What is Day Trading?

  • Home
  • What is Day Trading?
Asking "what is day trading forex/stocks?" This beginner's guide explains intraday strategies, technology & discipline needed to profit within accelerated timeframes.

Day trading means buying and selling stocks within a single trading day. The goal is to make small profits from price changes that happen in minutes or hours, not long-term.

Traders are attracted to day trading because you can make money much faster than waiting months or years like normal investing. A savvy trader can make a profit on a good stock in just hours!

Of course, you can also lose money very quickly during day trading. You have to act fast and be willing to take risks. It isn’t for everyone.

This guide will explain how day trading works, popular strategies, how it’s different from other trading, and technology that helps day traders. We’ll also discuss what makes a successful day trader and how to manage risks and emotions in this fast-paced world of stocks.

Let’s get into it! What exactly is day trading and how does it work?

What is Day Trading?

Day trading refers to a fast-paced trading approach where all positions are opened and closed within the same trading day. Day traders do not hold any positions overnight.

For example, following the release of some positive news, a day trader decides to buy 100 shares of Tesla stock at 10 AM at $200 per share. Later at 1 PM, he notice Tesla spiking higher, reaching $205 per share. To lock in the $5 per share profit, he sells the 100 Tesla shares the same afternoon before market close. This opening and closing of a position within a single trading day captures short-term price movements.

The key defining aspects of day trading include:

  • Holding Positions Less Than a Day: As the name implies, day traders open and close positions within the same trading day, profiting off intraday price movements occurring in periods of minutes to hours.
  • Use of Leverage and Margin: Day traders aim to amplify profits using leverage and margin from brokers, allowing them to trade with more capital than they could otherwise afford. While helping increase gains, margin also exacerbates risks – losses can multiply rapidly too.
  • Liquid Securities: For ease of rapidly entering and exiting many positions in a compressed timeframe, day traders focus on highly liquid securities seeing high trading volumes like publicly traded stocks, stock options, futures contracts, forex pairs, and others. Less liquid assets cannot be traded quickly enough for day trading.

As you can see, day trading centers around short-term speculation rather than long-term investment. By margin trading liquid securities in a single-day timeframe, profits can sometimes be realized rapidly but risks are also outsized.

How Day Trading Differs from Other Trading Styles

Day trading is quite different from other trading styles in its very short timeframe for opening and closing positions – always within a single trading day.

Compared to:

  • Position Traders: Hold positions for months or years based on long-term fundamental analysis. For example, an investor may buy shares of a company they believe to have long-term growth potential and hold them for years.
  • Swing Traders: Hold positions for days or weeks, looking to profit from price swings over that timescale. For example, swing trading Tesla stock around news events impacting share price over periods of days.
  • Algorithmic Traders: Use automated high-frequency trading systems and algorithms to make large numbers of very short-term trades in milliseconds.

The feverish pace of day trading amplifies both its risks and potential rewards compared to longer-term trading approaches.

For example, a day trader may buy and sell a stock multiple times as it ping-pongs up and down over the trading day, scratching small profits from the volatility. The same stock may be traded by a position investor making just a couple of slow and steady trades over months.

The speed and frequency of entering and exiting positions give day traders the chance for greater cumulative profits. But it also compounds losses more quickly if discipline isn’t strict. It’s a high-intensity trading environment best suited for risk tolerant personalities.

If you’re interested to learn more, you may also want to read our comprehensive comparison guide contrasting Day Trading vs Swing Trading styles.

Day Trading Strategies

To make a profit within the rapid timeframe of a single trading day, day traders employ technical strategies and analysis to spot short-term opportunities.

Common approaches include:

  • Momentum/Trend Following: These strategies involve finding stocks exhibiting strong short-term price momentum and trading in the direction of the momentum. For example, jumping on a positive earnings-fueled surge.
  • Breakout Trading: Traders identify key price levels that if broken, signal potential accelerating price moves. For example, buying when a stock breaks above recent price highs, signaling further upside.
  • Range Trading: When a stock trades within a defined high and low price channel, range traders buy near support and sell near resistance. They scratch profits from the predictable swings.
  • Indicators Guidance: Indicators like moving averages, MACD, RSI etc are used to identify intraday shift changes, enter trades at opportune points, and confirm exit signals.

For example, a breakout trader may watch for a stock to break above its 20-day moving average, signaling building momentum. They combine indicator signals with chart pattern analysis to fine tune entry and exit timing while riding intraday trends.

Applying these technical strategies allows day traders to make profits within short periods. It requires them to quickly spot profitable opportunities and then entering and exiting many trades within hours or minutes over a single intense trading session.

Finding Day Trading Opportunities

Finding Day Trading Opportunities

To capitalize on volatile short-term moves, day traders actively hunt for opportunities poised for big price swings.

Common sources include:

  • Screeners: Day traders scan for stocks exhibiting high momentum, volatility, and volume using screeners. This flags potential opportunities ripe for quick profit takings from intraday price pops.
  • News: Earnings reports, FDA decisions, analyst ratings changes etc can all spark intraday stock moves. Savvy traders may buy the rumor and sell the news.

For example, buying ahead of an earnings call that beats expectations and quickly selling once positive sentiment is priced in.

  • Technical Analysis: Using indicators like moving averages, MACD, and RSI combined with chart pattern analysis, day traders plan entry and exit points. For example, identifying support and resistance levels to buy near and sell into.

By blending fundamental news events with technical signals, day traders zero in on trading opportunities, planning trades for fast execution when the risk-reward offers profits ahead of unpredictable daily swings. It’s a rigorous and data-intensive process requiring nonstop analysis and unrelenting mental focus within the frenzied trading day environment.

Managing Risks in Day Trading

Limiting Risks in Day Trading

Day trading can be very risky because trades happen so fast. Good traders use rules to limit risks. Some important rules are:

  • Stop Loss Orders: These automatically sell a stock if the price drops lower than a set level. This helps avoid bigger losses.
  • Trade Size Limits: Only buying a small number of shares each trade. Maybe 1-5% of your total money to invest. So one bad trade does not lose everything.
  • Exposure Limits: Limiting total money at risk across all current trades. Helps avoid betting too much money at once.
  • Follow Preset Rules: Make rules for loss limits, profit-taking, etc before trading. Stick to those rules even when emotions run high. Don’t change strategy in the moment.

For example, if a trader uses all those rules, they can handle a losing trade better. It won’t wipe out their whole account. But it takes strong discipline to follow the system when profits and losses swing rapidly.

Keeping risks in check is crucial for day traders. It prevents emotions from ruining the trading plan when money appears and disappears fast. Staying steady is key to handling the daily rollercoaster.

Technology for Day Trading

Good technology helps day traders work fast to make quick profits. Useful software and tools include:

  • Trading Platforms: User-friendly platforms like MetaTrader 4 and MT5, TradeStation or NinjaTrader connect to markets to buy/sell stocks quickly. They should have analysis tools built-in.
  • Fast Order Execution: Platforms like Interactive Brokers or TD Ameritrade have advanced order types to enter and exit trades in seconds when prices change rapidly. Speed is critical.
  • Charting & Indicators: Platforms like TradingView show real-time price charts and indicators like moving averages or MACD that day traders rely on. Seeing unfolding trends and patterns quickly is key.

For example, the Relative Strength Index (RSI) indicator helps traders spot overbought/oversold signals pointing to potential reversals useful for profit-taking or entry points. Quality platforms visualize the data clearly.

The best software improves day traders’ decision-making edge to spot opportunities faster. When prices move second by second, usability and speed give traders an advantage over the emotional competition.

Read also! Best Day Trading Platform for Beginners

What Makes a Good Day Trader

Doing well at day trading is not easy, but it can be done! Many successful day traders have some key abilities:

  • They Can Stomach Risks: Trading can be nuts with big losses (and wins!). Good traders know this and don’t freak out. They set money limits on a bad trade so one loss doesn’t sink everything.
  • Cool Nerves & Discipline: Win or lose, great traders control their head space. They follow the game plan to lock in profits or cut losses without getting greedy, scared, or reckless from quick swings.
  • Sharp Thinkers & Learners: Successful traders study the game and gain legit know-how over the years. They constantly analyze their wins/losses to tweak strategy. Always grinding to improve.

Remember, the best day traders are not born overnight! But with the guts to risk some bucks, the smarts to plan well, and staying frosty in the heat – you can win bigger than you lose. With time and effort, traders can gain an edge.

Conclusion: Is Day Trading Profitable?

So in this high-speed world of day trading, can you walk away with consistent profits? The short answer is yes, with the right preparation.

Successful day traders develop strategies to profit from short-term price moves that happen intraday. They have the risk appetite and cool-headed discipline to implement their rules for cutting losses while letting their winners ride. Profitability is very possible.

However, the vast majority attempting day trading lack those key foundations of strategic planning, risk management, and emotional control. They tend to overtrade, chase losses, and blow up accounts quickly without proper safeguards.

So while seasoned day traders demonstrate it is possible to grab profits short-term, it takes tremendous skill. The failure rate for beginners is extremely high. Jumping in without experience and a proven strategy is unlikely to end profitably. Respect the challenge of this high-speed arena.

  1. How much money do I need to start day trading?

Most brokers require $25,000 minimum to day trade due to rules for pattern day traders. However, you can start with $500-$1000 if using offshore brokers with lower requirements. Start small to practice.

  1. What percentage of day traders are profitable?

Around 80% of new day traders lose money in their first year according to research. Profitability requires substantial skill building so don’t expect quick success without dedication to serious practice and education.

  1. What is the best day trading strategy for beginners?

Focus on one asset class like large cap stocks. Apply proven simple strategies like tracking momentum trends or trading breakouts. Use daily charts, basic indicators like 20-day moving averages and paper trade rigorously before risking capital.

  1. Is day trading gambling or a business?

Day trading is a serious business when approached strategically with appropriate risk management rules, analysis and business best practices. Gambling mindset stacks odds against you while business mindset aims to methodically gain an edge. But profits are never guaranteed.

  1. How much can you make as a day trader realistically?

Expect losses as a beginner. First focus practice with an objective like 6 months of modest but consistent gains proving your strategy works. Then profits of $500-$1500 per week are realistic targets before aiming higher. Beware of claims getting rich quick as a novice.