I used to think taking a trade once every few minutes was considered HIGH FREQUENCY TRADING. At least for a human being this may be considered as a truth, but no matter how fast you think you are, there are computers running bots that are trading much much faster.

This is no great revelation, starting in the 1980's and the beginning of computerized trading our fathers (for the younger guys) and some of you who were in the game back then can remember how computer programmers started to outwit their human counterparts and the market by using computer algorithms to automatically trade so fast that the scales of probability were tipped in their favor. After all, it's much simpler to scalp the market of 1 pip or less with huge amounts of shares thousands of times each day as opposed to trying to make one great trade with just a few shares; even though the amount of profit earned may be the same in both cases, the odds of executing a successful trade (or many successful trades) dramatically increases if you are exposing yourself to an open position for only a few milliseconds.

This is the main theme of a new favorite book of mine by Barron's editor Jim McTague, "Crapshoot Investing: How Tech-Savvy Traders and Clueless Regulators Turned the Stock Market into a Casino"

As one person succinctly put it, thanks to "high technology of super heated computers, collocation, and amazing algorithmic programs, information can be gathered, stocks bought and then sold all in a matter of seconds to milliseconds resulting in profits of a tenth of a cent to a cent per share traded....some nine billion shares are traded daily and the yearly take is between two and twenty billion dollars."

And that's just in the stock market.

But doesn't that sound familiar to anyone here?

Jim McTague the author of the book put it perfectly by saying, when we listen to the weatherman say it's going to rain tomorrow, we expect rain because the forecast for tomorrow is usually very accurate - not always but generally he's always on point. When the weatherman says it will rain 3 weeks from now, we are less inclined to find his prediction as exact. Trading is no different; a human being can analyze the market and make a prediction for the position of price tomorrow and it will be far more accurate than that same analyst's prediction for the position of price 3 weeks from now. Drill that down from a prediction of price tomorrow, to a prediction of price 10 minutes from now or even 10 seconds from now. You're infinitely more likely to determine that EURUSD which is at 1.4131 will be at 1.4135 in ten seconds, but saying 1.4131 will be at 1.4140 10 minutes from now is much more difficult and anyone would scoff at such a prediction, rightly so.

So, programmers have upped the ante, so to speak, by making their "bots" be able to execute these trades open and close within a fraction of a second, not so much to be more "accurate" than a human being (in the general sense), but in order to remove layers upon layers of risk associated with trying to be accurate (by means of prediction) by executing a complete trade, open/close within a few seconds or even milliseconds.

I hope that makes sense to most of you, being a manual trader for years and watching charts, I just understand the power of trading that way immediately. But where I need to try to find high probability trades which include being enough pips for me to outweigh the risks of loss, (I try to make 10 pips or more), these bots (and the masters of these bots) need to only shoot to make a pip or less and are still infinitely more profitable than I am since they take hundreds or thousands of trades each day and I only take 3 or 4. Despite all these fancy tools and "proven" methods of trying to earn 10 pips or more per trade, all of that is incidental to a HFT Bot that does nothing less than cheat, removing all those principles we as traders learned and need to guide us into finding good trades and against losing trades - neither of which is guaranteed. If you have a HFT Bot, profit is almost guaranteed by price constantly ticking up and down hundreds or thousands of times each minute, so long as the algorithm is generally precise enough to determine that an entry "here" will afford the order a few ticks in the "right" direction; and as said, since price is constantly ticking up and down it's nearly certain that the bots will profit.

Why can't people do this in Forex?
I think that you will find, not easily, that the answer is they already are. But as with stocks, ordinary human beings who even wanted to try HFT bots will run into some resistance. When I first started I remember some fail safes against this that brokers tried to implement, some time limit rules, your order will only count if it is open for 2 minutes. There were stories of "traders" coming to the forum to complain that their account was "gobbled up" by their broker but when they mentioned trading 10 times a minute we kind of understood why. Also, in Forex we individual traders with very small accounts and high leverage sign contracts that all but prohibit us from being able to trade in any great frequency.

But they (the HFT Bot owners) have direct access to the market, most of we retail traders must go to these banks or brokers to enter trades, and we must pay a fee, either in commission, in the spread, or both. This fact severely limits our ability to take a trade and profit off of a 1 pip move, instead to be a true high frequency scalper, depending on our broker and our contracts we need to see trades go 2, sometimes 3+ pips in our favor (the best spreads I've ever seen were .4 on EURUSD) so 1.4-2 pip moves to be precise to profit 1 pip. 100 trades like that a day = 100 pips per day times (x) lot size could equal $1000 or more. Now, I theorize it is still possible to profit in such a way but using retail platforms like MT4 make it a much tougher task. In fact, I'd contend using tick charts and your own proprietary software (and finding a broker like Dukascopy) that will let you enter the market with their API + your own software would be a logical start. Being such a poor programmer myself, that's where my road ends in trying to accomplish this myself, but I'm almost certain that it is possible in Forex trading for anyone up to the challenge and able to have a system that all but guarantees a 1 or 2 pip gain for every entry it makes. Of course I've seen times on my tick charts where price will not revisit (or oscillate) around the entry and go against the theoretical HPT Bot's entry level, in which case the bot would need to exit at a loss, a much bigger loss than a handful of it's winning trades combined, so it's not all gravy, you need to have a solid method only taking trades in the correct direction as frequently as possible to far outweigh the inevitable losses.

Getting back to McTague's book, one reviewer said something interesting with respect to these two worlds clashing: "The book was very interesting showing how high frequency traders trade with no regard to the underlying businesses of stocks, trading them like chips on a roulette table, they simply game the stock for penny gains all day by programming computers with the odds of successful trades and front running orders by mutual funds and bigger money managers."

As I said in an earlier post, the fact that I and many of you are still alive in this industry, Forex specifically, we still have a place, but I wonder how long before bots take over Forex too. Listening to our programmer friends, it's clear that bots are hard at work 24/5 at major banks and financial institutions. If only we could figure out a way to put them to work for we "little guys" too.