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Automated Stock Trading Software – How to Choose the Best

In today’s market, investors are wondering if they should even buy stocks and if they can make money. The answer to both is “yes.” Stock market trading is a wonderful opportunity now, with prices lower and volatility higher than in many years. Stock trading online has never been more popular.

Automated trading platforms, robotic trading programs, online day trading systems-there are many terms used to describe the stock trading systems that can help you to make a stock investment and to grow your money. Review the criteria below and understand your own personal preferences by talking with other stock traders. Identify the facts you need to compare programs. You’ll need a good understanding of the automated trading tools’ features and costs before you make a decision.

Many types of companies offer stock trading advice and stock trading strategies. They run the gamut from educational programs that aim to teach you how to trade, to a list of recommended stocks to buy and sell at certain triggers, to brokerage firm proprietary software, all the way to fully automated robotic software. Prices can vary from thousands of dollars to less than $50 a month for some auto trading software. With such a variety, how do you choose? This article will guide you through the features and benefits of the programs that are available for online stock trading. We will not discuss trading software for options or Forex trading. Many of the programs are geared towards “day traders,” who technically open long positions (buy) or short positions (sell short) and close these positions the same day. Not everyone who uses these programs closes out their positions by the end of the trading day–sometimes they hold their positions for days, weeks or months. We’ll call this “active trading.” Sometimes this is also referred to as “swing trading.”

The essential features of a stock trading program include a data feed for stock quotes and indicators, stock charts or charting capability of major indicators, current balance and positions and an order entry system. The order entry system should allow stop (loss) orders, stop limit orders and trailing stops. A trailing stop limit is similar to the stop (loss), except its loss will be measured from the stocks highest point achieved. The preferred method would be to keep the trigger prices in stealth mode, not viewable by the market makers, rather than as actual orders. Most automated trading software should include a watch list of the stocks to potentially trade based on the parameters the stock trader has entered.

Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s) can be part of an efficient trading strategy. These are mutual funds that are traded intraday on the stock exchanges, unlike traditional mutual funds that are a basket of securities priced at the close of the market. Online stock trading systems should also include trading capabilities for ETF’s.

Other features to look for include safety measures that stock traders may take, such as establishing a profit goal–the minimum price increase a trader would expect a stock to gain before closing their position. Also highly desirable is a form of profit protection for your investments, which is the reduced profit goal. After the stock reaches its profit goal and continues to rise, the stock trading software should wait and let the profit increase. If the stock price decreases or pulls back, the online trading program should close the position and lock the profit. This pullback value should not have any effect before the profit goal is reached and is intended to improve stock performance. More sophisticated auto trading programs will also offer the percentage gain from stock trader’s entry price, and the trader can also specify a minimum amount in case the percentage gained is too low Vinzite.

Check the Features and Ask Questions

Number of Technical Indicators – There are literally hundreds of indicators that stock traders can use to determine which stocks to buy and sell and when. The most robust programs will offer hundreds of indicators for technical analysis, such as Bollinger Bands, and some will even include indicators for Candlestick Chart formations. Robotic programs use these indicators to set conditions under which online investing will occur.

Complexity – Automated stock trading programs vary greatly in ease of use. Some online stock trading systems do require actual programming expertise. Others are simply point and click. Check out the online demo to see that it fits your level of comfort before making a commitment. Talk to others who are currently using the auto trading websites and check out their online communities for more comments.

Number of Long and Short Strategies Per Account – Due to the size of the online trading platform, there may be a limit to the number of strategies that you can have loaded on each account. If you want to run, say two long trading strategies, then you may need two accounts. Also confirm if you have enough memory on your computer for two or more accounts. Experienced active traders may run two or more live long and short strategies, while having additional accounts for strategies that they are testing in a simulator mode.

Find Out How Advanced Your Software Can Be

Recommended Additional Features – The best automated stock trading software will include additional features that active traders will find invaluable once they have begun automated trading.

Additional strategy and order entry features include the ability to add to a position as a stock goes up, or as the stock declines, as well as a minimum purchase interval that the stock price should drop before it begins purchasing additional shares. A maximum bid/ask range will also be helpful, as the size of the spread can directly impact a swing trader’s ability to make profitable trades.

If there are hundreds of indicators, as is the case with robotic traders, see if the definitions of the indicators are readily available. The definition or formula for indicators may vary from one electronic trading platform to another, so be sure you understand them first.

Recommend you have a program that displays current Profit and Loss (P&L) on your open positions and the status of the rules on your watch list. For example, if a stock on the watch list hasn’t traded, is there a feature where the trader can pull up the rules and indicators to see which one(s) is preventing the trade?

Some automated stock trading programs visually display the percentage of symbols up and down in each sector from the specified time frame to the current time so you can see how the market is turning. Does the platform include the ability to block certain symbols from trading? If you’re running a long trading strategy, you won’t want to be buying ETF’s that short the market.

Day traders will want automated trading software that tracks and displays the number of day trades remaining. Day trading is regulated by the SEC, so it’s important to understand if you will be day trading first.

Orders in Stealth Mode – A standard feature of many trading software programs is the ability to enter limit, stop and stop limit orders. While it is important to have an exit strategy from your positions, telegraphing it to the institutional traders in the form of publicly viewed limits is not. It’s a little like poker–whoever can see all the hands has the advantage. Instead, newer programs allow the user to enter these price points in the auto trader system, but trigger a market order when the conditions are met. This is one advantage of a truly robotic stock trading program.

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