Day trading poses a number of hurdles. Mainly, each trading day is slightly different. Traders need a method that works in nearly all market conditions. That doesn't mean a day trader will win every day. On the contrary, even with a great method, there still may be several losing days a month. Winning every trade or every day isn't important, it is winning over the course of each week and month that matters.
It is estimated that more than 75% of stock trades in United States are generated by algorithmic trading or high-frequency trading. The increased use of algorithms and quantitative techniques has led to more competition and smaller profits. Algorithmic trading is used by banks and hedge funds as well as retail traders. Retail traders can choose to buy a commercially available Automated trading systems or to develop their own automatic trading software.
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.
If the market is trending down, they would short securities that exhibit weakness when their prices bounce. Most independent day traders have short days, working two to five hours per day. Often they will practice making simulated trades for several months before beginning to make live trades. They track their successes and failures versus the market, aiming to learn by experience.
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.
Scalpers buy low and sell high, buy high and sell higher, or short high and cover low, or short low and cover lower. They tend to utilize Level 2 and time of sales windows to route orders to the most liquid market makers and ECNs for quick executions. The point-and-click style execution through the Level 2 window or pre-programmed hotkeys are the quickest methods for the speediest order fills. Scalping is purely based on technical analysis and short-term price fluctuations. Due to the extensive use of leverage, scalping is considered a high-risk style of trading.
Individual traders often manage other people's money or simply trade with their own. Few of them have access to a trading desk, but they often have strong ties to a brokerage (due to the large amounts they spend on commissions) and access to other resources. However, the limited scope of these resources prevents them from competing directly with institutional day traders. Instead, they are forced to take more risks. Individual traders typically day trade using technical analysis and swing trades—combined with some leverage—to generate adequate profits on such small price movements in highly liquid stocks.
Liquidity - The liquidity of a market affects the performance of scalping. Each product within the market receives different spread, due to popularity differentials. The more liquid the markets and the products are, the tighter the spreads are. Some scalpers like to trade in a more liquid market since they can move in and out of large positions easily without adverse market impact. Other scalpers like to trade in less liquid markets, which typically have significantly larger bid-ask spreads. Whereas a scalper in a highly liquid market (for example, a market maintaining a one-penny spread) may take 10,000 shares to make a 3 cent gain ($300), a scalper in an illiquid market (for example, a market with a 25 cent spread) may take 500 shares for a 60 cent gain ($300). While there is theoretically more profit potential in a liquid market, it is also a "poker game" with many more professional players which can make it more difficult to anticipate future price action.
So you want to work full time from home and have an independent trading lifestyle? If so, you should know that turning part time trading into a profitable job with a liveable salary requires specialist tools and equipment to give you the necessary edge. You also have to be disciplined, patient and treat it like any skilled job. Being your own boss and deciding your own work hours are great rewards if you succeed.
Scalpers need to be disciplined and need to stick to their trading regimen very closely. Any decision that needs to be made should be done so with certainty. But scalpers should also be very flexible, because market conditions are very fluid and if a trade isn't going as expected, they'll need to fix the situation as quickly as possible without incurring too much of a loss.
Al Hill is one of the co-founders of Tradingsim. He has over 18 years of day trading experience in both the U.S. and Nikkei markets. On a daily basis Al applies his deep skills in systems integration and design strategy to develop features to help retail traders become profitable. When Al is not working on Tradingsim, he can be found spending time with family and friends.