Retail day traders are competing with professionals. Pros know the tricks and traps. They have expensive trading technology, data subscriptions and personal connections. They’re perfectly outfitted to succeed, and even then they often fail. Among these pros are high-frequency traders, who are looking to skim pennies or fractions of pennies — the day trader’s profit — off every trade. It’s a crowded field, and the pros love to have inexperienced investors join the fray. That helps them profit.
Day traders use only risk capital which they can afford to lose. Not only does this protect them from financial ruin, but it also helps eliminate emotion from their trading. A large amount of capital is often necessary to capitalize effectively on intraday price movements. Having access to a margin account is also key, since volatile swings can incur margin calls on short notice.
The problem most new traders make is that they don't practice a strategy in a demo account, for several months or more, before risking real capital. Therefore, they have no idea how a strategy works, and how they need to adjust it when market conditions change. The demo accounts serves as a testing ground, where new traders can test out ideas, see what works and hone trading psychological skills (such as patience, discipline and focus).
Spot foreign exchange (exchanges of foreign currencies) brokers - They do not charge any commissions because they make profits from the bid/ask spread quotes. On July 10, 2006, the exchange rate between Euro and United States dollar is 1.2733 at 15:45. The internal (inter-bank dealers) bid/ask price is 1.2732-5/1.2733-5. However the foreign exchange brokers or middlemen will not offer the same competitive prices to their clients. Instead they provide their own version of bid and ask quotes, say 1.2731/1.2734, of which their commissions are already "hidden" in it. More competitive brokers do not charge more than 2 pips spread on a currency where the interbank market has a 1 pip spread, and some offer better than this by quoting prices in fractional pips.
A trader can measure their performance as a percentage of the trading channel width. The perfect trade would be buying at the bottom channel line and selling at the top channel line, which would be a 100% performance. If a trader captured one-half of the channel, it would be a 50% performance. The goal is to continually increase the performance percentage of the average winning trade.
It is estimated that more than 75% of stock trades in United States are generated by algorithmic trading or high-frequency trading. The increased use of algorithms and quantitative techniques has led to more competition and smaller profits. Algorithmic trading is used by banks and hedge funds as well as retail traders. Retail traders can choose to buy a commercially available Automated trading systems or to develop their own automatic trading software.
Different markets require different amounts of capital to day trade. Stocks are popular, but also the most capital intensive. If you want to day trade stocks in the US, the absolute minimum you need is $25,000. And you'll actually need more because you need to keep your balance above $25,000. Starting with $30,000 or more is recommended. The stock market provides up to 4:1 leverage on day trades.
There is no special qualification required to become a day trader. Instead day traders are classified based on the frequency of their trading. FINRA and NYSE classify day traders based on whether he or she trades four or more times during a five-day span, provided the number of day trades is more than 6% of the customer's total trading activity during that period or the brokerage/investment firm where he or she has opened an account considers him a day trader. Day traders are subject to capital and margin maintenance requirements.
The ability for individuals to day trade coincided with the extreme bull market in technological issues from 1997 to early 2000, known as the dot-com bubble. From 1997 to 2000, the NASDAQ rose from 1200 to 5000. Many naive investors with little market experience made huge profits buying these stocks in the morning and selling them in the afternoon, at 400% margin rates.
Successful traders have to move fast, but they don't have to think fast. Why? Because they've developed a trading strategy in advance, along with the discipline to stick to that strategy. It is important to follow your formula closely rather than try to chase profits. Don't let your emotions get the best of you and abandon your strategy. There's a mantra among day traders: "Plan your trade and trade your plan."