Should you use indicators for your trading?

Let me be brief, so you don't waste your time on some people who happen to fall into two camps. The camp that says that indicators don't work and the camp that says that you can trade using only indicators without even looking at the price bars.

The second camp is even more lunatic than the first one, and both have one thing in common: they largely consist of bozos who most likely have never traded in their lives, thus have little to no idea what works and what does not. In particular, they don't understand that indicators do work, except that there are situations when they don't work as well as in other circumstances. If you don't know something like this, which seems to be rather basic to those who spent some time studying these things, you clearly don't know much about trading. Using indicators or not.

Unfortunately, these days more than ever before, the Internet is crowded with marketers masquerading as trading experts adding to the confusion of those who are only starting trading eminis. Sometimes these pseudo-experts will even use the no indicators formula as a way to make their system look special or particularly easy to use. Like in "look ma, no indicators." I recently ran into one of those fellows who has taken it to a totally new level: while he is claiming that his system uses no indicators, even a very cursory examination of his site reveals that the opposite is true. The system uses no just one, but two indicators, rather well known ones, at least among more sophisticated traders.

Let me make sure that you understand what I mean by the indicator. It's quite simple actually. It's a pretty standard definition.

The indicator is some function, mathematically speaking, of price. Moving averages and different kinds of oscillators (stochastics, for instance) are good examples of that. What functions like that do is to take the price and transform it into something else. That something else sometimes is not even measured in the same units as price, meaning it does not use the same scale as the price chart. Various oscillators are a good case in point of this type of situation, while moving averages are not. The price itself, if not subjected to any transformation is, obviously, not an indicator.

Yes, it is possible to have trading systems that truly rely on no indicators. This author designed a system like that for trading the s&p 500 e-mini futures years ago, seven to be more precise. The system did well back then, and continues to work well even these days. I use this personal example to demonstrate that truly indicator free trading systems can work. But that does not mean yet that systems using indicators don't.

The reason some people tend to wrongly believe that indicators don't work has a lot, if not everything, to do with the nature of indicators. Being the derivatives of price, indicators lag behind it. As result, the trader acting on signals from indicators is bound to be late compared to the trader who uses only the price to make his trading decisions. In situations when volatility is relatively high, this is unlikely to matter, but when volatility is low, the trader relying on indicators will be struggling with ranges too small to allow him to make any profits. It is thus not indicators, but volatility that prevents the traders from making money. If you limit your trading to circumstances when volatility is decent, using indicators is not likely to be a major problem, if at all.