This combination of factors has made day trading in stocks and stock derivatives (such as ETFs) possible. The low commission rates allow an individual or small firm to make a large number of trades during a single day. The liquidity and small spreads provided by ECNs allow an individual to make near-instantaneous trades and to get favorable pricing.
Many professional money managers and financial advisors shy away from day trading arguing that, in most cases, the reward does not justify the risk. Conversely, those who do day trade insist there is profit to be made. Day trading profitably is possible, but the success rate is inherently lower because of the complexity and necessary risk of day trading in conjunction with the related scams. Moreover, economists and financial practitioners alike argue that over long time periods, active trading strategies tend to underperform a more basic passive index strategy, especially after fees and taxes are taken into account.
Retail investors are prone to psychological biases that make day trading difficult. They tend to sell winners too early and hold losers too long, what some call “picking the flowers and watering the weeds.” That’s easy to do when you get a shot of adrenaline for closing out a profitable trade. Investors engage in myopic loss aversion, which renders them too afraid to buy when a stock declines because they fear it might fall further.
The common use of buying on margin (using borrowed funds) amplifies gains and losses, such that substantial losses or gains can occur in a very short period of time. In addition, brokers usually allow bigger margin for day traders. In the United States for example, while the initial margin required to hold a stock position overnight are 50% of the stock's value due to Regulation T, many brokers allow pattern day trader accounts to use levels as low as 25% for intraday purchases. This means a day trader with the legal minimum $25,000 in his account can buy $100,000 (4x leverage) worth of stock during the day, as long as half of those positions are exited before the market close. Because of the high risk of margin use, and of other day trading practices, a day trader will often have to exit a losing position very quickly, in order to prevent a greater, unacceptable loss, or even a disastrous loss, much larger than her original investment, or even larger than her total assets.
The difference between the profit target and the entry point is the approximate reward of the trade. The difference between the entry point and the stop out point is the approximate risk.When determining whether it’s worthwhile to enter a swing trade, consider using two-to-one as a minimum reward-to-risk ratio. Your potential profit should be at least twice as much as your potential loss. If the ratio is higher than that, the trade is considered better; if it’s lower it’s worse.
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.
To succeed as a day trader, it is important to know how to pick stocks for intraday trading. Often people are unable to make profits because they fail to select appropriate stocks to trade during the day. Choosing the right stocks to book profits is an art that you will learn with experience. For beginners, here get some tips to choose stocks for intraday trading.
Take profits near the upper channel line. If the market is strong, you can wait for the channel line to be hit. If it's weak, grab your first profit while it's still there. What if a strong swing overshoots the channel line? An experienced trader may shift his tactics and hold a little longer, perhaps until the day when the market fails to make a new high. A beginning trader is better advised to take profits after the channel line has been hit as it's important to learn to take profits in accordance with one's trading plan.
Most of our students adopt either my Momentum or Reversal Day Trading Strategies. Once you choose the one that is a good match for your skill level, your risk management tolerance, and the time of day you plan to trade, you are ready to get started. Students in our Day Trading Course can download our written trading plan documents and I’m able to actually oversee them while they are trading.
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This strategy is mostly only done by day traders. It requires that you have access to one to several real-time news sources and can make split second decisions. News and rumors can provide large amounts of volatility and high emotion creating great opportunities if traded properly. The biggest challenge of trading this strategy is anticipating the market’s reaction to the news and how it effects the price of the stock. Click here for more information on trading news and rumors.
Swing traders can use a wide array of technical indicators. What makes swing trading unique is that it blends several components of day trading, with the speed of position trading. Swing trading indicators are primarily used to find trends that play out between 3 and 15 trading periods. After we analyze these periods, we will be able to determine whether instances of resistance or support have occurred.
Swing traders should select their candidates from the most actively traded stocks and ETFs that show a tendency to swing within broad well-defined channels. Virtually all trading platforms provide a function to enter channel lines on a price chart. The trader should keep a list of stocks and ETFs to monitor on a daily basis and become familiar with the price action of their selected candidates.
Volatility is the name of the day-trading game. Day traders rely heavily on a stock’s or market’s fluctuations to earn their profits. They like stocks that bounce around a lot throughout the day, whatever the cause: a good or bad earnings report, positive or negative news, or just general market sentiment. They also like highly liquid stocks, ones that allow them to move in and out of a position without much affecting the stock’s price.
Day trading is not for everyone and involves significant risks. Moreover, it requires an in-depth understanding of how the markets work and various strategies for profiting in the short term. While we remember the success stories of those who struck it rich as a day trader, remember that most do not—many will fizzle out and many will just barely stay afloat. Furthermore, don't underestimate the role that luck and good timing play—while skill is certainly an element, a rout of bad luck can sink even the most experienced day trader.