MetaTrader is the leading retail Forex trading platform with its MetaTrader 4 (MT4) and MetaTrader 5 (MT5) platforms dominating the retail-user market with over 50% market share. The vast majority of FX brokers continue to offer either MT4 or MT5 or both. If you’re interested in a deeper look into how MetaTrader compares with its nearest retail rival, cTrader, click here: Metatrader VS cTrader.
In this article, we will look at how MetaTrader stacks to an entry-level platform from the professional/institutional trading world: Ninja Trader.
When reading this review comparing MetaTrader with NinjaTrader, feel free to substitute MetaTrader with the words ‘any retail platform’. We say this purely to demonstrate the gulf that still exists between professional grade trading platforms such as Ninja Trader, and retail platforms such as MetaTrader. The reality is that each one suits a particular user and using one that’s not suitable for you — will only lead to trouble.
The trading industry is gradually converging whereby retail users are vociferously demanding professional-quality services, state-of-the-art features and an razor-thin spreads to boot. Many retail traders are not fans of the MetaTrader platform, and are looking for better equipped alternatives. One of the more popular options is the NinjaTrader platform which is used by over 40,000 traders worldwide.
Dancing with NinjaTrader
NinjaTrader was first released in 2004 catering for the high-performance trading and market data market. NinjaTrader has since introduced brokerage services to directly support futures and forex traders and continues to grow as a financial market participant and intermediary. Since its launch, NinjaTrader has focused on active stock, futures and forex traders, but with a professional level of understanding and a professionally-sized trading account.
NinjaTrader doesn’t charge fees for using its platform but will charge for data feed, brokerage services and other additional premium features. Out of the box it offers advanced charting features, market analytics, automated strategy development, back testing optimization and trade simulation. Additionally, NinjaTrader Brokerage supports live trading for the futures and forex markets, and allows users to select from a range of counterparties to clear trades through. Here are some of NinjaTrader’s most notable counterparties:
Retail traders may recognise some of the names here, as several retail brokers are desperately trying to claw their way into the institutional space with higher trading volumes and bigger commercial opportunities.
Charting & Indicators
NinjaTrader offers vastly more charting customisation and features overall compared to MetaTrader. The whole platform is designed for customisation in mind so users can choose the level of historical data they require and have better options in applying it as part of back testing, or when applying charting indicators. The platform itself is more robust, has better backup features and offers users access to multiple data feeds if required.
Like with all other categories, NinjaTrader is aimed at the professional trader already versed in various terminology and features.
Probably the biggest, and most trader-coveted aspect of NinjaTrader is the order functionality.
NinjaTrader provides true market depth and allows for instantaneous order placement, amendments and cancellation at different prices simultaneously. This type of supreme market access is used by professional scalpers to ‘job in’ and out of any markets that have visible market depth and high volatility.
FX brokers have tried to catch on to this huge speculative market by showing market depth being offered in limited liquidity pools or their own order books, but FX market volumes at each price remain a pipe-dream for FX speculators (unless FX becomes an exchange-traded product like FX futures have).
Automated Trading & Back-Testing
Both platforms provide support for those wanting to automated their trading of the financial markets, but which provides the best overall automated trading suite?
MT4 and MT5 support Expert Advisors, or automated algorithms, that trade on the clients behalf. These EA’s can even be bought, sold and exchanged like commodities in and of themselves.
Metatrader scripts are written in MQL4 or MQL5 respectively, with the unique MetaTrader scripting language borrowing heavily from the C family of programming languages.
This means that MQL4/5 are very powerful and can be used to create quite sophisticated trading programs. While the power of the MQL4/5 languages is quite impressive, learning to program sophisticated trading systems is something that will likely prove very challenging to those that haven’t had previous programming experience.
NOTE: MT4 and MT5 use different programming languages — MT4 uses MQL4, MT5 uses MQL 5.
For more information on MetaTrader 4 and 5; read our MetaTrader v cTrader view here.
NinjaTrader like MetaTrader and some of it’s other competitors provides significant support for those looking to automate their trading. The platform uses NinjaScript, which is nearly identical to the C# language and those who have experience with C# should be able to write trading programs for the NinjaTrader platform with little difficulty.
The fact NinjaTrader uses C#, makes it relatively easy for individuals to rewrite robots for the platform. It also means that traders can tap into a pool of talented C# programmers should they want to pay someone to write them a custom trading robot.
What is particularly impressive about the NinjaTrader platform is the testing suite, which is some ways superior to the Strategy Tester included with the MetaTrader platform. The NinjaTrader platform provides traders with the ability to back and future test their trading scripts, even if they are operating a live account. The platform also supports simulated data feeds which can be used to help test trend following robots. There is also the ability to use Monte Carlo simulation, which is something which is likely appeal to those with a background in statistics.
The MetaTrader platform is very widely available. In fact, a number of brokerages offer the platform as their only option to traders, with the platform also being available in mobile formats allowing traders to manage their positions while on the move.
This makes it easy to find a brokerage who offers either MT4 or MT5, and MT4 remains by far the most widely-used. This is due to the fact that not all brokerages have picked up licences for MT5 which costs considerably more and is not a major selling point for many retail FX traders. One huge gripe has been the disabling of hedging capability on MT5 despite this being a requirement only in the US.
The vast majority of brokers will offer MT4/MT5 even if they have their own proprietary platform operating alongside it. MT4 has been a hit with retail traders, and retail brokerages have been forced to take notice. Brokers that do have their own proprietary platform will typically provide a ‘bridge’ for its platform to interface with MetaTrader, as part of a value-add service for clients and for financial reporting/risk management requirements.
NinjaTrader is only offered for free by a small number of Forex brokers who often place varying volume requirements on those who want to take advantage of the impressive trading platform.
It is possible to download and use as a free version which allows traders to take advantage of some but not all of the platforms functionality. Recently, NinjaTrader has launched its own brokerage which allows traders to use the platform to trade a range of different futures markets via the NinjaTrader platform.
MetaTrader 4 & 5 are available from a huge array of brokerages, with very few retail brokerages not offering the platform as part of their offering. NinjaTrader is not widely available and retail traders may struggle to find a brokerage who will allow them to use the platform for free.
If you are a novice trader NinjaTrader may come across as too daunting and difficult to get to grips with. If you are looking for a step up from the retail level, NinjaTrader could be the right first step. MetaTrader 4 & 5, will be more than enough for the average retail trader with the platform having all the functionality that is generally required.
Trading is not about the tools you have, but what you can do with the tools that are available to you.
One good way to start trading in the correct way, or to correct any bad habits, is to participate in some training that is typically offered for free by brokers trying help their clients become better traders. Well established brokers like XM.com, among others, tend to have all-year-around training for clients.
As part of a client’s progress in his/her trading technique, the understanding of which trading platform is most suitable is best obtained.
NinjaTrader is often considered a superior platform due to some of the advanced functionality included with the platform. Some of these features will simply be overkill for the average trader. This and the fact the NinjaTrader platform is largely unavailable makes MetaTrader a better choice for the majority of retail traders, despite NinjaTrader arguably being a better platform.
One very important last point — it is often the broker that decides the quality of data, execution, connectivity, pricing a client sees, not the trading platform. So in many cases, traders not happy with a particular trading platform, may want to see how the same platform performs with a different broker.