My Tools of the Trade


Trader Mike and Blain at StockToGo both posted recently on the various tools they use in their trading. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I figured it was worth revisiting the subject. Seeing as I work for one of the biggest information companies in the world (Thomson Reuters), I have access to all kinds of stuff. The jealousy factor among my peers is quite high. :-)

At Work
For my daily work as a forex analyst I have four monitors running from one CPU. One of displays Thomson One, with which I keep track of the equity markets. Another screen has Reuters 3000 Xtra (haven’t updated yet to Eikon). That’s my primary data and news workhorse application. I’m mainly a technician, but I cannot ignore the fundamental side of things as I have to write about that as well. On a 3rd screen I have a version of MetaStock Professional to use some custom indicators, run the occasional screener or test, etc. My fourth monitor is my working screen, of course.

Among the other tools of my trade during the work day are Reuters Messenger (we’ve got Compliance limits on what IM apps we can use) for quick contact with colleagues and contacts, Google Reader to keep track of a long list of blogs and news sites, and SnagIt for grabbing and editing charts and other graphics. All of our content creation and editing is web-based, for which I generally use Firefox. I also use Excel a fair bit, in many cases bringing data in (live and/or EOD) from Reuters or MetaStock (which is really the same data), either as a drag-and-drop or through a special plug-in. Seeing as I have a very geeky research-oriented side, Having access to all this data is very cool. :-)

My own trading
In my work I have to follow the markets in real time and know what’s going on across the board all the time. For my own trading my needs are much, much less. In fact, I can generally get all the information I need from free and/or low cost sources, and I don’t need anything special on the computing side beyond a relatively modern machine and a high speed internet connection.

I have always done my stock and option trading with Charles Schwab (I may think about changing that this year), and have had plenty of access to information, screeners, and all the stuff I use in my equity market trading through their website and other tools. My other primary trading focus is forex, and for that I use Oanda’s fx Trade platform. The commonly expressed complaint about the Oanda platform is the lack of charting tools, but it’s got more than enough for my purposes as I don’t really need much more than a price chart. The one drawback for me is the lack of chart time frames above daily.

There are only three data/charting packages I have ever paid to use. One is Daily Graphs. Readers of The Essentials of Trading will know that I have long had the CANSLIM system as the underlying philosophy of my stock trading. I can get much of the same info through my broker, but using the Daily Graphs service can make the process quicker and more efficient.

I have also paid for MetaStock and Sierra Chart with IQ Feed data. Seeing as I work for the parent company of MetaStock now, I get the software and data free these days. I first started using it back in the middle 90s, however, and paid for the software and EOD data (didn’t need intraday, and still really don’t) for more than a decade as something to back-up the free charting I was getting through my broker accounts and to work on research ideas. In the case of Sierra Chart, it was strictly about price distribution charting (Market Profile/TPO). Sierra Chart is very reasonably priced and has some other nice features, like a replay function.

Beyond that, I’m probably pretty boring. I use Excel a great deal for performance tracking, data analysis and research. My knowledge of and experience with VBA makes it a powerful tool for me. That’s about it, though. I tend toward swing/position trading time frames, so I don’t need a lot of the decision-support help day trading can require.


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About the Author
John Forman, author of this blog, has traded for more than 20 years, is a professional market analyst, and authored The Essentials of Trading. He is an active participant in trading forums, consults for trading related businesses, as published literally dozens of trading articles, and has been quoted in a number of books and in the media.
** See John’s full bio.


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