By following a trading system, market condition will at times be favourable to buy and at other times be favourable to sell. Clearly defined conditions give 'signals' that the educated investor can read and act on. Signals are not as crucial for the long term investor. For these people, market conditions and the value of particular companies can be watched on a daily basis. For day-traders, however, signals are crucial for acting quickly on stock market movements.
Investors who treat trading as a full-time job have the time to watch the market movements for signals. Oftentimes, however, signals can be automated and integrated into trading software. The investor can choose which signals to be alerted about and they will automatically appear on screen. Software signals are usually only available by subscription and some services charge hundreds of dollars a year for a complete package. This includes trading software and access to up-to-the-minute charts for the latest information about the stock market.
Investors who don't have the time to watch the market closely can subscribe to services which publish signals on a daily or hourly basis. These services may employ market analysts who may follow several indicators to arrive at a particular signal. More commonly, however, their systems are completely automated with signals being generated by software which examines market conditions. Some of these services have a better track record than others – it's a good idea to research them before signing up.
With any third-party signal provider it pays to know how the signals are being generated. Since there are such a large number of market indicators some of them may contradict each other. In addition, a particular indicator may send out conflicting signals depending on the time frame.
Market conditions also play an important part on the accuracy of indicators. During upswings in the market, for example, trend indicators will send out buy signals but longer-term oscillator indicators will view the market as being overbought and send out a sell signal. Generally speaking, trend indicators are most accurate during trend conditions and oscillators are best during times of transition. Both types of indicators are often in variance with the other.
To overcome these problems, try to find a signal generator that uses at least 3 market indicators for verification. Signals that are verified by 3 different indicators are strong and tend to be accurate. It is also important to look at signals from varying time frames. An upswing may simply be a short term correction and the market may afterwards continue its downward movement. Taking a broad view of market conditions allows you to see these variations more clearly.
Depending on the type of service you sign up for, signals can be delivered by email on a daily basis, available for viewing on a website, or be integrated into your trading software so that popups appear on your screen for particular signals that you are watching.
Companies which provide signals usually offer their services on a monthly basis. Some are quite expensive – as high as several hundred dollars a month. These are obviously aimed at the professional trader but other services are also available at more reasonable costs.
The value of these services has to be weighed by the individual investor. They can be a great time saver but they may also encourage laziness when it comes to analyzing the market. A knowledgeable trader should have the tools necessary to judge the effectiveness of a signal system and do some of the calculations himself to keep on top of the market.
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