Before day trading, if someone wanted to trade a stock, they needed to call a stock broker to place their order, who would then route the order through a specialist on the floor of the exchange. The specialist would match the buyer with a seller and write up a physical ticket that would transfer the stock and send that confirmation back to both brokers. Commissions were charged at a flat rate of 1% of the total amount of the trade. That means that to buy $10,000 worth of stock, it would cost you an additional $100 in commissions. In 1975, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) made fixed commission rates illegal opening up the markets to the first of the discount brokers competing for business by lowering their commissions and making short term trading much more profitable.
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In either of the two market extremes, the bear market environment or raging bull market, swing trading proves to be a rather different challenge than in a market between these two extremes. In these extremes, even the most active stocks will not exhibit the same up-and-down oscillations as when indexes are relatively stable for a few weeks or months. In a bear market or bull market, momentum will generally carry stocks for a long period of time in one direction only, thereby confirming that the best strategy is to trade on the basis of the longer-term directional trend.
A pure scalper will make a number of trades each day — perhaps in the hundreds. A scalper will mostly utilize one-minute charts since the time frame is small, and he or she needs to see the setups as they shape up in as close to real time as possible. Supporting systems such as Direct Access Trading (DAT) and Level 2 quotations are essential for this type of trading. Automatic instant execution of orders is crucial to a scalper, so a direct-access broker is the preferred weapon of choice.
Scalping is a trading strategy geared towards profiting from minor price changes in a stock's price. Traders who implement this strategy place anywhere from 10 to a few hundred trades in a single day with the belief that small moves in stock price are easier to catch than large ones; traders who implement this strategy are known as scalpers. Many small profits can easily compound into large gains, if a strict exit strategy is used to prevent large losses.
Futures are a contract that match up a buyer and seller at a specific price, with the buyer agreeing to pay that price for the asset when the contract expires in the future. The seller is agreeing to deliver the asset, like oil for example, to the buyer when the contract expires. Day traders are never required to deliver or pay for the actual asset, because all positions are opened and closed within the day (no open obligations). Profits are losses are based on the prices the contract is opened and closed at.
Much research on historical data has proven that, in a market conducive to swing trading, liquid stocks tend to trade above and below a baseline value, which is portrayed on a chart with an EM). In his book, "Come Into My Trading Room: A Complete Guide to Trading" (2002), Dr. Alexander Elder uses his understanding of a stock's behavior above and below the baseline to describe the swing trader's strategy of "buying normalcy and selling mania" or "shorting normalcy and covering depression." Once the swing trader has used the EMA to identify the typical baseline on the stock chart, he or she goes long at the baseline when the stock is heading up and short at the baseline when the stock is on its way down.
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.