Momentum Trading Vs. Trend Following

Momentum trading is generally used to capture strong moves in short time frames usually for not more than a few hours or a few days. Generally momentum traders are very focused on only a few trades at a time at most and scan a large watch list for a few signals. Trend followers by contrast manage portfolios for entries and exits across diversified assets (usually future contracts) reacting to signals that allow them to capture the profits in long term trends and be on the right side of rare outlier events that lead to large profits through huge parabolic moves in one direction over a longer time period. 

Momentum is the  acceleration in a stock’s price that can be due to earnings, sentiment, news, greed, or fear. Momentum traders will  take a long or short position in the stock in the hope that its momentum will continue in either an upward or downward direction in the time frame they are trading. This strategy relies on short-term movements in a stock’s price rather than long term fundamental valuations. Momentum traders are trying to capture a strong move based on aggressive buyers or sellers bidding a price up or down by overwhelming one side of the bid/ask spread and setting off a strong move in one direction usually temporarily for hours or days.

“Trend following trading is reactive by nature. It does not forecast or predict markets or price levels. Prediction is impossible. Trend trading demands self-discipline to follow precise rules (no guessing or wild emotions). It involves a risk management system that uses current market price, the equity level in your account and current market volatility. Trend traders use an initial risk rule that determines position size at the time of entry. This means you know exactly how much to buy or sell based on how much money you have. Changes in price may lead to a gradual reduction or increase of your initial trade. On the other hand, adverse price movements may lead to an exit for your entire trade. Historically, A trend trader’s average profit per trade is significantly higher than the average loss per trade.”

“Trend trading is not a Holy Grail. It is not a passing fad or hyped-up secret black box either. Beyond mere rules, the human element is core. It takes discipline and emotional control to stick with trend trading through inevitable market ups and downs. Trend following seeks to capture the majority of a market trend, up or down, for profit. It aims for huge profits in all major asset classes — stocks, ETFs, LEAPS® options, bonds, currencies, futures and commodities.”

“Think of it this way: trend following is the only strategy that you could trade on a desert island. As long as you have market data each day, everything else is useless (i.e. CNBC, news, fundamentals, broker opinions, talking heads, etc.) for making the big money.” – Michael Covel

Above excerpt from

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