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.
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.
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Scalping in this sense is the practice of purchasing a security for one's own account shortly before recommending that security for long-term investment and then immediately selling the security at a profit upon the rise in the market price following the recommendation. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that scalping by an investment adviser operates as a fraud or deceit upon any client or prospective client and is a violation of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The prohibition on scalping has been applied against persons who are not registered investment advisers, and it has been ruled that scalping is also a violation of Rule 10b-5 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 if the scalper has a relationship of trust and confidence with the persons to whom the recommendation is made. The Securities and Exchange Commission has stated that it is committed to stamping out scalping schemes.
Suppose a trader employs scalping to profit off price movements for a stock ABC trading for $10. The trader will buy and sell a massive tranche of ABC shares, say 50,000, and sell them during opportune price movements of small amounts. For example, they might choose to buy and sell in price increments of $0.05, making small profits that add up at the end of the day because they are making the purchase and sale in bulk.
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Disclaimer: Trading carries a high level of risk, and may not be suitable for all investors. Before deciding to invest you should carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite. The possibility exists that you could sustain a loss of some or all of your initial investment and therefore you should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose. You should be aware of all the risks associated with foreign exchange trading, and seek advice from an independent financial advisor if you have any doubts.