But this description of swing trading is a simplification. In reality, swing trading sits in the middle of the continuum between day trading to trend trading. A day trader will hold a stock anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours but never more than a day; a trend trader examines the long-term fundamental trends of a stock or index and may hold the stock for a few weeks or months. Swing traders hold a particular stock for a period of time, generally a few days to two or three weeks, which is between those extremes, and they will trade the stock on the basis of its intra-week or intra-month oscillations between optimism and pessimism.
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.
Buying on margin can greatly increase your gains or losses. Brokerages usually allow a bigger margin percentage for a day trading account but reduce the amount of margin available for positions held overnight. Normally a day trading account must have a minimum of $25,000 and can buy on margin at a rate of 4 to 1 giving you $100,000 in buying power, which is called day trader buying power. That number drops to 2 to 1 for positions held overnight, which can be called overnight margin buying power. That means that if you have 100% of your margin being used during the day, you must exit at least half of your positions before the close of the trading day.
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.
The first key to successful swing trading is picking the right stocks. The best candidates are large-cap stocks, which are among the most actively traded stocks on the major exchanges. In an active market, these stocks will swing between broadly defined high and low extremes, and the swing trader will ride the wave in one direction for a couple of days or weeks only to switch to the opposite side of the trade when the stock reverses direction.
Assess how much capital you're willing to risk on each trade. Many successful day traders risk less than 1% to 2% of their account per trade. If you have a $40,000 trading account and are willing to risk 0.5% of your capital on each trade, your maximum loss per trade is $200 (0.005 x $40,000). Set aside a surplus amount of funds you can trade with and you're prepared to lose. Remember, it may or may not happen.