Futures are a contract that match up a buyer and seller at a specific price, with the buyer agreeing to pay that price for the asset when the contract expires in the future. The seller is agreeing to deliver the asset, like oil for example, to the buyer when the contract expires. Day traders are never required to deliver or pay for the actual asset, because all positions are opened and closed within the day (no open obligations). Profits are losses are based on the prices the contract is opened and closed at.
If the market is trending down, they would short securities that exhibit weakness when their prices bounce. Most independent day traders have short days, working two to five hours per day. Often they will practice making simulated trades for several months before beginning to make live trades. They track their successes and failures versus the market, aiming to learn by experience.
Rebate trading is an equity trading style that uses ECN rebates as a primary source of profit and revenue. Most ECNs charge commissions to customers who want to have their orders filled immediately at the best prices available, but the ECNs pay commissions to buyers or sellers who "add liquidity" by placing limit orders that create "market-making" in a security. Rebate traders seek to make money from these rebates and will usually maximize their returns by trading low priced, high volume stocks. This enables them to trade more shares and contribute more liquidity with a set amount of capital, while limiting the risk that they will not be able to exit a position in the stock.
Day trading was once an activity that was exclusive to financial firms and professional speculators. Many day traders are bank or investment firm employees working as specialists in equity investment and fund management. Day trading gained popularity after the deregulation of commissions in the United States in 1975, the advent of electronic trading platforms in the 1990s, and with the stock price volatility during the dot-com bubble.
It is estimated that more than 75% of stock trades in United States are generated by algorithmic trading or high-frequency trading. The increased use of algorithms and quantitative techniques has led to more competition and smaller profits. Algorithmic trading is used by banks and hedge funds as well as retail traders. Retail traders can choose to buy a commercially available Automated trading systems or to develop their own automatic trading software.
The common use of buying on margin (using borrowed funds) amplifies gains and losses, such that substantial losses or gains can occur in a very short period of time. In addition, brokers usually allow bigger margin for day traders. In the United States for example, while the initial margin required to hold a stock position overnight are 50% of the stock's value due to Regulation T, many brokers allow pattern day trader accounts to use levels as low as 25% for intraday purchases. This means a day trader with the legal minimum $25,000 in his account can buy $100,000 (4x leverage) worth of stock during the day, as long as half of those positions are exited before the market close. Because of the high risk of margin use, and of other day trading practices, a day trader will often have to exit a losing position very quickly, in order to prevent a greater, unacceptable loss, or even a disastrous loss, much larger than her original investment, or even larger than her total assets.
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.
Different markets require different amounts of capital to day trade. Stocks are popular, but also the most capital intensive. If you want to day trade stocks in the US, the absolute minimum you need is $25,000. And you'll actually need more because you need to keep your balance above $25,000. Starting with $30,000 or more is recommended. The stock market provides up to 4:1 leverage on day trades.
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.
Liquidity - The liquidity of a market affects the performance of scalping. Each product within the market receives different spread, due to popularity differentials. The more liquid the markets and the products are, the tighter the spreads are. Some scalpers like to trade in a more liquid market since they can move in and out of large positions easily without adverse market impact. Other scalpers like to trade in less liquid markets, which typically have significantly larger bid-ask spreads. Whereas a scalper in a highly liquid market (for example, a market maintaining a one-penny spread) may take 10,000 shares to make a 3 cent gain ($300), a scalper in an illiquid market (for example, a market with a 25 cent spread) may take 500 shares for a 60 cent gain ($300). While there is theoretically more profit potential in a liquid market, it is also a "poker game" with many more professional players which can make it more difficult to anticipate future price action.
Finally, keep in mind that if trading on margin—which means you're borrowing your investment funds from a brokerage firm (and bear in mind that margin requirements for day trading are high)—you're far more vulnerable to sharp price movements. Margin helps to amplify the trading results not just of profits, but of losses as well if a trade goes against you. Therefore, using stop losses is crucial when day trading on margin.