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published-date Published: December 13, 2023
update-date Last Update: December 14, 2023

Building a Foundation

Building a Solid Foundation in Day Trading

Starting day trading is like building a house; you need a solid foundation. This includes setting realistic goals, a commitment to learning, and an understanding of the diverse financial instruments at your disposal.

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting achievable goals is crucial before diving into the world of day trading. We can’t repeat this often enough: Day trading is not a quick path to riches; it requires dedication, patience, and a realistic understanding of the risks and potential rewards.

Whether you’re interested in day trading stocks, forex, or crypto, start by defining clear, measurable goals. Your goals will shape your trading strategy and commitment.

Understanding Time Commitment

Day trading isn’t a hobby you can dip in and out of. It requires dedication. Beginning traders should be prepared to invest time in education, market research, and real-time practice. This often means hours each day, so consider this before diving in.

Strategy Development

Developing a personal trading plan is vital. Your choice should align with your goals, time commitment, and risk tolerance. Integrating technical analysis (the study of price charts and patterns) and fundamental analysis (evaluating the intrinsic value of securities) into your plan will help you make better decisions.

But before we dive into strategy and trading, there are some basics to master.

Decoding Basic Trading Terms

Here are some essential terms and concepts everyday traders, especially beginners, should understand:

  • Bull market: Indicates rising prices, typically fueled by strong investor confidence.
  • Bear market: Characterized by falling prices and reflecting investor pessimism.
  • Position: The amount of a particular security owned or sold by a trader.
  • Going long: This is when a trader buys an asset expecting its price to increase.
  • Going short: This occurs when a trader sells an asset they do not currently own to repurchase it later at a lower price.
  • Leverage: Leverage allows you to control a significant position with a relatively small capital. It’s expressed as a ratio, like 10:1, indicating that with $1, you can manage assets worth $10. While leverage can magnify profits, it also increases the potential for significant losses.
  • Margin: This is the capital required to open a leveraged position. Think of it as a deposit on the total value of the position you are trading. Margin trading can amplify results and lead to losses exceeding your initial deposit.
  • Spread: The difference between an asset’s bid and ask price. A narrower spread often indicates high liquidity and lower trading costs.
  • Pip: Stands for “percentage in point” and is the slightest price move that a given exchange rate can make based on market convention. Pips are used in the forex market to denote the slightest price change a currency pair can make.
  • Lot: In trading, a lot refers to a standardized unit of measure, dictating the amount of security one buys or sells. The size of a lot can vary depending on the security or the market. For example, in the forex market, a standard lot is typically 100,000 units of the base currency.
  • Day trading volume: Indicates the number of shares or contracts traded in a day. High volume indicates increased interest in security and can lead to price movement.

The Golden Rule: Buy Low, Sell High, and Vice Versa

The basic idea of ‘buy low and sell high’ encapsulates the essence and psychology of day trading. This means buying assets when they are cheap and selling when their value goes up. It is possible to make money even when the price is going down. It’s called short-selling, where you sell at a high price and aim to buy back at a lower price. One can make money in both bull and bear markets.

Understanding Financial Markets

The Mechanics of Markets

Different markets work in similar ways. And all of them are affected by liquidity and volatility. Let’s dive deeper into these terms:

  1. Exchanges:
    • These are marketplaces where stocks, commodities, derivatives, and other financial instruments are traded. Think of it like a supermarket for financial products. Examples include the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ.
  2. Electronic markets:
    • In contrast to traditional face-to-face trading on an exchange floor, electronic markets use digital platforms for buying and selling. They’re efficient, fast, and accessible, allowing trading from computers or mobile devices.
  3. Trading hours:
    • This refers to the specific times when exchanges are open for trading. For example, the NYSE is open weekdays from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM Eastern Time. On the other hand, you can trade crypto 24/7.
  4. Participants:
    • These include anyone engaged in buying and selling in the markets. They range from individual retail traders (like most day traders) to institutional investors like mutual funds, banks, and hedge funds.
  5. Liquidity:
    • This term describes how easily an asset can be bought or sold in the market without affecting its price. High liquidity means lots of trading activity, making it easier to execute trades quickly and at predictable prices.
  6. Volatility:
    • This measures how much the price of an asset fluctuates over a short period. High volatility means the price can change rapidly quickly, often seen as both a risk and an opportunity by day traders.

Each element plays its role in the day trading environment, impacting strategies and potential outcomes.

Market Dynamics

Understanding key concepts such as trends and cycles will help you navigate the markets effectively. These terms embody the fundamental patterns and movements traders must comprehend to make informed decisions and strategize effectively.

Trends: In trading, a trend refers to the overall direction in which the market or an asset’s price moves. There are primarily three types:

  • Uptrend: Prices are generally rising over time.
  • Downtrend: Prices are generally falling over time.
  • Sideways/Horizontal Trend: Prices are relatively stable, fluctuating within a narrow range.

Cycles: Financial markets often exhibit cyclical patterns, which means they go through repeated periods of upward and downward movements. Various factors like economic conditions, interest rates, or investor sentiment can influence these cycles. Understanding market cycles can help traders anticipate potential changes in the market direction. However, it’s important to note that while cycles can provide a general guide, they are not always predictable and don’t follow a set timetable.

Financial Instruments

As a day trader, you should typically engage with financial instruments that offer significant liquidity and volatility. The reason is as they provide more opportunities for entering and exiting trades within a single trading day. Here’s how they relate to day traders:

  1. Stocks:
    • Day traders often trade stocks, with a focus on well-known large-cap stocks, or on small-cap and penny stocks which can experience rapid price changes. As they have high volatility and volume, they offer many opportunities for quick trades.
  2. Forex (Foreign Exchange Market):
    • This is a highly favored market for day traders due to its massive liquidity, 24-hour trading, and significant leverage that can be employed. The forex market involves trading currency pairs and is known for its rapid movement and availability.
  3. Options:
    • Options are popular among day traders because they can offer leveraged exposure to stocks or indexes with a lower capital investment than buying stocks outright. They also allow traders to speculate on both the upside and downside, providing flexibility.
  4. Futures:
    • Futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell an asset at a future date at an agreed-upon price. Day traders commonly trade them because they offer high leverage and the ability to go long or short.
  5. CFDs (Contracts for Difference):
    • These allow traders to speculate on the price movement of various assets without actually owning them. They are popular due to the ability to trade on margin, go short easily, and access a wide range of markets.
  6. ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds):
    • These funds track indexes, commodities, or baskets of assets and trade like stocks on exchanges. They are preferred by day traders who want exposure to specific sectors or indexes without having to buy many individual assets.
  7. Cryptocurrencies:
    • The crypto market has become increasingly popular with day traders due to its volatility and the potential for significant price movements within short periods.

Day traders may choose one or several instruments based on their trading strategy, capital, risk tolerance, and market conditions on any given day. Each instrument has its own risks and requires different techniques and knowledge to trade effectively.


To sum up, day trading is an intricate but potentially rewarding journey. It requires a solid base, ongoing learning, and thoughtful strategy. Set achievable goals, invest time in learning, and get to know the different financial tools.

Understanding market workings is key, including how exchanges and volatility affect trading. While day trading can be profitable, it needs discipline and careful risk management. Remember, success in day trading comes gradually through experience and making informed choices.

Unlock Potential. Lock in profits.