As with any other style of trading, many different methods of scalping exist. The most well-known scalping technique is using the market's time and sales to determine when and where to make trades. Scalping using the time and sales is sometimes referred to as tape reading because the time and sales used to be displayed on the old-fashioned ticker tape, known as the tape.
Risk management - Rather than looking for one big trade, the way a trend trader might, the scalper looks for hundreds of small profits throughout the day. In this process the scalper might also take hundreds of small losses during the same time period. For this reason a scalper must have very strict risk management never allowing a loss to accumulate.
Individual traders often manage other people's money or simply trade with their own. Few of them have access to a trading desk, but they often have strong ties to a brokerage (due to the large amounts they spend on commissions) and access to other resources. However, the limited scope of these resources prevents them from competing directly with institutional day traders. Instead, they are forced to take more risks. Individual traders typically day trade using technical analysis and swing trades—combined with some leverage—to generate adequate profits on such small price movements in highly liquid stocks.
Many professional money managers and financial advisors shy away from day trading arguing that, in most cases, the reward does not justify the risk. Conversely, those who do day trade insist there is profit to be made. Day trading profitably is possible, but the success rate is inherently lower because of the complexity and necessary risk of day trading in conjunction with the related scams. Moreover, economists and financial practitioners alike argue that over long time periods, active trading strategies tend to underperform a more basic passive index strategy, especially after fees and taxes are taken into account.
Scalpers buy low and sell high, buy high and sell higher, or short high and cover low, or short low and cover lower. They tend to utilize Level 2 and time of sales windows to route orders to the most liquid market makers and ECNs for quick executions. The point-and-click style execution through the Level 2 window or pre-programmed hotkeys are the quickest methods for the speediest order fills. Scalping is purely based on technical analysis and short-term price fluctuations. Due to the extensive use of leverage, scalping is considered a high-risk style of trading.