As with any other style of trading, many different methods of scalping exist. The most well-known scalping technique is using the market's time and sales to determine when and where to make trades. Scalping using the time and sales is sometimes referred to as tape reading because the time and sales used to be displayed on the old-fashioned ticker tape, known as the tape.
The goal of swing trading is to capture a chunk of a potential price move. While some traders seek out volatile stocks with lots of movement, others may prefer more sedate stocks. In either case, swing trading is the process of identifying where an asset's price is likely to move next, entering a position, and then capturing a chunk of the profit from that move.
This often means trading shares of companies that have just released breaking news, reported earnings, or have another fundamental catalyst that is resulting in above average retail interest. The type of stocks a day trader will focus on are typically much different from what a long term investor would look for. Day traders acknowledge the high levels of risk associated with trading volatile markets and they mitigate those risks by holding positions for very short periods of time.
A stop-loss order is designed to limit losses on a position in a security. For long positions, a stop loss can be placed below a recent low, or for short positions, above a recent high. It can also be based on volatility. For example, if a stock price is moving about $0.05 a minute, then you may place a stop loss $0.15 away from your entry to give the price some space to fluctuate before it moves in your anticipated direction.
The basic strategy of news playing is to buy a stock which has just announced good news, or short sell on bad news. Such events provide enormous volatility in a stock and therefore the greatest chance for quick profits (or losses). Determining whether news is "good" or "bad" must be determined by the price action of the stock, because the market reaction may not match the tone of the news itself. This is because rumors or estimates of the event (like those issued by market and industry analysts) will already have been circulated before the official release, causing prices to move in anticipation. The price movement caused by the official news will therefore be determined by how good the news is relative to the market's expectations, not how good it is in absolute terms.
Financial settlement periods used to be much longer: Before the early 1990s at the London Stock Exchange, for example, stock could be paid for up to 10 working days after it was bought, allowing traders to buy (or sell) shares at the beginning of a settlement period only to sell (or buy) them before the end of the period hoping for a rise in price. This activity was identical to modern day trading, but for the longer duration of the settlement period. But today, to reduce market risk, the settlement period is typically two working days. Reducing the settlement period reduces the likelihood of default, but was impossible before the advent of electronic ownership transfer.
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.
In addition, in the United States, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and SEC further restrict the entry by means of "pattern day trader" amendments. Pattern day trader is a term defined by the SEC to describe any trader who buys and sells a particular security in the same trading day (day trades), and does this four or more times in any five consecutive business day period. A pattern day trader is subject to special rules, the main rule being that in order to engage in pattern day trading in a margin account, the trader must maintain an equity balance of at least $25,000. It is important to note that this requirement is only for day traders using a margin account.
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.
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.
Another risk of swing trading is that sudden reversals can create losing positions. Because you are not trading all throughout the day, it can be easy to be caught off guard if price trends do not play out as planned. To decrease the risk of this happening, we recommend issuing stop orders with every new position. Stop orders can help you “lock-in” your gains and can also help you cut your losses.
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Notice: Information contained herein is not and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation to buy or sell securities. The information has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however no guarantee is made or implied with respect to its accuracy, timeliness, or completeness. Authors may own the stocks they discuss. The information and content are subject to change without notice.
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.
Article copyright 2011 by Alex Elder. Reprinted and adapted from Come Into My Trading Room with permission from John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Fidelity Investments® cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any statements or data. This reprint and the materials delivered with it should not be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any funds mentioned in this reprint.
Individuals who attempt to day trade without an understanding of market fundamentals often lose money. Technical analysis and chart reading is a good skill for a day trader to have, but without a more in-depth understanding of the market you're in and the assets that exist in that market, charts may be deceiving. Do your due diligence and understand the particular ins and outs of the products you trade.