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Ask HN: What's a good real-time stock trading platform?
56 points by tradinup on Aug 24, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 54 comments
I was just wondering what you all would recommend for doing real-time stock trading online for an individual investor?

You really haven't specked out the question very well.

Do you mean algorithmic or just the ability to post orders?

Not sure what you mean by online. If you mean web based or mobile? Or is desktop fine?

Robin Hood isn't bad if you just want point and click.

If you want to do something algorithmic then use Interactive brokers.

You might find something better but IB has been around for ever and probably wont' get out of this business any time soon. I can't say the same for any other broker that a retail investor can use.

Having said all of that, I would really, strongly, emphatically advise against trying your hand at algorithmic trading.

For the average person the rule they should internalize is Investing good, algo trading bad.... and this is comming from one of the people who benefits when the average person tries to trade in the stock market.

Been working in the hedge fund industry for a while now. I confirm that 90% if people I know that do serious personnal trading use Interactive Broker (IB). It's just the de facto solution.

Curious as to your advice against algo trading. Could you be more specific?

Barron's Magazine does a comparative study of online brokers every year and recommends the best based on your needs. This is the one for 2015 in which Interactive Brokers comes out at the top:


This is the methodology used for the ranking:


This is a comparative table where each broker's offerings are broken down and analyzed:


Interactive Brokers is probably the best option for retail investors. They have extremely low commissions and pretty advanced access (including API access).

Keep in kind that their product isn't designed for "novice" retail investors. There is a $10k minimum and the trade stations have a learning curve.

It depends on what you want. As others have pointed out, IB is good for a near-pro trading experience. If you don't need margin access, shorting, options, etc you might want to check out Robinhood (disclaimer: I've never used it although it looks nice).

Really though, why do you care about real-time trading anyways? Not being sarcastic; this is an actual question.

I found Robinhood to be useless. Not enough research/discovery tools to do anything other than "buy a specific stock". I also felt like my orders' fulfilled prices were wildly different than quote ticks—to the tune of a 100+ BP (front-running algos?).

Ah, that bullshit! I think you stumbled on the way Robinhood makes money.

When I first joined the Android beta Robinhood had a very clear message before every purchase: "to protect the user from volatility, Robinhood creates market orders as limit orders with a 5% higher price". So, yeah, that means that if you place your market order at $100, they reserve the right to broker it all the way to $105, which is bullshit. On average it won't be that high, but still, if you were planning to make a 0.5% profit, you'll always lose.

The only way to get around that is by creating a proper limit order yourself, setting the price a couple cents the current price (to match the BP you are willing to give up.)

Since I started doing that, things became way more predictable.

Total BS. I'm a big fan of limit orders (though most of my purchases are DCA). Since Robinhood can't do limit orders (or couldn't when I was using it—or I couldn't figure it out), it's useless.

You can do limit orders now! The interface is still kind of clunky, but it works well enough for my use case. Still, I haven't used Robinhood for anything but short term speculation, as a toy.

Well, I love that my post, that actually has some information that might be useful to people using Robinhood, gets downvoted.

You should always trade by specifying your own limit.

I believe the whole goal around Robinhood is feeless purchase of stocks for beginners. Once you get past a certain threshold of dollars traded, Robinhood isn't the most effective solution. Other apps such as Edge, Fidelity, etc. give you more information as well as more purchasing options.

But to be fair, for most investors, "buy a specific stock" (SPY, other ETFs for diversification) should be all they ever do when it comes to investing. Otherwise they're probably setting themselves up for failure.

If you don't do research, you shouldn't be buying stock. Most people shouldn't buy stocks, period.

I'm honestly confused if we're in disagreement or not.

Let me clarify my position:

I think most people should invest.

And part of that investment should be in the stock market (how big a part depends on their individual age and risk tolerance).

And for most people, the only stocks they should ever buy are ETFs that are passively managed with low fees.

Yes they need to do enough research in as far as to find out that they should only be buying ETFs (and that kind of research does not require any kind of support from their brokerage). But they shouldn't be tempted to do more specific "research" to pick their own stocks because most people who do that are doomed to underperform the market anyways.

So in the end, the fact that Robinhood lacks a decent research platform shouldn't matter to most regular investors because they should only ever buy specific ETFs anyways.

I was probably confused: we are in agreement.

Here's an algorithm that should work well for most casual investors:

At 2:00EST [daily|weekly|monthly], buy N shares of SPY.

For a little more diversification, I would amend that to buying shares of ITOT and IXUS in a 3:2 ratio (60% domestic/40% foreign), without paying commission if possible (e.g. https://www.fidelity.com/etfs/ishares).

Once you are comfortable with that, just rebalance this portfolio to the 60%/40% ratio once every year or two (http://seekingalpha.com/article/2130243-portfolio-rebalancin...), and start moving toward fixed-income funds as you get closer to retirement.

I highly recommend TD Ameritrade's Think or Swim platform.

I have been using Think or Swim since before TD Ameritrade bought them, and it's pretty great. The charts in my opinion are the best that I've found, highly customizable, and feature rich.

You can trade all types of securities as well. And it's very easy. The mobile app is also top notch.

Depending on OP's needs, this is probably the best. If he's trying to trade, he can open an account and (I believe) there is no minimum balance for buying/selling. I think $3k is the minimum for margin trades (and you get super-low commissions if you fund that much).

But you don't even need an account to use it. Just create a paper-trading account and you have access to the application, plus you can play around with trading without actually spending any real money.

Furthermore, dough.com is (kind of) a branch off of ToS - less functionality, but a much prettier interface. You can sign up on dough and get full access (without being able to actually trade, of course) without a brokerage account or paper account at all.

Agreed. In addition to having excellent software, their support people hit all three checkboxes - knowledgeable, fast at fixing things, and nice.

Interactive brokers for automatic trading. You would also need to backtest your algorithms, so depending on the granularity, you would need to shell out decent bucks. Daily data or minute data is easy - but if you need Tick data, it gets very expensive (IQFeed is the one I've used in the past). But the most important question is why ?

The only ones who make money in the market are arbitration traders (HFT types) or those who just happen to be on the right side of market. As an individual investor, you will spend lot of time and money to get your systems running - but market conditions will change dramatically and all your backtest algorithms will become irrelevant.

Quantopian has a really good platform for creating algorithms, back testing them on historical data, and for performing real time trades.


Non-algorithmic trading

Optionshouse.com is great, for both stocks and options, commissions-wise. Not as good for lightweight, realtime charts. I use OptionsXpress for that purpose.

Optionsxpress has high commissions, so I only use the charts, which are superior. Put in $100 bucks and it'll give you full access to the trading tools.

Algorithmic Trading

I use T4 for day-trading futures. I think it has APIs for C#. But no stock/options, only Futures.

Edit: T4 API link http://www.ctsfutures.com/wiki/T4%20API%2040.MainPage.ashx

OptionsHouse used to be an amazing discount brokerage, but ever since they were bought out by TradeKing it's been ruined and I can no longer recommend it. OptionsHouse's platform has been replaced by TradeKing's terrible flash platform. Here are some issues I've had over the past 3+ months. I've submitted tickets to customer support for all of them, but never gotten any response.

1) Flash platform that randomly crashes after being open for extended periods of time (eg. more than an hour). I've even seen the prices stop updating after a while.

2) Often appends a bunch of 0s after the decimal to the price of your order, forcing you to manually remove them in order to place the trade

3) This morning the platform was extremely slow, and I was unable to load pricing data into the charts. I tried to submit a ticket to customer support, but the server was down. I didn't try to submit any trades, but for all I know that may have been down as well. Keep in mind this morning the S&P 500 was down 10%. Nice to know my trading platform will crap out on me when I most need it

4) UI sucks and is confusing. When specifying how many shares you want to buy, you're not told on the same dialog how much total that would cost. The charts suck and are confusing to work with.

5) One day I submitted a sell order, and it ended up buying. Although I was convinced the platform screwed up my order, I gave OptionsHouse the benefit of the doubt and figured I must've made a careless mistake. Then later in the day I attempted to sell again, only to have the platform issue a buy order again and give me more or the stock I was trying to sell. At this point it was clear the platform fucked up my order, so I called OptionsHouse. They basically just told me to use an alternative method in the platform to close out my stock (clicking the Close/Adjust button).

During my call about #5, I mentioned issue #2 (it had been months after I submitted a ticket for it). They told me it was a known issue that they were working on. How long does it take to fix a bunch of trailing zeros after the decimal being appended to your order? Do they even have a dev team? The fact that it's been months and they still haven't solved such a simple yet incredibly annoying bug gives me absolutely no confidence in the future of their platform.

I'm going to transfer all my funds out, probably to IB or RobinHood. This morning was the last straw. Having the platform down when the S&P is down 10% is unacceptable. OptionsHouse used to have the lowest commission fees, but that's not longer the case with RobinHood (although of course you don't get nice things like options trading and a web platform).

Ah. I used thema lot when I was day-trading a couple years ago. Guess they've really gone downhill since. Only use them to place long term trades now.

Interactive Brokers might not be the best option for long-term investors who are just starting out due to their monthly minimum activity fees.


It basically imposes a minimum fee of $10 per month. It does gets waived if you have more than $100,000 USD in your account though, so this is just something to keep in mind, and YMMV.

I would personally just go with Robinhood for long term investing. No fees is better than low fees, and the longer the time frame you're investing, the less important individual trade execution and customization (areas where IB excels in) becomes.

RE: Algorithmic trading. Check out Quantopian:


The biggest problems in investing are (i) when and what do I buy; and (ii) when do I get out?

Instavest is the only platform to address these issues in a systematic way.

You'll see high quality investments ideas that have been backed by real money. You can choose to invest in these ideas and have the investment leader notify you when they sell or you can invest in your own idea and share with it with the community.

Our equity trades only $3.49 a trade.

> You'll see high quality investments ideas that have been backed by real money.

Why should I believe this is something other than wagering on survivor bias?

Why such a high fee?

Tradier.com is another one. They have an API for developers. It's not as mature as IB, but if you are looking to start/play with something with no/minimal initial investment check it out - https://developer.tradier.com

I know that instavest.com (YC company) is powered by them as well.

May want to try MOMO realtime stock discovery. (Www.mometic.com) Streams highs and lows to your phone. Not aware of any other app that helps you find stocks that are breaking out. /still need a trading platform. Has super fast push alerts too, fwiw.

CapitalOne's Sharebuilder platform's the only one I know of which allows the purchase of fractions of shares.


I used to work for Stellar Trading Systems some years ago. AFAIK they are doing very well. They have multiple APIs for algo-trading and the access is very fast and robust. Definately a professional tool though.

If you trade a lot and you know what you are doing: Interactive Broker.

If you do long term investments and you are learning and/or want a full package of information and tools: TD Ameritrade and their Thinkorswim platform.

I used to use Ninjatrader. It has integrations with a lot of brokers, and you can write C# algos. The GUI is pretty good the last time I used, it so overall I would recommend it.

While we are at it. Does anyone know of a random stock trading possibility? Ideally you would set certain boundaries then let the product randomly trade without much analysis.

As the market is a random walk, One would expect to break even minus the cost of trade - this losing money. It would be at least a validation of your ability to get the API up etc.

I don't quite understand why the OP wants to do this. Algo trading is mostly about market making it seems - finding a spread and keeping ones risk as neutral as possible. I suppose there is always a market to be found - but I would assume that one would have specific domain knowledge rather than hope to trip over it.

not necessarily http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.... it's almost as if the market rewards entropy

I don't quite see that - the conclusion seems to be random strategy is not significantly better or worse at predicting next day's market than any other and it is less volatile - seems a good bet.

Great link though thanks

What would be the best option if one only cares about an API?

If you only care about EOD market data, you can take a look at TagniFi's free markets API - https://www.tagnifi.com.

Disclaimer: I am a TagniFi co-founder.

Interactive Brokers.

Like others here, I like Think or Swim by TD Ameritrade.

Just one problem though, in times of extreme market volatility and volume, Thinkorswim freezes up. Like today, it was unusable at times.

was that limited to ToS though? Wasn't much liquidity out there

Interactive Brokers and Tradestation didnt have much issues, but yes, getting filled on trades, especially options trades was a nightmare.

I was wondering about this, so Interactive Brokers was still pretty solid during last Mondays market swings?

Whats the purpose? answer can vary based on that.

Think or Swim. Dough platform is great.

AmiBroker + IB

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