RT Trading (Real Time Intra-Day), by J. C. ("Chris") Pratsch
Part 1

Strategies and Technologies

Real Time Intra-Day Trading is a stock market activity designed to buy and sell stocks during one day; only occasionally will stocks be held over night or for longer periods.

Buy and sell orders may be activated once or several times during a day on the same stock. Such activities today commonly are carried out from private homes; they, therefore, deserve our closest scrutiny. Of the several systems present today, I select one that I consider best suited for the use of an individual trader; it will contain the following parameters:

1) - Data received during a day from a dedicated server via any transmission system-modem/telephone line or cable, broad band systems, wireless systems,

2) - dedicated software program installed in home computer,

3) - on-line connection to established brokerage or discount brokerage account.

If indeed such intra-day trading activities can or will lead to critical financial gains associated with bearable risks, then short-time trading may well replace much of former brokerage activities. In fact, it appears at this time that intra-day trading has already reached important activity levels, beginning to influence the overall markets. It remains to be seen if intra-day trading has increased because of loss of working places and employment for many; if so, then intra-day trading volume may decrease again when employment levels return to "normal".

There are several reasons for this observable increase of intra-day trading activities during the last 2-3 years:

improved technology (data transmission, computer potential, software programs) now permit transmission and execution of trading orders in sufficient time;

great financial losses and losses of previous gains experienced by many individuals in the last 3 years have decreased previous trust in professionals and increased the need or desire to "do it yourself";

the arrival of relatively or absolutely low-cost software programs and financial services over the Internet have enabled many people to participate in the market at low operational cost. Brokerage costs for intra-day trading have generally decreased, and the time between placing an order and seeing the completed trade has been considerably reduced. The high volatility of financial markets we now observe (most likely aided or even caused by the increase in do-it-yourselfers) enables many to easily enter buy and sell orders during the day.

In the following I like to discuss a few of technical items one should consider in order to be successful in intra-day trading. I will concentrate on some of those steps and on some techniques that I personally have found to be a sound basis for successful intra-day trading. I will not discuss related psychological etc. points. There is also a large amount of information available on intra-day trading approaches, from books to Internet sources to commercial seminars. Not all of these sources bring useful data.

The goal of intra-day trading is simple-to make a maximum of money with a minimum of risk in a minimum of time. Obviously there are many ways to reach such a goal, and there are many obstacles in the way to success. Many players are present, the play is rather competitive, and the mechanics of financial markets demand a large number of different approaches, knowledge and experience. If the reader disagrees with my systems, it is just another sign that we face more than one approach to the financial markets.

Technology - Hardware

We may also say here "required technology." There is no way around having at one's disposal technically satisfactory hardware. Such hardware is available today for reasonable cost. Requirements on hardware potential increases constantly, but hardware also becomes more powerful and financially affordable at the same time. One should consider:

Data transmission

Computing power

Storage memory

Visual quality.

Data transmission by telephone/modem connections is sufficient so far for most trading programs. Broadband and cable transmission are more satisfactory and possibly already required for some intra-data systems that aim at professional usage. Wireless systems should not lead to any additional problems with data transmission at satisfactory speeds.

A certain minimum of computer power is required for data computing and chart generation. Super-fast chips are not required, but chips with more than 0.5 GHz should be considered.

Storage memory requirements are high for some programs. One will be well advised to have RAM potential of 512KB. Less memory can lead to program shutdowns.

In general, then, a modern all-purpose PC (summer 2003) will be satisfactory for intra-day trading. For visual (chart) requirements, good software programs and sufficiently high computer potential are necessary as well as sufficiently fast and large computer screens. A 17-inch screen seems a minimum. Some use more than one screen activated by one program source; others even use more than one computer and multiple screens and multiple programs at the same time. There is no required minimum of information sources here; too much information will not help much in the critical phases of intra-day trading: Stock selection and timing of trading.

Technology - Software

Microsoft 98 SE works well (still, August 2003)) with most software programs, although more modern operational systems up to HP should be considered. There is a dearth of stock trading software programs. Some are free, while some carry considerable prices. Some of the free software programs charge for access to data only. Among popular programs for individuals we find - TC2000, Metastock, Omega, Fasttrack, Tradestation, and Amibroker. There also exist now a number of Real Time trade software programs offered for free from brokerage companies, like from Fidelity, Scottrade, C. Schwab, from QuoteTracker, YAHOO and others. While brokerage programs may be sufficient for charting and for market reports, they do not offer at this time stock list screening and stock sorting modules. Cost can hardly be a decisive point in software selection when large financial gains are expected. The program selected should satisfy the need and should be easy in operational handling of daily tasks.

Another requirement is access to intra-day data, or better to reliable data. Most software programs have their own database and charge for access to such a database. Some programs like Quote Tracker, AMIBROKER, Metastock offer access to third-party data.

Some Details of Intra-Day Trading Operations

In theory, intra-day trading should not bring complications or problems. However, there are more than many can handle. They may occur in any portion of an intra-day operation.

The complications begin at the very beginning: We have the computer, the installed software, connection to an open brokerage account-but, what is a potential target for trading, how does one find a promising "good" stock candidate?

Stocks to be traded must have the potential for price appreciation (we discuss here only long trading; short selling or options are not covered here, although the general approach is very similar). Such definition will be based on detailed analyses of stocks, of their underlying fundamental and technical "health". Practical is a check of databases the night before the trading day in order to find stocks that have such a positive potential from both fundamental and technical analysis standpoints. Short-and long-term technical indicators must be positive. One secondary viewpoint here is that should intra-day trading be unsuccessful, the stock should still maintain its longer positive potential, while otherwise "everything" is lost.

Other approaches involve selection of stocks from listings of high volume and/or high price-appreciation trades during the trading day; or one may select stock lists from reputable sources such as www.clearstation.com or www.stockcharts.com. Stock names proposed as "good" from unreliable sources will be found to be unreliable. A good source of basically healthy stocks are lists of stocks that form major market indices like DJ-30, NDX, NYSE, SP-500. One may also visit the public libraries for copies of Standard & Poor stock tables.

I use the scanning and sorting capabilities of the program TCNet; other stock sorting programs are found at several Internet sites, one being wwww.stockcharts.com at the time of this writing. One can also subscribe to stock recommendation programs under a daily service agreement with some company; but they historically have a bad reputation.

It is recommended to concentrate on a limited number of stocks (say 100) rather than on an entire database of, say, 8,000 stocks. Some successful traders "work" a limited number of stocks only, like just 30, and follow these in every detail both long and short.

Another good way to select stocks for intra-day trading involves stock price movements during the day relative to certain specific technical indicators: Whenever a stock price signal crosses a pre-defined technical indicator signal line, the stocks may become an immediate trade object. This movement may be found by changing stock charts frequently, or by using mechanized alert systems. For example, a positive stock purchase signal can be given when the price signal line crosses upward a moving average signal line, and when this signal line itself moves upward. Both signs are very positive for following price appreciation as long as these conditions are given. One either finds such a movement on a chart, or an alert system signals that these conditions have occurred in a certain stock. There are programs that offer price movement alerts, for example OMEGA and AMIBROKER.

J.C. ("Chris") Pratsch has been active in computer-based intraday trading for over a year. He started investing and trading of stocks and funds in 1966. He can be contacted at jcp@hal-pc.org.