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.
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The first type of scalping is referred to as "market making," whereby a scalper tries to capitalize on the spread by simultaneously posting a bid and an offer for a specific stock. Obviously, this strategy can succeed only on mostly immobile stocks that trade big volumes without any real price changes. This kind of scalping is immensely hard to do successfully, as a trader must compete with market makers for the shares on both bids and offers. Also, the profit is so small that any stock movement against the trader's position warrants a loss exceeding his or her original profit target.
This part is all up to you. There is no "line crossing," "arrow appearing" or "a small voice telling you to buy now!" You have to understand a little bit about how the price action works before you decide on your entry. Using our example, the Volume indicator shot up drastically meaning that traders are getting in on the action and thus driving the price upwards!
Scalpers buy low and sell high, buy high and sell higher, or short high and cover low, or short low and cover lower. They tend to utilize Level 2 and time of sales windows to route orders to the most liquid market makers and ECNs for quick executions. The point-and-click style execution through the Level 2 window or pre-programmed hotkeys are the quickest methods for the speediest order fills. Scalping is purely based on technical analysis and short-term price fluctuations. Due to the extensive use of leverage, scalping is considered a high-risk style of trading.
Day traders generally use margin leverage; in the United States, Regulation T permits an initial maximum leverage of 2:1, but many brokers will permit 4:1 leverage as long as the leverage is reduced to 2:1 or less by the end of the trading day. In the United States, people who make more than 4 day trades per week are termed pattern day traders and are required to maintain $25,000 in equity in their accounts. Since margin interest is typically only charged on overnight balances, the trader may pay no interest fees for the margin benefit, though still running the risk of a margin call. Margin interest rates are usually based on the broker's call.
Some of the common mistakes that scalpers make are poor execution, poor strategy, not taking stop-losses, over-leveraging, late entries, late exits and overtrading. Scalping generates heavy commissions due to the high number of transactions. A per-share commission pricing structure is beneficial to scalpers, especially for those who tend to scale smaller pieces in and out of positions.
The first 9 successful trades produce $900 in profit. On the 10th trade, when the position is down $50, instead of except the loss the untrained trader purchases more shares at a lower price to reduce his cost basis. Once he is down $100, he continues to hold and is unsure of whether to hold or sell. The trader finally takes the loss when he is down $1,000.
Traders pay close attention to intraday price movements by using real-time charts in an attempt to benefit from short-term price fluctuations. Short-term traders typically use one-, five-, 15-, 30- and 60-minute intraday charts when trading within the market day. Typically, intraday scalping uses one- and five-minute charts for high-speed trading. Other intraday trading strategies may use 30- and 60-minute charts for trades that have hold times of several hours. Scalping is a strategy of transacting many trades per day that hopes to profit from small movements in a stock's price. The intraday trader may hold their positions for a longer period but still operate under high risks.
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.
Day trading is the act of buying and selling a financial instrument within the same day or even multiple times over the course of a day. Taking advantage of small price moves can be a lucrative game—if it is played correctly. But it can be a dangerous game for newbies or anyone who doesn't adhere to a well-thought-out strategy. What's more, not all brokers are suited for the high volume of trades made by day traders. Some brokers, however, are designed with the day trader in mind. You can check out our list of the best brokers for day trading to see which brokers best accommodate those who would like to day trade.