Algorithmic Trading (2024)

Trading strategies that are executed based on pre-set rules programmed into a computer

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Algorithmic trading strategies involve making trading decisions based on pre-set rules that are programmed into a computer. A trader or investor writes code that executes trades on behalf of the trader or investor when certain conditions are met.

Algorithmic Trading (1)

Examples of Simple Trading Algorithms

  • Short 20 lots of GBP/USD if the GBP/USD rises above 1.2012. For every 5 pip rise in GBP/USD, cover the short by 2 lots. For every 5 pip fall in GBP/USD, increase the short position by 1 lot.
  • Buy 100,000 shares of Apple (AAPL) if the price falls below 200. For every 0.1% increase in price beyond 200, buy 1,000 shares. For every 0.1% decrease in price below 200, sell 1,000 shares.

Example of a Moving Average Trading Algorithm

Algorithmic Trading (2)

Moving average trading algorithms are very popular and extremely easy to implement. The algorithm buys a security (e.g., stocks) if its current market price is below its average market price over some period and sells a security if its market price is more than its average market price over some period. Here, we consider a 20-day moving average trading algorithm.

The algorithm buys shares in Apple (AAPL) if the current market price is less than the 20-day moving average and sells Apple shares if the current market price is more than the 20-day moving average. The green arrow indicates a point in time when the algorithm would’ve bought shares, and the red arrow indicates a point in time when this algorithm would’ve sold shares.

Advantages of Algorithmic Trading

1. Minimize market impact

A large trade can potentially change the market price. Such a trade is known as a distortionary trade because it distorts the market price. In order to avoid such a situation, traders usually open large positions that may move the market in steps.

For example, an investor wanting to buy one million shares in Apple might buy the shares in batches of 1,000 shares. The investor might buy 1,000 shares every five minutes for an hour and then evaluate the impact of the trade on the market price of Apple stocks. If the price remains unchanged, the investor will continue with his purchase. Such a strategy allows the investor to buy Apple shares without increasing the price. However, the strategy comes with two main drawbacks:

  • If the investor needs to pay a fixed fee for every transaction he makes, the strategy might incur significant transaction costs.
  • The strategy takes a significant amount of time to complete. In this case, if the investor buys 1,000 shares every five minutes, it would take him just over 83 hours (more than three days) to complete the trade.

A trading algorithm can solve the problem by buying shares and instantly checking if the purchase has had any impact on the market price. It can significantly reduce both the number of transactions needed to complete the trade and also the time taken to complete the trade.

2. Ensures rules-based decision-making

Traders and investors often get swayed by sentiment and emotion and disregard their trading strategies. For example, in the lead-up to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, financial markets showed signs that a crisis was on the horizon. However, a lot of investors ignored the signs because they were caught up in the “bull market frenzy” of the mid-2000s and didn’t think that a crisis was possible. Algorithms solve the problem by ensuring that all trades adhere to a predetermined set of rules.

Disadvantage of Algorithmic Trading

1. Miss out on trades

A trading algorithm may miss out on trades because the latter doesn’t exhibit any of the signs the algorithm’s been programmed to look for. It can be mitigated to a certain extent by simply increasing the number of indicators the algorithm should look for, but such a list can never be complete.

More Resources

To keep learning and developing your knowledge of Algorithmic Trading, we highly recommend the additional resources below:

Algorithmic Trading (2024)


Is algorithmic trading really profitable? ›

Is algo trading profitable? The answer is both yes and no. If you use the system correctly, implement the right backtesting, validation, and risk management methods, it can be profitable. However, many people don't get this entirely right and end up losing money, leading some investors to claim that it does not work.

What does algorithmic trading do? ›

Algorithmic trading combines computer programming and financial markets to execute trades at precise moments. Algorithmic trading attempts to strip emotions out of trades, ensures the most efficient execution of a trade, places orders instantaneously and may lower trading fees.

Is algorithmic trading illegal? ›

Yes, algo trading is legal. No rules are in place by any federal or financial regulatory body that prevent an individual from algo trading.

How can I start algorithmic trading? ›

How to Get Started with Algo Trading: A Step-by-Step Guide
  1. Step 1: Understand the Basics.
  2. Step 2: Choose Your Asset Class.
  3. Step 3: Select a Trading Platform.
  4. Step 4: Learn Programming.
  5. Step 5: Develop Your Trading Strategy. Technical Indicators. ...
  6. Step 6: Backtest Your Strategy.
  7. Step 7: Paper Trading.
  8. Step 8: Go Live.
Nov 6, 2023

Who is the most successful algo trader? ›

He built mathematical models to beat the market. He is none other than Jim Simons. Even back in the 1980's when computers were not much popular, he was able to develop his own algorithms that can make tremendous returns. From 1988 to till date, not even a single year Renaissance Tech generated negative returns.

How much does it cost to start algorithmic trading? ›

What Is The Exact Amount Required To Build An Algo Trading Software Online?
Algo Trading App TypeEstimated CostTime Frame
Simple App$40,000 to $75,0003 to 6 months
Moderately Complex App$75,000 to $135,0006 to 9 months
Highly Complex App$135,000 to $200,0009+ months

What are the disadvantages of algo trading? ›

  • Technical Glitches. Technical glitches can affect algorithmic trading, leading to issues like order execution delays and software bugs.
  • Market Volatility. ...
  • Over-Optimisation. ...
  • Lack of Human Judgment. ...
  • Data Accuracy. ...
  • Regulatory Concerns.

Is algorithmic trading risky? ›

However, it also carries significant risks: it's reliant on complex technology that can malfunction or be hacked, and high-frequency trading can amplify systemic risk. Market volatility, execution errors, and technical glitches are also potential hazards.

How much do algorithmic traders make? ›

Algorithmic Trading Salary. $81,000 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $91,000 is the 75th percentile.

Why does algo trading fail? ›

Yes, you will need to monitor your trades whether you are an algo-trader or a regular online trader. That is because the market can be irrational and unpredictable, even for the algorithm at times. In those scenarios, the algorithm may fail to make sense of the market.

Can you do algorithmic trading yourself? ›

Obviously, you're going to need a computer and an internet connection to become an algorithmic trader. After that, a suitable operating system is needed to run MetaTrader 4 (MT4), which is an electronic trading platform that uses the MetaQuotes Language 4 (MQL4) for coding trading strategies.

Do banks use algorithmic trading? ›

2.1. 2 Algorithmic Trading: Banks employ algorithmic trading strategies using bots to execute large orders across multiple markets, minimizing market impact and optimizing execution prices.

What is an example of algorithmic trading? ›

Examples of Simple Trading Algorithms

Buy 100,000 shares of Apple (AAPL) if the price falls below 200. For every 0.1% increase in price beyond 200, buy 1,000 shares. For every 0.1% decrease in price below 200, sell 1,000 shares.

What is the success rate of algorithmic trading? ›

The success rate of algorithmic trading varies depending on several factors, such as the quality of the algorithm, market conditions, and the trader's expertise. While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact success rate, some studies estimate that around 50% to 60% of algorithmic trading strategies are profitable.

What math do you need for algorithmic trading? ›

Prerequisite: Knowledge of linear algebra, probability, and a basic understanding of programing (preferably in Python). Some understanding of finance is preferred; exposure to linear regression is also preferred.

How much money can algorithmic trading make? ›

Based on the chosen strategies and capital allocation, the traders can make a lot of money while trading on the Algo Trading App. On average, if a trader goes for a 30% drawdown and uses the right strategy, they can make a whopping return of around 50 to 90%.

Is algo trading a good career? ›

While algorithmic trading offers numerous benefits, it also presents challenges: - Technical Complexity: Developing and maintaining algorithms requires strong programming skills. - Data Quality: The quality and accuracy of data used for trading are crucial.

Is it hard to learn algorithmic trading? ›

As you possess both technical and financial knowledge, then understanding and starting an algo-trade will not be a huge task. In algo-trading, you can set up a computer with some instructions and conditions, and the trade will be automated according to your instructions.


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