Using Expert Advisors in Forex Trading

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In the world of foreign exchange (forex) trading, an expert advisor (EA) is a piece of software that tells you when to make trades or even automatically initiates and executes trades according to preprogrammed instructions.

Expert advisors are most often deployed on the MetaTrader 4 or 5 forex trading platforms. You can use an existing EA or create your own based on the trading parameters you like. These EAs are written in a programming language called MetaQuotes Language (MQL). Both MetaTrader and MQL were developed by MetaQuotes Software Corp.

Advantages of an EA 

Forex markets are open somewhere in the world 24 hours a day/seven days a week. Using an expert advisor, or a similar trading tool called a forex robot, to carry out trades in your absence enables you to take advantage of trading opportunities while you're working, asleep, or otherwise occupied.

Using an EA also removes the emotional factor from your trading. Your fear or greed won't play a role in whether you choose or decline to respond to trading signals; the EA will carry out trades based on your instructions without considering how it would spend a profit or weather a loss.

If forex trading is your main income generator, using an EA can reduce your stress level and make a potentially emotionally and mentally exhausting and very time-consuming enterprise a lot less so.

On a related note, an EA or robot can consider far more variables at the same time than you could hope to wrap your head around. And it can consider those variables for several different currency pairs at the same time. You can not, no matter how intelligent you are.

Disadvantages of an EA

If your EA isn't able to respond to real-time news, it would ignore important fundamental reasons for making or not making trades. If you're at your desk monitoring the news, you can avoid such trading mistakes.

And similarly, even though the EA can deal with more variables at once than you can, it can act only according to what you've programmed it to do. You're not as rigid in your thinking and can respond to variables that fall outside those limited parameters. And there may be times when that's necessary to avoid a big trading error—or take advantage of a significant opportunity.

The Importance of Testing and Doing Your Research

Whether you use someone else's EA or create your own, it's crucial to test it over various time frames in a practice account—one that doesn't put real money at risk—to see how it performs for you. You may find, for instance, that it works well on certain currency pairs but not on others.

If you're using an EA you programmed, be prepared to finagle with the variables from time to time. As trends in the market change, your program may have to change with them.

If you're using an EA from another firm or individual, remember that the currency market is largely unregulated, which makes it a natural for scammers. Beware, of course, of EA creators who promise ridiculously high returns. But also realize that some scammers understand overpromising is a red flag, and an EA provider that tries to strike a balance between hope and credibility may also be a scammer.

Above all else, do your research before committing to any one expert advisor, and keep your expectations realistic. There are some good EAs out there, and some traders achieve year-over-year gains using an EA or robot that trades automatically, but their annual percentage returns are likely to be in the high single or low double digits at best.