I am dumbfounded! I recently taped some of Cramer’s shows and reviewed Friday’s show this weekend. At about 10 minutes into his show, Cramer responded to a caller who asked him about the use of stop loss orders. Cramer ranted on about how he did not want his “home gamers” to put their orders on “automatic.” Stop losses, he said, were okay for professional traders but not for his listeners who are part-time traders not glued to the market, and who are not robots. I had to listen to him several times to make sure I heard what he was saying, because his advice was exactly opposite to what I think people should do. His reason for not using stop losses was that one might get whipsawed–buy a stock at 60, put in a stop loss order to sell if it falls to 59 and then have the stock fall to 58 and be sold out, only to reverse and close back above 60. But it is precisely the part-time traders who are not watching the market every minute who need to have automatic stop-loss orders. Traders who are glued to their monitors can watch their stock closely and manually sell when they want to. It is the part-time trader who get his head handed to him when his stock plummets while he is at work or in a meeting. In 2005, I lost a lot of $$$ profits when I went to a business meeting thinking I did not have to put a stop in on a very strong stock (TASR) I was holding. That mistake cost me big–the market always exacts its tuition, and we must learn from our mistakes.
I could not disagree more with Cramer’s advice. Before I buy a stock, I calmly decide how much I will let it fall before I think I am wrong and how much of a loss I will tolerate. In this way, this “home gamer” who has a full time job, does not have to be glued to the monitor like a professional trader and can go about my business knowing that if my stock falls to my sell level I am immediately and automatically sold out. Once I have my stop loss order in place, I have taken my emotion out of the trade. If the stock falls and I have taken a small loss, I can always go back in and buy it back if it shows renewed strength–now that’s smart trading! Every small loss bring me to my next big gain. It was the use of stop losses that helped the great Nicolas Darvas (see his book below) to make a fortune in the market in just 18 months. It is how one keeps his losses small.
Put this advice along side a lot of other bad Cramer advice, including calling chartists morons and recommending stocks based on fundamentals alone that were later devastated by the 2008 market decline. (I think Cramer started showing charts for a while after he found that a lot of his fundamental/value choices tanked).
So, how do I put in a stop order? Before I buy a stock I determine at what level I will have been wrong. Since I am buying the stock at what I believe is the right time and assuming that it is in an up-trend, I should not tolerate much of a decline below my purchase price. The best way to enter a trade is to assume it will go wrong, so that I can calmly prepare my risk control strategy in advance. I select a price level based on prior support, at a moving average or a recent reaction low. As soon as my buy order is executed, I place an order to sell my newly purchased shares on stop at my predetermined loss price. I typically place a GTC (good til canceled order) so that I do not have to put a new stop order in every day. A day order expires at the close each day. Now, once the stock trades at the stop price level I put in, the broker automatically sends the order in to sell my shares at the market. I may or may not sell the stock at the stop order price. The order goes in line behind other market orders and gets executed in turn at the best price offered. The greatest risk from using a stop loss order is that if the stock suddenly trades far below the stop price (as in a gap down at the open the next day) one gets only the best price that someone is willing to pay. A good strategy is to cancel the stop order after the stock has advanced enough and to put a new sell stop order in at a higher exit price to ensure I do not give back all of my profit. I do not use automatic trailing stop orders because I prefer to raise the stop price manually after carefully reviewing the stock’s technicals. If I am stopped out and the stock rises again I love to buy it back at a higher price than I sold it. Such trades often are quite profitable because during the whipsaw, as the shares decline, they are bought by others who then hold on for a larger advance. Many large advances begin after a sudden decline…….
Meanwhile, the GMI and GMI-R remain at their maximum levels. As the table below shows,