FX Trading Lesson 21: MetaTrader Forex Trading Platform

MetaTrader4-250173MetaTrader 4, also known as MT4, is an electronic trading platform widely used by online retail foreign exchange speculative traders. It was developed by MetaQuotes Software and released in 2005. The software is licensed to foreign exchange brokers who provide the software to their clients. The software consists of both a client and server component. The server component is run by the broker and the client software is provided to the broker’s customers, who use it to see live streaming prices and charts, to place orders, and to manage their accounts.

Functionality

The client terminal includes a built-in editor and compiler with access to a user contributed free library of software and help. The software utilizes a proprietary scripting language, MQL4, which enables traders to develop Expert Advisors, custom indicators and scripts.

MT4 is designed to be used as a standalone system with the broker manually managing their position and this is a common configuration used by brokers. However a number of third party developers have written software bridges enabling integration with other financial trading systems for automatic hedging of positions.

The complete MetaTrader 4 package includes the following components:

  • MetaTrader 4 Client Terminal – the client part. Provided free by brokerages for real-time online trading and as Demo (practice trading) accounts. This provides trade operations, charts and technical analysis in real time. 50 basic indicators are included, each of which can be further customized. The software runs on Windows 98/2000/XP/Vista/7.
  • MetaTrader 4 Mobile – controls a trading account via mobile devices such as mobile phones or PDAs. Runs on Windows Pocket PC 2002/Mobile 2003. Newly released mobile versions also run on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.
  • MetaTrader 4 Server – the core of the system, the server part. Designed to handle user requests to perform trade operations, display and execution of warrants. Also, sends price quotes and news broadcasts, records and maintains archives. Works as a service. Does not have a separate interface.
  • MetaTrader 4 Administrator – is designed to remotely manage the server settings.
  • MetaTrader 4 Manager – designed to handle trade inquiries and manage customer accounts.
  • MetaTrader 4 Data Center – a specialized proxy server and can be an intermediary between the server and client terminals. It reduces the price quote sending load on the main server.

Advantages of the MetaTrader

The Forex market has adopted the MetaTrader 4 trading platform as the market standard and it is used by hundreds of brokers around the world. This was not a random decision, the MT4 platform offers advanced technology as well as enhanced security so the trader can open and close Forex positions without having to worry about the stability of their platform.

The following is a list of advantages offered by the Forex MetaTrader 4 platform:

  1. User Experience: Extremely user friendly interface, enabling new and experienced traders to trade this complex and volatile market with ease and comfort.
  2. Language: Users around the globe can benefit from the MT4 platform and all its data, in their own language.
  3. Charts: In addition to the MT4’s advanced and user friendly trading features, the platform also offers advanced charting capabilities. This of course enables traders to trade and analyze the technical aspects of the market simultaneously.
  4. Expert Advisors: This is a very popular and important feature in the MT4 feature portfolio. Expert Advisors enable traders to automate their trades with a customized EA that best fits their needs.
  5. Communication: The MT4 platform also incorporates advanced communication tools for brokers to post messages and communicate with their traders in real time. This of course prevents the need for long and complicated email threads and makes the trader’s experience that much simpler.
  6. Low Resources: Unlike many other platforms, the MT4 platform is relatively low on resources, meaning it keeps its disruption of your PC to a minimum. This also enables the platform to react faster, making it possible to implement the trades and traders’ requests immediately.
  7. Profiles: Users can also view account information from within the actual platform interface. Some of the details available include account balance, trading history, access details, as well as password information.
  8. Security: When you are dealing with a sensitive and private issue like Forex trading, you are going to want to know that you are not in danger of attacks and hacks on your account. MT4 is a highly secure platform that encrypts the data between trader and server with a 129-bit key. The trader’s IP address is also completely concealed.
  9. Flexibility: The MT4 platform was engineered to support all currency crosses as well as the ability to trade other markets such as commodities, futures, and equities.
  10. Customization: As if all of the above was not enough, the MT4 supports full customization features, so the trader can tailor the platform to meet their trading needs and practices. This includes the ability to develop your own Expert advisors as well as technical indicators using the MT4’s advanced proprietary MQL programming language.

MetaTrader 4 Installation

The MetaTrader 4 program can be downloaded directly from MetaQuotes Software’s dedicated MT4 web site (metatrader4.com) or through any of the large number of forex brokers that offer the program. Installation only takes a few minutes with a high-speed Internet connection. After clicking on “Download”, a MetaTrader 4 Setup window will appear, as shown in Figure 1. Read the license agreement, and then click “Next” to begin the installation.

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Figure 1: The MetaTrader 4 setup window appears after clicking “Download.”

A new window, shown in Figure 2, will appear, giving the trader the option to accept the default installation folder or specify a different one. There are also options to create a desktop shortcut and to launch the program after successful installation. By default, these options are selected; simply click the box to uncheck the selection. Click “Next” to continue.

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Figure 2: Selecting an installation folder.

A new window will appear (Figure 3) that shows the installation progress. Once all the tasks have been completed, click “Next” to continue.

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Figure 3: Installation progress.

Following successful installation, MT4 will launch with its default parameters, as illustrated in Figure 4. A pop-up window will appear, prompting the trader to open an account. Fill in the fields for name, country, state, city, zip code, address, phone and email. Select the account type, currency, desired leverage and hypothetical deposit from the drop-down menus. This account will automatically be a demo account – where traders can practice using the program without risking real money – unless the trader has opened and funded a trading account with a forex broker. “I agree to subscribe to your newsletters” must be selected in order for the “Next” button to appear. Click on “Next” to complete the process. Once the account has been successfully created, the data will automatically begin to update, and the price charts will come to life.

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Figure 4: After successful installation, the MT4 program will launch and prompt the user to open an account. The “I agree to subscribe to your newsletter” box (here, in the yellow ellipse) must be checked to complete the installation.

MetaTrader 4 Platform Basic Navigation

By default, MT4 opens with four chart windows, each representing a different currency pair. The toolbars, populated with many icons, are located at the top of the screen. Below the toolbars, on the left side of the screen, is the “Market Watch” window, which lists a variety of currency pairs along with corresponding bid and ask prices. Two tabs are located at the bottom of the “Market Watch” window: One is called “Symbols,” which shows this list of currency pairs. The other is called “Tick Charts;” this tab can be selected to show the current price activity of any of the currency pairs.

Below the “Market Watch” window is the “Navigator” window. Here, traders can view their account(s), as well as a variety of indicators, “Expert Advisors” and “Scripts.” These features will be described in the Advanced Features section of this tutorial.

The “Terminal” appears at the bottom of the screen with six tabs: Trade, Account History, Alerts, Mailbox, Experts and Journal. Traders can click each tab to become familiar with the type of information that appears in each tab. The “Trade” tab, for example, is where open orders and trades can be viewed, including the symbol, trade entry price, stop loss levels, take profit levels, closing price and profit or loss. The “Account History” tab, on the other hand, lists all of the activity that has occurred, including closed orders. Figure 5 shows the different sections of the MT4 screen.

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Figure 5: The different sections of the MT4 screen.

Charts and Settings

The price charts can be customized to reflect the trader’s style and color preferences. Right-click on any price chart and select “Properties” to customize the appearance of the chart. Several default color schemes appear in the “Color Scheme” drop-down menu at the top of the “Colors” tab. Traders also have the option to specify colors for each variable, including background, foreground, grid, and bar colors. The “Common” tab allows traders to select if they would like certain features, such as volume, to appear on the chart. Figure 6 shows an example of the “Properties” window pop-up.

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Figure 6: The “Properties” window can be accessed by right-clicking on any price chart and selecting “Properties.”

Templates

Once a color scheme has been selected, it can be saved as a template. Click on the “Template” icon in the top toolbar and select “Save Template.” Give the template a name, and the new template will appear in the drop-down list of templates. This template can now be applied to any chart simply by clicking on the “Template” icon and selecting the desired template from the drop-down list.

Price Bars

Traders can also select how price will appear on each chart. With a chart selected, click on the desired icon to apply bar, candlestick or line price data. Hovering the cursor over any icon will cause the icon’s name to appear. This is helpful when learning the function of each icon. The chart type can also be selected by clicking “Charts” in the top toolbar and choosing the desired type from the drop-down menu.

Indicators

A variety of technical analysis indicators can be added to any price chart. Click on the “Add Indicators” icon in the top toolbar to view a list of available indicators and make a selection. Figure 7 shows an example of the “Add Indicators” drop-down menu. This menu can also be accessed by clicking “Insert” on the top toolbar and selecting “Indicators.” Many indicators are categorized under the type of indicator, such as trends, oscillators and volumes, and can be found under the appropriate heading. Once an indicator is selected, the trader will have the option to change inputs, such as moving average length, or use the default settings. The indicator will then appear on the price chart.

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Figure 7: Click on the “Add Indicators” icon in the top toolbar to access a list of technical indicators that can be applied to any price chart.

Chart Size

Any price chart can be closed, maximized, minimized or restored by right-clicking on the chart’s tab under the chart windows. Figure 8, for example, shows the window and corresponding choices that appear after right-clicking on the tab for the EURUSD currency pair.

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Figure 8: Each chart can be closed, maximized, minimized or restored by right-clicking on the currency pair\’s tab under the chart window.

Zoom

Traders may find it helpful at times to be able to take a closer look at a price chart. The top toolbar’s “Zoom In” and “Zoom Out” icons can be clicked to get a different view of the chart. The “Zoom In” feature allows traders to take a closer look at a smaller data set; each successive click on the “Zoom In” icon will provide a more close-up view of the chart. The opposite holds true for the “Zoom Out” icon, which can be clicked to return the chart to its original appearance.

Time Frames

Different time frames can be applied to a chart either by clicking on the “Periods” icon or by selecting the desired time frame from the toolbar, as shown in Figure 9. M1 represents a one-minute time frame, M5 a five-minute time frame, H1 a one-hour, and so on. Many traders like to watch the same trading symbol on multiple time frames. If monitor space is an issue and multiple charts of the same symbol are not practical, traders can switch back and forth between time frames using these easy-to-access toolbar icons.

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Figure 9: Different time frames can be applied to a chart by clicking on the “Periods” icon and selecting from the drop-down list, or by clicking on the desired icon in the toolbar.

Drawing Tools

Traders can use a variety of drawing tools to enhance their market analysis. Objects such as vertical lines, horizontal lines, trendliness, channels and Fibonacci Retracements can be drawn. Each drawing tool has its own icon located in the toolbar. Additional drawing tools, such as Gann lines, can be found by clicking “Insert” on the top toolbar and selecting from a variety of tools.

Connection Status

The bottom right corner of the screen shows a status icon that indicates if the platform is connected to the Internet and capable of receiving market updates. Red bars indicate there is no connection. Conversely, green bars indicate there is a connection, and the adjacent number displays the speed of the connection.

MetaTrader 4 Setting Up a Trade

Connecting to Data Centers/Live Accounts and Historical Data

Once MetaTrader 4 has been launched, an account opened (even a demo account), and the connection confirmed, traders should be viewing live market data. If the status icon in the lower right-hand corner shows there is a connection but the charts are still not updating, clicking on “Charts” and then selecting “Refresh” should allow the data to start loading properly. Many traders wish to review historical data in order to backtest trading strategies, or determine how a strategy would have performed in the past. This historical data can be downloaded through MT4’s History Center:

  • First, make sure that the setting for the maximum number of bars can accommodate the data that will be downloaded, assuming 1,440 minute bars each day (60 minutes per hour multiplied by 24 hours), for example. In MT4, click on “Tools” and select Options >Charts>Max Bars in History to enter the maximum number of bars.
  • Open the History Center: Click on “Tools” and select “History Center.”
  • Choose the instrument and time frame, double-clicking to populate the database on the right-hand side of the window. Select the desired data (Ctrl + Click to select more than one), and then click “Download.” An example can be seen in Figure 10.
  • If desired, the data can be exported in a variety of formats. Directions can be found in the MT4 user guide by clicking “Help” and selecting “Help Topics.”

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Figure 10: Downloading daily AUDCAD data in the History Center.

Opening and Modifying Orders

Once a trader is ready to enter an order into the market, the “Order” window will have to be opened. This can be accomplished in any of three ways, as illustrated in Figure 11:

  1. Right-clicking on a currency pair in the “Market Watch” window and selecting “New Trade;”
  2. Right-clicking on an active chart and selecting Trade>New Order; and
  3. Clicking on the “New Order” button in the toolbar.

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Figure 11: There are three ways to open a new “Order” window: 1) In the “Market Watch” window; 2) On an active chart; 3) In the toolbar.

Any method will open the same “Order” window, shown in Figure 12. Here, traders must select the:

  • “Symbol” from the drop-down list at the top (this will automatically be set to the symbol on the active chart). A corresponding tick chart appears in the left pane.
  • “Volume”in terms of lot size. 1.0 is equal to 1 lot, or 100,000 units. Many traders select smaller volumes.
  • “Stop Loss” and “Take Profit”if the platform supports this option. If MT4 is downloaded through certain brokers, these fields will be user-definable. Otherwise, these fields will remain blank (but the orders can still be entered later).
  • “Type,”either “Market Execution” (a market order) or “Pending Order” where the trader can specify the desired entry price.”Sell by Market” or “Buy by Market,”depending on the desired trade direction.
  • Click “Okay”to close the window.

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Figure 12: The MT4 Order window.

The open order can be viewed in the “Terminal” window by clicking on the “Trade” tab.

To modify an order, such as to add a protective stop loss order and/or a take profit (profit target) order, highlight the trade in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal, right-click and select “Modify or Delete Order.” This is shown in Figure 13.

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Figure 13: Right-click on the trade in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal to modify or delete the order.

A window will open where traders can manually specify stop loss and/or take profit levels. The “Copy As” buttons can be clicked to populate the stop loss and take profit fields with the current price. Changes can then be made to the prices to achieve the desired stop loss and take profit levels. Once valid levels are specified, the trade can be entered by clicking on the long, horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen. This bar will be highlighted only when valid stop loss and/or take profit levels have been entered (at least 10 pips away from the trade entry level); otherwise, the bar will remain grey and inactive. Figure 14 shows an example of the “Modify or Delete Order” window.

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Figure 14: Adding stop loss and take profit (profit target) orders to an open order.

Once stop loss and take profit values are specified, they will appear on the chart as horizontal lines at the corresponding price levels. This makes it easy for traders to monitor open trades. An example can be viewed in Figure 15. A trailing stop can be added in conjunction with the protective stop loss order that allows the stop level to move up (in the case of a long position) or move down (in a short position) a specified amount. A trailing stop can be entered by right-clicking on an open position in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal, and selecting “Trailing Stop” and the desired stop level.

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Figure 15: Stop loss and take profit (profit target) levels will appear as horizontal lines at the appropriate price level.

Closing Orders and Checking Transaction History

From here, the trade will be closed once price hits the stop loss, trailing stop or take profit level. The trade can be closed at any time by highlighting the trade in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal, right-clicking and selecting “Close Order,” as shown in Figure 16.

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Figure 16: Trades can be closed by right-clicking on an open trade in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal, and selecting “Close Order.”

After selecting “Close Order”, a window will appear prompting the trader to confirm that the trade should be closed. This window can also be opened by double-clicking on the trade in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal. Once the window appears, the yellow horizontal bar at the bottom of the window can be clicked to close the trade, as shown in Figure 17. It should be noted that trades can also be closed by opening an opposing position. For example, if the trade is long 1.0 EURUSD, that position can be closed by opening a short 1.0 EURUSD position. This is sometimes referred to as stop-and-reverse, or SAR, method.

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Figure 17: To close a trade, trades can open the “Close Order” window and click on the yellow bar.

All open trade activity can be viewed in the “Trade” tab of the Terminal, and all account history will appear in the “Account History” tab of the Terminal.