Years ago, when stocks were quoted in fractions, there was a standard spread of 1/16 of a dollar or a "teenie". This spread allowed scalp traders to buy a stock at the bid and immediately sell at the ask. Hence the teenie presented clear entry and exit levels for scalp traders. The scalp trading game took a turn for the worst when the market converted to the decimal system. The decimal system closed the "teenie" often times to within 1 penny for high volume stocks. This overnight shifted the strategy for scalp traders. A scalp trader now had to rely more on their instincts, level II, and the time and sales window.
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.
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.
A trader can measure their performance as a percentage of the trading channel width. The perfect trade would be buying at the bottom channel line and selling at the top channel line, which would be a 100% performance. If a trader captured one-half of the channel, it would be a 50% performance. The goal is to continually increase the performance percentage of the average winning trade.
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.
There is a commonly quoted statistic that only about 5 percent of day traders succeed. This is a good approximation. Most people who try day trading will not succeed, yet most of them do not practice everyday for six months to a year either. Time investment and quality practice increase a day traders chances of being in the 5 percent that are successful.
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.
Finally, keep in mind that if trading on margin—which means you're borrowing your investment funds from a brokerage firm (and bear in mind that margin requirements for day trading are high)—you're far more vulnerable to sharp price movements. Margin helps to amplify the trading results not just of profits, but of losses as well if a trade goes against you. Therefore, using stop losses is crucial when day trading on margin.
Relative Strength Index (RSI) – Used to compare gains and losses over a specific period, it will measure the speed and change of the price movements of a security. In other words, it gives an evaluation of the strength of a security’s recent price performance. Day trading tip – this index will help you identify oversold and overbought conditions in the trading of an asset, enabling you to steer clear of potential pitfalls.
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The swing trader, therefore, is best positioned when markets are going nowhere – when indexes rise for a couple of days, then decline for the next few days, only to repeat the same general pattern again and again. A couple of months might pass with major stocks and indexes roughly at the same place as their original levels, but the swing trader has had many opportunities to catch the short-term movements up and down (sometimes within a channel).
Retail day traders are competing with professionals. Pros know the tricks and traps. They have expensive trading technology, data subscriptions and personal connections. They’re perfectly outfitted to succeed, and even then they often fail. Among these pros are high-frequency traders, who are looking to skim pennies or fractions of pennies — the day trader’s profit — off every trade. It’s a crowded field, and the pros love to have inexperienced investors join the fray. That helps them profit.
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."