Day trading today is so different then what it was back when I first started trading in 1989. In those days, most trading was done in what is called a Trading Pit, where securities and commodities were bought and sold via "open outcry".
Like in the movie "Trading Places" with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, where you see all these people in different colored jackets shouting and waving their hands (called Floor Traders), surrounded by electronic price displays and news monitors.
When you wanted to make a trade, whether it be for a day trade or longer, you would pick up your telephone and call your broker, who would take your order over the phone and then, after confirming the order back to you, would relay it to someone else and eventually end up in the hands of one of these Floor Traders. The Floor Trader would then attempt to fill your order in the Trading Pit, and if filled, relay that information back to your Broker who would then call you back with your fill.
When it comes to Day Trading, where you need to get in and out of your trades quickly, the old way was not very efficient and at times frustrating and costly. A lot can happen in the time it takes for orders to arrive at the Pit and come back to you as a fill.
With the improvement in communication technology as the 20th Century was coming to a close, Electronic Trading (aka eTrading) became more prevalent and accessible to the every day trader. With just a click of your computer mouse, buy and sell orders could be placed instantaneously. If your price is met, you could be filled before your hand even moved away from your mouse.
Electronic Trading is arguably responsible for the major reduction in trading costs (commissions) seen over the years, as well as the increase in Day Trading activity. Not only can Day Traders make quick trades, but their cost per trade is also much lower than years before. Today, anyone with a small amount of disposable funds (never use money you need to live on) can get setup and start Day Trading.
So how much money is required to get started in Day Trading?
This is one of the most asked question by individuals looking to get into trading. It is also one of the most difficult questions to provide a black and white answer to.
The amount of money needed to start Day Trading really depends on several variables. What are you interested in trading? The (discount) Broker you decide to open an account with. The style of trading you wish to do.
Day Trading in the Stock Market is not really suited for beginners. Recent regulations require that you deposit at least $25,000 in cash or securities with your brokerage before you can day trade securities.
The Futures and Commodity markets offer Day Traders better access to day trade for a much smaller deposit. Depending on the brokerage, you can open a futures account for as little as $2,500, although many require at least $5,000 to $10,000. This is not the same as "margin", which is the minimum amount of capital you must have in your account in order to trade a particular a futures contract. The margin required depends on the market being traded and the current level of volatility. For example, to trade a single Live Cattle futures contract may require that you have an "Initial Margin" of $1,650 in order to initiate the trade, and it must not drop below $1,200 which would be your "Maintenance Margin".
In recent years, the FOREX (Foreign Exchange) currency trading has taken the trading world by storm. With access to free price data and trading platforms, lower minimum account balance requirements, no commissions (brokerages make their money via the ask/bid spread), and flexible trading unit sizes, it has proven to be one of the best options for anyone looking to get into Day Trading with less capital requirement.
With futures trading, just a few ticks can mean several hundred dollars (profit or loss) for most contracts traded. If you are just starting out and your account balance is only $3,000 to $5,000 (or even $10,000, which is not that much in futures), you could be seeing moves of 10% of your account within minutes! It is great when your timing is right and the market is moving in your favor. It is not so great when your timing is off by just a little and it is moving against you. For a Day Trader just starting out, it can be very difficult to succeed with this kind of leverage in futures with a small account.
In the FOREX markets, however, you only need to find a FOREX brokerage that gives you the flexibility of decreasing your unit size. While new regulations has tightened up the leverage available to traders (i.e. 250:1, 100:1), being able to adjust your unit size makes it possible for traders to trade pip sizes (think 'ticks') that are even less than $1 each. Some brokerages have "no minimum deposit" requirement to open an account. Your only restriction for trading a currency pair is the amount you have on deposit in relation to the unit size you have chosen to trade, due to margin requirements. So if you have a small amount in your account (say just $200), simply adjust your unit trading size down so that you meet the margin requirement. While a small pip size won't make you large profits during a single trading day, it also means you can avoid large losses as well. And if your day trading experience grows to where you are making consistent profits, those small gains can add up to increase your account size. With your account size increased, you can adjust your unit size up accordingly.
So if you are interested in getting started in day trading, if you choose to trade in the FOREX markets, you can do so for very little money.
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