When it comes to the trading software jungle, there’s always been one big cat out there: Metastock. However, the fact Metastock remains the dominant and best-featured software program does sometimes play against it.
For many retail traders, they tend to put Metastock in the ‘too-hard’ basket. A lot of us view the software as the domain of eggheads and computer programmers.
Additionally, the fact its most commonly-used packages include only end-of-day data is also seen as negative. Especially when you consider that virtually every broker includes a free charting package with their platform.
But these traders are doing themselves a disfavour. Metastock is clearly a set-up for more advanced traders, but mostly because you need to break through some of the misunderstandings about trading to really see its value.
There are major four features of Metastock that have helped to ensure the software’s dominance.
These are Explorer‚ which looks for trades according to different types of criteria, Expert Adviser‚ which gives signals from professional traders, Enhanced System Tester‚ which allows backtesting and Indicator Builder‚ which allows you to build your own indicators and is the part of the system that confuses so many newer players.
These are the absolute core of the Metastock offering. In combination, they allow you to look at various trading systems and then back test these systems. You can also design your own systems. For example, you might look to buy any stock that rises above its 172-day moving average and then test that system. No good? Then why not test the system with 171 days.
Once you have identified your system, each day you just press the button and Metastock spits out the stocks that meet your criteria.
Now with fundamentals
The major drawcard of the new version of Metastock is the inclusion of fundamental data and ability to perform market scans using fundamentals.
Metastock says there has been increased demand for fundamental data after the global financial crisis. Many traders that were burnt in 2008-09 are now looking for further details on the companies they are taking positions, especially with a focus on debt holdings.
To some of us, this goes against the grain somewhat. Metastock has typically been the tool of traders; and why would they be more concerned with debt-to-equity ratios than stop-losses? Regardless, there are plenty of ways in which a fundamental scan of companies can help select stocks that may present opportunities and even cause you to strike prospects off your list.
However, while this sounds an attractive new feature, the system is not yet fully primed for Australian stocks. On a more positive note, local distributor of Metastock, Oracle Traders, is currently working on an add-on for Australian stocks.
The other major upgrades in version 11 include several new trading systems including, perhaps surprisingly, the Darvas Box system and the Turtle Trading system.
While it might be surprising to see two such established trading systems included this late in the product’s history, the reality is that most experienced Metastock users would have programmed these two set-ups years ago. But again, it’s that steep learning curve where the product expects you to be able to include computer programming on your list of trading skills.
Elsewhere, Metastock has upped the ante with its Communication Center, which includes feeds from newspaper websites, stock newsletter and blogs. There are also a number of new indicators, new stop-setting systems and new adaptive indicators.
At the end of the day…
As we discussed in the introduction, one of the drawbacks of Metastock is the fact the data is usually end-of-day or, at best, updated every hour. This can turn off many traders.
However, it is possible to get versions that provide real time data (Metastock Pro), but you’ll usually have to deal with a US distributor and the software is pretty much double the retail price of $700 for the Metastock end-of-day package (and, that still doesn’t include the data feed, which is usually at least another $400).
But the reality of Metastock is that it’s the kind of tool that is more suited to developing, testing and executing trading plans, rather than providing up-to-the-minute information. As always, it’s horses for courses‚ and there’s a reason why Stocks and Commodities magazine has awarded Metastock with best software in its price category for the past 16 years.
Of course developing and testing these systems does involve some level of programming in a number of instances. However, Metastock provides a high level of online and live assistance and once you start to understand the programming side it can become quite exciting and addictive.
Many new traders make the mistake of thinking that trading is all about screen time‚ and watching the markets as they trade, but experienced traders know that most of the grunt work is done testing, developing and modifying systems. Really, Metastock is for the traders that have already come to that realisation.
While there are reasons to put Metastock in the too-hard basket, the same can be said for trading in general. A little bit of groundwork and assistance from Metastock, might just make the trading game a little easier.