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What is a 'Day Trader'

A day trader executes short and long trades to capitalize on intraday market price action resulting from temporary supply and demand inefficiencies.

BREAKING DOWN 'Day Trader'

A day trader often closes all trades before the end of the trading day, so not to hold open positions overnight. Day traders' effectiveness may be limited by the bid-ask spread, trading commissions, as well as expenses for real-time news feeds and analytics software. Successful day trading requires extensive knowledge and experience. Day traders employ a variety of methods to make trading decisions. Some traders employ computer trading models that use technical analysis to calculate favorable probabilities, while some trade on their instinct.

A day trader is more concerned with price action characteristics of a stock itself, unlike investors who use fundamental data to analyze the long-term growth potential of a company to decide whether to buy, sell or hold its stock. Price volatility and average day range are critical to a day trader. A security must have sufficient price movement for a day trader to achieve a profit. Volume and liquidity are also crucial because entering and exiting trades quickly is vital to capturing small profits per trade. Securities with a small daily range or light daily volume would not be of interest to a day trader.

Day Trader Techniques

Day traders are attuned to events that cause short-term market moves. Trading the news is a popular technique. Scheduled announcements such as economic statistics, corporate earnings or interest rates are subject to market expectations and market psychology. Markets react when those expectations are not met or are exceeded, usually with sudden, significant moves, which can benefit day traders. Another trading method is known as fading the gap at the open. When the opening price shows a gap from the previous day’s close, taking a position in the opposite direction of the gap is known as fading the gap. For days when there is no news or there are no gaps, early in the morning, day traders will take a view on the general direction of the market. If they expect the market to move up, they would buy securities that exhibit strength when their prices dip. 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.

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