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.
Define and write down the conditions under which you'll enter a position. "Buy during uptrend" isn't specific enough. Something like this is much more specific and also testable: "Buy when price breaks above the upper trendline of a triangle pattern, where the triangle was preceded by an uptrend (at least one higher swing high and higher swing low before the triangle formed) on the two-minute chart in the first two hours of the trading day."
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.
A pure scalper will make a number of trades each day — perhaps in the hundreds. A scalper will mostly utilize one-minute charts since the time frame is small, and he or she needs to see the setups as they shape up in as close to real time as possible. Supporting systems such as Direct Access Trading (DAT) and Level 2 quotations are essential for this type of trading. Automatic instant execution of orders is crucial to a scalper, so a direct-access broker is the preferred weapon of choice.
The goal of swing trading is to identify the overall trend and then capture gains with swing trading within that trend. Technical Analysis is often used to help traders take advantage of the current trend in a security and hopefully improve their trades. Day trading and swing trading involve specific risks and commission costs that are different and higher than the typical investment strategies.
The difference between the profit target and the entry point is the approximate reward of the trade. The difference between the entry point and the stop out point is the approximate risk.When determining whether it’s worthwhile to enter a swing trade, consider using two-to-one as a minimum reward-to-risk ratio. Your potential profit should be at least twice as much as your potential loss. If the ratio is higher than that, the trade is considered better; if it’s lower it’s worse.
Scalping is the shortest time frame in trading and it exploits small changes in currency prices. Scalpers attempt to act like traditional market makers or specialists. To make the spread means to buy at the Bid price and sell at the Ask price, in order to gain the bid/ask difference. This procedure allows for profit even when the bid and ask don't move at all, as long as there are traders who are willing to take market prices. It normally involves establishing and liquidating a position quickly, usually within minutes or even seconds.
As with bullish swing trades, if the reward-to-risk ratio is acceptable, you could enter your trade using a sell-stop limit order. This would result in selling the stock short once it hits your entry point. Selling short is the process of borrowing shares from your online broker and selling them in the open market, with the intention of purchasing the shares back for less cost in the future. An alternative to short selling would be to buy an in-the-money put option. If you choose to use options, you would use a contingent order to buy the put after the stock hit the entry price.
Once again, you should only enter a swing trade after you have evaluated the potential risk and reward.As with bullish swing trades, the entry point would be compared to the stop out and profit target points to analyze the potential rewards and risks of the trade. On a bearish swing trade, the stop out point is the highest price of the recent counter trend. So if the stock rose higher than this price, you would exit the trade to minimize losses. The profit target is the lowest price of the recent downtrend. So if the stock reached this price or lower, you should consider exiting at least some of the position to lock in some gains.
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.