What Do You Need to Trade & Track Stocks & Commodities?

To successfully trade stocks or commodities, you will need appropriate tools to track and analyze security values and to place trades into the markets. The successful trader must have the right computer and software tools as well as a well designed trading plan. There is a wide range of services available and the best for you is based on the products you want to trade and the type of trading you want to do.

Stocks and Commodity Brokers

An early decision to make in setting up yourself as a trader is picking a broker. Most brokers will handle either stocks or commodities. The two types are regulated by different agencies and most brokers trade in either stocks or commodities. If you plan to trade both stocks and commodities you must select from the handful of brokers that allow trading in both stocks and commodity futures. A broker's homepage makes it obvious for which types of products the firm is licensed.

Broker Trading System

Most brokers will provide an online trading platform which will allow you to check your account positions, look up security prices and place buy and sell orders. The stock brokerage firms are more likely to offer advanced trading information such as price charts and technical indicators through an online interface.

Commodity futures brokers are more likely to offer a software trading system that you download and install on your trading computer. The brokers software allows analysis and trading services through a data link. Any system offered by a broker will keep track of the trade positions you have open and the value of your trading account.

Third Party Tools

Advanced trading software systems are offered by third-party vendors. Some brokers -- typically commodity futures brokers -- offer a list of third-party trading software systems. You can often try out trading software on a demo account to see if you like the interface and trading tools. Third party trading software usually costs extra, most often in the form of a monthly lease payment charged to your trading account. A data feed from some brokers into third-party trading systems may also cost extra.

Reporting Tools

An important part of trading is tracking trade results. A broker will provide a record of every trade you make but the data may not help you gauge your trading success and file taxes at the end of the year. An additional piece of useful trading software is some type of separate trade and results tracking system. Both downloadable software and online systems are available. A reporting system should pull trade data from your brokerage account and organize that data into more useful forms.

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About the Author

Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.