Futures are a contract that match up a buyer and seller at a specific price, with the buyer agreeing to pay that price for the asset when the contract expires in the future. The seller is agreeing to deliver the asset, like oil for example, to the buyer when the contract expires. Day traders are never required to deliver or pay for the actual asset, because all positions are opened and closed within the day (no open obligations). Profits are losses are based on the prices the contract is opened and closed at.

Of course, you still have to factor in losses. Smaller gains can only produce growth in your portfolio if losses are kept small. Rather than the normal 7% to 8% stop loss, take losses quicker at a maximum of 2% to 3%. This will keep you at a 3-to-1 profit-to-loss ratio, a sound portfolio management rule for success. It's a critical component of the whole system since an outsized loss can quickly wipe away a lot of progress made with smaller gains.
Before day trading, if someone wanted to trade a stock, they needed to call a stock broker to place their order, who would then route the order through a specialist on the floor of the exchange. The specialist would match the buyer with a seller and write up a physical ticket that would transfer the stock and send that confirmation back to both brokers. Commissions were charged at a flat rate of 1% of the total amount of the trade. That means that to buy $10,000 worth of stock, it would cost you an additional $100 in commissions. In 1975, the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) made fixed commission rates illegal opening up the markets to the first of the discount brokers competing for business by lowering their commissions and making short term trading much more profitable.

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.
In addition to knowledge of basic trading procedures, day traders need to keep up on the latest stock market news and events that affect stocks—the Fed's interest rate plans, the economic outlook, etc. So do your homework. Make a wish list of stocks you'd like to trade and keep yourself informed about the selected companies and general markets. Scan business news and visit reliable financial websites. 
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