Day trading is making short-term trades, lasting less than one day, in an attempt to extract a profit from the financial markets. Some day traders are very active, making many trades each day, while other traders may only make one or two trades per day. The most common day trading markets are stocks, forex and futures. Day trading can be a part-time or full-time career, depending on the trader's style.
Some of these approaches require short selling stocks; the trader borrows stock from his broker and sells the borrowed stock, hoping that the price will fall and he will be able to purchase the shares at a lower price, thus keeping the difference as their profit. There are several technical problems with short sales - the broker may not have shares to lend in a specific issue, the broker can call for the return of its shares at any time, and some restrictions are imposed in America by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on short-selling (see uptick rule for details). Some of these restrictions (in particular the uptick rule) don't apply to trades of stocks that are actually shares of an exchange-traded fund (ETF).
Day traders use only risk capital which they can afford to lose. Not only does this protect them from financial ruin, but it also helps eliminate emotion from their trading. A large amount of capital is often necessary to capitalize effectively on intraday price movements. Having access to a margin account is also key, since volatile swings can incur margin calls on short notice.
Day traders generally use margin leverage; in the United States, Regulation T permits an initial maximum leverage of 2:1, but many brokers will permit 4:1 leverage as long as the leverage is reduced to 2:1 or less by the end of the trading day. In the United States, people who make more than 4 day trades per week are termed pattern day traders and are required to maintain $25,000 in equity in their accounts. Since margin interest is typically only charged on overnight balances, the trader may pay no interest fees for the margin benefit, though still running the risk of a margin call. Margin interest rates are usually based on the broker's call.
This trading strategy used to be defined as spread trading where you would take profits where small gaps expanded and contracted between the bid and the ask price for a stock. This strategy has now evolved to include technical indicators, support/resistance levels, and volume spikes to make round-trip trades lasting seconds to a few minutes. The basic idea of scalping is to take advantage of market inefficiencies using speed and high trading volume to create quick profits. Click here for more information on scalping.
The bid–ask spread is two sides of the same coin. The spread can be viewed as trading bonuses or costs according to different parties and different strategies. On one hand, traders who do NOT wish to queue their order, instead paying the market price, pay the spreads (costs). On the other hand, traders who wish to queue and wait for execution receive the spreads (bonuses). Some day trading strategies attempt to capture the spread as additional, or even the only, profits for successful trades.
Commissions for direct-access brokers are calculated based on volume. The more shares traded, the cheaper the commission. The average commission per trade is roughly $5 per round trip (getting in and out of a position). While a retail broker might charge $7 or more per trade regardless of the trade size, a typical direct-access broker may charge anywhere from $0.01 to $0.0002 per share traded (from $10 down to $.20 per 1000 shares), or $0.25 per futures contract. A scalper can cover such costs with even a minimal gain.
Spread trading This high-speed technique tries to profit on temporary changes in sentiment, exploiting the difference in the bid-ask price for a stock, also called a spread. For example, if a buyer’s bid price drops suddenly, the day trader might step in to buy and then try to quickly resell at the stock’s ask price or higher, earning a small “spread” on the transaction.
Order execution: A novice needs to master the art of efficient order execution. A delayed or bad order can wipe out what little profit was earned and even result in a loss. Since the profit margin per trade is limited, the order execution has to be accurate. As mentioned above, this requires supporting systems such as Direct Access Trading and Level 2 quotations.
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.
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.
A scalp trader can look to make money in a variety of ways. One method is to have a set profit target amount per trade. This profit target should be relative to the price of the security and can range between .%1 - .25%. Another method is to track stocks breaking out to new intra-day highs or lows and utilizing Level II to capture as much profit as possible. This method requires an enormous amount of concentration and flawless order execution. Lastly, some scalp traders will follow the news and trade upcoming or current events that can cause increased volatility in a stock.
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.