It is NOT Only About the Spread : Understanding Market Depth

Maybe the first thing that people new to forex learn about brokers is the fact that better brokers have better spreads. Since the spread – the difference between the bid and ask price – is the fixed cost per transaction then any given broker that offers you a better cost per transaction will ultimately be better from a profit wise perspective. This becomes critical when you are using systems that take profit in areas lower than 10 times the spread since the contribution of the market spread to your trading costs is very significant. However what traders often fail to notice is the fact that the spread is not enough to tell a broker’s quality from another, often new traders will get involved with brokers who have “the best” spreads only to find that their execution is no where near what they expected. How can you judge the quality of different brokers besides the spread ? On today’s post I want to talk about marketp depth, the nature of order execution and what you should look for within a broker besides an excellent spread level. This article will also further pinpoint the difficulties in achieving long term profitabilities with scalping systems and why great care is needed when choosing a broker for such systems.

What ? I thought that the spread was the only cost per transaction, determining broker quality – you might be thinking. However reducing broker performance to their spread level is simplistic and does not give you a full picture about the whole quality of your broker’s trading operation. When you buy a given contract in forex trading, you are – ideally – filling a transaction from someone who wants to sell their previously held contract. For example, if you want to buy EUR/USD at 1.2345 you are actually buying a contract from someone who is selling it at 1.2345+spread. The dealer hands the contract over to you and keeps the Bid/Ask difference -the spread- as a comission.

However the problem comes when you realize that the number of contracts available at any given price level is not unlimited. Of course, not everyone wants to sell EUR/USD at a given price level or buy it at another and therefore the amount of liquidity available in the market is very limited. The consequence is that you might have a broker with a GREAT spread but it might have a very dry liquidity pool so you might be unable to get your orders filled at the price levels you want.


Of course, the problem now comes to the difference between brokers with and without dealing desks. When a broker has a dealing desk it will try to fill all your orders, regardless of liquidity but it might not want to fill your orders at a certain price level if your orders are too large or too fast for them. The solution of the broker to this exposure you cause it is to simply requote you until you get a price level in which the broker has enough liquidity, hedging positions from other traders, etc. The end result is that you feel absolutely tricked because you are unaware of the true causes of why all this requoting has happened.

On the other hand, ECN brokers allow you to have second level market depth, which means that you are able to directly see the orders that are being placed and you can actually SEE how much volume is available for you to get. Of course, there are simply no requotes on ECN brokers because the transactions are done from peer to peer and everything is much more transparent to you (of course, someone can beat you to a transaction but then there is no requote but simply you “failed” to capture the transaction first) . Using an ECN broker allows you to see exactly how the market is moving and what volumes at what price levels are available for purchase.

For systems that need to trade fast having this added volume information and having transparency over execution is absolutely vital to have any chance of long term success. The fact that liquidity at different price levels is limited also points out why scalping systems may not have such a great chance at achieving long term profitability. Many people are fighting for very narrow price ranges with very limited volumes and the people who fail to get their desired price levels will definitely lose a significant portion of their profits. However, systems that swing trade and use very wide targets might no be affected by this fact simply because they can have a lot of flexibility around their entry points and deviations of +/- 5 pips are not bound to cause any disastrous effects in the long term.

So to sum it up, the quality of a broker is not only given by its spread levels but by the quality of its liquidity pool. When you use a regular dealing desk broker you will not be aware of this pool while on ECN brokers you will see all the action directly through second level market depth. Having brokers that allow you to see deeper is vital for people who trade scalping systems while it adds little value for traders who use swing and longer term systems. Nonetheless traders who use long term strategies but trade high amounts of volume may also need to see their broker’s liquidity pool to catch better entry and exit points.

If you would like to learn about mechanical trading systems and how you can code your own automated trading systems with sound trading tactics to achieve success in forex trading please consider buying my ebook on automated trading or joining Asirikuy to receive all ebook purchase benefits, weekly updates, check the live accounts I am running with several expert advisors and get in the road towards long term success in the forex market using automated trading systems. I hope you enjoyed the article !

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