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Recently, bots for trading stocks or, as they are also called, algorithmic trading systems are gaining more and more popularity. What is a bot for trading stocks and why are they needed? 

What Are Stock Trading Bots?

A stock trading bot is a specialized program that is capable of performing trading operations instead of a person according to a specific, pre-programmed algorithm of actions, or based on self-learning artificial intelligence algorithms.

It is worth noting that many new market participants have a certain confusion in understanding what a trading bot  is. Thus, it is worth distinguishing several fundamentally different types of stock trading bots:

Bots as mechanical intermediaries

Such exchange robots perform a purely mechanical function of conducting a transaction (“Exchange Orders”). In certain situations, this is extremely necessary, when, for example, a transaction needs to be completed very quickly. In fact, such robots are a software link between a software module that directly generates a trading signal and an exchange terminal, where an exchange order is directly entered and a transaction is completed.

Such a bot can be written as an external program that connects to the exchange terminal, or it can be implemented in the internal programming language of the exchange terminal itself. One of the most popular and widespread exchange terminals is the QUIK terminal (“Programs for trading on the stock exchange”). Inside it, a special programming language is built in, which allows you to write a mechanical trading bot for importing transactions into the exchange terminal.

Exchange robots-algorithms

These exchange robots directly generate trading signals, that is, they tell users when to buy or sell this or that asset. These algorithms are also called "advisors". At the same time, these bots act clearly according to a pre-programmed algorithm. To do this, the vast majority of trading algorithms use the rules and indicators of technical analysis. The algorithm can be of varying degrees of complexity, ranging from a combination of several simple technical analysis indicators to complex artificial intelligence neural systems that take up to tens of thousands of lines of program code. 

All such trading robots are programmed either in a special external developer environment or in specialized user programs that are specifically designed to create and simulate trading robots. For example, there are such popular applications as MetaStock, Omega TradeStation, TS-Lab, Wealth-Lab.

These applications have their own internal programming language, which can be used to create and simulate the operation of trading algorithms. The result of creating a trading algorithm in such an application looks like this: the algorithm literally advises the user, by placing arrows in the right place, when and what asset is worth buying.

The exchange algorithm itself, which generates a trading signal when it is worth buying or selling this or that asset, is the most complex element, which is fraught with a lot of pitfalls that a novice user can stumble over. 

Complex exchange robots

These are trading robots that include both an algorithm for generating a trading signal and a mechanical robot for transmitting this signal to the exchange terminal. As a rule, third-party developers of such programs offer users to purchase such package solutions. In the vast majority of cases, for users, this is a 100% "black box" with a completely incomprehensible algorithm inside, which will have access to your trading account and independently conduct operations. 

It remains only to simply monitor the work of such a robot and fix the dynamics of the trading account. It would seem that this is just an ideal option on how to make money on the stock market and its fluctuations, however, in reality, everything turns out to be much more complicated.

Since such decisions are a “black box”, this cannot guarantee any stability and predictability of the future result, and the uncontrolled process of exchange trading carries huge risks.

Reasons for Using Trading Bots

What are exchange robots used for? There are several reasons why they are being used in stock market trading more and more:

Complexity of trading algorithms

Sometimes the process of making a trading decision looks very complicated, especially if it is based on a deep study of statistical probability distributions or building neural networks, based on which the trading algorithm generates a signal to buy or sell assets. It is simply impossible to implement this manually by tracking the lines of indicators, so in this case there is only one way out, to program this trading algorithm and turn it into an exchange robot.

Psychological pressure

When it comes to money and equity, which is involved in high-risk operations of exchange trading, and at the same time you have to watch how the values ​​of the trading account jump up and down by tens of percent, not all the nerves of a trader or investor can withstand this pressure. 

All this leads to the fact that many retreat from the signals that the pre-programmed algorithm gives, as it seems that the market will behave in a completely different way. This, as a rule, leads to spontaneous, off-system transactions, which turn out to be deeply unprofitable.The exchange robot is devoid of any emotions and impartially executes the signals that the trading algorithm generates for it. If the algorithm works efficiently in this case, this does not lead to a fatal result.

High frequency and speed of transactions

There are certain types of trading in the stock market, which in modern conditions, in principle, cannot be carried out by a person manually; in this area, everything has been completely captured by exchange robots. This is scalping or high frequency trading (HFT). With this style of trading, a huge number of trades can be made – thousands of trades per day and dozens of trades per minute. 

Not a single person simply physically can implement such a number of transactions manually. Also, the speed of placing an order in the market is often important, especially when there is a very high level of volatility in the market, and prices can “fly” by several percent in just seconds. During this time, a bidder who acts manually will simply not have time to enter all the parameters of the order and click the OK button. Therefore, in such situations, the use of an exchange robot is simply a vital necessity.

In general, it is worth noting that the use of exchange robots involves an active speculative style of trading with a large number of transactions, including intraday transactions, that is, those that open and close within only one trading session. Therefore, such approaches are used mostly by speculative market players. And the basis of most trading algorithms is technical analysis in one form or another.

How to Correctly Evaluate the Work of a Trading Bot?

The use of an exchange robot seems very attractive to so many investors. If you look from the outside, then there are a lot of advantages to such a solution: everything happens automatically; no need to worry and experience psychological pressure; and most importantly, there is no need to think and make analytical decisions when and why to buy or sell this or that asset.

In reality, things are quite different. It is difficult to achieve stable results in speculative trading over a long period of time (for example, several years). Therefore, the goal of creating a stable working speculative trading algorithm for a long period of time is a daunting task. 

Powerful, resource-limited teams of programmers and mathematicians work on these questions at the world's leading billion-dollar investment companies. And periodically, their trading algorithms fail, and companies receive many billions in losses in a few days.

Due to the fact that the creation of a full-fledged exchange robot is a very difficult task, many market participants are inclined to purchase a “black box” or subscribe to it on specialized resources. How, in this case, to evaluate the performance of the algorithm and not lose the invested funds?

The main problem of all trading algorithms is that they use a historical data series to generate their trading signal. But, unfortunately, the past does not determine the future, so any such approach is only workable in certain time periods of the market. Yes, of course, situations repeat themselves, and the market fluctuates up and down day by day. But these situations are repeated each time in a new way, having only the main features in common, but the nuances that, as a rule, determine the result, turn out to be different each time.

Therefore, the evaluation of the effectiveness of any robotic algorithm begins with the study of its historical results. The algorithm must be tested on the history of quotes, and then it will be possible to evaluate its results.You can often find exchange robots that maintain real public results of work and do not have a historical test period. This is also not a completely indicative result, since a very long time period of several years is needed to assess performance, which includes various phases of the stock market cycle.

The most reliable method for assessing the effectiveness of an exchange robot is to compare its historical test results and the results of real use. Historical testing allows us to see what results the trading algorithm has demonstrated over a long historical time period and various phases of the market cycle. And the results of real work allow us to evaluate how a workable model in the past is transferred to the specifics of real results.

The main criterion for evaluation here is the deviation of real results from the historical test period. If it exceeds the historical result by more than 50%, then the efficiency of the algorithm is unstable, and errors may have been made during its historical testing and tuning.

At the same time, the current and historical efficiency of the algorithm can be assessed by a set of standard investment criteria and coefficients, such as:

  • Average annual return.
  • Maximum "drawdown" of capital.
  • The maximum length of the losing period.
  • Sharpe ratio.
  • Treynor coefficiente.
  • Sortino coefficiente.

In fairness, it should be noted that very rarely users can conduct a comprehensive study of the results of the exchange robot and draw correct conclusions if they do not develop this algorithm on their own. In most cases, when deciding whether or not to use the acquired exchange algorithm, there is simply not enough information to make the right decision.

Advantages and Disadvantages 

Profitability of trading bots is expressed not only in financial terms, but also in time. They can bring profit around the clock, because a computer program does not know fatigue. The main advantages of trading bots: 

  1. The ability to do your own thing, work, and not “stare” at the charts. You can safely go on vacation or spend time with your family while working for you actively increases your capital. 
  2. No emotional overload and psychological pressure during trading. After all, constant trading is a big stress for a trader. You just enjoy life and the movement on the stock exchange is only a joy to you. 
  3. Bots always exactly execute the algorithm and do not deviate from it. Unlike you with your indecisiveness, speculation and expectations about the trend. 
  4. And finally, as soon as the signal for the conclusion of the transaction has arrived, bots react instantly. Such a speed of reaction, tracking information and its processing is not available to everyone. 

But no matter how ideal the best bot for trading is, trading on the stock exchange with the help of robots has its own disadvantages: 

  1. It does not have the flexibility of the mind and may react incorrectly to a sharp change in trend. More than once there were situations when there was a sharp increase in the dollar against the ruble, many jobs could not cope with their task. Traders were losing money. 
  2. When using the work, merchants are forced to pay a subscription fee. This is in addition to the commission for brokerage services. 
  3. The need for regular modernization of the program, since it is necessary to follow the development of the market. A forex trading robot will provide the trader with a profit in a short period. The installed program will process data on a variety of charts and give a recommendation or independently carry out a transaction on a currency pair at the optimal time. The main advantage of smart assistants is the automatic selection of the best conditions for the operation in order to reduce losses. This is especially important if the direction of the trend is not visible.