Spreads are bonuses as well as costs - Stock Markets operate on a bid and ask based system. The numerical difference between the bid and ask prices is referred to as the spread between them. The ask prices are immediate execution (market) prices for quick buyers (ask takers); bid prices for quick sellers (bid takers). If a trade is executed at market prices, closing that trade immediately without queuing would not get you back the amount paid because of the bid/ask difference. The spread can be viewed as trading bonuses or costs according to different parties and different strategies. On one hand, traders who do NOT wish to queue their order, instead paying the market price, pay the spreads (costs). On the other hand, traders who wish to queue and wait for execution receive the spreads (bonuses). Some day trading strategies attempt to capture the spread as additional, or even the only, profits for successful trades.
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).
Intraday means "within the day." In the financial world, the term is shorthand used to describe securities that trade on the markets during regular business hours. These securities include stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Intraday also signifies the highs and lows that the asset crossed throughout the day. Intraday price movements are particularly significant to short-term or day traders looking to make multiple trades over the course of a single trading session. These busy traders will settle all their positions when the market closes.
Scalpers use technical analysis but within this style, can be either discretionary or system traders. Discretionary scalpers will make each trading decision in real time (albeit very quickly), whereas system scalpers follow a scalping system without making any individual trading decisions. Scalpers primarily use the market's prices to make their trading decisions, but some scalpers also use one or more technical indicators, such as moving averages, channel bands, and other chart patterns.
The first type of scalping is referred to as "market making," whereby a scalper tries to capitalize on the spread by simultaneously posting a bid and an offer for a specific stock. Obviously, this strategy can succeed only on mostly immobile stocks that trade big volumes without any real price changes. This kind of scalping is immensely hard to do successfully, as a trader must compete with market makers for the shares on both bids and offers. Also, the profit is so small that any stock movement against the trader's position warrants a loss exceeding his or her original profit target.
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.
Many orders placed by investors and traders begin to execute as soon as the markets open in the morning, which contributes to price volatility. A seasoned player may be able to recognize patterns and pick appropriately to make profits. But for newbies, it may be better just to read the market without making any moves for the first 15 to 20 minutes. The middle hours are usually less volatile, and then movement begins to pick up again toward the closing bell. Though the rush hours offer opportunities, it’s safer for beginners to avoid them at first.