The profit potential of day trading is perhaps one of the most debated and misunderstood topics on Wall Street. Internet day trading scams have lured amateurs by promising enormous returns in a short period. The idea that this kind of trading is a get-rich-quick scheme persists. Some people day trade without sufficient knowledge. But there are day traders who make a successful living despite—or perhaps because of—the risks.
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.
The most significant benefit of day trading is that positions are not affected by the possibility of negative overnight news that has the potential to impact the price of securities materially. Such news includes vital economic and earnings reports, as well as broker upgrades and downgrades that occur either before the market opens or after the market closes.
Since it is unknown how many days or weeks a pullback or counter trend may last, you should enter a bullish swing trade only after it appears that the stock has resumed the original uptrend. One way this is determined is to isolate the counter trend move. If the stock trades higher than the pullback’s previous day’s high, the swing trader could enter the trade after performing a risk analysis. This possible point of entry is known as the “entry point.” This should be examined against two other price points to assess risk and determine your upside target.
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).
There are a variety of methodologies to capitalize on market swings. Some traders prefer to trade after the market has confirmed a change of direction and trade with the developing momentum. Others may choose to enter the market on the long side after the market has dropped to the lower band of its price channel—in other words, buying short-term weakness and selling short-term strength. Both approaches can be profitable if implemented with skill and discipline over time.
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There are two primary divisions of professional day traders: those who work alone and/or those who work for a larger institution. Most day traders who trade for a living work for a large institution. These traders have an advantage because they have access to a direct line, a trading desk, large amounts of capital and leverage, expensive analytical software, and much more. These traders are typically looking for easy profits that can be made from arbitrage opportunities and news events, and these resources allow them to capitalize on these less risky day trades before individual traders can react.
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.
Trending stocks rarely move in a straight line, but instead in a step-like pattern. For example, a stock might go up for several days, followed by a few steps back during the next few days before heading north again. If several of these zig-zag patterns are strung together, and the chart appears to be moving higher with some degree of predictability, the stock is said to be in an uptrend.