The second type of scalping is done by purchasing a large number of shares that are sold for a gain on a very small price movement. A trader of this style will enter into positions for several thousand shares and wait for a small move, which is usually measured in cents. Such an approach requires highly liquid stock to allow for entering and exiting 3,000 to 10,000 shares easily.
The problem most new traders make is that they don't practice a strategy in a demo account, for several months or more, before risking real capital. Therefore, they have no idea how a strategy works, and how they need to adjust it when market conditions change. The demo accounts serves as a testing ground, where new traders can test out ideas, see what works and hone trading psychological skills (such as patience, discipline and focus).
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But there is an added risk with the shorter time frame. A wide spread between the bid, the ask and commissions can eat too large a portion of your profits. Swing traders can struggle with this too, but the effect is amplified for the day trader. Day traders can find themselves doing all the work, and the market makers and brokers reap the benefits.
Liquidity - The liquidity of a market affects the performance of scalping. Each product within the market receives different spread, due to popularity differentials. The more liquid the markets and the products are, the tighter the spreads are. Some scalpers like to trade in a more liquid market since they can move in and out of large positions easily without adverse market impact. Other scalpers like to trade in less liquid markets, which typically have significantly larger bid-ask spreads. Whereas a scalper in a highly liquid market (for example, a market maintaining a one-penny spread) may take 10,000 shares to make a 3 cent gain ($300), a scalper in an illiquid market (for example, a market with a 25 cent spread) may take 500 shares for a 60 cent gain ($300). While there is theoretically more profit potential in a liquid market, it is also a "poker game" with many more professional players which can make it more difficult to anticipate future price action.
Unlike a number of day trading strategies where you can have a win/loss ratio of less than 50% and still make money, scalp traders must have a high win/loss ratio. This is due to the fact that losing and winning trades are generally equal in size. The necessity of being right is the primary factor scalp trading is such a challenging method of making money in the market.
Following the 1987 stock market crash, the SEC adopted "Order Handling Rules" which required market makers to publish their best bid and ask on the NASDAQ. Another reform made was the "Small-order execution system", or "SOES", which required market makers to buy or sell, immediately, small orders (up to 1000 shares) at the market maker's listed bid or ask. The design of the system gave rise to arbitrage by a small group of traders known as the "SOES bandits", who made sizable profits buying and selling small orders to market makers by anticipating price moves before they were reflected in the published inside bid/ask prices. The SOES system ultimately led to trading facilitated by software instead of market makers via ECNs.
Scalping is a fast-paced activity for nimble traders. It requires precision timing and execution. Scalpers use day trading buying power of four to one margin to maximize profits with the most shares in the shortest amount of holding time. This requires focusing on the smaller time frame interval charts such as the one-minute and five-minute candlestick charts. Momentum indicators such as stochastic, moving average convergence divergence (MACD) and relative strength index (RSI) are commonly used. Price chart indicators such as moving averages, Bollinger bands and pivot points are used as reference points for price support and resistance levels.
These developments heralded the appearance of "market makers": the NASDAQ equivalent of a NYSE specialist. A market maker has an inventory of stocks to buy and sell, and simultaneously offers to buy and sell the same stock. Obviously, it will offer to sell stock at a higher price than the price at which it offers to buy. This difference is known as the "spread". The market maker is indifferent as to whether the stock goes up or down, it simply tries to constantly buy for less than it sells. A persistent trend in one direction will result in a loss for the market maker, but the strategy is overall positive (otherwise they would exit the business). Today there are about 500 firms who participate as market makers on ECNs, each generally making a market in four to forty different stocks. Without any legal obligations, market makers were free to offer smaller spreads on electronic communication networks than on the NASDAQ. A small investor might have to pay a $0.25 spread (e.g. he might have to pay $10.50 to buy a share of stock but could only get $10.25 for selling it), while an institution would only pay a $0.05 spread (buying at $10.40 and selling at $10.35).
On the other hand, a bearish crossover occurs when the price of a security falls below these EMAs. This signals a potential reversal of a trend, and it can be used to time an exit of a long position. When the nine-period EMA crosses below the 13-period EMA, it signals a short entry or an exit of a long position. However, the 13-period EMA has to below the 50-period EMA or cross below it.
Scalping is a trading style that specializes in profiting off small price changes, generally after a trade is executed and becomes profitable. It requires a trader to have a strict exit strategy because one large loss could eliminate the many small gains the trader worked to obtain. Having the right tools such as a live feed, a direct-access broker and the stamina to place many trades is required for this strategy to be successful.
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.