service to you!

What questions do all traders ask the most?
Why did a particular stock go down? When will it go back up? And what should I do next?
What is a trading limit?
If corn trades 20 cents higher or lower, then trading is stopped, until someone is willing to trade within the range. If it doesn’t trade again that day, then trading is opened the next day. If prices offered are 20 cents beyond the previous limit, then no trades are executed, and trading stops again.
What does 'unable' to fill or execute an order mean?
If you wanted to buy CH2 at 2.07 or better on a day order, and the market is trading at 2.10, then they would come back and say that they were ‘unable.’ Or, if you put in orders to buy 100 CH2 @ 2.10, perhaps you were able to be filled on 76 @ 2.10, but were ‘unable’ on 24, because prices moved higher than 2.10.
What is meant by the term 'market risk?'
Market risk, or ‘multiple contraction’ – in Wall Street parlance – is the risk that investors in publicly-held stocks will value your stock at a lower multiple of earnings or sales than you did you when you bought the stock. The reality of investing in stocks whose valuation (i.e., multiple of earnings or sales) is significantly higher than the overall market’s is that, without continued premium sales/earnings growth, their valuations will crater. Every time. Market risk decimates cyclical growth stocks like information technology stocks ahead of and into a recession. Always has and always will.
With respect to commodities trading, who are the commercial traders?
Commercials are end-users or processors, or even the large exporters. You might think of Kellogg’s as a commercial, as well as Cargill or ConAgra. They need product for processing into value-added products, and they need to hedge their purchases or sales to maintain budgets and revenue projections. Commercials might also be large cattle feedlots. Farmers are considered small specs.

We show you how to the detect seismic shifts of the commercial traders early, while they are still tremors. Find out what I am talking about at ‘The Home of the Big Dogs’ – TradingSmarts.

What do the terms 'even money,' 'premium' and 'carry' mean?
‘Even money’ means there is no spread between the front month and the deferred month. For example, JUL is equal to AUG. ‘Premium’ means it is trading a four-cent premium of JUL over AUG, as an example.

Let’s say corn has a seven cent carry between MAR and MAY. This means the deferred is selling higher than the nearby. This is normal to encourage the carrying/storing of corn into MAY. It means that there is adequate corn available to market now. If, for example, soybeans are not at full carry, this means prices are too low to draw soy out into the market.

Where soybeans ramp down price with increased world production, there’s the process of finding a new supply and demand equilibrium, which causes a conundrum. The supply dictates lower prices. The producers aren’t willing to part with them yet. The deferred contracts stay low to suppress production, and the nearby contract trades just high enough to get the farmer to part with his beans. Strong basis also encourages selling.

Where there are ample supplies, there is a ‘carry’ to it.

What does 'maintenance margin' mean?
Maintenance margin is as low as your total equity can fall before a margin call is issued. If a margin call is issued, your broker will require that you bring the margin back up to the original margin, or liquidate part or all of your position.
What does 'backwardation' mean?
‘Backwardation,’ in the commodities futures world, means that nearby prices are higher than deferred prices. For some professional traders, this is a true signal of an important market shift, because supplies are tight. Markets show that classic manifestation of tight supplies, a steep backwardation, when nearby prices (front months) are well above those for future delivery (back months).

‘Contango,’ on the other hand, refers to the premium of forward-dated contracts over nearby ones. Where it approaches zero, this makes it unprofitable for producers to hedge their forward production. Accordingly, producers will reduce their hedge book, and not establish new hedge positions. When this happens, as say in the case of gold, this represents a commitment to the long term, and may inspire confidence in the institutional investor community more than price spikes alone. Does such confidence prove sufficient to keep gold trading up when it does? It’s anybody’s guess.

What the heck is 'double dip' anyway?
Good question. And no, it doesn’t connote running down to your favourite ice cream shop to get two scoops. But rather, it signifies the gloomy prospect that recovery from a recession won’t be strong enough to sustain itself. A brief upturn in the economy and the stock market is followed by a renewed slump. That’s what happened in five of the past recessions prior to the one in 2001/2002, including l974 and 1982.
What are the different types of broker-traders?
At the NYMEX, there are three types of broker-traders. The first is a broker who’s employed by a company to execute customer orders. Since such a broker does not hedge trades or need to strategize, there is little potential for the wildly fluctuating earnings earned by many traders. However, brokers have more financial security, as they enjoy a set salary plus commission.

The second type is a loosely-associated local, a professional who trades with his own money for his own account.

The third type is known as a market maker. The difference between locals and market makers is that the latter are better capitalized and financed, which enables them to trade larger amounts.

What is meant by 'premium' and 'fair value'?
The ‘fair value’ of any other tradable commodity, such as the S&P 500, is determined by ‘cost of carry,’ which is essentially cost (of index), plus interest rate/time, minus dividends that would be received, if you owned the actual stocks. In the case of the S&P 500, this means that, if you had to buy all 500 stocks and carry them for the specified time period, it would cost you the interest money paid to your broker. The dividend amounts cause the fair value number to move independently of the automatic rate of time decay (for cost of carry). Simply put, the S&P future is worth a ‘premium’ over the actual spot or cash price of the S&P 500 (SPX or INX on most quote systems), since you don’t have to outlay all the cash to buy the underlying securities, while still benefiting from movement.

When traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) are able to sell futures at a premium over fair value, they may elect to hedge themselves by buying the actual stocks. When they can buy the futures at a discount to fair value, they may decide to sell back the stocks. This is also done via ‘program trading,’ using various methods employed by trading firms off the trading floor.

Equity traders like to know if the futures are trading at a premium or discount to fair value before entering or exiting a trade. This is a major part of a larger decision-making process that most professional traders use. You can keep a small window next to your S&P tick chart that shows you the premium or discount.

Equity traders use fair value premium or discount to determine pricing for their opening only and other similar strategies. You can go to cme.com to view the education available from the Mercantile Exchange.

What are the most common attributes of successful day traders?
Fearlessness, for one. When the market is moving quickly, you have to jump in, but most people just freeze. When a car is moving along at 150 M.P.H., it’s not likely to go into reverse any time soon, unless a wall intervenes. You have to be on the speeding bullet. You can go much farther faster with relatively high probability that it will continue in the same direction. That’s why they call it momentum trading. This is one of my favourite strategies.

The second attribute – multi-tasking – women will appreciate. Even 60-year old grandmothers trade futures successfully. They study harder, paper trade longer to hone their technique, and are used to multi-tasking – looking at a chart, talking on the phone, changing a diaper, and clicking at the same time. Navy pilots also make good day traders. If they can land a rocket-ship at night on something that is bobbing and weaving in the middle of nowhere, day trading is a piece of cake for them. But, anybody can do it, provided you master these two attributes, plus the one to follow.

A third attribute would be the ability to gauge risk and embrace it. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert, but you have to be able to operate in the now.

What do you say about fundamental analysis?
Most people use some form of fundamental analysis to pick stocks. They look at earnings, enterprise value, P/E ratios, revenue, and other tools. The problem is companies cook the books. Even if we wanted to talk about value, we couldn’t. We don’t know if the books are right. Take Enron, for example. This Houston-based energy trading company came under the scrutiny of U.S. securities regulators. Turned out to be one heck of a stock, but not much of a company.
What are the things a day trader looks out for?
The guide posts here are price and volume – and speed. These are the only things that cannot lie. Price is a reflection of everyone’s fears and hopes at the moment. There probably isn’t anything else you can rely on. That is why I like momentum trading.
Would you please explain the commodities futures terms FND (First Notice Day) and LTD (Last Trading Day)?
FND means that the person with the oldest short position will be given a notice to deliver on this ‘first’ date. Delivery is assigned to the oldest position first.

If, for example, you went short MAR corn the previous summer at 2.50, then that order or trade is in the book before a short that is entered, say, today at 2.07. When FND comes up, and the CBOT is issuing delivery notices, they are coming to you first and to everybody else prior to the one entered today at 2.07. It’s first traded, first delivered.

So, if you are short MAR corn, and you’ve been short for a long time, and you don’t want to deliver it, then you need to close it out, because you could get a notice to deliver. For the longs, FND is the first day in which they can be forced to take delivery of contracts.

The person holding the oldest long will get a notice that delivery is being made, and they match all of these up. If you don’t want to deliver or take delivery, you can re-offer it to the market to close out the position. Spec traders usually get out prior to FND, or roll to the next contract.

Last trading day is for any contracts not assigned, matched or served delivery notices.

What is meant by 'free float?'
Free float is the number of shares outstanding, less shares held by corporations, governments, management and controlling shareholders and shares subject to foreign exchange restrictions. Countries with less than 40% float will only be included as a fraction of their market capitalization.
What is meant by 'distributive conditions?'
This is where your tradable resides below key moving averages, like the 50- and 200-day. This equates to ‘distribution’ or selling pressure. My publications show you how you can use these moving averages to your advantage. The ‘Golden Cross’ produces a ‘buy’ signal and the ‘Death Cross’ means that you should ‘sell.’ Of course, these are just two of the many trading strategies you will find in my publications that generate crystal-clear entry and exit points.
What is 'spot deferred hedging?'
An aggressive forward-selling strategy to protect against price declines (example – gold).
What is the Arms index?
Shows the relationship between the number of stocks that increase in price and those that decrease, taking into consideration volume as well. If it resides at oversold levels, this signals that the markets may soon be ready for some kind of a rebound.
What does 'window dressing' mean?
In the final trading minutes of any given year, some mutual fund managers will busily buy and sell shares to ‘cover up’ recent stock-picking blunders. By scooping up winners and dumping dogs (pardon the expression), just before they’re required to divulge their holdings to their beloved investors, managers can look lily-white.

The ruse lies in these managers ‘faking it’ – having investors believe they have made ‘wise’ investment decisions all along. Not only do they deceive investors with this practice, they also rack up excessive trading costs that are passed on to the investors. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the practice of window dressing may in fact violate anti-fraud provisions.

Okay then, what does 'portfolio pumping' mean?
This is an even more egregious offence. Here, fund managers buy extra shares of stock they already own at the end of a quarter or a year in an attempt to drive up stock prices, and hence raise the value of their funds.

This is just smoke ‘n mirrors though for, on the first day of the next period, these same managers ditch those shares, thereby dragging the value of those stocks down.

It’s all about money, as it seems to be with just about everything in life these days. You see, a manager’s bonus and reputation, such as it is, depends on end-of-the-year returns. So, that’s the incentive to pump up the portfolio. Although the gains are given back the first day of the next year, that last little bit of push will drive up the manager’s bonus – not to mention whether he or she cracked the top 10, or beat his/her benchmark.

Just keep in mind the fact that fund managers turn over their investments at a fair clip. On average, each stock in a mutual fund is held for only about 18 months. That’s a lot of quick churn. Too quick, in fact, for any reasonable fund manager to totally understand that many businesses every 18 months, or so. That translates into sheer speculation that you’re paying for

What can the bond market tell us about stocks?
According to Fortune, the bond market has a dishy secret: its yield curve is something of a prophet to the stock market. The yield curve shows the relationship between short- and long-term government bond rates. Had you known what to look for, you could have gleaned prescient investment information in early 2000, when the market was robust.

Back then, short-term rates were higher than long-term rates, a rare inversion that almost invariably foreshadows an economic downturn. As at February 5, 2002, long-term rates were much higher than short-term rates – a sure sign that an economic upswing was in the works. The bond market may not be sexy, but paying due attention to it will make you a better investor – and trader.

What is the 'Dogs of the Dow' strategy of investing in the stock market all about?
The ‘Dogs’ entails building a five-stock portfolio using the highest dividend-yielding and lowest-priced among the 30 issues in the Dow Jones industrial average. There are many variations on this theme.
Is there any one book that you'd care to recommend?
Michael O’Higgins created a world-wide phenomenon in the early ’90s with his book ‘Beating the Dow.’ Well, he’s done it again. He moved on from the ‘Dogs’ to champion bonds over stocks – a position he outlined in ‘Beating the Dow with Bonds: A High-Return, Low-Risk Strategy for Outperforming the Pros Even When Stocks Go South.’
What are ETFs?
ETFs are low-cost mutual funds. They cut costs by dispensing with human fund managers. For instance, your typical active equity fund charges 210 basis points (2.1%), versus 17 for ETFs. More than 200 ETFs in the world cover increasingly specialized sectors like gold, financial services, health or technology.
What is the spot market?
This is a commodities market in which goods are bought and sold immediately for cash. It also includes futures contracts that expire in the current month. Trades in the spot market are usually conducted over the counter in the form of phone trading, as opposed to an organized trading floor, like bonds or stocks. The types of commodities traded on the spot market can include anything from electricity to food.
What is the classic 'widows-and-orphans' investment?
What is the Elliott Wave Theory all about?
This theory posits that bear or bull phases consist of impulse waves 1, 3 and 5 in the direction of the main trend. Waves 2 and 4 correct that trend. The impulse waves are fractal in nature, and normally subdivide into 5 waves of lesser degree (labelled i through v on a chart). The corrective waves sub-divide into a-b-c waves.
What is the world's most closely watched number?
The DJIA. It is the most popular gauge of the stock market. It is price-weighted, whereas the S&P 500 is weighted by market capitalization.
What is the Wall Street benchmark?
The S&P 500.
What type of indicators are moving averages?
Lagging. A lagging indicator looks backward, and tells you you what you pretty much already know, which is that we’re in a downtrend, sideways pattern, or uptrend. A leading indicator, like the Stochastic, looks forward, trying to anticipate the future direction of price.
Who is your favourite broker?
This depends so much on which asset class you are trading – commodities, currencies or stocks. If you want advice or suggestions in this regard, please contact us using the Contact on each page of the site.
What is a 'short squeeze?'
This occurs when there is heavy short selling, and then suddenly there is a pop-up of 30% to 50% to 70% in just a few hours. The word squeeze comes into play because that is your blood being squeezed out of your eyeballs as you lose big time every time your short-sold stock goes up against you one dollar.

It’s so important for YOU to learn the skills and strategies professional traders use to excel, even in the toughest of market conditions. Super successful traders know full well that there are unique opportunities to be found in any type of climate – if only YOU can learn to read and interpret the signals properly.

TradingSmarts is the perfect place for YOU to start learning how to recognize these all-important signals. While there are no ‘sure-fire things’ in the marketplace, predictable and recurring cycles do drive the prices of bonds, commodities, currencies, and stocks for sure. This price action then triggers good, fairly low-risk trading opportunities for YOU, once YOU know how to recognize and pinpoint the distortions and imbalance between cycles and stock prices. My publications show YOU, step-by-step, how to spot and profit from these powerful breakout opportunities. I focus on showing YOU how to work with the market (the ‘Smart Money’), rather than against it (the ‘Dumb Money’), so that YOU can seize winning opportunities, regardless of the way the market is trending. My publications go a full-step further, providing YOU with an actual blueprint to develop a sound investment or trading strategy capable of generating consistently superior returns.

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Welcome to TradingSmarts!


Peter R. Bain

I am a speaker, trader, writer,
aviator, car nut, Harley enthusiast
but, above all else, I am here for you.

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