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Trend Following on Stocks: A Long History

An excerpt from Trend Following:

One of the great myths regarding trend following is that it does not work with stocks. That is wrong thinking. Trends in stocks are no different than trends in currencies, commodities, or futures. Chesapeake Capital, Jerry Parker’s trend following firm, for example, has adapted its system to stock trading. Parker says his system works well with stocks, particularly stocks in outlier moves that are in single industries. He adds:

“Our expertise [is] in systematic trend following or model development. So maybe we trend follow with Chinese porcelain. Maybe we trend follow with gold and silver, or stock futures, or whatever the client needs. We’re trading these great systems, and testing, and making sure what we do has worked in the past. And being disciplined, and unemotional, and applying our methods to the futures markets, but limiting our trading to this one group of markets. We need to look at the investment world globally and communicate our expertise of systematic trading.”

Bruce Terry, a disciple of Richard Donchian, dismisses out of hand that trend following is not for stocks:

“Originally in the 1950s, technical models came out of studying stocks. Commodity Trading Advisors (CTA) applied these to futures. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, stocks were quiet and futures markets took off. That is how the CTA market started. It has come full circle. People are beginning to apply these models to stocks once again.”

I am reminded of the opening line from a 1979 article from “Managed Account Reports” that I found in research: “Trading stocks and commodity futures by means of trend following techniques is an art with a long history.”

Some recent feedback from a listener:

I read your book, “Trend Following” and I liked it very much. I started trend following before I even knew it was a thing. In the beginning of my trading experience I made a good amount of money trend following stocks but it quickly fell apart and led to huge losses. I don’t make very much money but in a few months I lost like 2k. At which point I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t work for stocks. I gave up and just use the old blue chip buy and hold. I suppose if it ever dramatically dropped I would sell but I think that’s not really trend following, it’s blue chip buy and hold and stocks seems more like a savings account than anything. It was a crushing blow that it didn’t work and basically killed my dreams.

I found out about Forex through the book and started trading it a couple of weeks ago. I like it better than stocks and thought trend following might work there since it would appear that there are strong trends. However, I lose even more money in Forex. Not to be a downer but I’m not convinced that trend following works at all. But who knows maybe there is some market somewhere that trend following would for but I haven’t seen it. If I set my stops small I don’t lose much per trade but I rarely gain money and the small losses add up. If I set my stops large to get around volatility I can make money but it usually turns against me and a small gain is a huge loss in a heartbeat. Who knows maybe there is some voodoo magic involved? Have a nice day and your book was very entertaining.


Thanks for the feedback. Some resources for skeptics:

Patiently go through that and you will have answers.

Did he write back? Yes. He complained that was not enough.

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