How would you like to partner with a foreign exchange (forex) trader who is smart, unemotional, logical, ever-vigilant for profitable trades and who executes trades almost instantly when the opportunity arises and then posts the profit to your account?
The qualities above describe automated forex trading software, and a variety of such programs are available commercially. They are designed to function without the presence of the trader by scanning the market for profitable currency trades, using either pre-set parameters or parameters programmed into the system by the user.
In other words, with automated software, you can turn on your computer, activate the program and walk away while the software does the trading.
Who Can Use It?
Beginning, experienced or even veteran traders may benefit from using automation software to make their trading decisions.
The software comes in a wide range of prices and levels of sophistication. Online customer reviews of many of these programs point out their virtues and flaws. Some programs offer a free trial period, along with other incentives to buy. Other vendors provide a free demonstration model to familiarize the user with the program.
These are some of the upsides of automated forex trading software; the marketing inducements to purchase particular packages may provide additional incentives for trading. However, these programs are far from infallible and the user must be aware that automation software does not guarantee an endless run of successful trades.
How Does It Work?
Automated forex trading software is a computer program that analyzes currency price charts and other market activity. The software identifies the signals - including spread discrepancies, price trends and news that may impact the market - to locate potentially profitable currency pair trades.
For example, if a software program, using criteria the user sets, identifies a currency pair trade that satisfies the predetermined parameters for profitability, it broadcasts a buy or sell alert, and automatically makes the trade.
Also known as algorithmic trading, black-box trading, robo or robot trading, automated forex trading programs offer many advantages.
The Upsides: Emotionless Trading and Multiple Accounts
A major advantage is the elimination of emotional and psychological influences determining what and when to trade in favor of a cold, logical approach to the market. Automated software makes your trading decisions unemotional and consistent, using the trading parameters you've pre-established or the default settings you've pre-installed.
Beginner and even experienced traders may sometimes make a trade based on some psychological trigger that defies the logic of market conditions. With automated trading, such all-too-human lapses of judgment just don't occur.
For currency speculators who do not make trades based on interest rates but rather on currency spreads, automated software can be very effective because price discrepancies are immediately apparent, the information is instantly read by the trading system and a trade is executed.
Other market elements may also automatically trigger buy or sell alerts, such as moving average crossovers, chart configurations such as triple tops or bottoms, other indicators of resistance or support levels or potential topside or bottom breakthroughs that indicate a trade may be in order.
An automated software program also allows traders to manage multiple accounts simultaneously, an advantage not easily available to manual traders on a single computer.
For serious traders who nevertheless have other interests, obligations or occupations, automated trading software saves the time that they otherwise may have devoted to studying markets, analyzing charts or watching for events that affect currency prices.
Automated forex trading systems permit the trader to leave the voluntary bondage of the computer monitor while the program scans the market looking for trading opportunities and makes the trades when the elements are right. That means that night or day, around the clock, the program is at work and needs no human, hands-on supervisor.
Selecting an Automated Forex Trading Program
A number of users who claim to be beginners at forex trading say they've made substantial profits using one automated program or another. But every claim should be looked at with some skepticism.
Of the numerous automated forex trading programs offered on the market, many are excellent, even more are good but are not comprehensive in their features and benefits, and a few are not adequate.
Although some firms advertise "over 95% winning trades," consumers are cautioned to verify all advertising claims. The best software publishers will provide authenticated trading history results to demonstrate the efficacy of the programs they're selling. But remember, past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Because automated trading systems vary in speed, performance, programmability and ease of use, what serves one trader well, may not be acceptable to another trader.
Some traders will want a program that creates reports, or imposes stops, trailing stops and other specific market orders. Real-time monitoring is also a "must-have" item in any automated system. Other traders, especially beginners and the less experienced, will want a simpler "plug and play" program with a set-and-forget feature.
Remote access capability is essential if you're a frequent traveler or intend to be away from your computer for a long time. Your program should permit access and functionality from any location through Wi-Fi, or other Internet access media. A web-based program may be the most useful and practical means of serving the needs of a roaming trader.
Virtual Private Server hosting (VPS) is a service worth considering for the serious forex trader. The service, sold by several firms, provides extremely fast access, isolates the system for security purposes and offers tech support.
Fees and Guarantees
Some firms charge trading commissions and additional fees. Other firms claim not to charge commissions or fees. Commissions and fees can draw down your profitability, so check the fine print in your user contract.
The top firms offer programs with return guarantees. After purchase and during a specified period of time, if the user decides the program is unsatisfactory, premier firms will allow you to return the program for a refund.
Take It for a Test-Drive
Some firms provide videos of software programs functioning in the market, buying and selling currency pairs. Check out, if available, screenshots of account action with trade prices for buy and sell transactions, time of execution and profit posting.
When testing a new software system, run the tutorial or training function to see if it's adequate and answers all of your questions. You may have to call the support desk for answers to complex questions about programming such as setting the buy-sell criteria and using the system in general. If a "Help" link is offered, determine ease of navigation and usefulness. Some of your questions may not be answered through information in the help section, and knowledgeable support from the system provider may be required.
Many of the best firms will also offer a free, no-obligation test of their software so that the potential buyer may determine if the program is a good fit. If this is the case, test to see if the program is easy to install, understand and use. Also, make sure the software is programmable and flexible so that you may change any pre-installed default settings.
A Keep-In-Mind Checklist
- The most popular automated software systems will trade the leading currency pairs with the highest volume and most liquidity, including: USD/EUR, USD/CHF, USD/GBP and USD/JPY.
- Trading approaches will vary from conservative, with programs geared to scalping a few points in a trade, to a more adventurous trading strategy, with its attendant risks. The user decides which approach to use, and the strategy may be adjusted in either direction.
- Customer product reviews that are posted online are a good source of information about the software. It's highly advisable to read these before buying.
- Price competition currently favors the consumer, so shop around for the best deal, but don't sacrifice quality for price. Prices for trading packages run the gamut from hundreds of dollars to thousands.
- Look for a high level of technical and service support. This is essential for traders at any level of expertise, but is especially important for beginners and new-comers.
Beware of Scams
Scams may be avoided by conducting due diligence on any firm. Check the websites of both the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the National Futures Association (NFA) for consumer alerts.
On the CFTC site, click the link under consumer protection for additional information. The NFA site has a database of registered member firms.
The Bottom Line
Whatever your level of expertise is in forex trading - beginner, experienced or veteran - or even if you're only considering entering this potentially profitable, fast-moving global market, automation software can help you be successful. There are also potential dangers, of course, when trading in any market. But automation software may help you sidestep the worst of them. Most importantly, keep in mind that no trading system can guarantee 100% winning trades and that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
More From Investopedia
- Technology & Electronics
- forex trading