There is no special qualification required to become a day trader. Instead day traders are classified based on the frequency of their trading. FINRA and NYSE classify day traders based on whether he or she trades four or more times during a five-day span, provided the number of day trades is more than 6% of the customer's total trading activity during that period or the brokerage/investment firm where he or she has opened an account considers him a day trader. Day traders are subject to capital and margin maintenance requirements.
Spot foreign exchange (exchanges of foreign currencies) brokers - They do not charge any commissions because they make profits from the bid/ask spread quotes. On July 10, 2006, the exchange rate between Euro and United States dollar is 1.2733 at 15:45. The internal (inter-bank dealers) bid/ask price is 1.2732-5/1.2733-5. However the foreign exchange brokers or middlemen will not offer the same competitive prices to their clients. Instead they provide their own version of bid and ask quotes, say 1.2731/1.2734, of which their commissions are already "hidden" in it. More competitive brokers do not charge more than 2 pips spread on a currency where the interbank market has a 1 pip spread, and some offer better than this by quoting prices in fractional pips.
Scalping can appear easy because a scalper might make an entire day's profit within a few minutes. However, in reality, scalping can be quite challenging because there is very little room for error. If you do decide to try scalping, make sure that you do so by using a trading simulator, until you are consistently profitable and no longer make any beginning mistakes, such as not exiting your trades when they move against you.
Because scalpers focus on short-term positions with low-profit margins, the best scalping strategies (such as the Triple S strategy mentioned below) require some leverage. It's recommended that scalpers start with a large amount of capital. Opening and closing larger positions allow you to reduce the marginal costs of trading and maximize potential gains.
Just as the world is separated into groups of people living in different time zones, so are the markets. If you start trading on the Cac 40 at 11:00 ET, you might find you’ve missed the best entry signals of the day already, minimising your potential end of day profit. So, if you want to be at the top, you may have to seriously adjust your working hours.
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.
Individual traders often manage other people's money or simply trade with their own. Few of them have access to a trading desk, but they often have strong ties to a brokerage (due to the large amounts they spend on commissions) and access to other resources. However, the limited scope of these resources prevents them from competing directly with institutional day traders. Instead, they are forced to take more risks. Individual traders typically day trade using technical analysis and swing trades—combined with some leverage—to generate adequate profits on such small price movements in highly liquid stocks.
Mutual funds are off-limits for intraday trading. The design of these funds is for the long-term investor, and they can only be bought and sold through a broker or the fund's investment company. Also, a mutual fund's price posts only once, at the close of the trading day. This price is known as the net asset value (NAV) and reflects all of the intraday movement of the fund's assets, less its liabilities, calculated on a per-share basis.
This combination of factors has made day trading in stocks and stock derivatives (such as ETFs) possible. The low commission rates allow an individual or small firm to make a large number of trades during a single day. The liquidity and small spreads provided by ECNs allow an individual to make near-instantaneous trades and to get favorable pricing.
The key to scalping while using short time frames is to identify price changes before the rest of the market has had the chance to act. You should also be willing to accept very low profit margins—gaining less than 1% on a given action will still usually be in your best interest. Because of this, many scalpers may implement tight stop-loss and stop-limit orders over time.
Swing traders usually go with the main trend of the stock. But some traders like to go against it and trade the counter trend instead. This is known as “fading,” but it has many other names: counter-trend trading, contrarian trading, and trading the fade. During an uptrend, you could take a bearish position near the swing high because you expect the stock to retrace and go back down. During a downtrend to trade the fade, you would buy shares near the swing low if you expect the stock to rebound and go back up.
ECNs and exchanges are usually known to traders by a three- or four-letter designators, which identify the ECN or exchange on Level II stock screens. The first of these was Instinet (or "inet"), which was founded in 1969 as a way for major institutions to bypass the increasingly cumbersome and expensive NYSE, and to allow them to trade during hours when the exchanges were closed. Early ECNs such as Instinet were very unfriendly to small investors, because they tended to give large institutions better prices than were available to the public. This resulted in a fragmented and sometimes illiquid market.
Swing trading is one of the most popular forms of active trading, where traders look for intermediate-term opportunities using various forms of technical analysis. If you're interested in swing trading, you should be intimately familiar with technical analysis. Investopedia's Technical Analysis Course provides a comprehensive overview of the subject with over five hours of on-demand video, exercises, and interactive content cover both basic and advanced techniques.
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%.
Day traders are attuned to events that cause short-term market moves. Trading the news is a popular technique. Scheduled announcements such as economic statistics, corporate earnings or interest rates are subject to market expectations and market psychology. Markets react when those expectations are not met or are exceeded, usually with sudden, significant moves, which can benefit day traders.