N-Day exits with Mean Reversion

My last post on using PercentRank to measure mean reversion proved very popular. A reader looked at the trades and wondered if it would be best to exit after five days because the average trade with longer holds was a loser. I am surprised I have not covered this topic before.


Early in while working for Larry Connors, I had done a mean reversion test. I was looking at the trades and noticed that after 8 days, the average trade was a loser. I thought, great just exit after 8 days and I should see a big jump in returns. Nope, the return and drawdowns got worse. For several years, I kept coming back to this but it never worked. Sometimes it would help some but changing the hold amount a little changed the results too much. In the end, it was better to just wait for the bounce.  It has been a long time since I have looked at this. Have things changed?


We are using the same strategy from Using recent returns for Mean Reversion. See it for more details, especially on PercentRank.

Test dates: 1/1/2006 to 11/30/2016


  • Stock is member of the Russell 1000 index
  • The price of the stock is greater than $1. Want to avoid very low priced stocks
  • The 21 day moving average of Close time Volume is greater than $10 million. Want to make sure there is liquidity.
  • The close is above the 100 day moving average.
  • The 252 day PercentRank of the 2 day returns is below 5


  • Enter at a limit price today at 1/2 of ATR(10) below previous close
  • 5% of portfolio in each position
  • Only enter orders so if they all fill will not have over 8 open positions


  • 2 period RSI greater than 40
  • Exit on next open.

Trade Summary

I took the trade list and created a pivot table in Excel.

From this we can see after being in the trade 6 bars, on average the trade will be a loser. Obviously, we should get out after 6 bars, right?

Six bar exit

Exiting after 6 bars has the same CAR with a worse drawdown. About 10% of the trades are exited after 6 bars. No improvement here. I normally don’t keep rules that don’t improve a strategy. But this rule I would consider keeping because it would help me to continue to trade the strategy. One would not be in any long losing trades.

Longer Holds

Maybe we see little improvement because of the low RSI exit. What happens if we use a RSI2 greater than 70 exit?

With 44% of the trade exiting because of the 6 bar rule, now we see some improvement in CAR and quite a bit in MDD. Is this specific to this variation?


Optimization Comparison

Next I ran an optimization using these parameters.


  • The 252 day PercentRank of the (2,3,4,5) day returns is below (5,10,15)


  • Enter at a limit price today at (.50,.75) of ATR(10) below previous close


  • 2 period RSI greater than (40,50,60,70,80)
  • Exit if in position after (NA,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) bars

I took these results and created this pivot table.

Each row represents 120 variations. We can see that the 4, 7 and 9 day exits beat the baseline of not using this exit. But the improvement is minor and not consistent.


Fill the form below to get the spreadsheet with lots of more information. This includes other values for parameters, yearly breakdown, worst 5 drawdowns and more statistics.

Final Thoughts

From the initial trade evaluation it looked like the results could be improved by exiting early. Using this type of exit did not change the results much. Sometimes a little better and in others a little worse.  I use this type of exit in some of my strategies not because they improve results but because psychologically it is better than staying in a very long loser. For this reason, you should consider this exit.

Good Quant Trading,

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Wilko - January 4, 2017 Reply

Thanks for interesting post!
What I do for my MR-trades, is after x days, I adjust my target to get out of the trade flat, ie a limit sell at same price as entry. That worked a whole lot better than just exiting at market after N-days and it cut down time in market holding loosers and waiting for them to recover.

    Cesar Alvarez - January 4, 2017 Reply

    Did you start the MR trade with a target? What if the stock never hits your new breakeven target?

Wilko - January 4, 2017 Reply

Sorry, I realise I didn’t fully answer your question. I start the MR with a combination of targets for exit. I have n-days backstop, an ATR-multiple fixed target relative to entry price and an indicator-triggered exit. The fixed target is lowered to B/E after x days. If you want to be more agressive to get out quickly while hopeflly saving a couple of pennies by avoiding trading “blindly” at market, you could set it to an ATR-multiple relative to current price.

MP - January 4, 2017 Reply

The opportunity cost (and unrewarded risk) of staying in a no-edge trade is pretty big…which almost always favors some kind of a time stop.

Matt Haines - January 4, 2017 Reply

What about getting rideof the RSI exit and do a strict N-day exit? I’ve got an MR system with a different entry, and a simple four day hold is the best exit I’ve found. It seems counterintuitive but it outdoes any RSI or profit target exits I’ve tried.

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