What is a Day Order?

A day order is a stipulation placed on an order to a broker to execute a trade at a specific price that expires at the end of the trading day if it is not completed. A day order can be a limit order to buy or sell a security, but its duration is limited to the remainder of that trading day.

Key Takeaways

  • Day orders are limit orders to buy or sell securities that are only good for the remainder of the trading day on which are placed.
  • If the trade isn't triggered, the order goes unfilled and is cancelled at the end of the session.
  • Traders have the option of using other durations, but most limit orders tend to be day orders.

Understanding Day Orders

A day order is one of several different order duration types that determine how long the order is in the market before it is canceled. In the case of a day order, that duration is one trading session. In other words, if the trader's order is not executed or triggered the order on the day it was placed, the order gets canceled. Two examples of other duration-based orders are the good 'til canceled (GTC) order which remains active until it is manually canceled, and the immediate or cancel (IOC) order, which fills all or part of an order immediately and cancels the remaining part of the order if it cannot be fulfilled.

Day order often serves as the default order duration on trading platforms. Therefore, the trader must specify a different time frame for the expiration of the order, or it will automatically be a day order. That said, day traders can use many different types of orders when placing trades. By being the default, however, most market orders are in fact day orders.

Using Day Orders

Day orders can be particularly useful when used to order a security at a specific price point, so that the trader does not need to monitor the security for the rest of the day waiting for the right time to execute the order. This helps intraday traders monitor and trade multiple securities at one time, which is common practice. Before the market opens, traders analyze each individual security they trade and then place orders according to their strategies. The trader takes further action over the course of the trading day as the individual orders are executed.

Intraday traders often use strategies that dictate exiting positions before the market closes. Thus, if an order is not filled by the end of the day, the trader will cancel it. Because this happens automatically for day orders, intraday traders tend to favor them.

Watching Day Orders

Day orders can be a source of stress for investors who are not professional traders. If an investor is not monitoring the price of the security during the trading day, a day limit order may take place without their knowledge. If an investor makes a day order to sell a certain security and the security experiences an unforeseen price drop, the order may be executed before the investor becomes aware of the situation, leaving the investor with bigger loss than was expected. In this scenario, of course, the loss would have been realized either way, but the investors may have chosen to hold rather than sell at a loss depending on what was behind the drop. As a rule, it is a good idea to pay attention to the market when actively placing orders.