Saturday, January 21, 2012

Scalping As A Day Trading Strategy - Why?

The majority of day trading systems and strategies being sold to the public these days involve scalping. Scalping is a strategy where the trader makes multiple trades in a single market per day with the hope of making small and consistent profits within a short period of time. The idea is that this is supposedly less risky than position trading. The scalp day trader trades all day, but ends the day with no positions, and therefore, no risk.

The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of traders and day traders lose. It has been estimated over the years that 90% of futures traders and day traders are unprofitable. Many of these traders have tried to make a living by scalping in and out of stocks, Forex, and futures markets.

Therein lies the question. If the majority of traders lose, and many of those losers are day traders, does it not seem logical that scalping is not an easy way to make money in the markets? There is a video of a trader that can be found on YouTube and this trader indicates that he has been trying to day trade since 1996, but up until recently, has never been profitable. That is an eye opening statement. His video is actually a testimonial for another day trading web site that is selling a scalping product.

The bottom line is that there is no holy grail, and scalping as a way of making money is extremely difficult. Transaction costs eat away at the account, since the trader is only shooting for small profits to begin with. Over time, they do not achieve anywhere near the required high winning percentage on their trades to offset these transaction costs, and their account eventually dwindles to nothing.

Another issue with scalping is it is actually an exhausting way to trade. Many very short term traders suffer from burnout, because scalping requires the trader to monitor the markets all day long. Yet, many are allured to this type of trading for the action alone, just like the gambling addict sitting at the blackjack table for hours on end.

Truth be told, there are few professional traders who manage client assets who trade this way. One famous trader attempted to do this, but found that it was difficult trying to juggle his trading, which was short term in nature, with handling the clients themselves, along with bookkeeping and other facets of the money management business.

However, there are hedge fund traders that do trade short term strategies where positions are held for a few days or less. These strategies require strong execution to keep transaction costs low, but are easy to automate in liquid markets such as large cap stocks, stock index futures, Forex and treasury markets. Very few of these traders scalp in and out of markets in just a few minutes, because it is simply too difficult to manage this type of trading across many markets.

With all this in mind, the new trader should only consider position type trading rather than scalping. It is less intensive, allows the trader to have another source of income to pay their bills, and combined with proper risk management strategies, will keep the trader in the game longer. The facts are the facts, there are few profitable scalpers out there, in spite of the ads in magazines and on the internet.

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