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.
Due to the increased leverage and quick returns, day trading can be extremely profitable. The downside is that if done incorrectly, it can also be extremely unprofitable. Due to the high volatility of day trading, some people have labeled Day Traders as gamblers or adrenaline junkies. However, many people make a very consistent and comfortable living from day trading. Some even make millions of dollars each year.
The systems by which stocks are traded have also evolved, the second half of the twentieth century having seen the advent of electronic communication networks (ECNs). These are essentially large proprietary computer networks on which brokers can list a certain amount of securities to sell at a certain price (the asking price or "ask") or offer to buy a certain amount of securities at a certain price (the "bid").
Order execution: A novice needs to master the art of efficient order execution. A delayed or bad order can wipe out what little profit was earned and even result in a loss. Since the profit margin per trade is limited, the order execution has to be accurate. As mentioned above, this requires supporting systems such as Direct Access Trading and Level 2 quotations.
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.
The first EMA (50) must be positioned above the second EMA (100). When this has occurred, it is essential to wait until the price comes back to the EMAs. In turn, the Stochastic Oscillator is exploited to cross over the 20 level from below. The moment you observe the three items arranged in the proper way, opening a long (buy) order may be an option.
A scalper intends to take as many small profits as possible, without letting them evaporate. This is the opposite of the "let your profits run" mindset, which attempts to optimize positive trading results by increasing the size of winning trades while letting others reverse. Scalping achieves results by increasing the number of winners and sacrificing the size of the wins. It's not uncommon for a trader with a longer time frame to achieve positive results by winning only half or even less of his or her trades – it's just that the wins are much bigger than the losses. A successful scalper, however, will have a much higher ratio of winning trades versus losing ones, while keeping profits roughly equal or slightly bigger than losses.
By holding overnight, the swing trader incurs the unpredictability of overnight risk such as gaps up or down against the position. By taking on the overnight risk, swing trades are usually done with a smaller position size compared to day trading (assuming the two traders have similarly sized accounts). Day traders typically utilize larger position sizes and may use day trading margin of 25%.
Another trading method is known as fading the gap at the open. When the opening price shows a gap from the previous day’s close, taking a position in the opposite direction of the gap is known as fading the gap. For days when there is no news or there are no gaps, early in the morning, day traders will take a view on the general direction of the market. If they expect the market to move up, they would buy securities that exhibit strength when their prices dip.
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This combination of factors has made day trading in stocks and stock derivatives (such as ETFs) possible. The low commission rates allow an individual or small firm to make a large number of trades during a single day. The liquidity and small spreads provided by ECNs allow an individual to make near-instantaneous trades and to get favorable pricing.