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Long-only rotational back-test

Rotational trading is a kind of backtest where you trade by switching positions between various symbols based on their relative score instead of traditional buy/sell/short/cover signals.

Since there are no signals used, only PositionScore assigned to given symbol matters.

It is worth noting that in case of rotational test, the Positions field in General tab of the Analysis settings is ignored. It is only used for regular backtests that use actual buy/sell/short/cover signals.

In the rotational mode the trades are driven by values of PositionScore variable alone.

In particular:

  • higher positive score means better candidate for entering long trade
  • lower negative score means better candidate for entering short trade

As you can see the SIGN of PositionScore variable decides whenever it is long or short.

Therefore – if we want to test long-only system in rotational backtesting mode, then we should use only positive values in PositionScore variable. For example – if we are trading a system, which uses 252-bar rate of change for scoring purposes:

SetBacktestModebacktestRotational );
SetPositionSize20spsPercentOfEquity );
PositionScore ROCClose252 );

Then, to trade only long positions, we should change PositionScore defintion for example to:

PositionScore 1000 ROCClose252 ); // make sure it is positive by adding big constant

This way our scores will remain positive and that will effectively disable short trades.

More information about the rotational mode of the backtester can be found in the manual:

Separate ranks for categories that can be used in backtesting

When we want to develop a trading system, which enters only N top-scored symbols from each of the sectors, industries or other sub-groups of symbols ranked separately, we should build appropriate ranks for each of such categories. This can be done with ranking functionalities provided by StaticVarGenerateRanks function.

The formula presented below iterates though the list of symbols included in the test, then calculates the scores used for ranking and writes them into static variables. The static variables names are based on category number (sectors in this example) and that allows to create separate ranks for each sector.

// watchlist should contain all symbols included in the test
wlnum GetOption"FilterIncludeWatchlist" );
List = 
CategoryGetSymbolscategoryWatchlistwlnum ) ;

Status"stocknum" ) == )
// cleanup variables created in previous runs (if any)
StaticVarRemove"rank*" );
StaticVarRemove"values*" );
categoryList ",";

0; ( Symbol StrExtract( List, ) )  != "";  n++ )
SetForeignsymbol );

// use sectors for ranking
category sectorID();

// add sector to the list
if( ! StrFindcategoryList"," category "," ) ) categoryList += NumToStrcategory1) + ",";

// write our ranking criteria to a variable
        // in this example we will use 10-bar rate-of-change
values RocClose10 );

// write ranked values to a static variable
StaticVarSet"values" category "_" symbolvalues );


// generate separate ranks for each category from the list
for( 1; ( category StrExtractcategoryList) ) != ""i++ )
StaticVarGenerateRanks"rank""values" category "_"01224 );

category sectorID();
symbol Name();

values StaticVarGet"values" category "_" symbol );
rank StaticVarGet"rank" "values" category "_" symbol );

// exploration code for verification
AddColumnvalues"values" );
AddColumnrank"rank" );
AddTextColumnSectorID), "Sector" );
AddColumnSectorID(), "Sector No");
Filter rank <= 2;

Status"Action" ) == actionExplore SetSortColumns25);

// sample backtesting rules
SetBacktestModebacktestRotational );
score IIfrank <= 2values);
// switch symbols at the beginning of the month only
PositionScore IIf!= Refm, -), scorescoreNoRotate );
SetPositionSize1spsPercentOfEquity );

Our test should be applied to a watchlist, which contains all symbols we want to include in our ranking code:

Watch list selection

Running the exploration will show two top-ranked symbols for each of the sectors:


We can also change Filter variable definition to

Filter 1;

and show all ranked symbols instead.

Such ranking information can be used in backtest and sample rules included at the end of the code use rank information to allow only two top-scored symbols to be traded.

Ruin stop or mysterious Short(6) in the trade list

When you back-test a trading system, you may sometimes encounter trades marked with (6) exit reason, showing e.g.: Short (6) or Short (ruin) in the trade list as in the picture below:

Ruin stop in trade list

As explained in the this Knowledge Base article: such identifier tells us that the trade was closed because of the ruin stop activation.

A ruin-stop is a built-in, fixed percentage stop set at -99.96%, so it gets activated if your position is losing almost all (99.96%) of its entry value. It almost never occurs in long trades, but it may be quite common if your trading system places short trades without any kind of maximum loss stop. Imagine that you short a stock when its price is $10, then it’s price rises to $20 (twice the entry price). When you buy to cover the position you must pay $20 per share, which means that your loss on this trade is $10 per share ($20-$10). This means 100% loss (as per entry value). If you placed such a trade with all your capital you would be bankrupt. That is why this stop is called “ruin stop”. Unfortunately, by the nature of short selling, the gains are limited to 100% (when stock price goes down to zero) but losses are virtually unlimited.

So what to do to prevent exits by ruin stop?

The best idea is to just place proper max. loss stop at much smaller percentage (such as 10% or 20%) depending on what your risk tolerance is, to limit drawdowns and decrease the chance of wiping your account down to zero.

If, for some weird reason, you want to turn OFF this built-in stop, you can do so using this code:

SetOption"DisableRuinStop"True );

but it is highly discouraged, because when you wipe your account down to zero (or even below zero) it makes no point to run back-test any further. Instead of disabling this feature you should place proper, tighter maximum loss stop.

How does risk-mode trailing stop work?

In addition to regular percent or point based stops, AmiBroker allows to define stop size as risk (stopModeRisk), which means that we allow only to give up certain percent of profit gained in given trade. The picture presented below visualizes a risk-mode trailing stop using 35% risk size. Since at the very beginning of the trade profits may be very low (and potentially triggering unwanted exits), this type of stop is best to use with validFrom argument, which allows to delay stop activation by certain number of bars.

The blue line on top represents highest high since entry, while red line shows the stop level calculation, yellow area shows the bars, where our stop has become active:

Risk-mode trailing stop

The above levels were calculated with the following code:

Buy DateNum() == 1140425// custom entry on a fixed date
Sell 0;
BuyPrice SellPrice close;

riskSize 35;
daysDelay 50;

ApplyStopstopTypeTrailingstopModeRiskriskSize1False0daysDelay );

priceAtBuy ValueWhenBuyBuyPrice );
highsinceBuy HighestSinceBuyHigh);
stoplevel priceAtBuy + ( highsinceBuy priceAtBuy) * (100-riskSize)/100;

PlotClose"Close"colorDefaultstyleBar );
Plotstoplevel"stop"colorRedstyleDashed );
PlothighsinceBuy"highsinceBuy"colorBluestyleDashed );
PlotpriceAtBuy"priceAtBuy"colorBluestyleDashed );
PlotBarsSinceBuy ) > daysDelay""ColorBlendcolorYellowcolorWhite,0.9), styleArea|styleOwnScale,0,1,0,-1);

PlotShapesIIfSellshapeDownArrowshapeNone), colorRed0High);

How to write to single shared file in multi-threaded scenario

The problem is as follows: during multiple-symbol Scan (or any other multi-threaded Analysis operation) we want to create a single, shared file and append content generated from multiple symbols to it.

There are two things that we must consider if we are running in multiple treaded scenario.
1. If we want to get just single-run results, before appending content to the file, we need first to delete file generated in previous runs.

2. We have to take care to open the file in share-aware mode so multiple threads do not write at the same time (preventing corruption).

A sample formula is presented below.

// our scanning code
Buy CrossMACD(), Signal() );

filepath "C:\\ScanExport.txt";

Status("stocknum") == )
// delete previous file before anything else
fdeletefilepath );

// open file in "share-aware" append mode  
fh fopenfilepath"a"True );

// proceed if file handle is correct
if ( fh )
lastbuyDT =  LastValueValueWhenBuyDateTime() ) ) ;

// write to file
fputsName() +", Last Buy: " DateTimeToStrlastBuyDT ) +"\n"fh );

// close file handle
fclosefh );
_TRACE("Failed to open the file");

One important thing to remember is that in multi-threaded environment threads execute independently and there is no guarantee they will all execute sequentially, so the order of items (symbols) in the file may not be alphabetical.

If we want strictly sequential execution, then we must limit ourselves to just running in single-thread. A single-thread execution in New Analysis window can be achieved by placing the following pragma call at the top of the formula.

#pragma maxthreads 1

#pragma maxthreads limits the number of parallel threads used by New Analysis window. This command is available in AmiBroker version 6 or higher.

Number of stopped-out trades as a custom metric

For the purpose of counting trades closed by particular stop we can refer to ExitReason property of the trade object in the custom backtester. The custom backtest formula presented below iterates through the list of closed trades, then counts the trades, which indicate exit reason = 2, that is stop-loss.

The following values are used for indication of the particular exit reason:

  1. normal exit
  2. maximum loss stop
  3. profit target stop
  4. trailing stop
  5. n-bar stop
  6. ruin stop (losing 99.96% of entry value)
SetCustomBacktestProc"" );

/* Now custom-backtest procedure follows */
if( Status"action" ) == actionPortfolio )
bo GetBacktesterObject();

bo.Backtest(); // run default backtest procedure

    // initialize counter
stoplossCountLong stoplossCountShort 0;

// iterate through closed trades
for( trade bo.GetFirstTrade(); tradetrade bo.GetNextTrade() )
// check for stop-loss exit reason
if( trade.ExitReason == )
// increase long or short counter respectively
if( trade.IsLong() )

// add the custom metric
bo.AddCustomMetric"Stoploss trades"stoplossCountLong stoplossCountShort


Buy CrossMACD(), Signal() );
Sell CrossSignal(), MACD() );
Short Sell;
Cover Buy;

How to run certain piece of code only once

There are situations where we may need to run certain code components just once, e.g. to initialize some static variables before auto-trading execution or perform some tasks (such as ranking) at the very beginning of backtest or exploration. The following techniques may be useful in such cases:

When we want to execute certain part of code just once after starting AmiBroker, we may use a flag written to a static variable that would indicate if our initialization has been triggered or not.

if( NzStaticVarGet("InitializationDone") ) == )
// code for first execution

If we want to run certain part of code at the beginning of the test run in Analysis window, we can use:

if ( Status("stocknum") == )
// our code here

When Status(“stocknum”) is detected in the code, then execution is performed in a single thread for the very first symbol. Only after processing of this first symbol has finished the other threads will start.

A practical example showing use of this feature is presented in the following tutorial:

Symbol selection when PositionScore is not defined

AmiBroker’s portfolio backtester allows to define stock ranking and selection criteria by means of PositionScore variable. This is explained in details in the following tutorial chapter:

If PositionScore is not defined or it has the same value for two or more symbols, then AmiBroker will use the following rules:

  1. transaction with greater PositionSize is preferred – the comparison method depends on the position sizing approach used in our code:
    • If we use SetPositionSize( dollarvalue, spsValue) – then $ value is compared.
    • If we use SetPositionSize( shares, spsShares) – then number of shares is used for comparison.
    • If we use SetPositionSize( perc, spsPercentOfEquity) – then % equity matters.
  2. alphabetical order
  3. long trades rather than short trades, if both occur at the same time for the same symbol.

How to handle delisted symbols in rotational test

This Knowledge Base article: explains how to close trades in delisted symbols in regular backtest (to avoid holding delisted stocks in the trade list and have our max symbol limit impacted by those positions).

In rotational test however we cannot use Sell variable, because trades are driven by symbols’ ranking by PositionScore values. Therefore we would need to assign zero to PositionScore variable for the exit bars respectively – this will force exiting any positions held in given stock.


bi BarIndex();
lastbi LastValuebi ) - Status("BuyDelay"); 
exitLastBar bi == lastbi;

score /*our regular positionScore*/;
PositionScore IIfexitLastBar 0score );

Note that we are adjusting the last bar index in case trade delays are set in the settings.

As in the regular test, we can also use DelistingDate information if we have it imported into Symbol ->Information window.

exitLastBar datetime() >= GetFnData("DelistingDate");

score /*our regular positionScore*/;
PositionScore IIfexitLastBar 0score );

Limit number of trades per day in a backtest

NOTE: The codes presented below are for intraday data only.

The scenario is as follows: we are intraday traders and we want to limit the number of trades made per day per symbol.

To simulate such scenario in a backtest, we need to count the signals and remove them accordingly after we reach our limit. There are several methods to do so and the choice depends on the signals that our system generates.

If our trading signals come in a sequence like Buy-Sell-Buy-Sell (without repeated signals in between), then we could just count BUY signals since the beginning of the day and allow first N of these signals, where N is the number of trades we allow. This can be achieved with Sum function:

// trades limit

PlotClose"Close"colorDefaultstyleBar );

// identify new day
dn DateNum();
newDay dn != Refdn,-1);

// buy and sell signals
Buy CrossMACD(), Signal() );
Sell CrossSignal(), MACD() );

// visualize signals with yellow arrows

// modify Buy array and allow only first N signals
Buy Buy AND SumBuyBarsSincenewDay) +) <= N;

// visualize modified signals with green triangles
PlotShapes(Buy*shapeUpTrianglecolorGreen0Low, -24);

Price chart

If the signals of the same type may get repeated and occur for example in sequence like Buy-Buy-Buy-Sell, then before counting the entry signals we would first need to remove redundant ones. This can be achieved with Equity( 1 ) function call, which will remove repeated signals the way backtester would handle them:

// trades limit

PlotClose"Close"colorDefaultstyleBar );

// identify new day
dn DateNum();
newDay dn != Refdn, -);

// buy and sell signals
Buy =  MACD() > Signal(); // sample repeated signals
// exit on signal vs macd crossover or last bar of the day
Sell CrossSignal(), MACD() ) OR Refnewday); 

// visualize signals with yellow arrows
PlotShapesBuy*shapeUpArrowcolorYellow0Low );
PlotShapesSell*shapeDownArrowcolorred0High );

// remove redundant signals

// modify Buy array and allow only first N signals
Buy Buy AND SumBuyBarsSincenewDay ) + ) <= N;

// visualize modified signals with green triangles
PlotShapesBuy*shapeUpTrianglecolorGreen0Low, -24 );

Price chart

When our trading system uses complex trading rules so we don’t know the order of signals, we can use a loop to process signals and count trades.

// trades limit

PlotClose"Close"colorDefaultstyleBar );

// identify new day
dn DateNum();
newDay dn != Refdn, -);

// buy and sell signals
// sample repeated signals
Buy =  MACD() > Signal(); 
//exit on signal vs macd crossover or last bar of the day
Sell CrossSignal(), MACD() ) OR Refnewday); 

// visualize signals with yellow arrows
PlotShapesBuy*shapeUpArrowcolorYellow0Low );
PlotShapesSell*shapeDownArrowcolorred0High );

tradeCount onBuy 0;

0BarCounti++ )
// reset trade counter on the new day
if( newDay] ) tradeCount 0;

// keep buy signal if there is no trade and trade count did not hit the limit
if( Buy] AND tradeCount AND NOT onBuy )
OnBuy 1;
Buy] = 0// ignore other buy signals

if( onBuy AND Sell] )
onBuy 0// reset onBuy flag on exit

// visualize modified signals with green triangles
PlotShapesBuy*shapeUpTrianglecolorGreen0Low, -24 );
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