Founded in 2003, NinjaTrader offers software and brokerage services for active traders. The NinjaTrader platform is free to use for charting, market analysis and trade simulation. If you want to place real trades and access the platform’s premium features – such as advanced order types, automated trading and backtesting – you’ll need to lease or buy the software (from $60/month to lease; $1,099 one-time payment to buy). The Order Flow + suite of premium features, which allows you to analyze trade activity using order flow, volume bars and market depth, is available only with a lifetime license.
You won’t find many resources for buy and hold investing or wealth management since there’s not much in the way of fundamental data or research. Instead, NinjaTrader is an ideal platform/brokerage for active traders, and especially those interested in trading futures and forex. The platform offers excellent charting, real-time analysis, customizable technical indicators, Chart Trader (a chart-based order entry tool) and 1000s of apps and add-ons from 3rd-party developers. While NinjaTrader was built for futures, the company has partnered with several other brokerages, including Interactive Brokers and TD Ameritrade, to give traders access to forex, options, CFDs and stocks.
Excellent charting and great technical analysis tools
NinjaTrader Ecosystem offers 1000s of apps and add-ons
Free demo account
Platform fees are high
Easy setup for futures traders, but you have to go through another broker to trade anything else
Fundamental data, news feeds and research are largely missing
The NinjaTrader platform has clean, fully customizable charts. It’s easy to change colors (for background, crosshair, gridlines, text, etc.), fonts and bar spacing/width, as well as the overall layout of chart windows. You can easily insert technical indicators, strategies and drawing tools, which are all customizable within the chart. The platform supports a great selection of bar types – including time-based, tick, volume, range, Heiken Ashi, Kagi, Renko, and Point and Figure bars – plus a good variety of chart styles, such as candlesticks, OHLC (with variants), Kagi Line and Mountain.
You’ll have access to several easy-to-use order entry interfaces, including Chart Trader, a terrific tool that allows you to place and manage trades directly from a chart. The platform supports all the usual order types, including market, limit, stop market and stop limit orders, as well as OCO (one cancels other) orders. If you’re interested in automated trading, NinjaTrader’s ATM Strategies provide discretionary traders with semi-automated features to manage their positions, or you can fully automate a strategy using NinjaTrader’s Automated Trading Interface (ATI).
Real-time data is available for purchase; the cost depends on the data feeds you require. If you want to trade the ES (e-mini S&P 500 futures contract), for example, you will need CME data, which runs $7 per month. NinjaTrader users can subscribe to Kinetick, a data provider that offers streaming real time and historical end-of-day (EOD) market data optimized for use with the NinjaTrader platform. The service runs $60/month and includes real time quotes, real time news and 500+ market metrics, including Tick and Trin.
You can play, pause and rewind historical price data on a tick-by-tick basis using NinjaTrader’s Market Replay feature – a tool that’s helpful for backtesting, trade practice and other trade-related research.
The NinjaTrader platform is free to download and use for charting, market analysis and trade simulation. The installation process is straightforward, and as soon as you launch the platform you can open charts, customize colors and add indicators and strategies. To insert a symbol to a chart, you have to first add that symbol to an Instrument List (a separate window). And if you’re trading futures, you have to update that list every time a new contract rolls over. The process is a bit tedious, especially if you’re used to platforms that allow you to simply type a symbol anywhere on the chart. Still, it’s easy enough to do and easy to get used to once you know the system.
The platform is robust with lots of interesting tools and resources, and it does take time to learn how to use its features. Fortunately, NinjaTrader hosts free daily webinars to help you get started. Topics include connecting to data, one-click order entry, how to set up a workspace, basic chart creation, advanced settings and strategy automation.
A great feature of the platform worth mentioning is the ability to place simulated trades, complete with an imaginary account and profit/loss summary. This can be especially helpful to newer traders who haven’t had much practice placing trades – and dealing with the inevitable mistakes that happen, such as costly order entry mistakes (e.g., hitting BUY instead of SELL, trading more contracts than intended).
Mobile and Emerging Tech
NinjaTrader is focused on its newest platform release (version 8). The company has not disclosed any plans to develop a mobile or web-based platform in the future.
Range of Offerings
The NinjaTrader brokerage has a narrow focus and supports only futures and forex trading. You can go through a partner broker to trade stocks, options or CFDs. Affiliated brokers include City Index (U.K.), Forex.com, FXCM (non-U.S.), Interactive Brokers, Oanda, TD Ameritrade and CQG (for existing customers only). You can sign up for a NinjaTrader brokerage account, or one of its partner brokers, on the NinjaTrader website.
Of course, the brokers mentioned above offer their own trading platforms, some of which are very sophisticated. TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim, for example, is considered one of the best trading platforms available. Incidentally, the thinkorswim platform is free for all TD Ameritrade customers, and market data for non-professionals is also free. Depending on needs and preferences, some traders may find it’s easier to just open an account at another broker and use that broker’s platform.
News and Research
Besides charting and market depth tools, there are limited resources for research or insights within the platform. As we have already noted, NinjaTrader is oriented toward a niche of investors focused on active futures trading. From that perspective, the NinjaTrader 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. However, there are almost no fundamental tools available. Financial statements, news, and economic data that might be found in other professional platforms are missing. While the technical data is comprehensive, the lack of any fundamental information is a gap that will have to be filled by other resources, if you need that type of analysis.
Portfolio Analysis and Reports
The NinjaTrader platform is geared toward active traders and doesn’t offer any portfolio analysis tools or reports to help investors make decisions about asset allocation or specific holdings. Currently, the platform doesn’t support the backtesting of multiple strategies at the same time.
Customer Service and Help
NinjaTrader provides 24/5 and weekend technical support, along with a 24-hour trade desk for emergencies and live orders only. Live chat help is available on weekdays on the NinjaTrader website, and response times are reasonable, though not immediate. Visit NinjaTrader’s Contact Us page to call, email or submit a support request.
NinjaTrader’s support forum, which can be accessed through the NinjaTrader website, is a good place to find answers to questions, or post your own question if you’re having trouble finding information. The forum is divided into five sections: News and Announcements; NinjaTrader 8 (the current release); NinjaTrader 7 (legacy release); NinjaScript File Sharing; and Suggestions and Feedback.
NinjaTrader and the community's ecosystem has a wide selection of educational videos, webinars and documentation. Much of the education is provided by vendors and includes promotional material for their systems, add-ons and 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. NinjaTrader offers several daily webinars and recorded videos intended to help you get the most out of the platform. The video library is broken down into several sections, including Order Entry, SuperDOM, Market Analyzer, Charts and Strategy Backtesting and Optimization to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. A limited amount of non-platform related educational content is on the NinjaTrader blog. All of NinjaTrader’s educational offerings can be accessed for free by anyone – clients and non-clients alike.
- Futures - From $0.53 per contract (requires lifetime license)
- Forex - Bid-ask spread cost
- Broker Assisted Trades - Free emergency trade desk
- Platform Maintenance Fee - Platform: from $60/month. Inactivity fee: $25/month
What You Need to Know
NinjaTrader offers nice-looking charts with good customization and functionality. The platform and brokerage are both geared toward active futures and forex traders who don’t require much beyond a solid technical analysis platform. While it’s possible to trade other instruments by funding an “outside” brokerage account, some traders will prefer to use one broker for both their trading account and trading platform.
The “sim trading” feature is an excellent tool for newer traders looking to gain experience in the order-entry arena, and the ecosystem is a valuable resource for finding indicators and strategies. The partial and full strategy automation features are useful additions to the platform, and it’s possible to work with a NinjaScript programmer to design your own technical indicators and strategies. Of course, you can do this on your own if you have experience coding and want to learn something new.
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