Day trading is not for everyone and involves significant risks. Moreover, it requires an in-depth understanding of how the markets work and various strategies for profiting in the short term. While we remember the success stories of those who struck it rich as a day trader, remember that most do not—many will fizzle out and many will just barely stay afloat. Furthermore, don't underestimate the role that luck and good timing play—while skill is certainly an element, a rout of bad luck can sink even the most experienced day trader.
Financial settlement periods used to be much longer: Before the early 1990s at the London Stock Exchange, for example, stock could be paid for up to 10 working days after it was bought, allowing traders to buy (or sell) shares at the beginning of a settlement period only to sell (or buy) them before the end of the period hoping for a rise in price. This activity was identical to modern day trading, but for the longer duration of the settlement period. But today, to reduce market risk, the settlement period is typically two working days. Reducing the settlement period reduces the likelihood of default, but was impossible before the advent of electronic ownership transfer.
The most significant benefit of day trading is that positions are not affected by the possibility of negative overnight news that has the potential to impact the price of securities materially. Such news includes vital economic and earnings reports, as well as broker upgrades and downgrades that occur either before the market opens or after the market closes.
First, find the lowest point of the pullback to determine the “stop out” point. If the stock declines lower than this point, you should exit the trade in order to limit losses. Then find highest point of the recent uptrend. This becomes the profit target. If the stock hits your target price or higher, you should consider exiting at least a portion of your position, to lock in some gains.

With low barriers to entry in the trading world, the number of people trying their hands at day trading and other strategies such as scalping has increased. Newcomers to scalping need to make sure the trading style suits their personality because it requires a disciplined approach. Traders need to make quick decisions, spot opportunities and constantly monitor the screen. Those who are impatient and feel gratified by picking small successful trades are perfect for scalping.
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.
The price movements of any stock are posted throughout the trading day and summarized at the end of the trading day. For example, April 2, 2019, shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) opened at $191.09 and closed at $194.02. During the day, as indicated in the "day's range" listed to the right of the closing price, shares dropped as low as $191.05—the intraday low—and hit a peak of $194.46—the intraday high.
Suppose a trader employs scalping to profit off price movements for a stock ABC trading for $10. The trader will buy and sell a massive tranche of ABC shares, say 50,000, and sell them during opportune price movements of small amounts. For example, they might choose to buy and sell in price increments of $0.05, making small profits that add up at the end of the day because they are making the purchase and sale in bulk.
Scalpers buy low and sell high, buy high and sell higher, or short high and cover low, or short low and cover lower. They tend to utilize Level 2 and time of sales windows to route orders to the most liquid market makers and ECNs for quick executions. The point-and-click style execution through the Level 2 window or pre-programmed hotkeys are the quickest methods for the speediest order fills. Scalping is purely based on technical analysis and short-term price fluctuations. Due to the extensive use of leverage, scalping is considered a high-risk style of trading.

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 pure scalper will make a number of trades each day — perhaps in the hundreds. A scalper will mostly utilize one-minute charts since the time frame is small, and he or she needs to see the setups as they shape up in as close to real time as possible. Supporting systems such as Direct Access Trading (DAT) and Level 2 quotations are essential for this type of trading. Automatic instant execution of orders is crucial to a scalper, so a direct-access broker is the preferred weapon of choice.
Disclaimer: Trading carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to invest you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. The possibility exists that you could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and therefore you should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. You should be aware of all the risks associated with foreign exchange trading, and seek advice from an independent financial advisor if you have any doubts.
The following are several basic trading strategies by which day traders attempt to make profits. In addition, some day traders also use contrarian investing strategies (more commonly seen in algorithmic trading) to trade specifically against irrational behavior from day traders using the approaches below. It is important for a trader to remain flexible and adjust techniques to match changing market conditions.[11]
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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).

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.
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.[1] 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.
Day traders are attuned to events that cause short-term market moves. Trading the news is a popular technique. Scheduled announcements such as economic statistics, corporate earnings or interest rates are subject to market expectations and market psychology. Markets react when those expectations are not met or are exceeded, usually with sudden, significant moves, which can benefit day traders.

Before day trading, if someone wanted to trade a stock, they needed to call a stock broker to place their order, who would then route the order through a specialist on the floor of the exchange. The specialist would match the buyer with a seller and write up a physical ticket that would transfer the stock and send that confirmation back to both brokers. Commissions were charged at a flat rate of 1% of the total amount of the trade. That means that to buy $10,000 worth of stock, it would cost you an additional $100 in commissions. In 1975, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) made fixed commission rates illegal opening up the markets to the first of the discount brokers competing for business by lowering their commissions and making short term trading much more profitable.


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.
Spread trading This high-speed technique tries to profit on temporary changes in sentiment, exploiting the difference in the bid-ask price for a stock, also called a spread. For example, if a buyer’s bid price drops suddenly, the day trader might step in to buy and then try to quickly resell at the stock’s ask price or higher, earning a small “spread” on the transaction.
First, find the lowest point of the pullback to determine the “stop out” point. If the stock declines lower than this point, you should exit the trade in order to limit losses. Then find highest point of the recent uptrend. This becomes the profit target. If the stock hits your target price or higher, you should consider exiting at least a portion of your position, to lock in some gains.
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.
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."
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