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.
There are two primary divisions of professional day traders: those who work alone and/or those who work for a larger institution. Most day traders who trade for a living work for a large institution. These traders have an advantage because they have access to a direct line, a trading desk, large amounts of capital and leverage, expensive analytical software, and much more. These traders are typically looking for easy profits that can be made from arbitrage opportunities and news events, and these resources allow them to capitalize on these less risky day trades before individual traders can react.
In parallel to stock trading, starting at the end of the 1990s, several new market maker firms provided foreign exchange and derivative day trading through electronic trading platforms. These allowed day traders to have instant access to decentralised markets such as forex and global markets through derivatives such as contracts for difference. Most of these firms were based in the UK and later in less restrictive jurisdictions, this was in part due to the regulations in the US prohibiting this type of over-the-counter trading. These firms typically provide trading on margin allowing day traders to take large position with relatively small capital, but with the associated increase in risk. The retail foreign exchange trading became popular to day trade due to its liquidity and the 24-hour nature of the market.
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.
Many professional money managers and financial advisors shy away from day trading arguing that, in most cases, the reward does not justify the risk. Conversely, those who do day trade insist there is profit to be made. Day trading profitably is possible, but the success rate is inherently lower because of the complexity and necessary risk of day trading in conjunction with the related scams. Moreover, economists and financial practitioners alike argue that over long time periods, active trading strategies tend to underperform a more basic passive index strategy, especially after fees and taxes are taken into account.
Swing trading is one of the most popular forms of active trading, where traders look for intermediate-term opportunities using various forms of technical analysis. If you're interested in swing trading, you should be intimately familiar with technical analysis. Investopedia's Technical Analysis Course provides a comprehensive overview of the subject with over five hours of on-demand video, exercises, and interactive content cover both basic and advanced techniques.
Trading: Spotting the trend and momentum comes in handy for a scalper who can even enter and exit briefly to repeat a pattern. A novice needs to understand the market pulse, and once the scalper has identified that, trend trading and momentum trading can help achieve more profitable trades. Another strategy used by scalpers is countertrend. But beginners should avoid using this strategy and stick to trading with the trend.
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.
Assess how much capital you're willing to risk on each trade. Many successful day traders risk less than 1% to 2% of their account per trade. If you have a $40,000 trading account and are willing to risk 0.5% of your capital on each trade, your maximum loss per trade is $200 (0.005 x $40,000). Set aside a surplus amount of funds you can trade with and you're prepared to lose. Remember, it may or may not happen.