Turtle Trading Rules: Trend Following Investing based on 20 & 55 Day Highs

Wednesday, Jul 06 2011 by
Turtle Trading Rules Trend Following Investing based on 20  55 Day Highs

In Brief

A mechanical trend-following trading system  based on Price Momentum signals, specifically the 20 and 55 Day Highs. In 1983, commodities trader Richard Dennis bet with his business partner Bill Eckhart that he could teach a random group to be great traders.

"We're going to raise traders just like they raise turtles in Singapore".


After taking out an advert in the Wall Street Journal, Dennis & Eckhart narrowed over 1,000 applicants to 21 men and 2 women. Dennis trained his Turtles, as he called them, for only two weeks. They were taught a simple trend-following system, trading a range of commodities, currencies and bond markets, buying when a market broke above the top of its recent range (and vice versa if it broke below). After they proved themselves, Dennis funded most of the trainees with $1 million to manage.

In summary, the Turtle Trading system is a trend-following system where trade initiations are governed by price channel breakouts, as taught by Richard Donchian. The original system consisted of two mechanical trading strategies, S1 and S2 with S1 being far more aggressive and short term than S2. 

Mechanics of Turtle Trading

The Turtles traded only the most liquid futures markets:

System 1: 

  • Go long (short) when the price exceeds the high (low) of the preceding 20 days. This breakout signal would however be ignored if the last breakout would have resulted in a winning trade (but an entry would be made at the 55 day level to avoid missing major market moves). The System 1 exit was a 10 day low for long positions and a 10 day high for short positions.  he System 1 exit was a 10 day low for long positions and a 10 day high for short position.

System 2:

  • Buy (sell) when the price exceeds the high (low) of the preceding 55 days. All breakouts for System 2 would be taken whether the previous breakout had been a winner or not. The System exit was a 20 day low for long positions and a 20 day high for short positions.

The rules also taught Turtles specific rules about position size, the use of stops, and to pyramid aggressively - up to a third of total exposure. A former Turtle, Curtis Faith, apparently improved the performance by adding a further filter, namely that…

Unlock this article instantly by logging into your account

Don’t have an account? Register for free and we’ll get out your way


As per our Terms of Use, Stockopedia is a financial news & data site, discussion forum and content aggregator. Our site should be used for educational & informational purposes only. We do not provide investment advice, recommendations or views as to whether an investment or strategy is suited to the investment needs of a specific individual. You should make your own decisions and seek independent professional advice before doing so. Remember: Shares can go down as well as up. Past performance is not a guide to future performance & investors may not get back the amount invested. ?>

Do you like this Post?
15 thumbs up
0 thumbs down
Share this post with friends

1 Comment on this Article show/hide all

Derek Wade 5th Sep '18 1 of 1

I can follow the reasoning but seriously can not believe that I can dedicate the strict logic and time to following the rules. I'l stick with read when I can, play at best and use hunches.

| Link | Share

Please subscribe to submit a comment

About Ben Hobson

Ben Hobson

Stockopedia writer, editor, researcher and interviewer!


Stock Picking Tutorial Centre

Related Content

Let’s get you setup so you get the most out of our service
Done, Let's add some stocks
Brilliant - You've created a folio! Now let's add some stocks to it.

  • Apple (AAPL)

  • Shell (RDSA)

  • Twitter (TWTR)

  • Volkswagon AG (VOK)

  • McDonalds (MCD)

  • Vodafone (VOD)

  • Barratt Homes (BDEV)

  • Microsoft (MSFT)

  • Tesco (TSCO)
Save and show me my analysis