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.
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.
ECN/Level 2 quotes: ECNs, or electronic communication networks, are computer-based systems that display the best available bid and ask quotes from multiple market participants and then automatically match and execute orders. Level 2 is a subscription-based service that provides real-time access to the Nasdaq order book composed of price quotes from market makers registering every Nasdaq-listed and OTC Bulletin Board security. Together, they can give you a sense of orders being executed in real time.
Much research on historical data has proven that, in a market conducive to swing trading, liquid stocks tend to trade above and below a baseline value, which is portrayed on a chart with an EM). In his book, "Come Into My Trading Room: A Complete Guide to Trading" (2002), Dr. Alexander Elder uses his understanding of a stock's behavior above and below the baseline to describe the swing trader's strategy of "buying normalcy and selling mania" or "shorting normalcy and covering depression." Once the swing trader has used the EMA to identify the typical baseline on the stock chart, he or she goes long at the baseline when the stock is heading up and short at the baseline when the stock is on its way down.
Take profits near the upper channel line. If the market is strong, you can wait for the channel line to be hit. If it's weak, grab your first profit while it's still there. What if a strong swing overshoots the channel line? An experienced trader may shift his tactics and hold a little longer, perhaps until the day when the market fails to make a new high. A beginning trader is better advised to take profits after the channel line has been hit as it's important to learn to take profits in accordance with one's trading plan.
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Many professional money managers and financial advisors shy away from day trading arguing that, in most cases, the reward does not justify the risk. Conversely, those who do day trade insist there is profit to be made. Day trading profitably is possible, but the success rate is inherently lower because of the complexity and necessary risk of day trading in conjunction with the related scams. Moreover, economists and financial practitioners alike argue that over long time periods, active trading strategies tend to underperform a more basic passive index strategy, especially after fees and taxes are taken into account.
Scalpers need to be disciplined and need to stick to their trading regimen very closely. Any decision that needs to be made should be done so with certainty. But scalpers should also be very flexible, because market conditions are very fluid and if a trade isn't going as expected, they'll need to fix the situation as quickly as possible without incurring too much of a loss.
Because scalpers focus on short-term positions with low-profit margins, the best scalping strategies (such as the Triple S strategy mentioned below) require some leverage. It's recommended that scalpers start with a large amount of capital. Opening and closing larger positions allow you to reduce the marginal costs of trading and maximize potential gains.
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.
Ultimately, each swing trader devises a plan and strategy that gives them an edge over many trades. This involves looking for trade setups that tend to lead to predictable movements in the asset's price. This isn't easy, and no strategy or setup works every time. With a favorable risk/reward, winning every time isn't required. The more favorable the risk/reward of a trading strategy, the fewer times it needs to win in order to produce an overall profit over many trades.
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).