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Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Best Online Brokers of 2014

Rising stocks are everywhere: They’re on your desktop, your laptop, your tablet, and, increasingly, your phone.

Small investors can rightly complain about lots of things, but they can’t gripe that the historic 173% five-year gain of the Standard & Poor’s 500 was out of their reach. It has literally been at everyone’s fingertips. Online brokerages estimate that, on average, 15%-20% of retail trading now takes place on mobile devices, most of them Apple products that aren’t much older than the bull market. The thinking among brokerage executives is that investors use their smartphones to track the market and place trades during the business day, but once the sun sets, the tablets come out. Tablets give users more real estate on which to manage their portfolios, learn about the markets via streaming video, conduct research, and think up tomorrow’s trades.

"It’s clear that the devices we use, and the ways that we use them, are fundamentally changing, and that provides investors with room for growth, limited only by the creativity of the tools we provide,” says Ram Subramaniam, president of Fidelity Investments’ retail brokerage business.

IN RESEARCHING Barron’s 19th annual ranking of the best online brokers it was clear to us that personalizing each client’s trading and investing experience, regardless of time or location, was becoming a reality. It’s more than just hardware. Our top brokers let you customize everything from your trade ticket to your portfolio analysis reports, speeding you through placing orders while helping you—understand your gains and losses.

The entire article, and supporting tables, can be found here:  The Best Online Brokers of 2014

Published in Barron’s, March 17, 2014. 

Posted by twcarey on 03/22 at 01:16 PM
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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Fidelity Helps Traders Plan Exit Strategies

The firm’s online brokerage unit has integrated new software that helps frequent traders plot their escape. Also, TradeStation and Interactive Brokers.

Fidelity has just launched new software designed to help active stock traders get off at the right exit.

“We spent time with traders in their workplaces and in our labs, and what came up over and over is that people are good at identifying an entry point,” explains Ram Subramaniam, head of the firm’s brokerage unit. “But,” he adds, “when it came to getting out of a trade, things got a lot looser.”

As a result, Fidelity has created Trade Armor, which has been integrated into Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro, a downloadable program for the firm’s most frequent buyers and sellers. It helps guide them through various exits by tapping into its graphical layouts and technical tools.

The Trade Armor graphs display price support and resistance levels for a stock, along with your entry price (if you already have a position). You are led through the process of setting up a closing order, including placing bracket orders, in which you create a profit target or stop-loss level at which you want to sell.

When entering a new position, you also can set up the exit order and have the target prices displayed on the graph with triangular flags. You can modify your exit order by dragging the flags up and down the price chart. Those exit orders aren’t sent to the market until the price hits the right marks and can be executed. Otherwise, your exit orders would be out there for much of the world to see.

TRADESTATION HAS MADE major changes to the way its customers can develop and share tools they’ve created.

The online broker’s newly launched TradingApp Store ( lists a variety of technical-analysis tools, order-placement utilities, pairs trading, and charting tools that can be downloaded and added to your TradeStation platform. The firm sponsors a TradingApp contest that lets other TradeStation customers rate the available apps. Some apps are free, such as Exhilaration ETF, a trading strategy that buys when an exchange-traded-fund price pulls back and then exits, hopefully with a profit, after a few days. Others carry a subscription (which mostly range from $20 to $100 a month), such as Solidus Time Sales Pro, which identifies large volume trades, useful for active futures, stocks, and ETFs. Usually $20 a month, this app carries an introductory monthly price of $5.

What I find interesting about the TradingApp Store is that those who are conversant in TradeStation’s programming suite EasyLanguage can generate a little extra income by sharing their tool with others. TradeStation has had ways for its developers to share the tools they’ve written, but the store makes it much easier to sort through them and find what you want. And other customers will pay for the app, which TradeStation then deposits into your account.

Investors with more than $100,000 in assets at the broker now get the $99.95 monthly platform fee waived. That makes it accessible to less frequent traders.

INTERACTIVE BROKERS, Barron’s No. 1 online broker last year, has added some new wrinkles, especially for options traders.

The new Strategy Builder generates a multi-leg option order as you click on prices displayed in an options chain. As you click on the contracts you want, the tool recognizes the strategy you’re creating. For instance, if you buy a March call on Microsoft (ticker: MSFT) and sell an April call, Strategy Builder will identify that as a calendar spread, and let you further analyze the potential profitability before actually making the trade. The firm has also added the ability to create a delta-neutral options strategy with one click of the Delta Hedge button. This will add an appropriate-size stock leg to the strategy to make it delta-neutral, which is intended to balance out the effects of price changes as markets move.

You can pore over options strategies in IB’s new Option Strategy Lab, which lets you look at potential profit and loss based on your forecast for a stock’s price or volatility. You can enter “ Tesla Motors’ (TSLA) stock price will increase 20% by March 14.” The Lab lists the possible strategies that could profit from your forecast. You can then weigh them before making the trade. You can take that forecast even further in the Probability Lab, which lets you pit your forecasts against market probabilities, and build potentially profitable spreads graphically. Not bad.

Published in Barron’s, March 3, 2014. 

Posted by twcarey on 03/08 at 12:01 PM
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Saturday, March 01, 2014

Farewell to my Favorite Father-in-Law

Robert Stanley Carey
May 10, 1927 - February 26, 2014

Robert S. (Bob) Carey passed away in Portola Valley, peacefully at home after a short illness. Bob was a beloved husband of more than 66 years to his wife, Myrtle (Myrt) Ciprian Carey. He was a loving father and mentor to his five children (and their spouses), Robert (Vance) of Watsonville, Kent (Theresa) of Palo Alto, Dawn (Stephen Schaniel) of Los Gatos, Paul (Natasha) of Mountain View and Glen (Lynn) of Palo Alto.

Bob was much loved by his 10 grandchildren and two step-granchildren, Kyle (Kelly), Kenneth, Colleen, Kate, Stephanie Schaniel, Stacie Schaniel, Clay, Kristen, Philip, Elizabeth, Nick Tuosto (Sarah) and Jessica Tuosto. He was a devoted brother to Dorothy Howe.

Bob was born in Kansas City, Mo. and raised in Chicago, Ill., where he met Myrt in their early teens. Myrt and Bob married in November 1947 and moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., where in 1952, he received Bachelor of Science degrees in Metallurgical and Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan. Bob moved from Michigan to California to work for Union Oil as a refinery corrosion engineer shortly after graduation. In 1958, he became involved in the aerospace industry at Aerojet, first in San Ramon and then in Southern California to participate in the Space Race. When Voyager didn’t see life on Mars, Bob turned his engineering talents to the medical research instruments industry, working at Beckman Instruments in Palo Alto as Chief Metallurgical Engineer and moving his family to Ladera in Portola Valley.

Bob had a passion for reading, playing racquetball and golf, traveling the world, watching Giants baseball and attending college football games. He also enjoyed attending his children and grandchildren’s many activities, including numerous sports, performances and plays. He was head umpire for Alpine Little League in the late 1960s. Bob was an Elk from 1976 through 2004. After retiring in 1991 from Beckman, he spent many pleasant Tuesdays as a golf marshall at the Stanford Golf Course until last year.

Foremost, Bob was a loving, lifelong companion to Myrt. His legacy is that of a mentor with a strong moral compass, who led by example with warmth and grace.

A celebration of Bob’s life will be held at 2PM on Saturday, March 15, at Ladera Community Church, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley CA 94028.  There will be a reception in Peabody Hall following the service. 

Donations in Bob’s honor may be made to The Canary Foundation (, or to the Ladera Community Church Endowment fund by check.  The Endowment Fund makes sizable donations each year to local organizations fighting poverty. 

Posted by twcarey on 03/01 at 12:36 PM
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