Scalping utilizes larger position sizes for smaller price gains in the smallest period of holding time. It is performed intraday. The main goal is to buy or sell a number of shares at the bid — or ask — price and then quickly sell them a few cents higher or lower for a profit. The holding times can vary from seconds to minutes, and in some cases up to several hours. The position is closed before the end of the total market trading session, which can extend to 8 p.m. EST.
Scalping can be very profitable for traders who decide to use it as a primary strategy, or even those who use it to supplement other types of trading. Adhering to the strict exit strategy is the key to making small profits compound into large gains. The brief amount of market exposure and the frequency of small moves are key attributes that are the reasons why this strategy is popular among many types of traders.
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.
Based on particular setups, any trading system can be used for the purposes of scalping. In this regard, scalping can be seen as a kind of risk management method. Basically, any trade can be turned into a scalp by taking a profit near the 1:1 risk/reward ratio. This means that the size of the profit taken equals the size of a stop dictated by the setup. If, for instance, a trader enters his or her position for a scalp trade at $20 with an initial stop at $19.90, the risk is 10 cents. This means a 1:1 risk/reward ratio will be reached at $20.10.
Some of these approaches require short selling stocks; the trader borrows stock from his broker and sells the borrowed stock, hoping that the price will fall and he will be able to purchase the shares at a lower price, thus keeping the difference as their profit. There are several technical problems with short sales - the broker may not have shares to lend in a specific issue, the broker can call for the return of its shares at any time, and some restrictions are imposed in America by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on short-selling (see uptick rule for details). Some of these restrictions (in particular the uptick rule) don't apply to trades of stocks that are actually shares of an exchange-traded fund (ETF).
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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.
So, swing traders are not looking to hit the home run with a single trade – they are not concerned with the perfect time to buy a stock exactly at its bottom and sell exactly at its top (or vice versa). In a perfect trading environment, they wait for the stock to hit its baseline and confirm its direction before they make their moves. The story gets more complicated when a stronger uptrend or downtrend is at play: the trader may paradoxically go long when the stock dips below its EMA and wait for the stock to go back up in an uptrend, or he or she may short a stock that has stabbed above the EMA and wait for it to drop if the longer trend is down.
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.