Day trading is defined as the purchase and sale of a security within a single trading day. It can occur in any marketplace but is most common in the foreign exchange (forex) and stock markets. Day traders are typically well-educated and well-funded. They use high amounts of leverage and short-term trading strategies to capitalize on small price movements in highly liquid stocks or currencies.
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.
Recent reports show a surge in the number of day trading beginners. But unlike the short term trading of the past, today’s traders are smarter and better informed, in part due to trader academies, courses, and resources, including trading apps. Daytrading.com exists to help novice traders get educated and avoid mistakes while learning how to day trade.
A scalp trader can look to make money in a variety of ways. One method is to have a set profit target amount per trade. This profit target should be relative to the price of the security and can range between .%1 - .25%. Another method is to track stocks breaking out to new intra-day highs or lows and utilizing Level II to capture as much profit as possible. This method requires an enormous amount of concentration and flawless order execution. Lastly, some scalp traders will follow the news and trade upcoming or current events that can cause increased volatility in a stock.
To offset this, day traders are often offered the "opportunity" to leverage their portfolios with more margin, four times the buying power rather than double. Taking larger leveraged positions can increase percentage gains to offset costs. The problem is that no one is right all the time. A lack of focus, discipline, or just plain bad luck can lead to a trade that goes against you in a big way. A bad trade, or string of bad trades, can blow up your account, where the loss to the portfolio is so great the chances of recovery are slim. For a swing trader, a string of losses or a big loss can still have a dramatic effect, but the lower leverage reduces the likelihood that the results wipe out your portfolio.
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Swing trading refers to the practice of trying to profit from market swings of a minimum of one day and as long as several weeks. In contrast to swing traders, day traders usually are in and out of the market in one day and trend traders often hold positions for several months. So, in terms of length of holding a trade, swing traders are in between day traders and trend traders.
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.