A Guide to Systematic Trend Following Strategies

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A Guide to Systematic Trend Following Strategies


At some point in our lives, we've all embraced a trend in fashion, culinary choices, or travel destinations. Trends wield significant influence not only in our daily lives but also in the realm of finance. Historical evidence attests that trending phenomena attract substantial business, which holds true in the dynamic world of financial markets.

For those contemplating entering the realm of stocks or seeking to deepen their understanding, the term 'trend' assumes paramount importance. In the financial context, a trend signifies a stock, commodity, bond, or future trajectory in today's market. Employing a trend-following strategy, a widely adopted trading approach empowers traders with insights on when to buy (as prices dip) or sell (as prices ascend). This methodology is interchangeably referred to as trend trading or trend following.

A trend can manifest as an upward ascent, a downward descent, or a straightforward horizontal movement. Astute traders vigilantly track these patterns to optimise their profits. Trend trading relies on diverse technical analyses grounded in the asset's historical performance and future forecasts.

Both novice and seasoned traders often align their actions with prevailing trends. Nevertheless, it's imperative to recognise that market dynamics are also subject to the whims of human greed, opinions, and corporate objectives.

An essential tenet of navigating market trends is avoiding predicting market fluctuations. Instead, the goal is to leverage the performance of the asset in question. The emphasis is not on forecasting but on seizing extended movements in the financial market for long-term gains.

Vigilantly monitoring the latest trends endows traders with the advantage of capturing optimal gains. A prudent trend follower diversifies strategies across different market segments. Following trends provides insights into opportune moments to enter or exit the market, mitigating potential losses.

The key is not prediction but strategic alignment with prevailing market movements to harness their potential for long-term financial success.

Trends defy the oscillations of market bulls and bears. Although they may seem peculiar in their early stages, persisting in following them can yield outcomes beyond initial expectations.

  • Trend following eliminates the need for guesswork, reliance on intuition, or heeding the advice of 'experts.' It transcends day-to-day trading and hype, providing a more grounded approach.
  • Trends pervade every market aspect, commencing and concluding without a fixed schedule. While predicting the market remains elusive, tracking trends is a tangible and actionable strategy.
  • The overarching objective of trends is to secure long-term profits, surpassing the returns from conventional savings. Employing trend strategies allows for patients to wait for opportune moments.
  • Each trend strategy incorporates well-defined exit protocols, minimising the potential for losses. The following exhibits low negative correlations, promoting a robust risk management approach.
  • Trend adherence is not a subjective or intuition-driven endeavour. Instead, it relies on concrete figures and facts grounded in scientific principles and numerical data.
  • Trends demonstrate resilience even in volatile market conditions, showcasing adaptability to changing environments.
  • Applicability across diverse markets underscores the versatility of trend-following. Whether dealing with stocks in the Indian market or treasury bonds, following market trends proves advantageous.
  • Trends operate independently of government bailouts, ensuring success regardless of external economic interventions.

Understanding Trend-Following Strategies

To secure long-term profits, merely blindly following a trend is insufficient. A proficient trend follower employs strategies and analytical tools to quantify trends. Traditionally, trendlines defined trends, with adherence to these lines indicating a sustained trend.

Moving averages and technical indicators are widely used tools for identifying optimal trade signals. They facilitate comprehension of uptrends with higher swing highs and higher swing lows, as well as downtrends marked by lower swing highs and lower swing lows.

Trend-following strategies offer several key benefits:

  • Potential for Significant Gains: These strategies can generate substantial profits over extended periods.
  • Low Transaction Costs: With minimal expenses on commissions and spreads, transaction costs remain low.
  • Time Efficiency: Trends can endure for days or weeks, allowing for efficient analytics within a limited timeframe.
    In essence, a trend-following strategy simplifies decision-making: buy during price ascents and sell during descents per the prevailing trend.

Understanding the dynamics of how trends come to the forefront is crucial. While trends demand discipline, they often capitalise on the prevailing panic in the market. Unlike predictions of market direction, trends rely on precise and well-defined rules. Risk management becomes paramount, considering factors such as current market prices, equity, and volatility.

The genesis of trends lies in the collective desire of individuals to align themselves with the winning side. As one person follows a trend, others tend to emulate it, and many base their trading decisions on this cascading effect. Trends typically evolve over time, influenced by significant factors such as government actions, speculative expectations of traders, supply and demand dynamics, and international transactions.

Emergence occurs when data from financial statements, economic indicators, and market data are synthesised based on technical and fundamental criteria. However, trends strategically exploit mass psychology, a critical consideration when deciding to profit on impulse. Early trend identification offers a strategic advantage, enabling entry at a lower price point before the surge in buying activity and facilitating well-planned exit points with substantial profits.

Trend analysis is a fundamental strategy in the financial world, significantly impacting a trader's success. There are three distinct types of trends that traders should be acquainted with:

  • Uptrend: This occurs when stock prices are ascending, attracting many traders to enter the market. For instance, if a stock priced at Rs 35 initially drops by Rs 10 but then rises by Rs 15 to reach Rs 40, it signifies an upward trend.
  • Downtrend: In contrast, downtrends involve falling prices, prompting traders to consider short positions. When prices dip below the lowest point, it's an indication to exit. For example, if a stock price decreases by Rs 80, then increases by Rs 50 but subsequently falls by Rs 60 to close at Rs 90, it denotes a downward trend.
  • Sideways Trend: This scenario unfolds when the market is static, devoid of distinct high or low points. While most traders steer clear during such periods, it presents an opportunity for those adopting short-term positions to capitalise on market stability.

Implementing Trend-Following Strategies

The primary goal of all trend trading strategies is to secure profits for the trader, recognising the inherent high risk and potential high rewards associated with trading. While no one-size-fits-all strategy offers guaranteed success, experts employ various popular methods to analyze trends and make informed decisions.

  • Moving Averages: Utilizing historical data over a defined time period, moving averages focus on the overall trend rather than short-term fluctuations. Buying is recommended for prices above the moving average, while a negative trend signals selling. This method avoids false signals but may present outdated data as a drawback.
  • Bollinger Bands: Represented as a plotted graph with all signals on a single line, Bollinger Bands track fluctuations in stocks or commodities. Comprising upper, middle, and lower bands, they are suitable for flexible short-term movements, aiding in identifying entry and exit points. However, they lack predictive capabilities.
  • MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence) Indicator: Involving a comparative analysis of two moving averages with different timeframes, MACD highlights price differences over various stretches of time. Offering simple usage and strong buy and sell signals, it may occasionally provide inaccurate trend predictions.
  • RSI (Relative Strength Index): Calculated using a straightforward formula, RSI gauges the change and speed of price fluctuations. It helps identify key reversal levels and loss of momentum but may yield false signals and overlook volume during key reversals.
  • OBV (On Balance Volume): Relying on volume flow to indicate trend momentum, OBV serves as a confirmation tool for price trends but cannot be used as a standalone indicator.

Pros and Cons of Trend-Following Strategies


  • Gaining with Major Trends: Trend trading focuses on capturing uptrends, which often persist for extended periods, offering opportunities for significant gains.
  • Time-Saving: Trend following simplifies decision-making; a quick glance at the trend allows for informed investment calls.
  • Simplicity: Trend-following strategies are straightforward and easily comprehensible, making them accessible even for newcomers to the trading arena.
  • More Big Winners than Losers: Trend traders navigate market fluctuations better, enduring sharp lifts and dips more effectively.


  • Risk of Sudden Reversals: The inherent risk includes the potential for abrupt reversals, leading to increased volatility.
  • Pressure to Exit Frequently: Trend followers may feel compelled to exit positions frequently, potentially leading to a loss of commitment to the strategy.
  • Low Win Ratio: The overall win ratio for trend following can be relatively low.
  • Profit Booking Challenges: Booking profits does not always translate to gains, which can pose challenges.
  • Subject to Capital Gains Tax: Trend switching is subject to capital gains tax, adding a financial consideration to the strategy.


In the dynamic realm of the market, individual behaviour plays a pivotal role, and mistakes are an inevitable part of the journey. Recognising their potential impact on trends is crucial. Carefully selecting your trading size, influenced by the funds at your disposal, is paramount. Maintaining realistic expectations is key; you may not always hit the market's bottom or top, but the goal is to engage with it at its healthiest, maximising profits.

Trends offer a pathway for immediate gains and serve as a foundation for developing futures trading strategies for various assets or stocks. The simplicity and accessibility of this approach make it an ideal entry point into the stock market. Armed with price data, you can trade anytime from any location. The emphasis should be on following strategies rather than succumbing to market sentiment, ensuring a consistent path toward profitability.

Embark on your trend trading journey with us, where you'll learn to construct your portfolio and implement effective strategies. This journey will equip you with the skills to identify and leverage trends, analyse indicators in real-time trades, and ultimately enhance your ability to navigate the complexities of the market.