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Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

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Shannon Dougherty's new show premiering this September focuses on couples breaking up with each other. I wonder if she'll help me break up with my current charting service. Turns out, it's hard to do.

I'm loyal. I like signing onto my charting service early each morning, knowing what to expect. I don't like to work hard just to get a few encouraging signs out of my charting service, and my current one is known for its user friendliness. That's why I originally engaged in a relationship with this service. Lately, though, I just don't think the charting service has the same commitment to the relationship that I have, and it's made me consider breaking up.

It all started months ago. I'd heard whispers that my charting service wasn't reliable, but I tend to discount rumors and base my relationships on what I see for myself. Eventually, the evidence couldn't be ignored. I would call up certain symbols and find no answer, only blank charts. Sometimes the charting service was late returning my request for information, with charts far behind the actual prices. I began looking around, but none of the better-known charting services was perfect, either. One had a reputation of being a hog of computer memory. Some required more of an investment than I was ready to make in a new service. Some didn't meet my charting needs in other ways. Several didn't offer Keltner channels, for example. My loyalty won out each time I considered changing.

Then the final straw occurred. The Philadelphia Board of Trade decided to charge a fee for the feed from the exchange's indices, including the important SOX. Not only did the PBOT decide to charge, but according to my charting service, the PBOT put the change into effect quickly, catching some brokerages and many charting services unprepared. My charting service was one of those. My charting service neither immediately informed me or other subscribers what had happened nor did it scramble to again provide SOX quotes and charts. In fact, it told me and other subscribers that it would be sometime this fall before it would do so.

Other charting services did more to preserve their relationships with their customers, I noticed. While I was still begging my charting service to give me some kind of date for a resolution to the problems, others were already providing those quotes and charts for their customers. My brokerage never stopped providing up-to-date quotes. No matter what my charting service claimed about the PBOT's lack of notice, other charting services and brokerages seemed to manage better than mine.

Perhaps you've found your and your charting service may be ready to part company, too. If so, remember that breaking up is hard to do. Keep some points in mind.

It's okay to flirt with a new charting service while still keeping your old one. I already had a new service in mind: the back-up service I use whenever my current charting service went on the blink. A former writer for OptionInvestor had used Medved QuoteTracker (www.quotetracker.com), a service that offers a price that can't be beat: it's free unless you want the version without ads and with more indicators and more intraday data.

QuoteTracker gets its feed from many brokerages or feed services, with the website listing those firms. My brokerage was one providing the feed, but there was a problem. My brokerage doesn't backfill, so my intraday charts filled with bars only when I actually had a chart up and running. If I took a few hours off from watching charts I had no bars for that period.

For those using Interactive Brokers, as many of OIN's subscribers do, this problem doesn't exist. IB provides ten days of backfill, I believe. It did exist for me, however, and since missing bars was one of the reasons I was changing from my previous service, I needed a fix for this problem if I was going to use QuoteTracker as my primary service.

I needed to subscribe to a feed service if I was going to fully test this charting service. No problem: I could flirt with several feed services, too. They had free trial periods, too.

If you want real-time quotes while you're flirting with another service, you'll usually have to pay the exchange fees, however, so the flirting may not be without cost. Since my primary concern with my old service was with the accuracy of the feeds, I paid those exchange fees so that I could see if the new service was any better than the old.

Many charting services offer free trials, so look around. Be careful, though. When your trial period is over, some automatically charge you for the service unless you notify them in advance that you do not want to continue. The feed I chose, DTN.IQ, does this.

Once I had charts up and running with real-time feeds, it was time to take the charts for a test run. Almost all charting services will provide a choice of exponential and simple moving averages and Bollinger bands as upper indicators, and MACD, RSI and CCI as lower indicators, but what about the more eccentric ones, the ones upon which a technical trader might rely? Perhaps you value an unusual setting or indicator. For example, a first question for me is whether the charting service provides the opportunity to set up the nested Keltner channels I use. Although many services now offer Keltner channels, some offer only one setting.

Annotated 15-Minute Chart of the SOX:

Since, with the exception of nested Keltner charts, the indicators that I use on other charts would be considered mainstream and ordinary, my concerns about available indicators have mostly been resolved, although I have yet to locate the indicator for Fibonacci brackets. This charting service's regression channels also do not seem to be as flexible and easy to use as my former service's, but I can draw lines myself and I'm sure a thorough search will turn up a way to handle the Fib brackets. QuoteTracker is known for their customer service, and I've tested that, too, on both QuoteTracker and IQ. Emails to both services returned replies within an hour. Helpful replies that actually answered my questions.

Concerns such as legibility issues should not be underestimated, however, so don't rush the switch. Those traders who consider themselves technical traders have accustomed themselves to glancing at a chart and gathering all needed information within a second or two. Lines should be easy to spot and interpret so that the almost instantaneous recognition of the setup occurs.

That and other reasons explain why I'll keep flirting with this charting service before I break up with my former charting service. This new one looks promising, but I'm not forming a permanent relationship with this new service and breaking up with the other until I've dated both for a while.

Although I've used the breaking-up premise to provide a slant for this article, the tenets expressed here are serious. Trading based on flawed quotes or charts will cost you money. Because I have been exclusively trading credit spreads since the first of the year, I've been able to endure slow feeds better than some might be able to do so, but even my tolerance was tested when the SOX was approaching a sold strike on option expiration week and I couldn't get SOX charts.

Trying to make quick trading decisions while maneuvering around an unfamiliar charting service can cost you money, too. Don't cut off your old trading service too soon. Plan to pay for both for a month or so if you're trying out something other than QuoteTracker or if you want the registered form of QuoteTracker ($7.00 a month) with no ads and with more perks or require a paid feed. DTN.IQ offers a special rate to QuoteTracker users, so my extra costs are minimal while I'm going through this testing period.

Make a list of indicators that you must have as well as other special needs. Are you color blind and does one charting service offer only colors that will prove indistinguishable to you? If moving averages are offered only in combinations of blue and green, a quick glance may not tell you which is which. Will you consider a new charting service only if you can trade straight from the screen? Do you require more than ten days of intraday data and does a new charting service limit you to ten days or less?

To reiterate, even if you believe you've answered all necessary concerns, don't switch providers right away. Run both for at least several weeks, gradually spending more time studying the new provider's charts so that you can see if they provide you with that necessary quick snapshot view of the setup.

When you're considering a breakup with a love interest, your emotional and perhaps financial wellbeing are at stake. When you're considering a breakup with your charting service, your financial wellbeing is also at stake.

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