Computers were meant to do this kind of thing.
September 18, 2007 6:29 PM   Subscribe

How can a non-programmer automate their stock market screening and timing process? (semi-long explanation inside.)

I've been helping my pal with his elaborate, many-years-in-the-making stock screening and timing process. I moved him from pen and paper to websites and Excel, but it's still labor intensive. He spends hours a day combing through data, inputting by hand, and formatting charts.

What's the best data/programming method a non-programmer like me can use to automate this process?

What he's actually doing is simple database-like functions. If he were screening for WalMart employees, he would be doing queries like "find all bachelors over forty with brown eyes and German surnames who have lived at the same address for five years."

Since some stock data changes from day to day, I'd like his to be able to download data into some kind of an app, and have it automagically pick the stocks he'd be interested in. Oh, and I have to be able to change the screening process, as he tends to tinker with it. (So far, to his benefit.)

No need to do real time, but a couple of times a day would be good. The data source need to be comprehensive, because he tracks all kinds of things beyond my ken like P/E, float, and capital expenditures.

I know enough FileMaker to kludge something together, but it's not much better than Excel. I'd really like a way to build an app that would download the data and offer the answers.

Thanks for any and all solutions!
posted by ScarletPumpernickel to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about going to rentacoder or a related site and paying $250 or so for someone to do it?
posted by true at 6:31 PM on September 18, 2007

Some brokerages have pretty sophisticated screening features right on their websites. Fidelity, for example, lets you make a very complicated screen (pages and pages of possible variables) and then save the screen in your account. Your friend would have to log in and hit "run screen" (rather than having an automagical delivery), but, still, it's pretty good. I'm sure others will have recommendations for other brokerages that offer the same thing. One caution: Charles Schwab has really rudimentary screening as compared to Fidelity.

There is a $2,500 minimum to open a Fidelity account, I think. Maybe it'd be worth it to park that amount there in order to access the screening software?
posted by Mid at 6:35 PM on September 18, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the rapid response.

true: a coder would have to build a toolkit, so my friend could change parameters and calculations. Also, he's not sharing his secret sauce with a coder. So the whole thing would have to be general and configurable. Do you think I could get someone to build that for $250? On a Mac?

Mid: My pal is on Schwab, and isn't leaving. Are there any other places he can access great tools like Fidelity's?

P.S. -- where would we get the data to download?
posted by ScarletPumpernickel at 6:59 PM on September 18, 2007

He might able to at least whittle down the starting list of stocks with some broad screens using Yahoo's Stock Screener.
posted by jclovebrew at 7:08 PM on September 18, 2007

But he doesn't need to leave Schwab -- just open a small account at Fidelity, invest it in a CD or something, and knock yourself out with the screening tools (which you can then use to invest your Schwab money).
posted by Mid at 7:31 PM on September 18, 2007

Telechart by Worden. I use it daily. Program is pretty good, although it occasionally crashes. I just restart it and no issues. If you want real-time look at Tradestation. I use it too, but do not use them as a broker so I pay per month.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:45 PM on September 18, 2007

You could not get any sort of custom built software for tracking and measuring company performance for $250, at least not anything that would really be useful. Creating a general toolkit for tracking numbers and graphing/measuring them over time has already been done, and its not trivial -- see Excel for example. Also, the idea of some coder being able to do this without knowing the details of the domain (ie the "secret sauce") is ludicrous. The only reason you would have this custom built would be for it to be tailored to how your friend tracks and understands the stock market, which would require the programmer working closely with your friend. Otherwise he should just stick with excel.

I think trying to use either the web based tools mentioned earlier or the desktop apps would be the best bet, versus trying to reinvent the wheel and build his own software for this. That or tell him to learn vb for excel, or some simple ruby or python, and build it himself.
posted by rsanheim at 8:21 PM on September 18, 2007

I'm not suggesting a full custom built app - just really nice excel that scrapes publicly available sites using the web query functionality and allows him to choose / manipulate the available data via filters and queries. It would provide a decent framework that you (or a trusted party) could plug formulas into.

I've done this from many fantasy football sites for my yearly draft as well as the SSA for baby names. As long as the data is out there in tabular format somewhere you can see in a browser excel can be a very powerful tool.
posted by true at 8:27 PM on September 18, 2007

I am in the process of coding my own such system at the moment, and it is a lot of work collecting the data, cleaning it, and storing it. I get my data from Yahoo, and while the current day data is good, getting historical data for back testing is not easy, and the sources of free historical data do not have the detail he is looking for. I would recommend he go with one of the commercial products available. I would, except that I just like the coding part and am having fun working on it as a hobby.
posted by procrastination at 8:42 PM on September 18, 2007

Also, I'd be shocked if you couldn't get something that would be at least a good starting point for $250 from Rentacoder.

Import financial data from the web into excel - $200.
Financial screen scraping into MySQL - $175. What appears to be an actual trading system - $500
posted by true at 8:52 PM on September 18, 2007

Stock exchange analysis system, featuring shares pricing watch, intraday and history charts with technical analysis indicators, level II/market depth view, news watching, automated trading systems, integrated trading. Based on Eclipse RCP framework.

Eclipse Trader is an opensource java application you might consider. Via
posted by acro at 10:01 PM on September 18, 2007

So your buddy does technical analysis (as opposed to fundamental analysis). As others have mentioned, $250 is a bit unrealistic...and a drop in the bucket if your buddy is for real.

Pick up a copy of Futures magazine and flip through the ads. There are plenty of automated trading systems out there.
posted by randomstriker at 2:07 AM on September 19, 2007

Fidelity's Wealth Lab Pro, which is a fully customizable trading platform that is part of Fidelity's Active Trader Pro.

I'm a buy-and-hold kind of guy, so I haven't used it - just peered under the hood - but I have trouble imagining any strategy you couldn't hack this thing to carry out.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:40 AM on September 19, 2007

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