Scalping can be very profitable for traders who decide to use it as a primary strategy, or even those who use it to supplement other types of trading. Adhering to the strict exit strategy is the key to making small profits compound into large gains. The brief amount of market exposure and the frequency of small moves are key attributes that are the reasons why this strategy is popular among many types of traders.
Financial settlement periods used to be much longer: Before the early 1990s at the London Stock Exchange, for example, stock could be paid for up to 10 working days after it was bought, allowing traders to buy (or sell) shares at the beginning of a settlement period only to sell (or buy) them before the end of the period hoping for a rise in price. This activity was identical to modern day trading, but for the longer duration of the settlement period. But today, to reduce market risk, the settlement period is typically two working days. Reducing the settlement period reduces the likelihood of default, but was impossible before the advent of electronic ownership transfer.
Much research on historical data has proven that, in a market conducive to swing trading, liquid stocks tend to trade above and below a baseline value, which is portrayed on a chart with an EM). In his book, "Come Into My Trading Room: A Complete Guide to Trading" (2002), Dr. Alexander Elder uses his understanding of a stock's behavior above and below the baseline to describe the swing trader's strategy of "buying normalcy and selling mania" or "shorting normalcy and covering depression." Once the swing trader has used the EMA to identify the typical baseline on the stock chart, he or she goes long at the baseline when the stock is heading up and short at the baseline when the stock is on its way down.
Article copyright 2011 by Alex Elder. Reprinted and adapted from Come Into My Trading Room with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments® cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data. This reprint and the materials delivered with it should not be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any funds mentioned in this reprint.
Of course, you still have to factor in losses. Smaller gains can only produce growth in your portfolio if losses are kept small. Rather than the normal 7% to 8% stop loss, take losses quicker at a maximum of 2% to 3%. This will keep you at a 3-to-1 profit-to-loss ratio, a sound portfolio management rule for success. It's a critical component of the whole system since an outsized loss can quickly wipe away a lot of progress made with smaller gains.
Many orders placed by investors and traders begin to execute as soon as the markets open in the morning, which contributes to price volatility. A seasoned player may be able to recognize patterns and pick appropriately to make profits. But for newbies, it may be better just to read the market without making any moves for the first 15 to 20 minutes. The middle hours are usually less volatile, and then movement begins to pick up again toward the closing bell. Though the rush hours offer opportunities, it’s safer for beginners to avoid them at first.