Stock Trading: Why Averaging Down is a Losing Proposition

Many traders, especially those new to the markets, have a habit of “averaging in” to trades that aren`t going their way. The following reasoning is used: If this trade was a good entry at my earlier price, then it must be an even better entry now! On top of that, the trader gets caught up in the idea of improving his “average entry price.”

Unfortunately most traders learn the hard way that this logic simply does not hold up. This is a natural response that everyone has, which is exactly why it doesn`t work in a market. The reasoning that “this trade was good then so at this price it must be even better” is based on the flawed assumption that the first entry price was a good one.

Pride tries to keep us from realizing that the very fact that the position is a loser right now is PROOF that the first entry was NOT a good entry (at least not yet). In fact, the stock or option has moved in the opposite direction the trader thought it was going to move, indicating that either the analysis/reasoning used to take the position in the first place was incorrect or at the very least the reasoning has been weakened by the market action since the position was established. This does NOT mean that the trade is no longer a good one just because you did not make your initial entry at the perfect moment (who does?) — it just means that you probably shouldn`t be willing to put more capital at risk now that it has started to prove you wrong.

The other part of the reasoning, that “this will improve my average entry” is simply a mathematical illusion.

By “averaging in”, you don`t just move your entry closer to the current price (the part Pride makes us focus on), you also double your losing position (the part we don`t want to see). Instead of 1000 losing shares at 10.25 you now own 2000 losing shares at 10.00 — BIG DEAL — you are still down $500 because the stock price is still at $9.75 and now you own 1000 extra shares of a stock that is in a downtrend instead of the uptrend you predicted!

Don`t get me wrong, it is not always a mistake to increase your position on a losing trade — some circumstances (such as the stock sitting right at a very strong resistance or support level) warrant it. If you absolutely must add to a losing position, always do so with the conviction necessary to exit the ENTIRE position quickly should the trade move against you (through that critical support level you saw, etc.) from there.

On the flip side of the coin is the exact opposite reasoning and the exact opposite results over time. Adding to winning positions is a practice rarely done by even the most experienced traders, but one that can lead to increased profitability over time. This is exactly the strategy that our Day Trading Systems []have used successfully since 2000. The next few times you hear pride telling you to “lock in your profits”, double your position and set a stop at your new “average entry”. After 5-10 of these trades you will be surprised at what a profitable (and a confidence building) method this can be.

Once again, traders who ignore pride and trade the opposite of emotion will reap extra profits and a much more pleasurable trading experience. DON`T MISUNDERSTAND ME — you will not profit more every time you add to a winner and you won`t lose every time you add to a loser — I am talking about trading strategies to work OVER TIME — anything can happen in the window of a few trades.