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.
Different markets require different amounts of capital to day trade. Stocks are popular, but also the most capital intensive. If you want to day trade stocks in the US, the absolute minimum you need is $25,000. And you'll actually need more because you need to keep your balance above $25,000. Starting with $30,000 or more is recommended. The stock market provides up to 4:1 leverage on day trades.
Whether you are scalping EUR: USD, other currency pairs, or other assets outside of forex, it’s important to pay attention to the details. Scalping typically occurs in 5-20 minute increments. However, if you were trying to implement a one-minute scalping strategy, volume indicators, M5/M15 time charts, and price action trends should be the first things you look at.
Each type of trading has its advantages and disadvantages. The appeal of swing trading is that it provides plenty of opportunities to trade; the dollar risk per trade is lower than with trend trading because of closer stops; it provides greater profit opportunity per trade than day trading; and quick rewards provide emotional satisfaction. The downside of swing trading is that you must work hard all the time to manage trades; you are quite likely to miss major moves where huge profits can be made; and frequent trading results in higher commission costs.
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A basic EMA crossover system can be used by focusing on the nine-, 13- and 50-period EMAs. A bullish crossover occurs when the price crosses above these moving averages after being below. This signifies that a reversal may be in the cards and that an uptrend may be beginning. When the nine-period EMA crosses above the 13-period EMA, it signals a long entry. However, the 13-period EMA has to be above the 50-period EMA or cross above it.
Scalping is the shortest time frame in trading and it exploits small changes in currency prices. Scalpers attempt to act like traditional market makers or specialists. To make the spread means to buy at the Bid price and sell at the Ask price, in order to gain the bid/ask difference. This procedure allows for profit even when the bid and ask don't move at all, as long as there are traders who are willing to take market prices. It normally involves establishing and liquidating a position quickly, usually within minutes or even seconds.
Risk management - Rather than looking for one big trade, the way a trend trader might, the scalper looks for hundreds of small profits throughout the day. In this process the scalper might also take hundreds of small losses during the same time period. For this reason a scalper must have very strict risk management never allowing a loss to accumulate.
The ability for individuals to day trade coincided with the extreme bull market in technological issues from 1997 to early 2000, known as the dot-com bubble. From 1997 to 2000, the NASDAQ rose from 1200 to 5000. Many naive investors with little market experience made huge profits buying these stocks in the morning and selling them in the afternoon, at 400% margin rates.
Spreads are bonuses as well as costs - Stock Markets operate on a bid and ask based system. The numerical difference between the bid and ask prices is referred to as the spread between them. The ask prices are immediate execution (market) prices for quick buyers (ask takers); bid prices for quick sellers (bid takers). If a trade is executed at market prices, closing that trade immediately without queuing would not get you back the amount paid because of the bid/ask difference. The spread can be viewed as trading bonuses or costs according to different parties and different strategies. On one hand, traders who do NOT wish to queue their order, instead paying the market price, pay the spreads (costs). On the other hand, traders who wish to queue and wait for execution receive the spreads (bonuses). Some day trading strategies attempt to capture the spread as additional, or even the only, profits for successful trades.
The profit potential of day trading is perhaps one of the most debated and misunderstood topics on Wall Street. Internet day trading scams have lured amateurs by promising enormous returns in a short period. The idea that this kind of trading is a get-rich-quick scheme persists. Some people day trade without sufficient knowledge. But there are day traders who make a successful living despite—or perhaps because of—the risks.
In addition, in the United States, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and SEC further restrict the entry by means of "pattern day trader" amendments. Pattern day trader is a term defined by the SEC to describe any trader who buys and sells a particular security in the same trading day (day trades), and does this four or more times in any five consecutive business day period. A pattern day trader is subject to special rules, the main rule being that in order to engage in pattern day trading in a margin account, the trader must maintain an equity balance of at least $25,000. It is important to note that this requirement is only for day traders using a margin account.
In March 2000, this bubble burst, and a large number of less-experienced day traders began to lose money as fast, or faster, than they had made during the buying frenzy. The NASDAQ crashed from 5000 back to 1200; many of the less-experienced traders went broke, although obviously it was possible to have made a fortune during that time by short selling or playing on volatility.
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.
This strategy is mostly only done by day traders. It requires that you have access to one to several real-time news sources and can make split second decisions. News and rumors can provide large amounts of volatility and high emotion creating great opportunities if traded properly. The biggest challenge of trading this strategy is anticipating the market’s reaction to the news and how it effects the price of the stock. Click here for more information on trading news and rumors.
The next important step in facilitating day trading was the founding in 1971 of NASDAQ—a virtual stock exchange on which orders were transmitted electronically. Moving from paper share certificates and written share registers to "dematerialized" shares, traders used computerized trading and registration that required not only extensive changes to legislation but also the development of the necessary technology: online and real time systems rather than batch; electronic communications rather than the postal service, telex or the physical shipment of computer tapes, and the development of secure cryptographic algorithms.
If the strategy is within your risk limit, then testing begins. Manually go through historical charts to find your entries, noting whether your stop loss or target would have been hit. Paper trade in this way for at least 50 to 100 trades, noting whether the strategy was profitable and if it meets your expectations. If it does, proceed to trading the strategy in a demo account in real time. If it's profitable over the course of two months or more in a simulated environment, proceed with day trading the strategy with real capital. If the strategy isn't profitable, start over.