Multi-Purpose Tools Are Wonderful – Sometimes

A single kitchen tool can be powerful. A single investing tool can be too.

It has been some time since my last “tool” post. Some multipurpose tools do one thing well and other things not so well. I have found this to be true of some kitchen gadgets. But some kitchen tools are versatile and useful for many things. For example, a fry pan can cook many different dishes or foods or just do my eggs sunny side up. The same can be said for investing tools.

Investing Multi-Purpose Tool

Fidelity Investments: Active Trader Pro screen during the trading day

One extremely useful tool for investing is Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro software (ATP). ATP does many things well. The image of my desktop illustrates how I assembled the screens I use to capture various information and to monitor and enter trades or price alerts. These screens help me evaluate our existing investments (stocks and ETFs) or investments I am considering. Here are some of the main parts of this investing multi-purpose tool. This is just a taste, not the full banquet of options.

The Key Benefits of ATP

ATP is more powerful than you can imagine. It is much like Excel. There are so many ways to enter and view, sort, rearrange and manage numbers in Excel that even experts don’t use everything Microsoft has built into the tool. I’m an advanced user, and I still learn about new functions that are helpful from time-to-time. Therefore, I am only sharing a small slice of the ATP functionality. The tool parts that I illustrated from my desktop are:

  1. Trading Tool 1: The first tool is not only a great way to enter a buy or sell order, it is how I monitor the Bid/Ask prices and transaction activity for a position I own or one I might want to buy or sell. For a stock like AAPL, this screen moves quickly during the normal trading hours. But this tool has a second power. I am authorized to do pre-market open and post-market close trades. This window gives me the ability to enter trades outside of normal market hours based on news and trading reactions. This tool is A+.
  2. Trading Tool 2: My goodness do I like the tool Fidelity calls “Trade Armor.” I always enter my buy/sell and options orders using this tool when the market is open. When I enter an order, I can usually see it appear in Tool 1. Trade Armor has some issues that most wouldn’t notice, but it is better tool than the web version for buy/sell orders. I can enter an order much faster using TA. Furthermore, because Fidelity has given me authority to trade options, I can enter my “covered call” orders using this tool. It is like a wonderful penknife because I can also enter price alerts. I usually have price alerts on all of my positions, including ETFs. I also enter some price alerts for stocks, and ETFs I am considering. This tool rates an “A.”
  3. Charts: While I no longer day trade, I still like to look at the chart for a position I might buy or one I own. This helps me think about the price I might want to pay for a position. Seeing how the stock behaves during a day can be beneficial. This tool is an “A” as well.
  4. Portfolio Positions and Watch Lists: It is true that you can see and download positions from Fidelity’s web positions page. But this tool is turbocharged.  You can select and sequence the fields you want to see and can see individual accounts or all accounts. You have more fields to select than you can get from the standard Fidelity web positions download. I download data from this to CSV so that I can analyze dividend-specific aspects of our holdings. The two screens here show some of the power of this tool. But it doesn’t stop there. You can also enter and monitor watch lists from this tool. It is an “A++” in my mind. See the two screen shots below.
  5. Find Positions in All Accounts: Most investors have 2-3 accounts. I manage six accounts for my wife and me, six accounts for our grandchildren, two accounts for Cindie’s brother and even some accounts for friends who want my help. I cannot always remember who has what, so this tool saves time knowing where I hold positions. For example, I hold ETF’s like VYM in more than five accounts including the UTMA accounts for our grandchildren. This tool rates an “A” because I use it every time a dividend is announced. See the screen shot below.
  6. Indices like the S&P 500: I want to know how some key indices are behaving. For example, I want to see how small cap, mid-cap and large cap investments are performing. I’m also interested in sectors like gold, utilities, transportation, oil & gas, and banking. During trading hours these windows are usually constantly changing. This is helpful, but I give it a “C+” only because I don’t really trade based on market behavior. That is why these are at the bottom of the screen.
  7. Tickers for all positions: It is nice to see the tickers scrolling along the bottom, but I don’t use it very often. At a glance I can see if a position is up (green) or down (red.) I can also see the current price and the percentage gain or loss for the day at any point in time. In terms of usefulness, this is a “B”.
(4) Setting up “Positions” view in ATP – example one.
(4) Setting up Positions in ATP – my dividend fields.
(5) An example of “Find Position in All Accounts.”

Wrapping It Up

Even with all of this, I have only shown you less than 1% of the power of ATP. You can look at open orders, your individual watch lists, news, in-depth options trading details, and robust charting tools. Each of the choices on the top menu have selections and sub-selections.  If you want to learn more go to this Fidelity link: