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Mike Wright
Chris Bourne


Mike Wright finds how to keep stock of your shares.

AT THE TIME of writing a major advertising campaign is being run to persuade as many ordinary people - in other words, you and I - as possible to buy British Telecom shares and so start dabbling in the stock market. For those of you who have got your feet wet in the sea of shares ownership VA£TRACK 2 from Morley Davies Associates may be of some interest.

It is a share portfolio management system for use by chartists - those who believe that share price movements reflect the relevant information and that the analysis of those movements leads to correct decisions on buying and selling. The original version was developed for the ZX-81 but was never made commercially available.

VA£TRACK 2 is supplied with a 22-page manual which tries to explain not only how to use the program but also something of the philosophy of buying and selling shares. It is one of the best written and easiest to read you are likely to come across. The program is recorded on both sides of the cassette with a file of dummy records also recorded on the first side. It is loaded using the command CLEAR 64500: LOAD "".

The basis of VA£TRACK 2 is a list of weekly share or index prices over the last half year and that your portfolio comprises shares from some of those. Share values should be updated weekly from the Saturday edition of the Financial Times and that copies of the last 26 weeks' issues are kept in case you need to add data for other shares. Alternatively, Morley Davies will supply additional history tapes which give 26 weeks' prices for specified shares.

The program has facilities for listing the records to the screen or printer, adding new records either manually or from additional history tapes, doing a weekly or an interim update of share prices, valuing your portfolio as well as loading and saving files. Options are also available for generating test records or examining the postures, or trends, of all or part of the records.

Five postures are used based on comparisons of the five and thirteen week moving averages and last week's price. The large amount of calculation necessary for posture tracking makes the process painfully slow. The manual recommends that you make a cup of coffee afer selecting this option but a three course meal may be nearer the mark for a large number of records.

Individual records can be put under the microscope by selecting option 0 from the main menu. After entering the record number a subsidiary ten option menu is provided that lets you analyse the last 13 weeks' data in either raw (unadjusted) or adjusted (price changes are smoothed by reducing all movements to less than 10 per cent) form. In both cases five and 13 week arithmetic and exponential moving averages are displayed together with the posture and the slope of the last five weeks' prices. A range of graphs showing the raw or adjusted data, the slope or a comparison with another share or index, can also be produced.

Reading the manual makes you very aware of the time and effort involved in using VA£TRACK 2. The suggestion of keeping 26 week's copies of the Financial Times is frightening (aren't computers supposed to cut down paperwork?), and the thought of spending an hour and a quarter entering details of a mere 20 shares or even fifty minutes on a weekly update of 200 shares may fill you with horror (aren't computers supposed to save time?). However it is difficult to see how those operations can be shortened unless it is by the use of an optical character reader or modem and bulletin board.

The posture tracking takes an age to complete but to say it is slow does not take into account the large number of calculations involved or the time it would take to do it by hand.

One very pleasant surprise was the way in which you are protected from yourself. Selecting an option from a menu requires only one key stroke and invalid options are ignored. Typing errors which in most programs would be fatal, such as entering characters when the program is expecting numbers, either result in being asked to input again or jumping to the date screen at the start of the program. It would be nice if some of the larger software houses paid the same attention to detail.

VA£TRACK 2 is most definitely for use by the dedicated stock exchange dabbler - others are likely to find the amount of work necessary to get a return an inconvenience. If you are considering it then remember it is only a tool - the interpretation of results and the decisions made on them are yours alone.

Morley Davies say that VA£TRACK 3 should be available on microdrive or cassette and will apparently be cheaper. It will also feature more analysis and will cope with selling shares not owned. In order to include the extra features the maximum file size will be reduced from 200 records.

Morley Davies Associates. 11 Denham Lane, Chalfont St Peter, Bucks SL9 0ER

Memory: 48K
Price: £48.75