thinkTank: Fire Up Your Trading Skills

The stock markets have lots of activity every single trading day. These tools can help you stay on top of what's happening in the stock markets: Options Time & Sales and Active Trader.

https://tickertapecdn.tdameritrade.com/assets/images/pages/md/Short distance running: Short-term trading and watching stock market prices
5 min read
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Key Takeaways

  • Learn how to use the Options Time & Sales tool on the thinkorswim® platform to keep track of stock market activity
  • Understand how the Active Trader tool can help an active trader make trading decisions

There’s never a dull moment. The markets are a buzz of activity every single trading day. Keep yourself in the loop with these tools.

Options Time & Sales: The Hip Ticker Tape

Seeing time, price, and volume data for every options transaction of an actively traded stock can be a lot of information to digest. The data is changing continuously—too fast to keep track of. Maybe the only thing you can figure out is if you see a lot of red, there’s likely a lot of selling going on and if you see a lot of green, it could mean there’s a lot of buying. But beyond that, how could you use that information to make trading decisions?

Ideally, you’ll want to filter all that data and focus on what matters to you. The Options Time & Sales tool on the thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade gives you that ability.

There are two ways to view the Options Time & Sales feature—on the main screen and in the left sidebar. Let’s focus on the features on the main screen. If you look at the Analyze or Trade tab, there are many sections on display. Make sure to select the Options Time & Sales box; the Options Time & Sales section will appear below Today’s Options Statistics (see figure 1).

Chart showing how to use the Options Time & Sales feature on thinkorswim

FIGURE 1: OPTIONS TIME & SALES. You’ll find data on all options trades that took place on the underlying symbol during the trading day. Chart source: the thinkorswim platform from TD AmeritradeFor illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

  1. Data is divided into two major categories: today’s biggest and time.
  2. Notice the different columns—Option, Qty, Price, Exchange, Market, Delta, IV, and Underlying. Options displayed in blue are call trades; those in purple are put trades. Options with green labels traded at the ask or above; those with red labels traded at the bid or below; and yellow/white are those that traded between the bid and ask.
  3. To sort the data and filter it based on your criteria, select the Filter button. Select the filters you wish to use from the list. You have several choices: side, series, strikes, exchanges, quantity, price, and condition.

To the right of Condition is a gear icon that allows you to select the number of trades to display in the Today’s Biggest category. If you see a big trade show up and want to learn more about it, select the menu on the right side of the row and choose to analyze the trade in more detail.

Active Trader: A Closer View

If you trade actively, the Active Trader tab on the thinkorswim platform could be for you (see figure 2). You’ll find a listing of prices, and you can place orders with one click or move orders to different price points by dragging your cursor. From the Trade tab, select the Active Trader button. The default layout displays a chart on the left side and depth of market and order actions on the right. The layout is customizable. To the right of the Active Trader panel is the control bar with buttons that range from live news feeds to additional sets of order buttons. The beauty of the Active Trader tab is its visual approach to placing orders.

Chart showing the Active Trader feature in thinkorswim
FIGURE 2: ACTIVE TRADER. If you trade actively, this tool will help you customize your layout so you can see the information necessary to make your trading decisions quickly. Chart source: the thinkorswim platform from TD AmeritradeFor illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.
  1. Select the gear icon to customize the buttons.
  2. The position summary shows information about any open positions. The display can be customized by selecting the actions menu on the right.
  3. On the Active Trader screen, where you see the vertical listing of prices, the column headers can be customized by selecting the gear icon to the right of the column headers. You can see the ask and bid size at the prevailing price and anything behind the current market.
  4. There are different ways to place orders with Active Trader. You could adjust your quantity and either select the BUY Mkt or SELL Mkt buttons. Another way is to do it from the vertical price listing by placing your cursor over the ask or bid size columns. Select the cell and the order confirmation screen will pop up. The trade, along with your stop orders, will be displayed on the chart displayed at the left. Want to modify your trade? Drag those levels on the chart to different price levels. For faster order entry, you could select the Auto Send box in the order entry section, but we don’t recommend it. Under the Template list, you can select the type of trade you may want to place—single, one cancels other (OCO), or trigger with one, two, or three brackets. 
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Key Takeaways

  • Learn how to use the Options Time & Sales tool on the thinkorswim® platform to keep track of stock market activity
  • Understand how the Active Trader tool can help an active trader make trading decisions

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Content intended for educational/informational purposes only. Not investment advice, or a recommendation of any security, strategy, or account type.

Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade. Clients must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, before trading.

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