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.
Individuals who attempt to day trade without an understanding of market fundamentals often lose money. Technical analysis and chart reading is a good skill for a day trader to have, but without a more in-depth understanding of the market you're in and the assets that exist in that market, charts may be deceiving. Do your due diligence and understand the particular ins and outs of the products you trade.
Liquidity - The liquidity of a market affects the performance of scalping. Each product within the market receives different spread, due to popularity differentials. The more liquid the markets and the products are, the tighter the spreads are. Some scalpers like to trade in a more liquid market since they can move in and out of large positions easily without adverse market impact. Other scalpers like to trade in less liquid markets, which typically have significantly larger bid-ask spreads. Whereas a scalper in a highly liquid market (for example, a market maintaining a one-penny spread) may take 10,000 shares to make a 3 cent gain ($300), a scalper in an illiquid market (for example, a market with a 25 cent spread) may take 500 shares for a 60 cent gain ($300). While there is theoretically more profit potential in a liquid market, it is also a "poker game" with many more professional players which can make it more difficult to anticipate future price action.
As with bullish swing trades, if the reward-to-risk ratio is acceptable, you could enter your trade using a sell-stop limit order. This would result in selling the stock short once it hits your entry point. Selling short is the process of borrowing shares from your online broker and selling them in the open market, with the intention of purchasing the shares back for less cost in the future. An alternative to short selling would be to buy an in-the-money put option. If you choose to use options, you would use a contingent order to buy the put after the stock hit the entry price.
Margin account – This type account allows you to borrow money from your broker. This will enable you to bolster your potential profits, but also comes with the risk of greater losses and rules to follow. If you want to start day trading with no minimum this isn’t the option for you. Most brokerage firms will insist you lay down a minimum investment before you can start trading on margin. You can also experience a margin call, where your broker demands a greater deposit to cover potential losses.
Traditional investing – Traditional investing is a longer game and looks to put money in popular assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate for long-term value appreciation. Realistic investment returns over a whole year are in the 5-7% range. Unless you are already rich and can invest millions, traditional investing returns too little to make much of a difference on a daily basis. However, the intelligent trader will also invest long-term.
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.
ECN/Level 2 quotes: ECNs, or electronic communication networks, are computer-based systems that display the best available bid and ask quotes from multiple market participants and then automatically match and execute orders. Level 2 is a subscription-based service that provides real-time access to the Nasdaq order book composed of price quotes from market makers registering every Nasdaq-listed and OTC Bulletin Board security. Together, they can give you a sense of orders being executed in real time.