In the arena of active trading, a wide range of participants strive to sustain profitability and achieve specific objectives. Whether one is trading equities, futures or currencies, competitors from around the globe implement nearly infinite strategies on a daily basis. One such approach to the marketplace is known as black-box trading.
Black-box trading is a rules-based, fully automated method of engaging the financial markets. The term “black-box” alludes to the proprietary nature of the system or strategy that governs functionality. Black-box trading applications are also referred to as “quant,” “automated” or “algorithmic” systems. In addition, they often employ big data analytics and play an integral role in many disciplines including high-frequency trading (HFT).
As technology has evolved, black-box systems have come online to the masses. No longer must one be a large institutional participant to become a practitioner, as individual retail traders also have numerous options readily at their disposal.
What Is an Automated Trading System?
Automated trading systems — also referred to as mechanical trading systems, algorithmic trading, automated trading or system trading — allow traders to establish specific rules for both trade entries and exits that, once programmed, can be automatically executed via a computer. In fact, roughly 75% of shares traded on U.S. stock exchanges come from automatic trading systems.
Traders and investors can turn precise entry, exit, and money management rules into automated trading systems that allow computers to execute and monitor the trades. One of the biggest attractions of strategy automation is that it can take some of the emotion out of trading since trades are automatically placed once certain criteria are met.
The trade entry and exit rules can be based on simple conditions such as a moving average crossover or they can be complicated strategies that require a comprehensive understanding of the programming language specific to the user’s trading platform. They can also be based on the expertise of a qualified programmer.
Automated trading systems typically require the use of software linked to a direct access broker, and any specific rules must be written in that platform’s proprietary language. The TradeStation platform, for example, uses the EasyLanguage programming language. On the other hand, the NinjaTrader platform utilizes NinjaScript. The figure below shows an example of an automated strategy that triggered three trades during a trading session.