Based on particular setups, any trading system can be used for the purposes of scalping. In this regard, scalping can be seen as a kind of risk management method. Basically, any trade can be turned into a scalp by taking a profit near the 1:1 risk/reward ratio. This means that the size of the profit taken equals the size of a stop dictated by the setup. If, for instance, a trader enters his or her position for a scalp trade at $20 with an initial stop at $19.90, the risk is 10 cents. This means a 1:1 risk/reward ratio will be reached at $20.10.
Day trading poses a number of hurdles. Mainly, each trading day is slightly different. Traders need a method that works in nearly all market conditions. That doesn't mean a day trader will win every day. On the contrary, even with a great method, there still may be several losing days a month. Winning every trade or every day isn't important, it is winning over the course of each week and month that matters.
The common use of buying on margin (using borrowed funds) amplifies gains and losses, such that substantial losses or gains can occur in a very short period of time. In addition, brokers usually allow bigger margin for day traders. In the United States for example, while the initial margin required to hold a stock position overnight are 50% of the stock's value due to Regulation T, many brokers allow pattern day trader accounts to use levels as low as 25% for intraday purchases. This means a day trader with the legal minimum $25,000 in his account can buy $100,000 (4x leverage) worth of stock during the day, as long as half of those positions are exited before the market close. Because of the high risk of margin use, and of other day trading practices, a day trader will often have to exit a losing position very quickly, in order to prevent a greater, unacceptable loss, or even a disastrous loss, much larger than her original investment, or even larger than her total assets.
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.
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.
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.
Aside from a risk/reward, the trader could also utilize other exit methods, such as waiting for the price to make a new low. With this method, an exit signal wasn't given until $216.46, when the price dropped below the prior pullback low. This method would have resulted in a profit of $23.76 per share. Thought of another way: a 12% profit in exchange for less than 3% risk. This swing trade took approximately two months.
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).
Day trading is the act of buying and selling a financial instrument within the same day or even multiple times over the course of a day. Taking advantage of small price moves can be a lucrative game—if it is played correctly. But it can be a dangerous game for newbies or anyone who doesn't adhere to a well-thought-out strategy. What's more, not all brokers are suited for the high volume of trades made by day traders. Some brokers, however, are designed with the day trader in mind. You can check out our list of the best brokers for day trading to see which brokers best accommodate those who would like to day trade.