Swing trading is actually one of the best trading styles for the beginning trader to get his or her feet wet, but it still offers significant profit potential for intermediate and advanced traders. Swing traders receive sufficient feedback on their trades after a couple of days to keep them motivated, but their long and short positions of several days are of the duration that does not lead to distraction. By contrast, trend trading offers greater profit potential if a trader is able to catch a major market trend of weeks or months, but few are the traders with sufficient discipline to hold a position that long without getting distracted. On the other hand, trading dozens of stocks per day (day trading) may just prove too white-knuckle of a ride for some, making swing trading the perfect medium between the extremes.
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 times, neither a bullish nor a bearish trend is present, but the security is moving in a somewhat predictable pattern between parallel resistance and support areas. When the market moves up and then pulls back, the highest point reached before it pulls back is the resistance. As the market continues up again, the lowest point reached before it climbs back is the support. There are swing trading opportunities in this case too, with the trader taking a long position near the support area and taking a short position near the resistance area.
In parallel to stock trading, starting at the end of the 1990s, several new market maker firms provided foreign exchange and derivative day trading through electronic trading platforms. These allowed day traders to have instant access to decentralised markets such as forex and global markets through derivatives such as contracts for difference. Most of these firms were based in the UK and later in less restrictive jurisdictions, this was in part due to the regulations in the US prohibiting this type of over-the-counter trading. These firms typically provide trading on margin allowing day traders to take large position with relatively small capital, but with the associated increase in risk. The retail foreign exchange trading became popular to day trade due to its liquidity and the 24-hour nature of the market.
The swing trader, therefore, is best positioned when markets are going nowhere – when indexes rise for a couple of days, then decline for the next few days, only to repeat the same general pattern again and again. A couple of months might pass with major stocks and indexes roughly at the same place as their original levels, but the swing trader has had many opportunities to catch the short-term movements up and down (sometimes within a channel).
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.