Unhappy Honeymoons

EARLIER THIS MONTH, WE REPORTED on technical glitches that had prevented some of the 2.1 million legacy TD Waterhouse customers from accessing their accounts at the revamped TD Ameritrade site following their broker’s merger with Ameritrade ("Tears at Waterhouse,” July 3). What wasn’t clear then was how extensive the outage was or how effective the fixes would be. TD Ameritrade has now shed some light on this.

Spokeswoman Kim Hillyer says that as many as 82,000 customers, or about 4% of the total, were blocked from their accounts for one to four days in mid-to-late June. As reported, a beefed-up security system that doesn’t store account numbers, among other items, prevented some clients from logging on.

Hillyer says that software implemented on June 21 has, by all accounts, been successful in alleviating the problem. “If clients are still having difficulties, they shouldn’t be related to the issue we encountered in June,” she says, adding, “We’re happy to help those clients in any way we can.”

Meanwhile, at E*Trade, which has purchased former online rivals Harrisdirect and BrownCo, some client dissatisfaction continues.

A number of one-time BrownCo clients recently complained to us about the cost-basis reporting on the positions they entered prior to the takeover. One reader said the total gain in his account was incorrect because the history of corporate actions wasn’t transferred from BrownCo. “No splits or other actions that might affect the original share cost are noted, and the result for many stocks is wildly incorrect gains or losses,” he stated in an e-mail. Moreover, a legacy Harrisdirect customer reported that the cost basis of one of his positions was changed to zero after the company was de-listed in the U.S., even though it was still trading in Canada.

E*Trade spokesperson Cora Lee says that the firm is working to improve its cost-basis system, including its ability to incorporate updates for mergers or other corporate reorganizations. “This enhancement is involved, given the complex nature of corporate reorganizations, but it is something E*Trade aims to roll out soon,” she says. “It’s a priority for us.”

E*Trade’s recent focus has been on incorporating conditional orders into its order-entry system. We’ll take a look at that and report back.

FOREIGN-EXCHANGE TRADING has been heating up, in part owing to the dollar’s retreat but also because it’s a volatile 24-hour-a-day-market—perfect for trading junkies. Several months ago ("Seek and It Shall Find,” Feb. 20), we looked at an intriguing forex broker named FX Solutions (http://www.fxsol.com), which had developed an automated trading system that maintains the spread between bid and ask at 3 pips (hundredths of a percentage point). We were impressed by the site, but criticized its anemic charting capabilities. They’ve filled out substantially since.

The company recently introduced FX AccuCharts, a proprietary charting application that takes advantage of a fast data feed. It’s available to customers who have funded accounts at FX Solutions—those who have signed up only for demo accounts can use GTS Charting, which doesn’t offer as many forms of technical analysis as AccuCharts.

On starting up AccuCharts, you’re presented with a column of flags on the left-side of the screen; clicking on one opens up a pricing page that shows the currencies you can trade against the one you’ve selected. For example, if you click on the Aussie flag, you’ll get all the pairs applicable for trading the Australian dollar. If you click on the button labeled “All,” you can see real-time pricing for all 20 currency pairs tradable via FX Solutions.

The displayed prices can be executed immediately if you’re also logged into the trading area of FX Solutions. You can’t trade directly from the charts section at present, but manager of foreign-exchange sales Bill Lawless says the firm will soon provide that option. Currently, you can “float” a trade ticket from the trading application over your charts so you can enter a market order. “We’re working on putting limits and stops into our floating trade tickets,” says Lawless.

The charting package lets you combine two currency pairs on a single chart by clicking on a price display, then dragging and dropping it onto another chart already displaying another pair. For instance, while viewing a dollar/euro chart, you can combine it with a chart showing Swiss franc/yen so you can monitor price changes simultaneously. You can also can keep up to 20 virtual pages, customized with charts and data.

Changing the time horizon of a chart is easy. Switching from a five-minute time frame to a monthly chart takes a single click. You can also set up various alerts when key changes occur, such as a break in a trend line.

Since most retail forex traders crave technical analysis, FX AccuCharts is packed with more than 150 indicators—it also lets you create your own—and studies. These tools give FX AccuCharts the technical analysis needed to complement a trading platform that already provides tight spreads and accurate pricing.

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