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But this description of swing trading is a simplification. In reality, swing trading sits in the middle of the continuum between day trading to trend trading. A day trader will hold a stock anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours but never more than a day; a trend trader examines the long-term fundamental trends of a stock or index and may hold the stock for a few weeks or months. Swing traders hold a particular stock for a period of time, generally a few days to two or three weeks, which is between those extremes, and they will trade the stock on the basis of its intra-week or intra-month oscillations between optimism and pessimism.
If the strategy is within your risk limit, then testing begins. Manually go through historical charts to find your entries, noting whether your stop loss or target would have been hit. Paper trade in this way for at least 50 to 100 trades, noting whether the strategy was profitable and if it meets your expectations. If it does, proceed to trading the strategy in a demo account in real time. If it's profitable over the course of two months or more in a simulated environment, proceed with day trading the strategy with real capital. If the strategy isn't profitable, start over.
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.
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.
A basic EMA crossover system can be used by focusing on the nine-, 13- and 50-period EMAs. A bullish crossover occurs when the price crosses above these moving averages after being below. This signifies that a reversal may be in the cards and that an uptrend may be beginning. When the nine-period EMA crosses above the 13-period EMA, it signals a long entry. However, the 13-period EMA has to be above the 50-period EMA or cross above it.
The reason is because all too often the price can drop and you will end up giving up that profit. Instead, as soon as I’ve reached my first profit target (if I’m risking $100, then as soon as I’m up $100), I’ll sell 1/2 my position and set my stop at breakeven. This method of scaling out ensures small profits on all trades that move in your favor, giving you a better percentage of success.
By the same token, volume characteristics of a breakout also can have a shortened time frame. Rather than the 50-day moving average of volume as your threshold for heavy turnover, look to the volume of the shorter consolidation area for clues. If the breakout volume can surpass the recent activity, that can be a sufficient confirmation of strength.
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.