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.
Successful traders have to move fast, but they don't have to think fast. Why? Because they've developed a trading strategy in advance, along with the discipline to stick to that strategy. It is important to follow your formula closely rather than try to chase profits. Don't let your emotions get the best of you and abandon your strategy. There's a mantra among day traders: "Plan your trade and trade your plan."
This often means trading shares of companies that have just released breaking news, reported earnings, or have another fundamental catalyst that is resulting in above average retail interest. The type of stocks a day trader will focus on are typically much different from what a long term investor would look for. Day traders acknowledge the high levels of risk associated with trading volatile markets and they mitigate those risks by holding positions for very short periods of time.
Disclaimer: NerdWallet has entered into referral and advertising arrangements with certain broker-dealers under which we receive compensation (in the form of flat fees per qualifying action) when you click on links to our partner broker-dealers and/or submit an application or get approved for a brokerage account. At times, we may receive incentives (such as an increase in the flat fee) depending on how many users click on links to the broker-dealer and complete a qualifying action.
ECNs and exchanges are usually known to traders by a three- or four-letter designators, which identify the ECN or exchange on Level II stock screens. The first of these was Instinet (or "inet"), which was founded in 1969 as a way for major institutions to bypass the increasingly cumbersome and expensive NYSE, and to allow them to trade during hours when the exchanges were closed. Early ECNs such as Instinet were very unfriendly to small investors, because they tended to give large institutions better prices than were available to the public. This resulted in a fragmented and sometimes illiquid market.
It is important to understand the fundamentals of intraday trading in order to make consistent profits. A good tip is to trade with the current market trend. If the market is falling, sell first and buy later, and vice versa. Make an intraday trade plan and stick to the plan. Set your desired profit and stop-loss limit. Do not be greedy. Instead, book your profits at regular intervals. Maintain stop-loss levels. It helps you to limit your loss if the market does not perform. Also, choose highly liquid shares and trade in a small number of shares at a time, if you are not a seasoned trader.
In either of the two market extremes, the bear market environment or raging bull market, swing trading proves to be a rather different challenge than in a market between these two extremes. In these extremes, even the most active stocks will not exhibit the same up-and-down oscillations as when indexes are relatively stable for a few weeks or months. In a bear market or bull market, momentum will generally carry stocks for a long period of time in one direction only, thereby confirming that the best strategy is to trade on the basis of the longer-term directional trend.
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.
Scalping proves to be an extremely effective strategy – even for those who use it purely as a supplementary strategy. The same goes for Forex 1-minute scalping. However, it is important to understand that scalping is hard work. Scalpers are rewarded for quantitative work – the more Forex scalping they perform, the larger the profits they achieve. In the end, the strategy has to match not only your personality, but also your trading style and abilities.
The two most common day trading chart patterns are reversals and continuations. Whilst the former indicates a trend will reverse once completed, the latter suggests the trend will continue to rise. Understanding these trading patterns, as well as ‘triangles’, ‘head and shoulders’, ‘cup and handle’, ‘wedges’ and plenty more, will all make you better informed when it comes to employing your trading strategies.
Many orders placed by investors and traders begin to execute as soon as the markets open in the morning, which contributes to price volatility. A seasoned player may be able to recognize patterns and pick appropriately to make profits. But for newbies, it may be better just to read the market without making any moves for the first 15 to 20 minutes. The middle hours are usually less volatile, and then movement begins to pick up again toward the closing bell. Though the rush hours offer opportunities, it’s safer for beginners to avoid them at first.