Day trading is speculation in securities, specifically buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day, such that all positions are closed before the market closes for the trading day. Traders who trade in this capacity with the motive of profit are therefore speculators. The methods of quick trading contrast with the long-term trades underlying buy and hold and value investing strategies. Day traders exit positions before the market closes to avoid unmanageable risks and negative price gaps between one day’s close and the next day’s price at the open.
Day traders generally use margin leverage; in the United States, Regulation T permits an initial maximum leverage of 2:1, but many brokers will permit 4:1 leverage as long as the leverage is reduced to 2:1 or less by the end of the trading day. In the United States, people who make more than 4 day trades per week are termed pattern day traders and are required to maintain $25,000 in equity in their accounts. Since margin interest is typically only charged on overnight balances, the trader may pay no interest fees for the margin benefit, though still running the risk of a margin call. Margin interest rates are usually based on the broker’s call.
Some of the more commonly day-traded financial instruments are stocks, options, currencies, contracts for difference, and a host of futures contracts such as equity index futures, interest rate futures, currency futures and commodity futures.
Day trading was once an activity that was exclusive to financial firms and professional speculators. Many day traders are bank or investment firm employees working as specialists in equity investment and fund management.
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