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.

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.


These developments heralded the appearance of "market makers": the NASDAQ equivalent of a NYSE specialist. A market maker has an inventory of stocks to buy and sell, and simultaneously offers to buy and sell the same stock. Obviously, it will offer to sell stock at a higher price than the price at which it offers to buy. This difference is known as the "spread". The market maker is indifferent as to whether the stock goes up or down, it simply tries to constantly buy for less than it sells. A persistent trend in one direction will result in a loss for the market maker, but the strategy is overall positive (otherwise they would exit the business). Today there are about 500 firms who participate as market makers on ECNs, each generally making a market in four to forty different stocks. Without any legal obligations, market makers were free to offer smaller spreads on electronic communication networks than on the NASDAQ. A small investor might have to pay a $0.25 spread (e.g. he might have to pay $10.50 to buy a share of stock but could only get $10.25 for selling it), while an institution would only pay a $0.05 spread (buying at $10.40 and selling at $10.35).
Scalping is a trading style that specializes in profiting off small price changes, generally after a trade is executed and becomes profitable. It requires a trader to have a strict exit strategy because one large loss could eliminate the many small gains the trader worked to obtain. Having the right tools such as a live feed, a direct-access broker and the stamina to place many trades is required for this strategy to be successful.
Traders pay close attention to intraday price movements by using real-time charts in an attempt to benefit from short-term price fluctuations. Short-term traders typically use one-, five-, 15-, 30- and 60-minute intraday charts when trading within the market day. Typically, intraday scalping uses one- and five-minute charts for high-speed trading. Other intraday trading strategies may use 30- and 60-minute charts for trades that have hold times of several hours. Scalping is a strategy of transacting many trades per day that hopes to profit from small movements in a stock's price. The intraday trader may hold their positions for a longer period but still operate under high risks.
But this description of swing trading is a simplification. In reality, swing trading sits in the middle of the continuum between day trading to trend trading. A day trader will hold a stock anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours but never more than a day; a trend trader examines the long-term fundamental trends of a stock or index and may hold the stock for a few weeks or months. Swing traders hold a particular stock for a period of time, generally a few days to two or three weeks, which is between those extremes, and they will trade the stock on the basis of its intra-week or intra-month oscillations between optimism and pessimism.
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Following the 1987 stock market crash, the SEC adopted "Order Handling Rules" which required market makers to publish their best bid and ask on the NASDAQ.[7] Another reform made was the "Small-order execution system", or "SOES", which required market makers to buy or sell, immediately, small orders (up to 1000 shares) at the market maker's listed bid or ask. The design of the system gave rise to arbitrage by a small group of traders known as the "SOES bandits", who made sizable profits buying and selling small orders to market makers by anticipating price moves before they were reflected in the published inside bid/ask prices. The SOES system ultimately led to trading facilitated by software instead of market makers via ECNs.[8]
Day traders generally use margin leverage; in the United States, Regulation T permits an initial maximum leverage of 2:1, but many brokers will permit 4:1 leverage as long as the leverage is reduced to 2:1 or less by the end of the trading day. In the United States, people who make more than 4 day trades per week are termed pattern day traders and are required to maintain $25,000 in equity in their accounts.[1] Since margin interest is typically only charged on overnight balances, the trader may pay no interest fees for the margin benefit, though still running the risk of a margin call. Margin interest rates are usually based on the broker's call.
By the same token, volume characteristics of a breakout also can have a shortened time frame. Rather than the 50-day moving average of volume as your threshold for heavy turnover, look to the volume of the shorter consolidation area for clues. If the breakout volume can surpass the recent activity, that can be a sufficient confirmation of strength.

The information contained in this article is provided for general informational purposes, and should not be construed as investment advice, tax advice, a solicitation or offer, or a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Ally Invest does not provide tax advice and does not represent in any manner that the outcomes described herein will result in any particular tax consequence. Prospective investors should confer with their personal tax advisors regarding the tax consequences based on their particular circumstances.
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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.

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.


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.
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