You absolutely must check your trading system’s performance on a regular basis. You’re going to miss most of the problems from watching your equity curve alone.

That almost happened to me a few weeks ago. When I observed my account, I noticed that the real results had dramatically underperformed the hypothetical results. A quick review showed me that I only took 271 trades over the prior week, whereas my backtest expected to find 360.

I was only trading 75% of the setups! What could explain the missing trades?

## Finding the flaw

One feature that I wrote into the MetaTrader version of the Dominari was a maximum spread feature. I’m paying commissions, so the idea of the rare but possible scenario of paying a 10 pip spread to enter a trade seemed intolerable. I added a maximum spread feature to prevent getting ripped off.

I also didn’t put much thought into what happens if the spread is too wide. My initial instinct was to put the EA into hibernation for a few seconds. It would then wake up and check the spread. If the spread narrowed enough, it would send a market order. But in my haste to start trading, I forgot to also require that the price be near my original requested price. That design would have allowed the market to drift up 10 pips and then, if the spread narrowed, dramatically overpay to get in the trade.

The new method for capping the spread paid uses limit orders if the spread is too wide. The advantage to this method is that it solves two simultaneous problems. The first one is easy to understand. A limit order has a limited price. It’s not possible for the price drift described in the above paragraph to occur. I either get the price I want or the market moves without me and I miss the trade.

The second advantage to using limit orders on entry is the fact that a limit order rests on the broker’s server. The hibernating method could potentially miss fractions of a second where the spread temporarily narrows to an acceptable price. Limit orders catch all price quotes, improving my theoretical likelihood of a fill.

Reality proved the theory after a week of trading. Instead of taking 75% of all possible signals, I’m now taking 87.5% of signals. That’s a result of the new limit method and my willingness to pay a wider spread to enter a trade.

## More improvement

The question at the top of my mind was, “Should I be willing to pay even more to enter these trades?” Like a good quant, I immediately decided to calculate the question instead of haphazardly guessing.

I wrote a script in MetaTrader to search for every limit order in my account which was cancelled. I then looked at what the hypothetical performance of those trades would have been if I had simply paid the exorbitant spread.

It turns out that I should be willing to pay a lot more money to enter these trades.

There have been 50 cancelled limit orders within the past week, 44 of which were theoretically profitable. The average theoretical profit per trade was €1.28 compared to €0.33 for all executed trades. That’s a massive 287% difference in profitability!

The other shocker was the percent accuracy. 44 out of 50 implies an accuracy of 88%, compared to 64% accuracy on executed trades. 50 signals isn’t a lot. Am I getting too excited about missed profits or is that bad luck?

Basic statistics gives an answer with a high degree of precision. If the real accuracy is 64%, then you would expect to see 50 * 0.64 = 32 winning trades in a random sampling. My observed, theoretical accuracy with these limit orders was 44 orders out of 50, which is 88% accurate.

It turns out that I should be willing to pay a lot more money to enter these trades.

The standard deviation for 64% accuracy on 50 orders is 0.48, which we can then use to calculate the standard error. The standard error on 50 orders is sqrt(50) * 0.48 = 3.42 orders.

And finally, the standard error gives us enough information to compute the z-score. The z-score is the observed values-expected values/standard error, which is (44-32) / 3.42 = 3.5. A z-score of 3.5 has a probability of 0.000233 occurring due to random chance, or about 1 in 4,299 tests.

**Conclusion: The statistics say with high confidence that my non-executed orders are substantially more accurate than my executed orders. **

With the orders being both more accurate and having a higher per trade value, I increased the maximum spread that I’m willing to pay by 53%. While that sounds oddly precise, the per trade value might be substantially overestimated. I ball parked a guess that paying 40% in trade costs for a high quality trade seems reasonable. That number may have to go higher in order for me to measure the details.

## Ideas for exploration

The amazing extrapolation from the live order analysis is that the spread seems to predict my likelihood of success. Wider spreads make me more likely to succeed and with a better risk:reward ratio. My project over the next few days will be to start logging my spreads at signal generation time to evaluate whether the spread predicts the profitability of my signals.

Oddly enough, there might even be a paradoxical outcome where narrow spreads predict my failure. More on that when I have enough data to answer the question.