But there is an added risk with the shorter time frame. A wide spread between the bid, the ask and commissions can eat too large a portion of your profits. Swing traders can struggle with this too, but the effect is amplified for the day trader. Day traders can find themselves doing all the work, and the market makers and brokers reap the benefits.
Price volatility and average day range are critical to a day trader. A security must have sufficient price movement for a day trader to achieve a profit. Volume and liquidity are also crucial because entering and exiting trades quickly is vital to capturing small profits per trade. Securities with a small daily range or light daily volume would not be of interest to a day trader.
The second type of scalping is done by purchasing a large number of shares that are sold for a gain on a very small price movement. A trader of this style will enter into positions for several thousand shares and wait for a small move, which is usually measured in cents. Such an approach requires highly liquid stock to allow for entering and exiting 3,000 to 10,000 shares easily.
Aside from a risk/reward, the trader could also utilize other exit methods, such as waiting for the price to make a new low. With this method, an exit signal wasn't given until $216.46, when the price dropped below the prior pullback low. This method would have resulted in a profit of $23.76 per share. Thought of another way: a 12% profit in exchange for less than 3% risk. This swing trade took approximately two months.
The swing trader, therefore, is best positioned when markets are going nowhere – when indexes rise for a couple of days, then decline for the next few days, only to repeat the same general pattern again and again. A couple of months might pass with major stocks and indexes roughly at the same place as their original levels, but the swing trader has had many opportunities to catch the short-term movements up and down (sometimes within a channel).
Commissions for direct-access brokers are calculated based on volume. The more shares traded, the cheaper the commission. The average commission per trade is roughly $5 per round trip (getting in and out of a position). While a retail broker might charge $7 or more per trade regardless of the trade size, a typical direct-access broker may charge anywhere from $0.01 to $0.0002 per share traded (from $10 down to $.20 per 1000 shares), or $0.25 per futures contract. A scalper can cover such costs with even a minimal gain.
Swing traders should select their candidates from the most actively traded stocks and ETFs that show a tendency to swing within broad well-defined channels. Virtually all trading platforms provide a function to enter channel lines on a price chart. The trader should keep a list of stocks and ETFs to monitor on a daily basis and become familiar with the price action of their selected candidates.
Although day trading has become somewhat of a controversial phenomenon, it can be a viable way to earn profit. Day traders, both institutional and individual, play an important role in the marketplace by keeping the markets efficient and liquid. While popular among inexperienced traders, it should be left primarily to those with the skills and resources needed to succeed.
A scalper intends to take as many small profits as possible, without letting them evaporate. This is the opposite of the "let your profits run" mindset, which attempts to optimize positive trading results by increasing the size of winning trades while letting others reverse. Scalping achieves results by increasing the number of winners and sacrificing the size of the wins. It's not uncommon for a trader with a longer time frame to achieve positive results by winning only half or even less of his or her trades – it's just that the wins are much bigger than the losses. A successful scalper, however, will have a much higher ratio of winning trades versus losing ones, while keeping profits roughly equal or slightly bigger than losses.
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.