There is a lot of hype around day trading. Some websites promote it as a way to get rich quick (it isn't), and others say it is impossible (also not true). There are lots of day traders around the world who find success and make a living off the markets, so the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes. If you've thought about day trading, it's worth your time to read through and understand the concepts discussed below, so you'll be better prepared for what to expect if you decide to proceed.

A day trader often closes all trades before the end of the trading day, so not to hold open positions overnight. A day traders' effectiveness may be limited by the bid-ask spread, trading commissions, as well as expenses for real-time news feeds and analytics software. Successful day trading requires extensive knowledge and experience. Day traders employ a variety of methods to make trading decisions. Some traders employ computer trading models that use technical analysis to calculate favorable probabilities, while some trade on their instinct.
Al Hill is one of the co-founders of Tradingsim. He has over 18 years of day trading experience in both the U.S. and Nikkei markets. On a daily basis Al applies his deep skills in systems integration and design strategy to develop features to help retail traders become profitable. When Al is not working on Tradingsim, he can be found spending time with family and friends.

Day traders are attuned to events that cause short-term market moves. Trading the news is a popular technique. Scheduled announcements such as economic statistics, corporate earnings or interest rates are subject to market expectations and market psychology. Markets react when those expectations are not met or are exceeded, usually with sudden, significant moves, which can benefit day traders.

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.

Aside from a risk/reward, the trader could also utilize other exit methods, such as waiting for the price to make a new low. With this method, an exit signal wasn't given until $216.46, when the price dropped below the prior pullback low. This method would have resulted in a profit of $23.76 per share. Thought of another way: a 12% profit in exchange for less than 3% risk. This swing trade took approximately two months.


A scalper intends to take as many small profits as possible, without letting them evaporate. This is the opposite of the "let your profits run" mindset, which attempts to optimize positive trading results by increasing the size of winning trades while letting others reverse. Scalping achieves results by increasing the number of winners and sacrificing the size of the wins. It's not uncommon for a trader with a longer time frame to achieve positive results by winning only half or even less of his or her trades – it's just that the wins are much bigger than the losses. A successful scalper, however, will have a much higher ratio of winning trades versus losing ones, while keeping profits roughly equal or slightly bigger than losses.


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.
Identify a stock or ETF where the weekly trend is up and the bottoms on the daily bar chart tend to be short and sharp. Analyze how the stock or ETF has behaved since the beginning of the trend. If it has returned to the moving average 3 times and penetrated it by an average of 1.5% of its price, place a buy order approximately 1% of the instrument's price below the moving average, a little more shallow than the previous declines.
By holding overnight, the swing trader incurs the unpredictability of overnight risk such as gaps up or down against the position. By taking on the overnight risk, swing trades are usually done with a smaller position size compared to day trading (assuming the two traders have similarly sized accounts). Day traders typically utilize larger position sizes and may use day trading margin of 25%.
The systems by which stocks are traded have also evolved, the second half of the twentieth century having seen the advent of electronic communication networks (ECNs). These are essentially large proprietary computer networks on which brokers can list a certain amount of securities to sell at a certain price (the asking price or "ask") or offer to buy a certain amount of securities at a certain price (the "bid").

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.


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Once you have a specific set of entry rules, scan through more charts to see if those conditions are generated each day (assuming you want to day trade every day) and more often than not produce a price move in the anticipated direction. If so, you have a potential entry point for a strategy. You'll then need to assess how to exit, or sell, those trades.
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