Thursday, November 1, 2007

Surviving The Commodity Markets, PART 4 - Trading Guidelines For Different Account Sizes

Of all the important skills in trading, survival is number one. For unless we make it through the inevitable bad times, we won't be around to capitalize on the good. I've laid out some trading account guidelines that specify the account size required to conduct various commodity futures and option trading activities. Stick within these guidelines and you will have an edge on most of the commodity trading public.

$10,000 ACCOUNT:

Risk no more than 7.5% maximum a trade ($750)

A $10,000 account is probably the minimum commodity amount to begin trading with. Remember that a bigger account is NOT for buying more futures contracts or commodity options, but being able to easily split it into fifteen to twenty different parts. We want to have enough money to support each new position, for many tries, until we hit the great trades that make up for all the losses, expenses and turn a profit.

Probability allows us to have times when we do everything right and have a good run of winners. But the outcome of INDIVIDUAL trades is impossible to predict. Only by doing things right over the long run will probability favor us over the commodity trader who is reckless and random.

The reckless trader will have times when he does very well. But in the end the odds will take him out and give his money to the ones who maintain control. We dont have to trade perfectly - just better than most.


With a $10,000 account you can now buy a better quality commodity option that has lots of time and is closer to the money. This may not be possible if the cat is out of the bag. This is a market that is already running strong and the option premium is inflated.

You want to purchase commodity options before the crowd starts chasing the futures market. We use our Timeline program for timing as well as commercial option analysis software to signal high probability trades that have undervalued options and room for the premiums to expand. The bottom line is you can risk $500 (5%) or perhaps even $750 (7.5%). But for a $10,000 account, a $1,000 option is high risk and done only if the trade looks exceptional and it permits you to purchase a great option value. In this case you would look to salvage some premium if wrong, rather than let it expire worthless.


A $10,000 commodity account gives you more margin money, thus the ability to hold two to three different positions at one time. Remember that we dont know which "high probability" trade will work out, if any, so this is one place where diversification may help.

Ive seen many times in the past where an account was too small to safely take advantage of four good trade opportunities at once. As sometimes happens, the trades that were picked did not work out, while the ones let go were stellar performers. Remember to risk no more than $750 per trade to stay within the risk parameters of 7.5%.


With a $10,000 commodity account, we are just beginning to get a small amount of flexibility. Very often when the TimeLine or Option Writing program signals an option CALL write, it may later signal a PUT write before the initial call is covered. We will then have two positions. This requires two margins instead of one.

We may even get the opportunity to average in a second lot if the options are far out-of-the-money. And we also have the money to do an adjustment. This is taking a small loss and then immediately selling a new option farther away to possibly recoup the loss and make a profit.

As you can see, the advantage of a larger account is survivability - that is, being able to risk a smaller percentage of the total account. In addition, it permits more flexible strategies that involve multiple option writes and more complex positions. A larger account ($10,000) is NOT for taking on larger quantities of the same position. In other words, don't treat it like two $5,000 accounts.

Part Five of Six Parts- Next!

There is substantial risk of loss trading futures and options and may not be suitable for all types of investors. Only risk capital should be used.

Thomas Cathey - 27-year trading veteran heads the managed futures division of Thomas Capital Management, LLC. View his TimeLine Trading market predictions and get his complete, free 44+ lesson, "Thomas Commodity Trading Course".

Main site:

Do You Know the IRA Eligibility Rules?

An additional income tax deduction may be available by contributing to an IRA. However, many people may not realize they qualify to have an IRA. So lets take a look at the contribution rules.

One of the things that makes IRAs so complicated is trying to understand the eligibility, maximum contribution limits, contribution phaseouts, etc. of all the types of IRAs at one time. Technically, there are five types of IRAs: Traditional, Roth, SEPs, SAR-SEPs and SIMPLE. So we are going to limit the discussion here to the traditional IRA.

In this article, all of the rules pertain to 2007. Some of the numbers used in the calculation of how much you can contribute to an IRA are subject to indexing. So you need to obtain the proper figures for any year in question.

The determination of your eligibility for a traditional IRA, and the ability to calculate how much you could contribute, are dependent on several things:

1. Your age

If you are under 50, you can contribute a maximum of $4,000 to a traditional IRA. If you turn 50 during the year or are over 50, you can add another $1,000 which is called a catch-up contribution. If you turn 70 during the year, you can't make any contribution.

2. Were you an active participant in an employer sponsored plan during the year?

If so, you still may be able to contribute to an IRA. The amount depends on how much money you made and your tax filing status (single, joint or separate).

Having modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of certain levels requires applying a formula which calculates a gradually decreasing permissible deductible contribution. If your MAGI exceeds certain thresholds, you can't contribute anything. These thresholds depend on how you file your taxes. Here they are:

Married filing jointly: Up to $83,000 of MAGI allows for a full contribution. Then a phrase out begins as income increases. For MAGI of $103,000 or above, no deductible contribution is allowed.

Single or Head of Household: If your MAGI is $62,000 or above, no deductible contribution is possible. The phase out starts at $52,000, so anything lower allows for a full contribution.

Married filing separately: For a MAGI of $10,000 or more, no contribution is permitted and the phase out starts at $0.

3. Do you live with your spouse or file a joint return and your spouse is a participant in a qualified plan, but you are not?

In this instance, your ability to make a contribution is reduced to zero if you have a MAGI over $166,000. Up to a MAGI of $156,000, you can take a full deductible contribution.

4. Did you receive compensation during the year?

Contributions must be made from compensation received. Sorry, if you were unemployed all year, sheltering that big day at the track is not permitted.

5. Do you have cash?

Contributions must be made in cash. You can't contribute stock or any other type of asset.

6. Do you file a joint tax return and make less than your spouse?

If so, you may be eligible to make a contribution. This rule was originally intended for a spouse who did not work; however, it may apply to a spouse who works as well.

You will need to apply the rules and work through the math. You may find a spouse has no compensation for the year can make the maximum (i.e. under age 50: $4,000) contribution.

7. Did your employer go bankrupt?

The rules here are pretty narrow, but if you qualify you could be in for a nice surprise. You would have to have been a participant in a 401(k) plan with specific attributes and your employer filed Chapter 11.

If you qualify, you would be eligible for catch-up contributions of $3,000 for years 2007-2009. And these catch-up provisions apply to all ages-you don't have to be 50 or older.

Armed with this information, you should be in a position to determine if an additional deduction is available to you by contributing to an IRA.

Robert D. Cavanaugh, CLU is a 36-year financial and estate planning veteran and author of the free newsletter, The Estate Preservation Advisor. To subscribe and get the free video, How to Sell Your Life Insurance Policy for More Than the Cash Value, go to

Moving Averages - The Forex Trading Power Indicator

Every forex currency trader must know how to accurately interpret technical indicators in order to be a successful trader. Being able to consistently interpret currency trading technical indicators is the difference between forex trading success and failure. Moving averages are one of the technical indicators frequently used by forex trading pros. Let's discover what moving averages are and how they are useful for forex traders.

Moving averages are one of the most popular and easy to use tools available to the forex trader. While technical analysis is largely subjective, moving averages are mathematically precise and objective. One of the reasons moving averages are so popular is that they embody some of the most common stipulations of successful forex trading. Moving averages are extremely important for not only isolating trends, momentum, and support/resistance, but more importantly, for highlighting the underlying bias of the dominant trading cycles. Because the forex market is a spot market, moving averages are used to calculate the current average of prices, and can help traders make investment decisions on the spot.

Moving averages are a useful technical tool in a trending market. The reason for this is simple; they are considered by most analysts the most basic and core trend identifying indicators. It is designed to smooth out temporary price fluctuations and reveal the true path of the underlying trend. Moving averages may also act as support and resistance levels in a trending market. Some investors prefer simple moving averages over long time periods to identify long-term trend changes. When two moving averages are used together, the longer term moving average is used to help identify the trend, and the shorter one for timing purposes. When there is no trend, the moving averages are flat and are not of much use. Fortunately for forex traders the forex market is a trending market - a perfect market for utilizing moving averages.

There are five popular types of moving averages: simple, exponential, triangular, variable, and weighted. The two major types of moving averages are "simple" and "exponential". Simple moving averages are widely used, predominately because of its ease of computation. Simple moving averages apply equal weight to the prices. A simple moving average (SMA) is formed by finding the average price of a currency or commodity over a set number of periods of time.

Exponential moving averages (EMA) are by and large preferred when charting prices on the currency markets. Exponential moving averages reduce the lag by applying more weight to recent prices relative to older prices. The method for calculating the exponential moving average is fairly complicated. The important thing to remember is that the exponential moving average puts more weight on recent prices.

History has shown that when prices begin trading above the moving average line the market is becoming bullish and traders should be looking for buy entry points. When prices begin trading below the moving average line the market is becoming bearish and traders should look for an opportunity to sell. Investors typically buy when the price of currency pair rises above its moving average and sell when the it falls below its moving average.

Before ending this article let's review. Moving Averages are one of the most popular technical indicators used by traders charting the forex market. Moving averages are extremely important for not only isolating trends, support & resistance and momentum but more importantly, for highlighting the underlying bias of the dominant trading cycles. Master interpreting moving averages and other popular forex trading technical indicators and you will become a successful and wealthy forex trader.

Have you ever desired the income and freedom of being a home based forex trader? Visit the author's (Kenneth Aikens) website for more powerful forex trading information: forex training - forex article directory.

Factors Influencing a Currency Pair Exchange Rate


The exchange rate refers to the value of the US dollar against the values of currencies of other countries. Such a rate helps determine how much we pay for imported goods and services and how much we receive for what we export, among other things. When the value of the US dollar drops, imports become more expensive, and we tend to reduce the volume of our imports. Simultaneously, other countries will pay LESS for some of our products and that will tend to boost export sales. If imports and exports are a substantial part of a country's economy, as is the case with Canada, the exchange rate plays a particularly important role in our economy. The exchange rate between two countries' currencies is particularly important if the two countries are heavily involved in trade.

What factors affect an exchange rate?

A country's exchange rate is typically affected by the supply and demand for that country's currency in international exchange markets. This is typically known as a floating exchange rate. If demand, for say dollars, exceeds supply, then the value of the dollar will go up. If however, the supply of dollars exceeds demand, then its value will go down. A huge amount of money is bought and sold on international exchange markets for many different currencies.

Several factors influence the supply of, and demand for, a given country's currency.

If INTEREST rates are HIGHER in, say, the US than in other countries, then investors WILL choose to invest in the US, increasing demand for the dollar, provided that the expected rate of inflation is not higher in the US than among our trading partners. If INTEREST rates are LOWER in the US than in other countries, investors will choose NOT to invest in the US, decreasing demand for the dollar.

If the US INFLATION rate is HIGHER, investors are LESS likely to prefer the US -even with higher interest rates- because of the expectation that the value of the dollar will be ERODED by inflation. If our INFLATION rate is LOWER, investors are MORE likely to prefer the US, because there will be NO expectation that the value of the dollar will erode.

Trade balance also has an effect on a country's currency. If world prices for what a country exports rise in comparison with the cost of that country's imports, that country will be earning more for its exports than it pays for its imports. The more demand there will be for that country's currency, the better the deal becomes. If investors are confident that the US economy will be strong, they will be MORE likely to buy American assets, pushing UP the dollar's value. If investors are not so confident that the economy will be strong, they will be LESS likely to buy the country's assets, pushing the dollar's value DOWN.

Joshua Kunken is Chief Currency Analyst for