What Is Day Trading?

1 of 11 in Series: The Essentials of Getting Started with Day Trading

Day traders are different from investors in that day traders hold their securities for only one day. They close out their positions at the end of every day and then start all over again the next day. By contrast, swing traders hold securities for days and sometimes even months, and investors sometimes hold for years.

The short-term nature of day trading reduces some risks because there’s no chance of something happening overnight to cause big losses. Meanwhile, many investors have gone to bed, thinking their position is in great shape, then woke up to find that the company has announced terrible earnings or that its CEO is being indicted on fraud charges.

But there’s a flip side: The day trader’s choice of securities and positions has to work out in a day or it’s gone. There’s no tomorrow for any specific position. Meanwhile, the swing trader or the investor has the luxury of time, as it sometimes takes a while for a position to work out the way your research shows it should. In the long run, markets are efficient, and prices reflect all information about a security. Unfortunately, it can take a few days of short runs for this efficiency to kick in.

When you take up day trading, the rules that may have helped you pick good stocks or find great mutual funds over the years will no longer apply. This is a different game with different rules.

Day trading is a crazy business. Traders work in front of their computer screens, reacting to blips, each of which represents real dollars. They make quick decisions, because their ability to make money depends on successfully executing a large number of trades that generate small profits. Because they close out their positions in the stocks, options, and futures contracts they own at the end of the day, some of the risks are limited. Each day is a new day, and nothing can happen overnight to disturb an existing profit position.

But those limits on risk can limit profits. After all, a lot can happen in a year, increasing the likelihood that your trade idea will work out. But in a day? You have to be patient and work fast. Some days there is nothing good to buy. Other days it seems like every trade loses money. Do you have the fortitude to face the market every morning?

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The Essentials of Getting Started with Day Trading

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