The Stock Trader as Adventure Road Warrior


No matter what they tell you, the world of electronics has not fully caught up with all the nuances of online stock trading. Sure, the Runaway Trader is proving that you can “trade stocks” from practically any adventure travel location in the world, but can you trade intelligently from all points global?


OK, I admit that’s a subtle point but allow me to clarify. For those surfers who have not fully enmeshed themselves in online stock trading, please note that stock trades can be executed in a number of different ways:


Broker-Assisted Stock Trades


You can call your broker on a land line or cell and ask him to place an order for, say, 100 shares of XYZ stock. Nothing new about that. In fact, that’s how we used to make stock trades:  we’d pickup up the telephone and call our broker and have him (yes, him), place the trade. (Incidentally, you can still do that but it’s the most expensive way to make a trade because you’ve got a live body on the other end who places the trade for you).


Electronic Telephone Stock Trades


Alternately, you can use your telephone (land or cell) and enter the order electronically with your touch tones. Some brokers charge more for this service than a regular online Internet order, but less than the “broker-assisted” order.  


But here’s the problem: both of the above ordering systems assume that you already know what you want to buy. But what if you don’t? Well, you need something a bit more sophisticated.


Computer Generated Stock Trades


What you need to trade stocks intelligently, of course, is information—and a lot of it.


Before most traders start throwing thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars at the daily ticker, there insist on a mountain of data that, at this writing, is available nowhere else as quickly and as thoroughly as the Internet.  Case closed.


I am an experiment of one but before I make a day trade or even a swing or momentum trade, I want to see:


1.  The news about any given stock and what precipitating factor makes it a trading opportunity at this moment. I also want to see a full day’s chart on the stock, preferably a streaming chart, plus 5-day and 30-day charts, and 6-month chart.


2.  Streaming Level II quotes on the stock. Level I, for the uninitiated, shows the bid/ask price of stock together with how many shares have been traded, the stock’s high and low, etc. Any telephone can give you Level I information. o


But Level II also shows a more complete order book for the stock including who is offering to buy or sell how many shares of what stock and what price. Now you’re going face to face with the ECNs and the market makers like Archipelago, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, etc. For anybody who trades stock, level II is a must, and the hand-held devices simply don’t have it.


3.  Plus, there’s a ton of other data that’s available only on the Internet. Certainly, I’d want to know what the broader market is doing (remember, the trend is your friend), what the “rhythm” of the market is like and what it portends. News on other fronts that may affect my stock traders. I mean, even Yahoo stock message boards might offer some info that’s not available elsewhere (although that’s pretty hard to believe).


4.  Multiple windows. There's something else you can't get on any of the hand-helds or Iphone-like instruments and that's multiple browser windows. With my laptop or desktop, I can open a half-dozen browser windows simultaneously, each offering crucial data as I switch back and forth. I've got an open stock ordering window, another window for streaming Level II quotes, a third for late-breaking stock market news, and a fourth containing my Ameritrade command module for bringing up a stock's daily chart. As slick as IPhone is, it can't do that. And I need that to trade smart.


To make a long story short, intelligent, nimble-fingered stock trading is still largely limited to online laptop (on desktop) computer maneuvers over the WWW. That means you can play Runaway Trader smartly from any point on the globe where you can connect a genuine computer to the Internet---whether by wireless telephone connection, Wi-Fi routers, or good old Ethernet.


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