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Stock Trading Is Going Mobile

|Includes: Apple Inc. (AAPL), BB, GOOG Mobile Website

Stocks in Your Pocket or Purse: The Market Goes Mobile

By D.R. Barton, Jr. of the Dr. Van Tharp International Institute of Trading Mastery

Click here for Dr. Van Tharp's Trading Workshop Schedule

A Brief History of Charting and Market Data

In 1986, my love affair with the market took off. As a chemical engineer, I naturally gravitated toward technical analysis and charting. At that time, state of the art charting was a printed chart book.

Every Saturday I would receive my weekly chart book. Back then I had a very different version of end-of-day data. Monday mornings I had “off” but every Tuesday morning, I would read the Wall Street Journal before heading off to work. I would pull out a ruler and my trusty black Flair pen and draw in, by hand, the daily open-high-low-close bar on each chart from Monday’s data. I would repeat this process every morning until the end of the week!

I was not tech averse. Quite the opposite was true. I was a superstar programmer as a college engineering student, programming thermodynamics algorithms on the earliest PCs—floppy drive for data storage, and all of 32kB RAM under the hood.

Instead, the problem was that there were no commercial computer charting packages available. In fact, home PCs were still a luxury item.

Within a short time, though, that began to change. In 1988 I bought charting package from Bruce Babcock to use on a computer from work that had been declared obsolete. Back then, I had to buy a set of historical end-of-day data and, once again, use a data entry program to update data every day by hand using data from the Wall Street Journal! I became as fast using a keyboard for data entry as any good bookkeeper.

In 1994, I finally bought my own PC ($5,023, including shipping). That’s $7,000 in today’s dollars! It still took a couple of more years before I was finally able to get end-of-day data through the Internet—on a dial-up modem, of course.

One of the last steps in getting data before the Internet made everything a piece of cake was my first real-time data feed. Since I had cable television, in 1997 I was able to get real-time intraday futures data through a special cable signal converter. That service cost hundreds of dollars per month.

Finally, by 1999, the internet and its financial market data service providers were a part of the stock day trading explosion and real time data was finally becoming commonplace—even though I was still getting it through a dial-up modem at the time (56k…whoopee!).

Fast forward to today. An iPhone weighs 4.8 ounces. And, with 32GB of onboard storage, has one million times the storage space of that first IBM PC that I worked on in college, which, by the way, I could not put in my pocket.

In less than 25 years, retail stock market analysis has gone literally from pen and paper to a fully functional computer in your pocket. In the next few weeks we’re going to look at mobile phone apps designed for stock market analysis.

Mobile Phone Stock Market Apps: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

For the next few weeks, I’d like to take you on a tour de force through the iPhone apps I’ve been reviewing. Why the iPhone? Three words: installed user base. Apple announced on March 2, 2011 that they have now sold 100,000,000 iPhones. In addition, iTouch and iPad devices can use iPhone apps, so this really is the biggest mobile market around. However, with the Android platform now growing faster (by many estimates) than even the iPhone, later this spring or summer, we’ll also take a look at apps available for Android phones.

After looking at more than a dozen stock market apps, here are a few general comments on the state of mobile app world:

* Almost all apps have a portfolio feature where you can track the movement of stock holdings. Profit and Loss tracking is clearly best done through an app that has a direct link to your broker or through an app that ties to a web site where buy and sell information can be entered. Therefore, portfolio management for a “general app” (as opposed to one linked to a brokerage) becomes a minimum requirement and not a distinguishing feature.

* Charting across the board is surprisingly readable. While you will not be doing your technical analysis on these charts, the high resolution screen does allow you to make sense of the charts. Almost all of the free apps that I’ve looked at are limited to line charts with volume indication. I will eventually look at a few of the paid apps that provide more charting options.

* Charting is also universally fast (at least it is with a Wi-Fi connection). The speed of chart drawing and switching on almost every app was one of the most surprising things I encountered in the preliminary screening.

* Many of the free apps had significant advertising banners. I don’t really count this against them (they are free, after all!), but it is a plus for the apps that don’t take up limited screen real estate with banner ads.

* A news feed is a key feature of many of the apps. Many have general market feeds plus specific chronological feeds for individual stocks.

I’ll be taking an in-depth look at a handful of the better apps over the next few weeks. Please send me the name of any apps that you have used with your comments on what you like and what could be improved, and whether I can use your name in upcoming articles.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this article or about trading and investing in general at drbarton “at” Until next week…

Great Trading, D. R.

About the Author: A passion for the systematic approach to the markets and lifelong love of teaching and learning have propelled D.R. Barton, Jr. to the top of the investment and trading arena. He is a regularly featured guest on both Report on Business TV, and WTOP News Radio in Washington, D.C., and has been a guest on Bloomberg Radio. His articles have appeared on and Financial Advisor magazine. You may contact D.R. at the Dr Van Tharp International Institute of Trading Mastery.

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