In the back of each month's "Golf Digest" there is always a feature on "what's in the bag" of the pro du jour. Some pros are high tech, while others are decidedly low tech. In that spirit, here's a quick review of what I consider the essentials for a trader's bag, all of which are off-the-rack.
When it comes to my trading bag, I probably fall more into the low-tech world, because despite all of the new bells and whistles out there, I just haven't run across anything that can actually help me trade better or improve my profitability.
For trading, you need to start with a good data/charting program that resides on your PC. Web sites that allow you to do charting and even save charts are fine, but they're never as fast or as reliable as having your own data stored on your own hard drive.
With that in mind, I've used Worden Brothers TC/2000 (www.tc2000.com) since the DOS days and have upgraded as it's improved. I actually use the TC/Net version, which provides real-time charting and quotes, but I only use that because I like to start the charts for this column right at 4 p.m. EDT, and don't like waiting for the 20 minute delay. For end-of-day traders, however, the real-time version is unnecessary.
Using TC, I can, of course, update all charts on all U.S. exchanges. More importantly, I can write simple code that allows me to look at possible long and short candidates. Therefore, instead of trying to wade through 9,000 charts each night, I only have to look at maybe 100.
I miss a few good trades from time to time, but I'm sure I'd miss more having to slog through thousands of charts each night. You'd be surprised how they all start to look alike after the first 200 or so!
Once I have my trades selected, I input everything into a spreadsheet. You can see a sample below and this spreadsheet serves as my bible. Not only does it allow me to look back at historical data, but I can also do what-if analyses and future projections. And by just moving a few columns around, I have all the info the IRS looks for every year.
Finally, since I sometimes use mental stops and targets, exiting the next morning if one of those numbers is hit, I keep track of all my trades with a quote tool called
. There are many competitors in this field, and all should allow you to set up alerts if your target is hit.
But let me say upfront that a real-time quote tool is addictive, and hazardous if you're anything other than a daytrader. Too often, I find myself watching the numbers go by, and am tempted to override my methodology because of what I see intraday. Point being, be careful with that knowledge.
Those are my trading tools, but as a trader you must guard your PC like a fortress. In that regard, I use
for my firewall, Webroot's "SpySweeper" as a spyware blocker and purger,
, as a spam blocker, and
for just about everything else.
Finally, I am often asked how I get the charts from TC/2000 into the column. That's pretty straightforward. I shrink TC down to the size of the chart, and then hit the print screen (PrtScr) key on my keyboard to copy the chart to the computer's clipboard. I then paste the chart into Paintshop Pro, change the colors, add the text, save it as a .gif file, and email it to the editors. You can do pretty much the same with Windows' Paintbrush application, which is already on your computer, although some of the options are limited. In a pinch, though, it works just fine.
So now you know my tools and approach to trading. But, does that make you a "trader"? Only if you approach it as a business, and that's the topic I'll tackle tomorrow.
Petrofund Energy Trust
Charts produced by TC2000, which is a registered trademark of
Worden Brothers Inc.
And that is the final word from Tyco Road, where I would not want to be in the Oriental Rug business. Really, have you ever drive by one of those stores that wasn't having a "huge sale!"?
And don't forget -- now is a great time to learn how to make bigger, faster profits with technical analysis and charting. Get a free trial of my newsletter,
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Gary B. Smith is a freelance writer who trades for his own account from his Maryland home using technical analysis. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks.
Smith writes a daily technical analysis column for RealMoney.com and also produces a daily premium product for TheStreet.com called The Chartman's Top Stocks --
click here for a free two-week trial. While Gary cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send your feedback to