CFDs, or contracts for difference, are derivative off-exchange instruments which allow traders to speculate on longer term price movements. Traded directly with the broker rather than the market, CFDs are contracts to buy or sell an underlying instrument at some future point, at a price stipulated today. Like spread betting, CFDs allow traders to adopt highly leveraged positions, and can provide traders with an alternative instrument on which to base their market and index projects. There are numerous trading strategies applicable to trading CFDs.
The importance of CFD trading strategies is hard to overstate, and without a coherent and defined plan of action it is extremely difficult to get to a stage where your CFDs consistently deliver a profit. Trading anything without a strategy is like playing golf blindfolded – while you might hit the ball once or twice, it’s far more feasible to open your eyes and take account of the wider picture with a strategic approach to your CFD trading.
Choosing which CFD trading strategies to employ for best effect is something of a balancing act, and requires you to factor in a number of considerations when making that decision, including your appetite for risk, your trading objectives, the impact of leverage on your positions and your available capital. Nevertheless, finding a trading strategy that works for you is the first step towards more consistent CFD trading, and could set you on your way to building a long-term, profitable trading career.
Two Types Of Strategies
CFD trading strategies come in a variety of different guises. Some are based on going long, while others are based on selling weak markets short. Others focus on the turning point of markets, while others trade within the boundaries of previous price performance. But aside from the specifics of the nature of an individual strategy will be an underlying concept – it will either focus on long term investment strategy, or a shorter term investment strategy.
While both are equally popular in trading as a whole, CFDs tend to fall more often (although not exclusively) into the short-term camp, for the fundamental reason that financing costs can make long-term leverage a problem. But how do short term trading strategies help traders to generate sufficient return to make it worth their efforts, and how do they compare to long term trading strategies on the whole?
Short term trading strategies tend to look at CFDs in terms of hours, rather than days, for the simple reasons of financing costs, and the mechanism through which these costs are passed on to traders. Financing costs only become an issue when positions are held overnight, and in allowing a position to roll over the trader is instantly eating into his margin on the day by incurring extra charges. Depending on the nature of the present transaction, this could be sufficient to render a position unprofitable, and you may find yourself in a financially better situation by closing out and taking your profit just before the end of the trading day.
But short term trading strategies also bring other benefits to the table. With a short term position, there’s only so much movement the market can make. While CFDs are perhaps best applied in volatile markets, it is a rare occurrence for markets to collapse totally over the course of one day. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but you are far less likely to feel the heat of a total market collapse in your CFD positions if they are held over a maximum of one day, rather than, say, a month. By keeping your exposure to different markets brief, short term trading strategies allow you to avoid the dangers of over-exposure.
Similarly, short term trading strategies lend themselves to contracts for difference more naturally because of the high leverage component CFDs bring to the table. CFDs are the ideal instrument for a quick in and out, allowing maximum gains to be had in the shortest period of time.
However, trading short term does have its drawbacks, and one of the main concerns many CFD traders express with shorter term trading strategies is that fact that commissions and transaction fees are so significant. It might not seem to be the case when you’re spending a couple of percentage points here and there, but if you were to sit down and accumulate the sheer amount of money short term trading strategies shovel into the pockets of brokers, you would be amazed. With longer term trading strategies, this isn’t so much of a concern, but of course the financing costs start to come into play the longer you hold a position.
Not all trading strategies for CFDs have a short-term outlook, despite the vast majority relying on traders opening and trading positions over a short time frame. With CFDs, time is most definitely money, and in combating financing costs short-term strategies already have one-up on their longer-term counterparts. However, it’s worth remembering that just because conventional wisdom says short term is the way to go doesn’t necessarily make it any easier or less risky an approach over time than trading on a long-term outlook.
Conventional wisdom in CFD trading suggests that short term transacting is the best policy, holding open positions for a day or two at the most to counteract the bite of financing costs. Long term trading strategies have long been regarded as the preserve of less highly leveraged trading styles, and tend to go hand in hand with less volatile markets. But is that necessarily a rule to which you must adhere as a CFD trader?
Some CFD trading strategies are in fact designed for those with a longer-term view, and while financing costs are no-doubt an issue that must be borne in mind at all times when dealing with margined investments, they don’t necessarily cancel out the profit potential from a given CFD position.
Take the example of a property developer investing in an office complex. Chances are, the developer will be funded by a bank in order to make the deal happen, and the costs of providing this finance (itself a form of leverage) will accrue over the lifetime of the investment. The developer will of course be required to account for the interest costs and factor in repayments to his financial calculations, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to generate a profit from the transaction. The same is true with holding contracts for difference over the long term.
People don’t tend to invest in CFDs, preferring instead to trade them on a quick, short-term basis. But longer-term investment actually have their advantages. One of these core advantages is the ability to ride larger price movements – a door that is abruptly shut to those engaging in shorter term strategies.
Price movements over the course of one day are usually restricted, and it is a rare occurrence the prices will move drastically – even in volatile markets. Contrast that with the potential movements in price that can take place over the course of a couple of months, where serious price rises can make savvy traders serious money – interest costs and all.
Furthermore, the cost of transacting with longer term CFD trading strategies is significantly lower than it is with day trading and other shorter-term outlooks. Because day traders engage in multiple short-lifespan trades, they incur the costs of broker fees and commissions on a much more frequent basis than their longer-term counterparts, and this is a cost that can have a serious impact on your trading bottom line. While it is true to say that longer-term positions generally expose your trading account to greater risk, this can be tempered with lower per-transaction costs, and provided you do your homework, can be an equally, if not more profitable investment approach than going the short term route.
Long term trading strategies are far from the norm in CFD trading, but that’s not to say they are in complete isolation either. Traders who employ long term CFD trading strategies understand that they must bear the brunt of the additional costs, but by striving to stake out for much larger profits, it is hoped that the rising value of open CFD positions will more than cancel out financing costs to deliver a healthy profit over time.
Support And Resistance
When trading CFDs off the back of technical data, there are few more important terms of which you must be familiar than support and resistance. Support and resistance levels provide traders with clear and defined parameters for trading, and enable decisions to be made over both short and long term outlooks to drive a profit. No matter whether you’re looking at CFDs on company shares or CFDs on commodities, the interplay of support and resistance makes for a more naturally obvious trading system, and helps define the outer limits of possible CFD transactions.
Support is defined as the bottom end of a market for a particular CFD, that is the point at which downwards momentum halts and buyers re-enter the market in recognition of the under pricing of the CFD. Resistance, in contrast, is the top end of the pricing spectrum, and the point at which traders close out their positions in order to realise their profit – in other words, the point of resistance is the notional ceiling through which the CFD price does not penetrate.
Support and resistance work as trading indicators because markets behave in a relatively cyclical fashion. Take, for example, oil prices. The market for oil is driven by supply and demand, and all things being equal, prices will naturally fluctuate between set levels, revolving around the true value which tends to lie somewhere in the middle. As those that require oil for manufacturing start to buy it, demand increases and forces prices upwards until they reach an unsustainable level, at which point prices fall until they are too cheap, which encourages buyers to re-enter the market, and so the cycle continues.
With investors and price speculators jumping in on the action, and external factors prompting decisions to buy and sell, this serves to make the market a little more volatile and a little less predictable in practice, but nevertheless at a conceptual level, there is both a support and resistance level at which prices become unsustainable at both ends of the spectrum.
Any strategy relying on trading resistance and/or support requires the ability to identify support and resistance levels. One of the key ways in which traders reach conclusions about these thresholds is through graphical analysis, and through closely monitoring the behaviour of prices as the markets move through their cycles.
A one-time low isn’t enough to justify trading that as the market support – a support is a consistent price point, or more accurately prize zone through which the price of the relevant CFD stubbornly does not move, and it is crucial to check and double check these levels as the market moves through its cycle to ensure you’re making a sensible investment decision. Once these levels have been firmly established, its time to sit out and wait the next potential turning point, before riding the wave of the cycle as market trends begin to reverse.
Trading off the back of support and resistance measures allows traders to capitalise on the cyclical nature of the markets, and to take advantage of under and over pricing in specific CFD classes. With the aid of graphical analysis, and a consistent monitoring of CFD prices and external price triggers, trading through support and resistance boundaries can be an effective way to improve your success and consistency when trading contracts for difference.