The Myth of Automated Day Trading Systems

By: Markus Heitkoetter
There is a widespread rumor in the financial community that successful day trading can be manually programmed and automated to produce vast profits for minimal work and input on the part of traders, providing a regular and consistent income by simply setting up a system, clicking a button to turn it on, and walking away.

This is NOT true.

I myself am just one of the many victims of this ‘automated trading system’ myth. In 1996, I strongly believed that a trading system like this was possible, and I wasted four years of my life trying to automate and computerize trading.

I programmed dozen of strategies, I used TradeStation, MetaStock, and OmniTrader, and I read countless books and articles on systems trading. I researched automated trading solutions and talked endlessly with other traders, always trying to find the edge I was missing. I stayed on this path for four years, only to realize in the end that I was chasing the nonexistent Holy Grail of trading.

Simply put, finding success with automated day trading systems is impossible.

Think about it for a second: If day trading ?could be automated, why would Meryll Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and other large financial companies spend millions of dollars every year in salaries for traders? If anyone should have a handle on systems trading, it should be the big-shots in the industry.

?If day trading could be automated, we would soon have computers trading against computers, and trading would cease to exist since there would be only ONE price.

This is equivalent to chess: if you have computers playing computers, then there is never an actual winner.

?Stock prices rise and fall based on human emotions and human perceptions. It's not economic reports that move the market – it's the reactions of traders TO a report that move the market. Again, it took me four years to come to this conclusion. It took me four years to realize that there's only one thing that can give you an edge in the market: experience.

Now, don't get me wrong. You need rules. You need a strategy. You need discipline. Automated trading systems can provide you with all of these things, or at least simulate these things. But there's another key ingredient to success that automated trading systems will never be able to account for, and that’s experience.

Experience is essential in everything you do, whether you’re a toddler trying to walk, a child learning to read and write, a college student studying a foreign language, a professional starting a new job, or an athlete mastering another skill.

When it comes to trading, you need a trading strategy, you need rules on when to enter and exit a trade, and you need to establish how much money you are willing to risk. But once you’ve got the plan, you need to execute it. And only experience will help you there.

It’s like approaching a traffic light that just turned yellow – sometimes you brake at the light and sometimes you decide to go for it. But how do you make that decision? Obviously you don’t make the same decision EVERY time you encounter a yellow light. Why? Because no situation is exactly the same as the ones before. You rely on your experience of former situations to lead you to the right decision in the current situation.

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