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.
Margin account – This type account allows you to borrow money from your broker. This will enable you to bolster your potential profits, but also comes with the risk of greater losses and rules to follow. If you want to start day trading with no minimum this isn’t the option for you. Most brokerage firms will insist you lay down a minimum investment before you can start trading on margin. You can also experience a margin call, where your broker demands a greater deposit to cover potential losses.
Day trading requires more money than just a deposit, though. Get setup with a good computer, one or two monitors, a trading platform and data feeds. With many brokers the data feeds for various markets cost money, so pick a market and stick with it. There is no reason to pay for data feeds you won't be using. Also, a consistent income isn't likely during the first six months to a year, so save up for living expenses if attempting to day trade as a primary income stream.
Traditional investing – Traditional investing is a longer game and looks to put money in popular assets such as stocks, bonds, and real estate for long-term value appreciation. Realistic investment returns over a whole year are in the 5-7% range. Unless you are already rich and can invest millions, traditional investing returns too little to make much of a difference on a daily basis. However, the intelligent trader will also invest long-term.
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Your account will be designated as “day trader status” if you have 3 round trip trades (one round trip = an opening and closing transaction), in a rolling 5 business day period. If you have 4 round trip trades in a 5 day period, you will be restricted from day trading for 90 days. Your brokerage firm will probably allow you to buy a stock and hold it overnight before closing the position. If you have a second day trade violation, your account will either be restricted from trading or you can request your account be a non day trader status account and buy and then sell after 3 business days. This depends upon the specific brokerage firms rules for some of these details but they are getting very strict with enforcing these rules.
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. exists to help novice traders get educated and avoid mistakes while learning how to day trade.
Years ago, when stocks were quoted in fractions, there was a standard spread of 1/16 of a dollar or a "teenie". This spread allowed scalp traders to buy a stock at the bid and immediately sell at the ask. Hence the teenie presented clear entry and exit levels for scalp traders. The scalp trading game took a turn for the worst when the market converted to the decimal system. The decimal system closed the "teenie" often times to within 1 penny for high volume stocks. This overnight shifted the strategy for scalp traders. A scalp trader now had to rely more on their instincts, level II, and the time and sales window.

Traders following the Breakout Intraday Trading Strategy identify a price level which can be their breakout trading level, wait for a breakout and identify the resistance level and then wait for the break out to close above the resistance level. However, breakout trading is quite risky as the traders are buying the security that everyone else is, and there is hardly anyone left to buy it after the traders get in.
Buying on margin can greatly increase your gains or losses. Brokerages usually allow a bigger margin percentage for a day trading account but reduce the amount of margin available for positions held overnight. Normally a day trading account must have a minimum of $25,000 and can buy on margin at a rate of 4 to 1 giving you $100,000 in buying power, which is called day trader buying power. That number drops to 2 to 1 for positions held overnight, which can be called overnight margin buying power. That means that if you have 100% of your margin being used during the day, you must exit at least half of your positions before the close of the trading day.
Solid article breaking down the two main strategies for swing trading. I stumbled on swing trading about 5-6 years ago and didn't even actually know what it was called at the time! For the last 5 years, I've been primarily trading postive reversals using the Swing Low method you describe here. After all, we've been in this amazing bull market for the last 8 years, so why fight the overall trend? One key point I would say is it is important to find a method that fit's your personality. I used attempt swing trades based upon breakouts. I found that I feared missing out on a large move, so I would pile into a trade with little thought about the risk vs. reward. I would chase prices higher. I also chased different trading methods, jumping from one to another. Long story didn't work. :-) I described after much trial & error, I finally settled on a trading method that fit my personality. I have found that as a trader, you answer to yourself. Find a trading met
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.
Retail investors are prone to psychological biases that make day trading difficult. They tend to sell winners too early and hold losers too long, what some call “picking the flowers and watering the weeds.” That’s easy to do when you get a shot of adrenaline for closing out a profitable trade. Investors engage in myopic loss aversion, which renders them too afraid to buy when a stock declines because they fear it might fall further.
By holding overnight, the swing trader incurs the unpredictability of overnight risk such as gaps up or down against the position. By taking on the overnight risk, swing trades are usually done with a smaller position size compared to day trading (assuming the two traders have similarly sized accounts). Day traders typically utilize larger position sizes and may use day trading margin of 25%.
Scalpers use technical analysis but within this style, can be either discretionary or system traders. Discretionary scalpers will make each trading decision in real time (albeit very quickly), whereas system scalpers follow a scalping system without making any individual trading decisions. Scalpers primarily use the market's prices to make their trading decisions, but some scalpers also use one or more technical indicators, such as moving averages, channel bands, and other chart patterns.
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.