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Not all charting programmes black boxes

Picking the right charting package from all the ones which are available can be difficult. Two traders talk of their experiences.

Tuesday, February 20th 2001, 10:32AM

When professional trader Shona Campbell started using technical analysis tools to help her make good investment decisions she had to draw the charts by hand. Later, when charting software programmes became available, she still had to manually punch in all the data from the newspapers.

That was in 1983. Now days there are a wide range of sophisticated software packages on the market which take live data feeds over the Internet and generate all sorts of charts with a few strokes of the keyboard.

While charting tools have come a long way since 1983 the disciplines that are needed to be successful - hard work, patience and a tolerance for risk - are still the same.

Although Campbell is a successful professional trader with 18 years experience, and she loves the job, she also is cautious.

Charting is not suited to everybody, and there is a lot to learn to use the tools successfully.

She says it's easy to draw a chart, but making a meaningful conclusion from the chart is a bit more difficult.

Her other warning is about the way some of the charting packages are currently being marketed.

"I don't think I have ever seen anything like what's happening at the moment, where people have been led to believe that anyone they can be a trader."

She also worries that many of the packages being touted on the market are mysterious "black boxes". That is you stick the data into it and the programme inside the so-called box, spits out an answer.

Her view is that many these black-box solutions "won't work long term".

Henley's Investor Suite is "definitely not a black box," she says.

Campbell says the Henley concept is a good one. The two stand-out points are that a user can access data from around the world (data for each market is bought on a subscription basis), and Henley provides education and training in some parts of trading.

Drawing charts is just one of the tools Campbell uses. To be successful she also spends a lot of time researching companies and looking at macro economic conditions.

Marrying the three elements together is very important, she says, especially when the markets are so volatile.

Gordon, is a semi-retired marine engineer, who labels himself as "not particularly computer literate".

After nearly three years using Henley Investor Suite he says his portfolio performs better than it did before, plus he feels more confident as an investor.

In the old days his buying and selling decisions were "a bit by guess and a bit by god."

Once he bought the software package and the on-going data feeds his investing became "much more successful."

He describes his style as buy and hold, rather than actively trading stocks on the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges. His approach is to use charts in combination with fundamental research.

While the software can calculate all sorts of trends and statistical data, one of the things he likes is its ability to filter out stocks.

He says he was attracted to a charting package after an "unfortunate experience with a professionally managed fund" which included paying fees for a negative return.

"I can produce my own negative returns," he says and he doesn't have to pay a fee.

The aim of his portfolio, which has between six and 10 stocks, is to generate a return which is better than bank interest rates.

"I'm now doing better than I was with a fund manager."

"If you're making your own decisions about buying and selling a charting package is essential," he says.

His view is that if you own shares you should look at them each day. He says the minimum amount of time he spends on his portfolio each day is about 20 minutes.

Editorial for this feature is independently supplied by Good Returns and sponsored by Henley Communications.

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