One of the core building blocks of bt is the Algo and the closely related AlgoStack.

algo stack


An Algo is essentially a function that returns True or False. It takes a single argument that is the Strategy being tested. An Algo should ideally only serve one specific purpose. This purpose can control execution flow, it can control security selection, security allocation, etc. For example, you can have an Algo that checks if the month has changed (such as bt.algos.RunMonthly). If it has, this Algo return True, if not, False.

Algo Stacks

An AlgoStack is a class that groups together many Algos and runs them one after another as long as each Algo returns True. As soon as an Algo returns False, the AlgoStack stops its execution and returns False (an AlgoStack is an Algo after all). This allows us to combine different Algos together and control the flow of execution with the Algo return value. Many AlgoStacks can they themselves be included into another AlgoStack should the need arise.

By breaking down strategy logic into these small blocks of code, we achieve testability and reusability - two appealing features when working on software development.

Data Passing

In order to pass data between different Algos, the Strategy has two properties: temp and perm. They are both dictionaries and are used for storing data generated by Algos. Temporary data is refreshed on each data change whereas permanent data is not altered.

Algos usually set and/or require values in the temp or perm objects. For example, the bt.algos.WeighEqually Algo sets the ‘weights’ key in temp, and it requires the ‘selected’ key in temp.

For example, let’s take a simple select -> weight -> allocate logic chain. We would break this strategy up into 3 Algos:

In this case, the selection Algo could set the ‘selected’ key in the strategy’s temp dict, and the weighting Algo could read those values and in turn set the ‘weights’ key in the temp dict. The allocation Algo would then read the ‘weights’ and act accordingly.

To extend the simple select -> weight -> allocate logic chain to include an additional risk/exposure calculation step, one would do this by implementing specific Algos for this purpose. These could be used either before weighting (for risk-based portfolio construction) or after (for reporting). See, e.g. UpdateRisk.


To preserve maximal flexibility, there are currently no checks to make sure the AlgoStack is valid. Therefore, it is up to the user and creator of Algos to make sure the requirements and side effects are well documented and properly used (by the way, this may not be a great way to go about this problem. If you have a better idea, please let me know!).

Developers should add a section in the docstring that outlines the “sets” and the “requires”. See the doctrings of bt.algos.WeighEqually for an example.


In most cases, Algos must preserve some kind of state. In this case, it is easier to implement them as classes and define the __call__ method, like below:

class MyAlgo(bt.Algo):

    def __init__(self, arg1, arg2):
        self.arg1 = arg1
        self.arg2 = arg2

    def __call__(self, target):
        # my logic goes here

        # accessing/storing variables through target.temp['key']

        # remember to return a bool - True in most cases
        return True

Note that the attributes on the class should not be specific to any particular target.

However, for Algos that do not need to preserve any state, you may simply implement them as a basic function that takes one argument - the Strategy:

def MyAlgo2(target):
    # all the logic

    return True

Best Practices


Recall that Algos should be re-usable across different backtests (including backtests on different underlying security universes or different time ranges), and that a Backtest is the logical combination of the strategy and the data. However, there are cases when the Algo needs to use some extra data that does depend on the security universe or time range (i.e. a data frame of signals that has been pre-computed).

The best way to handle this is to construct the Algo with the name of the data, and to instantiate the backtest with this named data:

class MyAlgo(bt.Algo):

    def __init__(self, signal_name ):
        self.signal_name = signal_name

    def __call__(self, target):
        # my logic goes here

        # accessing data via target.get_data( self.signal_name )

        # remember to return a bool - True in most cases
        return True

# create the strategy
s = bt.Strategy('s1', [bt.algos.MyAlgo( 'my_signal' )])

# create a backtest and run it
test = bt.Backtest(s, data, additional_data={'my_signal':signal_df})
res =

# Run the same strategy on different data without changing MyAlgo
test = bt.Backtest(s, data2, additional_data={'my_signal':signal_df2})
res =

Note that some additional data keys are used by the framework itself to support additional functionality (i.e. bidoffer, coupon, cost_long and cost_short). These are documented in the setup functions of Security and CouponPayingSecurity.


The easiest way to debug algos is by adding leveraging one of the existing debug algos or by writing your own! Just insert them in the appropriate places in your algo stack, and add breakpoints to examine the state of the passed strategy.

Branching and Control Flow

While the Algo setup may seem overly simple (a list of functions which returns either True or False), this is a powerful construct that allows for complex branching and conditional structures. In particular, branching is achieved via the Or Algo.

For example, the code below illustrates how printing of strategy performance can occur on a different timeline from rebalancing the portfolio. Additional conditions can be added by placing those algos at the head of the relevant stack.

import bt

data = bt.get('spy,agg', start='2010-01-01')

# create two separate algo stacks and combine the branches
logging_stack = bt.AlgoStack(
                    bt.algos.PrintInfo('{name}:{now}. Value:{_value:0.0f}, Price:{_price:0.4f}')
trading_stack = bt.AlgoStack(
branch_stack =  bt.AlgoStack(
                    # Upstream algos could go here...
                    bt.algos.Or( [ logging_stack, trading_stack ] )
                    # Downstream algos could go here...

s = bt.Strategy('strategy', branch_stack, ['spy', 'agg'])
t = bt.Backtest(s, data)
r =