ECNs and exchanges are usually known to traders by a three- or four-letter designators, which identify the ECN or exchange on Level II stock screens. The first of these was Instinet (or "inet"), which was founded in 1969 as a way for major institutions to bypass the increasingly cumbersome and expensive NYSE, and to allow them to trade during hours when the exchanges were closed. Early ECNs such as Instinet were very unfriendly to small investors, because they tended to give large institutions better prices than were available to the public. This resulted in a fragmented and sometimes illiquid market.
Many swing traders assess trades on a risk/reward basis. By analyzing the chart of an asset they determine where they will enter, where they will place a stop loss, and then anticipate where they can get out with a profit. If they are risking $1 per share on a setup that could reasonably produce a $3 gain, that is a favorable risk/reward. On the other hand, risking $1 to make $1 or only make $0.75 isn't as favorable.
To offset this, day traders are often offered the "opportunity" to leverage their portfolios with more margin, four times the buying power rather than double. Taking larger leveraged positions can increase percentage gains to offset costs. The problem is that no one is right all the time. A lack of focus, discipline, or just plain bad luck can lead to a trade that goes against you in a big way. A bad trade, or string of bad trades, can blow up your account, where the loss to the portfolio is so great the chances of recovery are slim. For a swing trader, a string of losses or a big loss can still have a dramatic effect, but the lower leverage reduces the likelihood that the results wipe out your portfolio.
The first 9 successful trades produce $900 in profit. On the 10th trade, when the position is down $50, instead of except the loss the untrained trader purchases more shares at a lower price to reduce his cost basis. Once he is down $100, he continues to hold and is unsure of whether to hold or sell. The trader finally takes the loss when he is down $1,000.
Day trading is not for everyone and involves significant risks. Moreover, it requires an in-depth understanding of how the markets work and various strategies for profiting in the short term. While we remember the success stories of those who struck it rich as a day trader, remember that most do not—many will fizzle out and many will just barely stay afloat. Furthermore, don't underestimate the role that luck and good timing play—while skill is certainly an element, a rout of bad luck can sink even the most experienced day trader.
For most students, once his or her accuracy has improved the next step is increasing positions sizes to maximize profits. If you’ve been trading at 65% success with 1:1 or 2:1 profit loss ratios for at least a couple of months you should be starting to feel pretty confident. Now it’s time to increase your position sizes. Since you’ve been working with a $100 max loss, you’ve probably rarely exceeded 2000 shares.
Assess how much capital you're willing to risk on each trade. Many successful day traders risk less than 1% to 2% of their account per trade. If you have a $40,000 trading account and are willing to risk 0.5% of your capital on each trade, your maximum loss per trade is $200 (0.005 x $40,000). Set aside a surplus amount of funds you can trade with and you're prepared to lose. Remember, it may or may not happen.