This post is aimed at those with very little knowledge of financial markets.
Bitcoin has encouraged many to take an interest in finance and allows easy access to financial exchanges. Consequently a large number of people are attempting to trade Bitcoin, without any prior trading experience.
At BTC.sx we sometimes see traders make simple mistakes that could be avoided with a basic understanding about trading and investing.
Let’s take a look at the five most common mistakes new traders make and how to avoid them:
1. Do not invest more than you can afford to lose
Any financial investment can produce losses, rather than returns. With a highly speculative investment, such as Bitcoin, there is a high chance that you can see very large gains or losses. By trading Bitcoin, there is also further scope to lose money from poor decision-making.
One should invest such an amount that they feel comfortable with losing completely — be prepared for the worst eventuality. There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, successful investors diversify their portfolio. Allocating too many funds to an asset class increases risk exposure. This makes it harder for gains in other assets to cover losses in another asset.
You cannot lose more than you put in, so don’t put in more than you can afford to lose and you’ll be all right, even in the most negative case. –Rpietila, Bitcoin and commodity investor
Secondly, investing more than one can afford to lose reduces an investor’s ability to make good decisions. In particular, there is a risk of ‘panic selling’ when the market declines slightly. Instead of holding throughout a market dip, one who is over-invested may panic and sell-off their holdings for a low price — attempting to cut their losses. This tends to lead to losing more money when the market recovers and the trader buys back at a higher price.
2. Set goals for each trade
Setting goals helps traders remain level-headed during periods of extreme volatility. This is highly important for Bitcoin trading. When placing a trade, determine what price to take profits or cut losses in advance.
The benefit of this is that it is easier to prevent trading decisions based purely on emotions. For example, a trader with no target price may make a profitable trade, become greedy, and then fail to realize their profits while the market is still on their side.
This chart shows the typical emotions an investor may go through and how they make it harder to ‘buy low and sell high’.
The use of goals / price targets can prevent traders becoming greedy when experiencing euphoria and despondent after a market crash.
3. Learn how to read charts
Although technical analysis is a difficult skill to develop, new traders at a minimum should know the basics of chart reading to identify market trends.
The most widely used Bitcoin charting tool is Bitcoin Wisdom. Despite looking overwhelming at first, it is actually very intuitive. Here are the basics a new trader should understand:
Candlesticks — these are the rectangles and lines that resemble a candlestick shape. They are used to show what the price has done within a chosen time interval, which in this example will be one day.
Take a look at the candlestick highlighted by the blue box. There are several pieces of information we can gather from this single candlestick:
Opening price — this is the part of the rectangle that is horizontal to the candlestick to the left. On this day, the price opened at approximately $400 (which was the closing price of the day before).
Closing price — this is the part of the rectangle that is horizontal to the candlestick to the right. On this day, the price closed at approximately $378 (which was the opening price of the day after).
Price direction — as the closing price is less than the opening price, the price of Bitcoin fell, therefore the candlestick is red.
Highest price — the highest point of the stick shows that, during this day, the price reached approximately $407.
Lowest price — the lowest point of the stick shows that, during this day, the price fell to approximately $368.
Trading range — the difference between the highest price and the lowest price shows the range that the price was trading in.
Order book — this is a list of the prices and quantities traders are willing to buy and sell Bitcoin.
The ‘asks’ (sell orders) are listed in the top half, and the ‘bids’ (buy orders) are the listed in bottom half. The difference between the lowest ask ($361.95) and highest bid ($360.95) is known as the ‘spread’.
The second section with the scroll bar shows live trades, which can be used to see what is happening in the market right now.
Lastly, Bitcoin Wisdom projects how the price may move based on the order book. This can be indicated by the green and red lines at the end of the chart.
How can a trader use this information? It allows short-term support and resistance levels to be identified quickly.
For example, if there is an order to sell 5,000 Bitcoin at $362, the price will have a lot of resistance at this level. This is because buyers will fullfil the cheapest sell order available to them and, given 5,000 Bitcoin is a huge quantity, this will be sufficient to satisfy buyers for a few days. It is only when this order has been fulfilled, there is potential for the price to move above $362.
It is worth watching the live trades and bids / asks being fulfilled to get a feel for how an exchange works. Keep in mind that a buyer will want to buy at the cheapest price for their desired quantity. So they will buy as much Bitcoin as possible at the cheapest price, and then the next cheapest price if the original ask contains an insufficient quantity of Bitcoin. It is this scenario that increases Bitcoin’s price — or decreases Bitcoin’s price in an opposite scenario.
Logarithmic scales — using just linear scales makes it difficult to track Bitcoin’s price over a longtime span. This is because linear scales have with Y Axis values of equidistant. This linear Y Axis is easily distorted by extreme values, which Bitcoin’s price is famous for recording.
In contrast, logarithmic scales have a Y Axis that changes values according orders of magnitude. This prevents chart distortion and can reveal hidden trends in Bitcoin’s price. Observe the difference below:
Linear Bitcoin chart:
Logarithmic Bitcoin chart:
The logarithmic chart has revealed another rally that was completely hidden on the linear chart. This is useful to assess the long-term trend of Bitcoin.
4. Do not set stop losses too low
A stop loss is an automatic trigger to liquidate your position if your losses reach a certain value — essentially stopping you from losing any more. They are a good tool to take advantage of.
However, at BTC.sx we recommend that traders do not use a stop loss that is too small. Choosing 10:1 leverage means that your deposit is 1/10th of the position size. This deposit determines the stop price, the price at which a position can drop to until the deposit can no longer cover the position’s loss. At $200, the default stop will be $20 away (or 10% of $200). Anything less than the position’s default stop will increase the risk of a position closing out very quickly because of minor fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin.
Here as an example from the rally of Winter 2013 to demonstrate this:
In this hypothetical case, a trader with a default stop at 10:1 would have lost out on a huge rally. They bought-in at the right time, but because their stop loss was set too low, their Bitcoin were automatically sold at a loss during a minor fluctuation.
It is important to note that lower leverage options result in a larger stop and as a result is considered a much safer way of exploring the basics of trading.
5. Close unprofitable & leveraged positions within 24 hours
Leverage is borrowing or lending an asset in hope that it appreciates or depreciates, respectively. At BTC.sx, we give traders the ability to enter long (buy) or short (sell) positions with 2:1, 5:1 or 10:1 leverage.
If a trader shorted 1 Bitcoin at 5:1 leverage, for example, the total investment is 6 Bitcoin. To make a profit the price must fall, allowing the owner to reclaim ownership at a lower price.
However, the price of a Bitcoin must fall sufficiently to cover the trading fee and the interest fee charged on borrowing the 5 Bitcoin. Do not fear if this sounds complicated! We have integrated a breakeven calculator into our trading interface to automatically show what price movement is required to return a profit.
Our daily interest charge is applicable up-front for every 24 hour period with the first 24 hours being free. Thereafter a trader must ensure that there is sufficient balance in their account to cover the cost and ensure the position remains open for each subsequent 24 hour period. In the foreign exchange trading markets, this is referred to as Rolling Spot FX. As the Bitcoin market is volatile, it can be hard to make a daily profit when the price is prone to change direction quickly.
Put simply, we recommend that inexperienced traders close unprofitable positions within 24 hours to avoid paying re-occurring interest.