The stock market is a reliable indicator of the actual value of companies which issue stock. Values of stocks are based on verifiable financial data such as sales figures, assets and growth. This reliability makes the stock market a good choice for long term investing – well-run companies should continue to grow and provide dividends for their stockholders.
The stock market also provides opportunities for short-term investors. Market skittishness can cause prices to fluctuate quite rapidly and investor psychology can cause prices to fall or rise – even if there is no financial basis for these variations.
How does this happen? News reports, government announcements about the economy, and even rumours can cause investors to become nervous or to suspect that a company will increase in value. When the price starts to fall or rise, other investors will jump on the bandwagon, causing an even faster acceleration in price. Eventually the market will correct itself, but for savvy short-term investors who watch the market closely, these price changes can offer opportunities for profitable trading.
Short term traders are divided into 3 categories: Position Traders, Swing Traders, and Day Traders.
Position trading is the longest term trading style of the three. Stocks could be held for a relatively long period of time compared with the other trading styles. Position traders expect to hold on to their stocks for anywhere from 5 days to 3 or 6 months. Position traders are watching for fundamental changes in value of a stock. This information can be gleaned from financial reports and industry analyses. Position trading does not require a great deal of time. An examination of daily reports is enough to plan trading strategies. This type of trading is ideal for those who invest in the stock market to supplement their income. The time needed to study the stock market can be as little as 30 minutes a day and can be done after regular work hours.
Swing traders hold stocks for shorter periods than position traders – generally from one to five days. The swing trader is looking for changes in the market that are driven more by emotion than fundamental value. This type of trading requires more time than position trading but the payback is often greater. Swing traders usually spend about 2 hours a day researching stocks and executing orders. They need to be able to identify trends and pick out trading opportunities. They usually rely on daily and intraday charts to plot stock movements.
Day trading is commonly thought of as the most risky way to play the stock market. This may be true if the trader is uneducated, but those who know what they are doing know how to limit their risk and maximize their profit potential. Day trading refers to buying and selling stock in very short periods of time – less than a day but often as short as a few minutes. Day traders rely on information that can influence price moves and have to plot when to get in and out of a position. Day traders need to be rational and analytical. Emotional buyers will quickly lose money in this type of trading. Because of the close attention needed to market conditions, day trading is a full-time profession.
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