The Importance of Choosing The Right Automated Day Trading Software

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Shobhit Seth

02 Nov, 2014

in Day Trading & Scalping

Computer applications have made it easy to automate trading, especially for short term intensive activities like day trading, making the usage of trading software very popular. The debate continues on the profit potential which can be realistically derived from day trading activities, as brokerage and commissions are said to take away the major portion of available profit potential. It thus becomes very important to select the right day trading software with a cost benefit analysis, assessment of its applicability to individual trading needs/ strategies, as well as the features and functions you need. 

Day trading is a time bound trading activity where buy or sell positions are taken and closed on the same trading day, with an aim to make profits in smaller price differentials on large order volumes by frequent buying and selling, usually on leverage. 

What is day trading software?
Day trading software is an automated computer program, usually provided by brokerage firms to help clients carry out their day trading activities in an efficient and timely manner. They enable traders to reap profits that would be difficult to achieve by mere mortals. For e.g. a day trader may find it impossible to manually track two technical indicators (like 50 and 200 day moving averages) on three different stocks of his or her choice, but an automated day trading software can easily do it and place trades once the set criteria is met.

The features and functions available may differ from one software to the next and may come in different versions. Apart from brokers, independent vendors also provide day trading software, which tends to have more advanced features.

How day trading software works?
Three basic features of any day trading software include:

  • Functionality allowing the setup of trading strategy (based on technical indicators/ news/ trading signals /pattern recognition), in the trading system
  • Automated order placing function (usually with Direct Market Access), once the criteria are met
  • Analytical tools to continue assessment of existing holdings (if any), market developments and features to accordingly act on them 

Any day trading software will require a one-time setup of trading strategy with setting the trading limits, putting the system on live data and letting it execute the trades.

Here is a simple example. Assume a stock ABC is dual-listed on both NYSE and NASDAQ stock exchanges. You are looking for arbitrage opportunities and there is a day trading software available for it. You setup the following:

  • Select ABC stock for arbitrage and select two markets (NYSE and NASDAQ) for trading
  • Assuming both legs of intraday trade costs you a total of 0.1 USD per share for brokerage and commission; you aim to look for price differentials between the two markets in excess of that amount. So you set (say 0.2 USD or above) as the price differential – i.e. the software should execute a simultaneous buy and sell order only if the bid and ask prices on the two markets (NYSE and NASDAQ) are differing by 0.2 USD (or more)
  • Set the no. of shares to be bought and sold in one order (say 10,000 shares)
  • Let this setup go live.

Say the software identifies that ABC has quotes of 62.10 USD at NYSE and 62.35 USD at NASDAQ (differential of 0.25 USD) for orders more than set limit of 10,000 shares. The day trading software will initiate trade as it matches the defined criteria, and will send orders to the two exchanges (buy at lower priced and sell at higher priced). If everything goes well, this day trading software will make (62.35 – 62.10 – 0.1 = 0.15) * (10,000) = 1,500 USD of net profit for the trader in a flash.

Further enhancements in the above software may include stop-loss features - say if only your buy trade gets executed, but not the sell trade. How should the day trading software proceed with the long position? A couple of options can be included as enhanced features in the software:

  • Continue to look for sell opportunities at identified prices for a specific time. If no opportunities are identified in specified time, square off the position at loss.
  • Set stop loss limits and square off the buy order, if the limit is hit
  • Switch to an averaging technique--buy more stocks at lower prices to reduce the overall price

The above is an example of arbitrage where trading opportunities are short lived. A lot of these types of day trading activities can be setup through day trading software and thus it becomes extremely important to select the right one matching your needs.

Characteristics of good day trading software:

  • Platform independence: Unless a trader is running highly complex algorithms for day trading requiring high end dedicated computers, it is advisable to go with a web based software offering. Benefits include: connectivity from anywhere, no manual installations of upgrades, and no maintenance costs. However, if you are using highly complex algorithms that require advanced computing, then it is better to consider dedicated computer-based installable software, although that will be costly.
  • Your specific needs for day trading: Are you following a simple day trading strategy of moving average tracking on stocks, or are you looking to implement a complex delta-neutral trading strategy including options and stocks? Do you need a forex feed or are you trading on specific products like binary options? Trusting the claims on stock brokers’ website content is not enough to understand the offering. Ask for a trial version and thoroughly assess it during the initial phase. Alternatively, check the screen by screen tutorial (if available) from the stock broker or vendor to clearly understand the right fit for your day trading needs.
  • Additional Features: Day trading attempts to capitalize on short term price movements during the day. Such short term price movements are in turn driven primarily by news and supply/demand (among other factors). Does your day trading strategy require News, Charts, Level 2 data, exclusive connectivity to particular markets (like OTC), specific data feeds, etc.? If so, are these included in the software or would the trader have to subscribe to them separately from other sources, thereby increasing the cost?
  • Analytical Features: Pay attention to the set of analytical features it offers. Here are few of them:

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Re: The Importance of Choosing The Right Automated Day Trading Software

Thank you for the informative article. I would be interested to see you write a follow up article where you go through the pros and cons of 5 or 10 of the most popular day trading software platforms.

Nov 13, 2014

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Nov 12, 2014

Banned (4 posts)

I'm agreeing with chappie above. Automated trading strategies for retail side is probably optimum where you have a quantifiably distinct edge which you have demonstrably proven to yourself is only ever negatively impacted by your presence as trading execution manager. In short, get yourself outta the way and let the system you have automated trade properly.

Seth's article wandered off into arbing and pitting up against the HFT boys which ta be honest, is tough enough a remit for institutional players.

Nov 06, 2014

Member (794 posts)

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