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“Men wanted for hazardous Journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.”[1]

This book is the result of an eight-year “hazardous journey” for the truth about Trend Following. It fills a void in a marketplace inundated with books about finance and trading but lacking any resource or, for that matter, practically any reference to what we believe is the best strategy to consistently make money in the markets. That strategy is known as Trend Following:

When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.


“Let’s break down the term ’Trend Following’ into its components. The first part is ’trend.’ Every trader needs a trend to make money. If you think about it, no matter what the technique, if there is not a trend after you buy, then you will not be able to sell at higher prices . . . ’Following’ is the next part of the term. We use this word because trend followers always wait for the trend to shift first, then ’follow’ it.”[2]

Trend Following seeks to capture the majority of a trend, up or down, for profit. It trades for profits in the major asset classes—stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities. However simple the basic concepts about Trend Following are, they have been widely misunderstood. Our desire to correct this state of affairs is what, in part, launched our research. We wanted to be as objective as possible, so we based our writing on the available data:

  • Trend followers’ month-by-month performance histories.

  • Trend followers’ published words and comments over the last 30 years.

  • News accounts of financial disasters.

  • News accounts of the losers in those financial disasters.

  • Charts of markets traded by trend followers.

  • Charts of markets traded by losers in the financial disasters.

Education rears disciples, imitators, and routinists, not pioneers of new ideas and creative geniuses. The schools are not nurseries of progress and improvement, but conservatories of tradition and unvarying modes of thought.

Ludwig von Mises

If we could have developed a book comprised of only numbers, charts, and graphs of Trend Following performance data, we would have. However, without any explanation, few readers would have appreciated all of the ramifications of what the data showed. Therefore our approach to writing Trend Following became similar to the one Jim Collins describes in Good to Great, in which a team of researchers generated questions, accumulated data in their open-ended search for answers, and then energetically debated it.

Trend followers we studied form a sort of underground network of relatively unknown traders who, except for an occasional article, the mainstream press has virtually ignored. What we have attempted to do is lift the veil, for the first time, on who these enormously successful traders are, how they trade, and what is to be learned from their approach to trading that we might apply to our own portfolios.

Trend Following challenges much of the conventional wisdom about successful trading. We were determined to avoid being influenced by knowledge institutionalized and defined by Wall Street. We were adamant about fighting “flat earth” thinking. During our research, we tried to avoid starting with an assumption and then finding the data to support it. Instead we asked the question and then, objectively, doggedly, and slowly, let the answer reveal itself.

If there was one factor that motivated us to work in this manner, it was simple curiosity. The more we uncovered about trend followers, the more we wanted to know. For example, one of our earliest questions was who profited when Barings Bank collapsed in 1995. Our search unearthed Barings Bank–related performance data including that of trend follower John W. Henry (now the majority owner of the Boston Red Sox). His track record generated new questions, such as, “How did he discover Trend Following in the first place?” and “Has his approach changed in any significant way in the past 20 years?”

The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them.

Sir William Bragg

We were also curious about who won the $1.9 billion Long Term Capital Management lost during August and September 1998. We wanted to know why the biggest banks on Wall Street would invest $100 billion in an options pricing model, Nobel prize–winning or not. Further, considering what mutual fund managers have lost in the past few years and what successful trend followers have earned during the same time period, we could not understand why so few investors know anything about Trend Following. We also became interested in:

  • How trend followers win in the zero-sum game of trading.

  • Why Trend Following has been the most profitable style of trading.

  • The philosophical framework of trend followers’ success.

  • Timeless principles of Trend Following.

  • The Trend Following worldview of market behavior.

  • Reasons why Trend Following is so enduring.

Many of the trend followers we studied are reclusive and extremely low key. Some discovered Trend Following on their own and used it to make their fortunes out of home offices. Bill Dunn, a successful trend follower who has beaten the markets for over 25 years, works out of a quiet, spartan office in a Florida coastal town. For Wall Street, this approach to trading is tantamount to sacrilege. It goes against all the customs, rituals, trappings, and myths we have grown accustomed to associating with Wall Street success. In fact, it is our hope that our profiles of trend followers will correct the public’s misconception of a successful trader as a harried, intense workaholic who spends 24/7 in the labyrinth of a Wall Street trading firm, surrounded by monitors and screaming into a phone.

We’ve assembled the first comprehensive look at Trend Following, but this is neither a course nor the only resource you will ever need. It is to be used in conjunction with our Web site at www.trendfollowing.com. We have tried to be comprehensive with our definitions. However, if we mention an unfamiliar word, name or reference a source you haven’t heard of, please go to Google (www.google.com).

Fish see the bait, but not the hook; men see the profit, but not the peril.

>Chinese Proverb

We have tried to make the material accessible and interesting enough so it might give you an occasional “aha” experience. However, if you’re looking for trading “secrets,” you need to look elsewhere. There are none. If you’re in the mood for stories about what it’s like inside a typical Wall Street firm or how greedy traders sow the seeds of their destruction, like in Den of Thieves, or Barbarians at the Gate, we will not meet your needs.

You may have noticed that I use “we” instead of “I” when describing the process of writing this book. That’s because it could not have been written without the generosity of the traders, professors, investors, colleagues, and friends who graciously shared their wisdom and trading experiences with me. Without their support, hard work, long hours, and creativity, Trend Following would still be an ongoing hazardous journey. So if there is any “honor and recognition” to be given, it is to everyone who participated, not just the person whose name appears on the cover.

To be aware how fruitful the playful mood can be is to be immune to the propaganda of the alienated, which extols resentment as a fuel of achievement.

Eric Hoffer

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