Scalp trading is an extremely active form of day trading that involves frequent buying and selling throughout the trading session. Scalp traders target the smallest intraday price movements and rely on frequent and very small gains to build profits. Profit targets and stops are used to manage positions that are generally held for a period of seconds to minutes. Because gains are small on any one trade, scalpers may place dozens or even hundreds of trades each trading session; as a result, it’s imperative that scalpers have access to low trading commissions.
It should be noted that scalp trading is considered very risky because it relies on having a high percentage of winning trades. And because the average winning trade is generally many times smaller than the average losing trade, it can take just one or two losing trades to wipe out all of your profits. Precision is paramount with this style of trading, and scalping requires constant attention to the markets.
How to Scalp Trade
A scalp trader can look to make money in a variety of ways. One method is to have a set profit target amount per trade. This profit target should be relative to the price of the security and can range between .%1 – .25%. Another method is to track stocks breaking out to new intra-day highs or lows and utilizing Level II to capture as much profit as possible. This method requires an enormous amount of concentration and flawless order execution. Lastly, some scalp traders will follow the news, and trade upcoming or current events that can cause increase volatility in a stock.
Scalp Trading Strategies
Scalping is just one strategy that day traders use to identify opportunities and profit from the intraday movement of stocks or other securities.
Scalping is a trading style specializing in taking profits on small price changes, generally soon after a trade has been entered and has become profitable. It requires a trader to have a strict exit strategy, because one large loss could eliminate the many small gains the trader has worked to obtain. Having the right tools, such as a live feed, a direct-access broker and the stamina to place many trades is required for this strategy to be successful.
Scalping is based on an assumption that most stocks will complete the first stage of a movement (i.e., a stock will move in the desired direction for a brief time), but where it goes from there is uncertain. After that initial stage, some stocks will cease to advance and others will continue.
A scalper intends to take as many small profits as possible, not allowing them to evaporate. This is the opposite of the “let your profits run” mindset, which attempts to optimize positive trading results by increasing the size of winning trades while letting others reverse. Scalping achieves results by increasing the number of winners and sacrificing the size of the wins. It’s not uncommon for a trader with a longer time frame to achieve positive results by winning only half or even less of his or her trades – it’s just that the wins are much bigger than the losses. A successful scalper, however, will have a much higher ratio of winning trades versus losing while keeping profits roughly equal or slightly bigger than losses.
The main premises of scalping are :-
- Lessened exposure limits risk: A brief exposure to the market diminishes the probability of running into an adverse event.
- Smaller moves are easier to obtain: A bigger imbalance of supply and demand is needed to warrant bigger price changes. For example, it is easier for a stock to make a 10-cent move than it is to make a $1 move.
- Smaller moves are more frequent than larger ones: Even during relatively quiet markets, there are many small movements that a scalper can exploit.
Factors Affecting Scalping
- Liquidity – The liquidity of a market affects the performance of scalping. Each product within the market receives different spread, due to popularity differentials. The more liquid the markets and the products are, the tighter the spreads are. Some scalpers like to trade in a more liquid market since they can move in and out of large positions easily without adverse market impact.
- Volatility – Unlike momentum traders, scalpers like stable or silent products. Imagine if its price does not move all day, scalpers can profit all day simply by placing their orders on the same bid and ask, making hundreds or thousands of trades. They do not need to worry about sudden price changes.
- Time frame – Scalpers operate on a very short time frame, looking to profit from market waves that are sometimes too small to be seen even on the one-minute chart. This maximizes the number of moves during the day that the scalper can use to make a profit.
- Risk management – Rather than looking for one big trade, the way a trend trader might, the scalper looks for hundreds of small profits throughout the day. In this process the scalper might also take hundreds of small losses during the same time period. For this reason a scalper must have very strict risk management never allowing a loss to accumulate.