The first type of scalping is referred to as "market making," whereby a scalper tries to capitalize on the spread by simultaneously posting a bid and an offer for a specific stock. Obviously, this strategy can succeed only on mostly immobile stocks that trade big volumes without any real price changes. This kind of scalping is immensely hard to do successfully, as a trader must compete with market makers for the shares on both bids and offers. Also, the profit is so small that any stock movement against the trader's position warrants a loss exceeding his or her original profit target.
The first 9 successful trades produce $900 in profit. On the 10th trade, when the position is down $50, instead of except the loss the untrained trader purchases more shares at a lower price to reduce his cost basis. Once he is down $100, he continues to hold and is unsure of whether to hold or sell. The trader finally takes the loss when he is down $1,000.
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.
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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.
As with any other style of trading, many different methods of scalping exist. The most well-known scalping technique is using the market's time and sales to determine when and where to make trades. Scalping using the time and sales is sometimes referred to as tape reading because the time and sales used to be displayed on the old-fashioned ticker tape, known as the tape.
Range trading, or range-bound trading, is a trading style in which stocks are watched that have either been rising off a support price or falling off a resistance price. That is, every time the stock hits a high, it falls back to the low, and vice versa. Such a stock is said to be "trading in a range", which is the opposite of trending. The range trader therefore buys the stock at or near the low price, and sells (and possibly short sells) at the high. A related approach to range trading is looking for moves outside of an established range, called a breakout (price moves up) or a breakdown (price moves down), and assume that once the range has been broken prices will continue in that direction for some time.
Different markets require different amounts of capital to day trade. Stocks are popular, but also the most capital intensive. If you want to day trade stocks in the US, the absolute minimum you need is $25,000. And you'll actually need more because you need to keep your balance above $25,000. Starting with $30,000 or more is recommended. The stock market provides up to 4:1 leverage on day trades.
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.
Article copyright 2011 by Alex Elder. Reprinted and adapted from Come Into My Trading Room with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments® cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data. This reprint and the materials delivered with it should not be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any funds mentioned in this reprint.
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."