Saturday, August 19, 2006
Latest Road Rage: Trading
HOW CAN YOU ROAD WARRIORS OUT THERE maintain control of your portfolio? One obvious way is to keep the bulk of frequently traded holdings with an online broker that offers wireless access to your account. Brokers have made real strides in the past couple of years, helping peripatetic customers stay in touch with their money.
Even if you don’t have a Fidelity (http://www.fidelity.com) account, you can log into Fidelity Anywhere from your Internet-enabled cellphone or wireless PDA and get delayed quotes, charts, watch lists, market news and leading market movers. Fidelity customers have it even better: They can log into their accounts and view real-time quotes, charts and news, and trade stocks, options and mutual funds. Customers with Java-enabled phones can use Fidelity’s Java application, which shows icons rather than text for the fund giant’s menu. Fidelity has put lots of effort into its wireless offerings, and it shows.
Thinkorswim (http://www.thinkorswim.com) also has two programs that allow you to access your account wirelessly while traveling. For instance, thinkAnywhere, which runs on Pocket PC and Pocket PC phones, lets you trade from multiple accounts. The options-trading screen displays multiple strike prices, and the order book shows all your open orders, as well as other order-related events. A position monitor even tracks the Greeks for your options holdings. If you don’t have a Pocket PC, you can use thinkMobile, which isn’t as versatile as thinkAnywhere but does allow you to place stock and single-options trades, cancel working orders and close current positions. Point your phone’s browser to http://www.tosmobile.com to get started.
SiebertNet (http://www.siebertnet.com) includes MobileBroker, providing wireless access to an existing Siebert account. MobileBroker lets you trade equities, mutual funds and options, as well as receive execution reports, real-time quotes and alerts, margin-call information, balances, positions, stock-specific news and account history. Siebert charges $29.95 per transaction placed via MobileBroker, unless you’re using a wireless Compaq Tablet PC, when the commission is $14.95 for up to 1,000 shares.
E*Trade is another rest stop for weary travelers in need of quotes and news. You can log on to http://www.etrade.com with your mobile device, even if you’re not a client. Account holders can trade stocks and options, view balances and check out alerts. You can even get directions to the nearest E*Trade Center if you crave some face time.
Later this year, MB Trading (http://www.mbtrading.com) will begin rolling out its new technologies, including Navigator Mobile, which will run on cellphones, Palms and other Java-enabled wireless devices. Mobile will provide real-time quotes, account management and many of the features found in MB Trading’s flagship product, the Navigator. “We have had an incredible amount of interest from our customers who travel and need market access,” says David Lipsett, MB Trading’s executive vice president.
Those who want to keep tabs on stocks and news while on the go, but don’t need to be logged in to their trading account, should check out AlphaTrade’s Jupiter. AlphaTrade (http://www.alphatrade.com) also offers a non-mobile application called E-Gate, which gives you quotes and charting for stocks traded on U.S. exchanges, in Canada and on the London Stock Exchange. You can sign up for both services, or get the wireless application independently.
Pricing starts at $17 a month if you sign up for either E-Gate or Jupiter; there’s also a $10 data-access fee. If you subscribe to E-Gate, you can add the Jupiter wireless program for another 10 bucks a month. Nasdaq TotalView is available for an additional $20 per month. You will also have to pay for quotes from the various exchanges, which will add at least $3 to your monthly bill. There’s a 14-day free trial.
INVESTOR ED: Have you ever wanted to know exactly what a clearing firm does? Or what happens to an order after you’ve entered it? A well-designed site, Path to Investing http://www.pathtoinvesting.org), was recently introduced by Lightbulb Press for the Foundation for Investor Education. It answers some of these fundamental, but often overlooked, questions.
The site offers advice about choosing a broker, including ways to verify that your broker is licensed and registered with the Securities Investor Protection Corp. Another suggestion: Check with the NASD to see if it has any complaints against the broker on file. The tab entitled “How Markets Work” is full of information that every online investor should know. It’s definitely worth a look.
MOVING TO A MAC? Several readers have asked about analysis and trading programs that run on Apple’s Macintosh system. The truth is, most online brokers offering software-based trading applications that an investor downloads and installs have packages that run only on a Windows-based machine. Thinkorswim’s (http://www.thinkorswim.com) Java-based trading application, however, runs as-is on a Macintosh. So, to use it, you won’t have to turn your old Mac into a virtual PC. (New Macs, which use Intel chips, greatly ease the use of Windows-based applications and can run them directly.)
We’d be very interested to know of any difficulties readers face when they’re making the PC-to-Mac transition. We’ll try to answer your questions in a coming column. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Published in Barron’s, August 14, 2006.