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Of all the commercially available trading tools on the market, VantagePoint stands in territory where it seems to have no peers. Featuring predictive inter-market analysis software powered by neural network computing technology -- it may sound a bit daunting for the average trader to tackle. However I discovered that employing this software's output to make trading decisions has been about as simple as I'd hoped was possible.

The Software
Following is a screen shot of the software's interface using the graphic mode and displaying two of four possible moving averages. The picture shows the medium term (10 day) actual and the medium term predicted moving averages. As a marketing tool trading articles I've seen tend to display a very impressive large trend that an MA caught but this graphic shows a more typical trading environment:


We all know that almost any MA crossover combination will catch a large trend and look good on a chart. What you may not realize in looking at this chart is that you are seeing the predicted moving average cross over the actual moving average up to 4 days in advance of it actually occurring! Included in the chart feature (but not displayed in the screen shot) is also an offset feature that places the predicted moving average where it would really appear on the chart. The same principle is true for the faster 5 day MA which predicts the moving average of closes 2 days in advance. When VantagePoint advertises that it has 75 to 80 percent accuracy they are referring to the frequency in which the 10 period predicted MA is correct in its prediction of market direction four days in advance.

With the VP software interface the main attraction is the output that appears on a rather unspectacular looking spreadsheet style display that shows several columns of figures that tell the markets story. In fact for most of its life this program did not have a chart style graphic representation of its outputs. The chart interface is relatively new. Besides the real power of this software is in the numbers it outputs and charting MA's to show crossovers for EOD (end of day) purposes has never really been necessary to use the software. The spreadsheet style output give a more accurate picture of how significant the crossover actually is because you see at a glance the exact number of pips the anticipated crossover is expected to be.

Take a look at a screen shot of the daily predictions that follow and you'll see what I mean:

As I mentioned the VantagePoint system is very simple to use and rather plain to look at. However do not let its looks deceive you into thinking it is not a powerful trading ally. In the sample day trading system I threw together to test this software out -- all I did each day is glance at the predicted high and low for the following day, take note of the predicted market direction, and make sure the confirming indicators were lining up. Then I'd place my entry orders and go away. See the sample system thread for more details.

Application to Systems
The data on the report screen is so easy to interpret it took about 10 to 15 seconds per market to make a trading decision. With my sample system I'd then place entry orders for each of six markets once a day in the first hour of the Asian session and monitored the market every few hours until well into the London session. A few hours into the London session I'd make any adjustments I thought appropriate, cancel limit orders whose parameters had been assassinated, and watch the account grow pretty much on a day by day basis. I was surprised to find that the simple system I created based on the reports that VantagePoint spits out -- was profitable almost out of the gate despite my trading system being a, rather ad hoc, work in progress. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that in spite of several blunders I made, thus giving profits to those more astute than I, the pips still accumulated sufficiently to keep things steadily profitable and draw-downs were kept to a minimum.

Trading Lessons
The old saying "you get what you pay for" could not be more appropriate than in the trading world. The most expensive education you'll ever receive comes directly from your trading losses and, as expensive as this sort of education is, it may also be the most valuable training you'll ever receive. Therefore to maximize the benefit you receive from your trading losses you may want to invest in tools that help you to waste as few of your losses as possible, instead of being doomed to repeat your mistakes too frequently to appreciate their value. VantagePoint may just be one of those exceptional tools that teach you things about price action you have not thought likely or even possible.

Predictions
Because VP's predictions are very specific I found the trading feedback I got rather elucidating. For me it reduced an uncertainty factor I often encounter with my own projections or those of others. For example when you look at a typical report from a signal service that says "key support is found around 1.2050 and resistance around 1.2200" and you trade that information every day there is a lot of room for error and your stops must accordingly allow for the shotgun sort of accuracy. When you receive a prediction that the high of the day will be 1.2200 the psychological effect seems much different. I personally find a solider effect when I have hard numbers around which to design a system. Even when the predictions are wrong it is much easier to measure exactly how wrong.

When I set my own targets I tend to generalize about my own expectations, which later makes them easier to rationalize or explain into relative obscurity. When I use this software I find that because its predictions are specific to the pip it removes an element of vagueness that allows me to trade with fewer variables. I think anything that removes variables from trading tends to simplify things provided the variables it removes leave a statistically significant advantage. Even when the predictions are wrong I find the information more useful than generalizations. And when a predicted high is correct within a tick or two I'm still astounded and I've noticed that this software does that more often than I expected.

Following is a shot of an early trading day where I was up nicely on several currencies and exercised discretion and closed all trades for a profit. I left a lot on the table during those first few trades because I didn't trust its projections. Shortly after I too often saw the market head much further and frequently hit the opposite wall for the day. You'll see in the graphic thread that the same size lots later have produced much better profits with relative consistency.

Holy Grail?
Though this article may seem like a commercial for VP that is not the case. I do happen to be impressed with what I've seen. However, this being the first system review I'm doing for Forex Factory, I deliberately chose some software that I've been intrigued with since I first used it for bonds and currency futures more than eight years ago. During that time relatively little has changed about VantagePoint in terms of its accuracy or reliability. In fact not much has changed in the reports it generates either. It has always used 5 independent neural networks to generate its reports. They do not always agree but even when they don't the fact that they do not is also valuable information. When they do agree, which they do with some regularity, some rather profitable opportunities are there for the taking.

If this is beginning to sound like the holy grail of trading I'd remind anyone reading that, despite my enthusiasm about this system, the reality remains that there is no system in the world that can prevent you from breaking your trading rules or interfering with your strategy no matter how well developed it is. No trading system has the power to prevent you from second guessing it but tools, such as VP, that provide unusual insight, may increase your confidence and even your success rate.

Not for Everyone
I think the first step for any would-be trader wanting to make money in the market requires that he or she employ a trading system which shows a profit consistently enough for that trader to tolerate the risks inherent in that systems design characteristics. I believe that VantagePoint may provide just the kind of predictive trading information that many traders have been hoping to achieve with conventional indicators and have previously failed. I believe that building a profitable system (either for day trading or position trading) with VantagePoint may be easier for some of the traders out there who have not found this to be the case when building systems with conventional indicators. I know it was for me.

Curve Fitting Danger
All market analysis of any kind, whether technical or fundamental, is employed to find some sort of pattern or event that recurs on a regular enough basis to project a greater probability of one kind of market behavior over another. Perhaps the greatest danger in trading system development is to overly curve fit a system to historical data so that it is incapable of consistently or reliably indicating future market behavior.

Unbeknownst to many -- most or perhaps all system design is actually an exercise in curve fitting. The idea of creating a trading system has typically been based on an analysis of historical price data (and various price-influential criteria) in such a way that it identifies or captures future market opportunities that are as relevant when applied to future data as they were when applied to historical data. Traders frequently use the phrase "curve fitting" as though it is not desirable when they are actually referring to a subset of "curve fitting" where the events the system has been fitted to capture -- do not exist with sufficient recurrence in the future to make a profit. Systems are normally designed to take advantage of market behavior that is supposed to have a probability of recurring in the future in sufficient frequency and/or magnitude to maintain profitability through a variety of market conditions and still remain within a traders risk parameters. Another twist on system development is to find events that are consistently not probable in the future and trade against them which is somewhat of the kind of strategy used in my sample system.

Some have suggested that neural networks are the ultimate form of curve fitting. When stated that way traders mean to suggest that because a neural network "learns" market behavior that it is constantly re-optimizing itself and therefore is refitting itself to historical market behavior that has little bearing on future market conditions. However when we take a closer look at system development the only real issue is whether we have a system that points out events that have a sufficient probability of recurring in order to profit from or whether our system is finding events (activity curves) that never recur sufficiently to make it viable. VantagePoint has been predicting market behavior in pretty much the same way with pretty much the same level of accuracy for many years now. That in itself is an interesting statistic? As market conditions change or as Market Technologies' research advances the neural networks are retrained from time to time to maintain the level of accuracy VantagePoint has become popular for.

Inter-market Analysis VS Single Market Analysis
VantagePoints market analysis approach with neural nets tends to hover around the idea that single market analysis is a dated concept and a relatively unreliable one at that. They may well have a notable point:

Recently there was a Forex Factory thread that discussed weather forecasting as a possible model for market forecasting. That discussion produced a remarkably good parallel for contrasting inter-market analysis with single market analysis. When we forecast the weather we analyze several different phenomena in order to make a forecast:

Changes in temperature, barometric pressure, wind velocity, humidity, cloud conditions, time of year, time of day, are all brought together and modeled with computers to a highly probable forecast of the following day's temperature range.

Now imagine that we analyzed only temperature charts in order to predict tomorrow's temperature. We could have 1 minute temperature charts, hourly, four hour, eight hour, and so on. We could develop myriads of indicators to apply to temperature histories to find patterns and trends in temperature movement. In fact we could quite literally use many of the same indicators we use in trading to analyze temperature changes, reversals, trends, and so on. We would most likely develop a certain degree of accuracy in predicting temperature just by studying temperature charts. However we would be unlikely to ever come close to the degree of accuracy in predicting future temperatures, not to mention over all weather, as we currently do by studying the cause/effect relationships between the various meteorological phenomena that currently help us determine the temperature from one day to the next. In fact it would be almost laughable to use such a narrow focus in temperature forecasting as we do every day in an attempt to predict market behavior through single market analysis.

When we consider the scope of relationships between markets it only stands to reason that we should be able to develop a higher degree of predictive accuracy than single market analysis. It may be that we have ignored some lucrative opportunities by treating single markets as though they contain all the information we need to make informed trading decisions. Lou Mendelsohn and his team have managed to notably enhance an already formidable career through his analysis of inter-market relationships. VantagePoint is a unique analysis tool that extrapolates meaningful information from a vast array of market data spawned by the interaction of eleven or so markets -- just to predict the near term behavior of one market. VantagePoint shows market direction up to four days in advance, predicts trend direction, and predicts the high and low of the next 24 hours and does so with a rather fascinating degree of accuracy.

The following graphic shows this quite nicely. The green lines show the predicted high and the low for that day. These lines represent the precise number forecast 6:00 PM EST. As you can see the market came within a few pips of each. I was surprised at how frequently this happens across six Forex currencies. Usually a couple of times per week we see this sort of thing with less accurate (sometimes more accurate) but potentially profitable variations multiple times a week:

Do it yourself. Yeah right.
Eleven markets are analyzed every day by five separate neural networks just to predict the next day's market action for the GBP/USD and each of the other five currencies available with VP. Consider what it would take for you to come up with a way of analyzing 11 markets each and every day and making five predictions with even a passable degree of accuracy. Sound like a formidable task? At VantagePoint there is a team of mathematicians and programmers that are enjoying full time careers just to keep the inter-market analysis engine running smoothly and cranking out tradable predictions every day.

Neural network software is available in many do-it-yourself flavors and provides an endless array of entertainment for techno geeks, mathematicians, quantum physicists, and many do-it-yourselfers who seldom make money trading but will not trade anything they don't completely understand. Personally I believe that if you find a way to read an indicator that consistently makes you money in the markets it does not matter much whether you understand the math behind your indicator or not. If you develop a way to find profitable trade setups consistently enough that you have the confidence to put money behind the trades and then avoid second guessing your signals until your exits are hit then you are already in a small minority of profitable traders.

I have 20 years of computer network engineering behind me and I'm pretty well versed in numerous operating systems both living and dead. Yet with all the understanding I have in a field that is no older than my experience in it -- I could not likely build a computer in my lifetime like the one I'm typing on if I was dropped onto a planet that had no computers. In fact there is no single person who could do so in a lifetime.

This is sort of reality is especially applicable when it comes to neural based inter-market analysis. Market Technologies has an entire department of programmers and mathematicians some of whom probably dream in binary. I suspect there are other employees who read bedtime stories about plotting quadratic polynomials to their children while themselves contemplating complex mathematical dilemmas. I doubt that any one person could duplicate the breadth and depth of research that is behind the predictive capabilities of VP's Inter-market Analysis System (IMAS), and still have time to learn how to trade effectively.

If you are like me and many other traders who like to keep things simple and just make money you may find that VP has produced a product you've been hoping to find. Theoretically you can download the software as soon as you purchase it and be up and running the same day. A quick call to any one of three data providers and for about 25.00 a month in data costs you can enjoy a new generation of market analysis. For those of you with IQ's well over 200 you may go ahead and try this yourself at home. However if you are that bright you are probably too smart to spend your valuable time reinventing what Lou Mendelsohn has already done for you.

Using VantagePoint software I found it refreshing to trade with because the predictions it makes are surprisingly useful right out of the box. How frequently would you need to have a relatively accurate prediction of the high and the low of the coming day in order to trade profitably? What if you had access to predictions of market direction up to four days out that were 75 to 80 percent accurate? VantagePoint has been boasting these kinds of statistics for about 10 years now beginning with the futures markets. While some kinds of change seem to come a bit slower to VantagePoint I was pleased to find that a few months ago they released their neural based inter-market analysis software for the six FOREX markets. USD/JPY, USD/CAD, USD/CHF, GBP/USD, EUR/USD, and AUD/USD. Another version with some interesting user enhancements will be along in the near future. Watch for sneak previews on this forum.

Complaints
1. The setup and configuration is designed to be simple and straightforward. However due to the requirement to have a third party data source there seems to be problems with getting configuration support. It took me five days before I was up and running because the files that Genesis supplied did not function properly. This is nothing new I had the same problems during the two other times I've used their software. Once the system was up and running I've had no further problems. Getting good tech support from Genesis has been a problem all three times I've had to configure this system using their data. Since there were only two choices for data and since Genesis did not charge a setup fee I guess that may be why their support was uninformed and did not follow through like they promised.

2. Simplicity and automation. I think there are too many steps to loading the currency modules. It is not especially time consuming but it could easily by automated. I'm told that there are refinements coming in the next release that allow the software to be automatically loaded without manual intervention to step through each module.

3. DLL, ELD, or other support modules for integration with existing chart and back-testing software. I'd like to be able to simply load an eld file into Tradestation along with appropriate libraries or executables so that I could incorporate these great features for testing in a variety of systems. I understand that Market Technologies has no specific plans to do this. They have typically been well behind current technologies where user interfaces and interoperability with other tools are concerned.

All things considered these are somewhat minor complaints if you simply want to start using their systems. For quants who are developing automated solutions it looks as though you'll have to settle for less than automated features as far as VP is concerned. At the very least I'd like to see software that was capable of scheduling an automatic update of EOD data and then export the most recent output from VP to a delimited text file where it could be called by another program. However I am surprised that VP does not appear to have given attention to at least releasing their software in such a way that we could use it in Tradestation. Admittedly my knowledge is limited when it comes to selling trading software but I'd think sales would go through the roof were they to do something like that.

Summary
VantagePoint represents state of the art application of neural networks to make some pretty outstanding predictions. It has no crippling flaws and makes no false promises about what it delivers. It is not a trading system but a very sophisticated set of indicators that work in concert to produce so much useful market information that numerous trading systems could be developed from its output. It works well as a stand alone source of trading information or may be used as a trade filter along with an existing system. Its history file is loaded with previous data where its predictions may be compared statistically against what actually happened to derive some very useful system development information. It is easy enough to use that even a novice could develop good trading ideas with it but an advanced trader or a pro would tend to find more meaningful ways to read its output. It is designed as a medium term trend following indicator but shows great strength in providing day trading information as well. Its track record proves that a trader could use VP for many years and not be likely to run out of ways to tap into its capabilities for use in various kinds of trading situations. Whether it turns out to be the exact item you are looking for or just another powerful tool in your trading arsenal I don't think you'll say that you wasted money investing in VantagePoint.

Review Date: 
Thursday, December 1, 2005

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