What Are the Most Popular Trading Exit Strategies?

FXOpen

In trading, having a solid exit strategy is essential for managing risk and securing potential returns. This FXOpen article explores four popular exit strategies, offering traders a comprehensive look at how to refine their exit plans and potentially improve their trading performance.

The Importance of Trading Exit Strategies

In the world of trading, whether dealing with stocks, forex, or other financial instruments, having a clear and well-defined exit strategy is paramount. An exit strategy not only helps in securing potential returns but also plays a significant role in minimising risks. It ensures that traders have a predefined plan to follow, reducing the impact of emotional decisions on their trading activities.

An exit strategy can be based on several criteria, including technical indicators, a given risk/reward ratio, or a specific level. For instance, in forex trading, deciding when to exit a trade can significantly impact the overall performance of one's trading account.  

At its most basic, a forex exit strategy involves setting stop-loss and take-profit orders to manage potential losses and lock in profits automatically. These orders act as safeguards, ensuring that trades are executed when specific price levels are reached, regardless of the market's volatility or the trader's emotional state at that moment. However, as you’ll see, there are more advanced forex exit strategies that traders employ.

Stop Losses and Take Profits

Stop losses and take profits are fundamental components of an exit strategy. Let us remind you that a stop loss is typically positioned at a level that, if reached, indicates the initial trading idea was incorrect, thereby cutting losses. This placement is crucial as it helps to exit a trade at a point where the market conditions no longer support the trader's initial analysis.

On the other hand, take profits are usually set at levels where the price is anticipated to face resistance or support, potentially leading to a reversal. However, support and resistance levels can be fickle and easily traded through.

While stop-loss placement is fairly self-explanatory, finding the ideal place to take profit can be tricky. After all, the goal is to maximise returns rather than cut them early before the market moves in the predefined direction. This creates a need to manage the balance between taking profits at an optimal point without giving back the gains made and allowing the trade room to run. Below, we discuss four key exit strategies that may help traders do just that.

To gain the deepest insight, you can follow along in FXOpen’s free TickTrader platform.

ATR-Based Trailing Stop

The ATR-based trailing stop is a dynamic exit strategy used in trading to manage risk and lock in profits by adjusting the stop loss level as the market fluctuates. This method employs the Average True Range (ATR), a measure of market volatility, to set stop levels that adapt to changing market conditions and is one of the most common exit strategies for day trading.  

It may be particularly effective in trending markets, as it helps to keep the position open during minor fluctuations, only closing the trade when a significant trend reversal occurs.

In practice, setting up an ATR trailing stop involves choosing the appropriate ATR period (commonly 14) and multiplier based on your risk tolerance and trading style. It’s worth experimenting with different multipliers, though anywhere between 1 and 3.5 is common. As the trade progresses, you’ll need to incrementally adjust the stop level according to the ATR value.

For a long position, this is the current price minus the ATR value. For a short position, it’s the current price plus the ATR value.

Moving Average-Based Trailing Stop

The moving average-based trailing stop is an exit strategy that utilises moving averages to determine when to exit a trade. Unlike the ATR-based trailing stop, which relies on volatility, this method uses the price's position relative to a moving average.

If the price crosses below (for a long position) or above (for a short position) the chosen moving average, it can be used as an exit indicator. This method offers a straightforward visual reference on charts, eliminating the need for manual calculations.

Traders appreciate the flexibility this strategy provides, as they can select from various types of moving averages (simple, exponential, weighted) and adjust the period length according to their trading style and the timeframe they are operating in. A shorter moving average period, like 20, can be used for a tighter stop in a less volatile market, while a longer period, such as 50 or 100, might be preferred in more volatile markets to give the trade more room to breathe.

Exiting Into Liquidity

Exiting in an area of liquidity involves setting take profits in areas where the market is likely to reverse, typically just at significant swing points perceived as support or resistance by other traders. These points often accumulate stop losses (acting as liquidity for a reversal), with the price often moving into these areas before reversing direction. It plays into the idea of stop-loss hunts, also known as bull or bear traps.

In practice, this strategy requires identifying a standout swing point on the chart, such as the most recent significant high or low within a given trend. The idea is to set a take-profit order just at this point, anticipating that the market will reach these liquidity-rich areas, where many traders have placed their stop losses, before pulling back.

Scaling Out

Scaling out is a nuanced exit strategy that addresses the challenge of potentially exiting an effective trade too early. With a myriad of exit signals available, including technical indicators, support and resistance levels, price action, and candlestick patterns, determining the optimal point to take profits can be complex.

Scaling out allows traders to gradually secure returns by closing portions of their position as the trade progresses favourably, thus locking in gains while still leaving room for additional returns should the trade continue to move in their expected direction.

The approach to scaling out varies among traders. Some might prefer to liquidate a percentage of their trade, like 50% or 80%, at a certain risk-reward ratio, allowing the remainder to run for potentially higher gains, while others aim to cover their initial risk by securing enough of a gain to offset a potential stop loss, then deciding on another exit point to fully close the trade. It can also be integrated with the trailing stop strategies discussed.

The Bottom Line

Adopting the right exit strategy is crucial for trading success, offering a path to manage risks and secure gains effectively. The strategies discussed may elevate your trading approach, whether through ATR-Based Trailing Stops or Scaling Out. For those looking to apply these strategies in live markets, opening an FXOpen account can be a strategic step to accessing global forex markets and testing these exits in real-world scenarios.

FAQs

When Should You Exit a Forex Trade?

Traders typically exit a forex trade when it hits a pre-set stop loss or take profit levels, the market conditions change against your analysis, or upon the occurrence of a significant event that could impact currency values.

What Is the Simplest Exit Strategy?

There is no simplest exit strategy. One of the most common approaches is using fixed stop-loss and take-profit orders at a known support/resistance level. This method does not require constant market monitoring, making it straightforward and accessible for traders of all levels.

This article represents the opinion of the Companies operating under the FXOpen brand only. It is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation with respect to products and services provided by the Companies operating under the FXOpen brand, nor is it to be considered financial advice.

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