NinjaTrader Review 2018

By John A. Jagerson  | January 8, 2018

NinjaTrader offers a platform for automated trading systems, backtesting, and analysis for active futures traders. It can be accessed through a futures brokerage account, but the firm also markets itself as a broker for beginners.

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Overall Rating

NinjaTrader Fast Facts

NinjaTrader offers an advanced trading platform, NinjaTrader-8, for futures traders. Investors can deploy advanced automated strategies, manual order entry or combinations in between through the trading technology. Investors without a futures brokerage account (or in need of another one) can open an account with Dorman Trading or Phillip Capital with NinjaTrader acting as an introducing broker. The trading platform is also available to investors with accounts at TD Ameritrade, Interactive Brokers, Gain Capital and others. NinjaTrader-8 includes excellent charts, indicators, order management, and market depth information. Investors can build and test automated trading strategies or use plugins and systems created by other users and professionals through a large community "ecosystem". We were pleased to see that traders can try NinjaTrader-8 for free through a demo account.

pros

  • Robust Trading Platform
    The trading technology includes just about every charting and system-building feature imaginable
  • Multi-Broker Access
    It is possible to manage more than one brokerage account through the NinjaTrader 8 platform
  • 1000s of Apps and Addons
    Investors can use the large library of addons and extension available for the NinjaTrader-8 platform
  • Free to Try
    The NinjaTrader-8 platform is free to try with a demo account

cons

  • High Cost
    The cost of the platform and the fees through the introducing broker relationship are higher than average for the industry
  • Limited Product Offerings
    Without a relationship with a stock and options broker investors have limited choice of trading products
  • Research Tools Are Limited
    Charts, watchlists, and tools for technical analysis are all there, but fundamental data, news feeds, and research is largely missing
1000s
Thousands of addons and plugins
450+
Nearly 500 professional developers
40,000
40,000 users on NinjaTrader

Products & Fees

NinjaTrader acts as an introducing broker for two Futures Commission Merchants (FCMs) and two additional Forex dealers. If an investor decides to engage with NinjaTrader through an introducing broker relationship, the trading costs will vary depending on the instrument traded, and the software license. Alternatively, investors can use NinjaTrader through another broker like TD Ameritrade or Interactive Brokers. For this review we have assumed that a user has licensed the NinjaTrader platform but is using a TD Ameritrade account. The trading costs will be the same as with a normal TD Ameritrade account plus the fee for licensing the NinjaTrader software, which ranges from $999 for a lifetime license to $180 per quarter for a subscription.

  • Forex
    Bid-Ask spread cost
  • Futures
    $1.85 per contract**
  • Stocks & ETFs
    Not Available
  • Options
    Not Available
  • Mutual Funds
    Not Available
  • CDs
    Not Available
  • Cryptocurrency
    Not Available

Trust

NinjaTrader must be evaluated as two different kinds of companies. First, as a software company that creates and markets an excellent trading platform targeted towards very active futures traders. And second, as a futures broker. NinjaTrader is registered with The National Futures Association as an introducing broker. This isn't the same as acting as the primary FCM, but NinjaTrader is still subject to oversight by the FCMs they work with. Because we have assumed for this review that an investor is using NinjaTrader through a TD Ameritrade account then the account security and other trust details should be identical to just trading through TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim platform.

$500,000
Total Securities Insured
($250,000 in cash)
Additional coverage of $2,000,000 million
For Cash and Securities

What you need to know

Because NinjaTrader is an introducing broker, traders who open a brokerage account should be most concerned with the protection provided by the FCM they select during their account setup process. Alternatively, traders using the NinjaTrader software through a separate brokerage account are subject to that brokerage's account protection features and insurance.

Special Features

Special Features

The NinjaTrader-8 trading platform is extremely robust and provides investors with access to top of the line charts and trade execution technology as well as backtesting, system design, and auto trading. The community of professional and amateur developers in the NinjaTrader ecosystem have created thousands of plugins, systems, tools, and other add-ons that should meet most imaginable needs for technically oriented traders.

Chart futures, forex and stock markets
Robust charts and indicator libraries
Backtesting
Customizable backtesting for your strategy
Play, Pause, and Rewind Price Data
"play, pause and rewind" historical data to test strategies
Third-party Apps
Free and paid apps modify indicators, build strategies, and test ideas

What you need to know

NinjaTrader's most impressive special feature is the ability to install thousands of customized indicators, trading systems, and tools from the community or so-called "ecosystem." Some add-ons and extensions are available for free or free to try. Its developer API allows users to build software tools for NinjaTrader-8 which only further its depth. Overall there is a plethora of tools and instruments to experiment with and find your best strategy.

Desktop Experience

Desktop Platform Experience

The NinjaTrader platform is robust and will require an extensive learning curve before new users will be comfortable using the software. Once familiar with the software, users should find order entry, system management, charting, and analysis very streamlined and with few compromises. If a user is focused exclusively on actively trading futures, they are not likely to find anything missing from the platform. Traders looking for an all-inclusive platform to manage stocks, options, and bonds in addition to futures will be disappointed.

Pros

The NinjaTrader-8 platform is designed for very efficient programmatic or manual order entry for futures traders. The charts are extremely flexible and robust, and other analytical tools are easy to find and use. The platform is designed to use a windowing format that can be resized and customized into multi-monitor layouts of virtually any configuration. Investors focused on a very narrow range of futures trading products should find that the desktop software meets virtually all their trading needs.

Cons

NinjaTrader-8 does not include options functionality - not even for futures options - and there are no tools for fundamental analysis. The application's windows are 'undocked' from the platform, which can be a little annoying if traders are used to being able to minimize their entire trading application with a single click.

Mobile Experience

NinjaTrader is currently focused on building and enhancing their latest release (version 8) and have no current plans for a mobile or web-based platform.

Customer Support

Support is available in some fashion nearly 24/7; however, we found response times to be somewhat slow, even during market hours. Traders with technical questions over the weekend have some support available, but access is limited during non-business hours. There is a 24-hour emergency trade support hotline for investors using NinjaTrader as a broker.

What you need to know

Support for the platform is initially directed to chat or email, but a phone number is also available. The 24-hour emergency trade support line is only available for investors with a brokerage account through NinjaTrader. We found support requests to be handled slowly, but we got correct and courteous answers.

Research & Insights

Besides charting and market depth tools there were limited resources for research or insights within the default platform. Tools for developing and testing trading strategies from the community's ecosystem and within the default platform are excellent but are almost exclusively focused on technical trading signals.

Technical Charts
Price charts with customizable settings can be modified and saved
Market Analyzer
Stocks, futures and Forex instruments and indicators can be shown in a snapshot window
Customizable indicators
Spectrum of standard technical indicators is available and customizable
Chart Annotations
Write on the charts and save them for future reference
Risk Reward Graphing Tools
Automatically evaluate the risk/reward ratio of any trading opportunity
Fibonacci Analysis and Drawing Tools
Apply Fibonacci retracements and other drawing tools on the charts

Pros

As we have already noted, NinjaTrader is oriented towards a niche of investors focused on very active futures trading. From that perspective, the NinjaTrader-8 platform has all the tools and features needed to be successful. The platform, indicators, and other features can be customized at a very granular level, which is important for active or professional traders.

Cons

There were almost no fundamental tools available. Financial statements, news, and economic data that might be found in other professional platforms were missing. While the technical data was comprehensive, the lack of non-price information is a gap that will have to be filled by other resources.

Education

NinjaTrader and the community's ecosystem has an extensive array of educational videos, webinars, and documentation. Much of the education was provided by vendors and included promotional material for their systems, add-ons, or plugins; but we didn't see this as a negative. The existence of a robust ecosystem of other users and professional developers will likely keep the flow of education and ideas fresh.

Webinars
See new strategies and features in action
Reference Guide
Become proficient in the trading platform
YouTube Channel
Find great ideas in the archive

What you need to know

Most of the education was in the form of webinars and recorded videos. We think this is a plus, but it requires a time commitment to weed through the material to find what you are looking for. There wasn't any structure to the education so new investors will likely struggle. NinjaTrader's target niche is likely much more experienced so the unformatted structure of the documentation and video archives shouldn't prove to be much of an obstacle.

Banking

NinjaTrader does not have banking features. Assuming an investor is accessing the platform through a broker like TD Ameritrade, the banking features will be associated with their actual bank account and not available through NinjaTrader itself.

Bottom Line

Unless an investor is looking for very specialized access to the futures markets, NinjaTrader should be thought of as a software platform that meets specific needs for active traders through other brokers. The most significant advantage of the platform is its connection to the community ecosystem of third-party systems, backtesting, and extensions. Active traders with a focus on technical analysis should find the NinjaTrader-8 platform superior to brokerage trading platforms for futures trading but missing most other functions. The costs for licensing the platform are competitive compared to similar offerings in the market, however, missing analytical tools (especially for options) may be an issue for many traders.

John A. Jagerson
Reviewed by John A. Jagerson

  • • 15+ years experience in stocks, options, Forex, bonds and portfolio analysis
  • • Co-founder of Learning Markets, LLC, a leading creator of financial content, analysis, education and tools
  • • Author of four books on investing and portfolio strategies published by McGraw Hill

Experience

John has worked in the capital markets and private equity for most of his career—including investing, writing, education and money management. John has a B.S. in Business Administration from Utah Valley University and completed the PLD at Harvard Business School. John is the coauthor of three books published by McGraw Hill on investing and portfolio management. As a co-founder of Learning Markets, LLC, John has developed financial education used by thousands of brokerage clients to become better investors. His firm also develops professional-grade stock screening and analytical tools for individual investors.

Education

John earned his bachelor's degree in accounting and business management at Utah Valley University.

Professional Designations

John is a Charted Financial Analyst (CFA) and a Chartered Market Technician (CMT).

Quote from John

"Individual investors have goals and objectives beyond wealth accumulation. Investing is only one tool they use to achieve truly great things in their life. I am passionate about helping investors because their success means more than just a larger account balance."

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