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.
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.
Day traders use only risk capital which they can afford to lose. Not only does this protect them from financial ruin, but it also helps eliminate emotion from their trading. A large amount of capital is often necessary to capitalize effectively on intraday price movements. Having access to a margin account is also key, since volatile swings can incur margin calls on short notice.
Individual traders often manage other people's money or simply trade with their own. Few of them have access to a trading desk, but they often have strong ties to a brokerage (due to the large amounts they spend on commissions) and access to other resources. However, the limited scope of these resources prevents them from competing directly with institutional day traders. Instead, they are forced to take more risks. Individual traders typically day trade using technical analysis and swing trades—combined with some leverage—to generate adequate profits on such small price movements in highly liquid stocks.
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.
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The information contained in this article is provided for general informational purposes, and should not be construed as investment advice, tax advice, a solicitation or offer, or a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Ally Invest does not provide tax advice and does not represent in any manner that the outcomes described herein will result in any particular tax consequence. Prospective investors should confer with their personal tax advisors regarding the tax consequences based on their particular circumstances.
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