3 Ways To Speculate The Markets, Which Is Best For You?
During my many years in the trading and trading education world, I have been a day trader, swing trader, and longer term position trader. While my strategy has never changed, the time horizon for finding opportunities and holding positions has changed a bit over my career. Also, I have the benefit of watching so many traders within Online Trading Academy attempt to become successful day, swing, and position traders. The focus of today’s piece is to explain the differences between day, swing, and position trading, and also explore the advantages and disadvantages to these different styles.
Day trading is typically described as the action of entering a position in the market with the intention of exiting that position before the close of the trading session, that day. Day trading requires fast connection speeds, powerful computers, back-up systems, real time data, direct access execution systems, and multiple monitors.
For those with high energy, looking for action, yet also have very good discipline, day trading is for you. In general, profitable day traders are not the ones taking 10 – 100 trades a day. The consistently profitable day traders are the ones who tend to take the 1 – 3 quality opportunities offered to them, typically near the open of the trading session. Those who are very good at making key decisions on the fly can do well here. Day trading also allows traders to take advantage of the many short-term imbalances in the markets each day.
For many, day trading is attractive due to the "get rich quick" mindset. While some will do very well in a short period of time, most end up losing money in this venture. Emotions tend to run very high when day trading, making rule-based execution difficult for those who have any issues with discipline. There is also the added difficulty of competing with market makers at the day trading level. Lastly, day trading is the the most time-consuming style of trading as it requires you to be in front of your computer screens each day while you’re trading. Those who are not good at making quick decisions are not likely to succeed at day trading.
Swing trading is typically described as the action of entering a position in the market with the intention of holding that position for one day to a couple weeks, or even longer in some cases. Swing trading does not require real time data or direct access execution though it is recommended.
From my experience, swing trading is where I see the largest number of aspiring traders succeed. Swing trading captures the market niche with the least amount of competition. It’s a time frame too large for day traders and too small for longer term investors and institutions. Proper swing trading does not require a big time commitment. Spending an hour or so performing your market analysis two or three times a week will suffice. Typically, swing traders will take advantage of today’s technology and use the "set it and forget it" approach when entering positions into the market. Not having to be in front of your computer to enter positions with precision timing and manage them live helps take the biggest risk to trading out of the equation, you and your human emotion. Swing trading offers the benefit of pre-planning every part of the trade no matter when you are doing your analysis. In fact, the best time to perform your swing trading analysis is when the market is closed.
Swing trading is somewhat boring to the active day trader as opportunities are not present each day. For those swing trading stocks, you will find opportunities come in bunches. For example, when the S&P is in an uptrend and price has temporarily declined to a demand (support) level, most stocks will be set up as buying opportunities at that time. As soon as the S&P rallies from that level, most of the swing trading low risk entries will be gone. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the waiting game is unattractive to most people in general.
Longer Term Position Trading
This style is typically described as the action of entering a position in the market with the intention of holding that position for weeks to months. There is no need for real time data or direct access executions.
Longer term position trading to most people is "buy and hold." This may be the best style there is assuming (and this is important) you buy and hold AT THE RIGHT TIME. This style is very hands-off in that every part of the trade is pre-planned, well in advance. Longer term position trading is the least time-consuming type of speculating there is which leaves you plenty of time to enjoy other things in life outside of markets and trading.
Many long-term market speculators use news and professional opinions as their primary decision-making tool. Typically, this will lead to buying high and selling low which means losing money. Ideally, price charts, demand, and supply should be your primary set of tools. This style takes time to produce results. Successful trades may take place over a multi–week or month period and some people are not fine with this. As humans, we typically want instant gratification. Also, this style requires capital to be tied up for longer periods of time than day and swing trading, so opportunity cost may be a concern.
Whatever type of trader you are, keep in mind that your rule-based strategy will not change. A strategy that works in one market or time frame should work in any market or time frame. Whether you are day trading on a one minute chart, or taking three trades a year off opportunities found on the weekly chart, the way consistently profitable market speculators derive consistent income is from buying low and selling high, or selling high and buying low. This means you must become proficient in identifying market turning points, which comes down to the ability to objectively quantify demand and supply in any and all markets. Once you can do this, identifying price levels where this simple and straight-forward equation is out of balance is not that difficult and that is where low risk / high reward opportunity lies.
As for me, the most profitable and comfortable trading has always been swing trading. While the other two styles are fine and I still trade them all, I find that the swing trading niche is best for me. If you have any other questions on these different styles and need help figuring out which one is best for you, email me anytime.
Written by Sam Seiden , Online Trading Academy VP, Education.
As the Vice President of Education at Online Trading Academy, Sam brings over 15 years experience of equities, forex, options and futures trading which began when he was on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where he facilitated institutional orderflow. He has traded equities, futures, interest rate markets, forex, options, and commodities for his personal interests for years and has educated thousands of traders and investors through seminars and daily advisory services both domestically and internationally. Sam has been involved in the markets since 1991 both on and off the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He has served as the Director of Technical Research for two trading firms and regularly contributes articles to industry publications. Sam is known for his trading, technical research, and educational guidance.