Swing trading is a type of trading in which you hold positions in stocks or other investments over a period of time that can range from 1 day to a few weeks or more. Swing trading has some similarities to daytrading but it also has some significant differences. Day traders will never hold a position overnight or longer. This means you are not exposed to events that happen after the market closes. These events can represent both opportunity for profit and risk of loss.
When day traders start their day, there is almost always a stock or other financial vehicle in play to trade. With swing trading, traders need to be a little more selective. There are often days that go by where the risk to reward in taking a swing trade is not obvious. However, when those opportunities present themselves, a trader can profit significantly even by holding overnight.
Like any type of trading, you need education, practice and experience. A community of traders sharing their trade ideas is a valuable part of this learning process. Never put your real money at risk until you are confident in your skills.
- Learn the Basics
- Find Successful Strategies
- Know What to Expect
- Familiarize Yourself with the Platform
- Practice creating and executing swing trade plans
- Practice Risk Management
Join a Community of Traders
- Nothing Beats Experience
- Ask, Ask and then Ask More Questions
- Join and participate in our Swing Trade forum
Trading with Real Money
- Start with smaller positions, especially if you’re new to trading
- Stick to your trade plan for each trade
- Focus on getting good price entries
- Realize the market does not always give you good trading opportunities – sometimes the best trade is “no trade”
Why swing trading might be a good fit for you
As a swing trader, you may find this type of trading more suitable to your lifestyle and personality compared to other types of trading such as day trading. These advantages include the following:
- Temperament: swing trading may be a better fit for your personality. If you are the type of person who typically does not like to make snap decisions, then swing trading could be a better option for you over day trading. One advantage swing traders have is the luxury of time. A swing trader has more time to consider their trades before taking a position in a security. They have time to analyze their trade with the tools that they choose to use with their strategy. In addition, they also have time to determine their risk and reward, which is critical to becoming a successful trader.
- Availability: when is the best time for you to do your research and trading? Your opportunity to actively trade the markets at certain times during the day is going to depend on where you live and, specifically, what time zone you are in. For example, if you live on the West Coast, which puts you in the Pacific Time Zone (PT). This means the markets open at 6:30 AM PT and close down at 1:00 PM PT. If you have a regular job in the PT Zone that requires you to be at work at 8:30 in the morning, then it is possible you could day trade for perhaps an hour before you need to get ready for your other job. However, if you live in Chicago for example, and are expected to be at your office desk, behind the wheel or on the shop floor at 9:30 AM ET, day trading at the market open is not going to work for you. In this case, swing trading would be a much better suited trading strategy given your availability. You have the luxury in the evening or maybe even on your lunch break to review the market action, research, check in on the stocks you are watching as well as set appropriate entry and exit orders.
- Lifestyle balance: finding time in your busy day to balance your work and leisure activities. As I discussed above, you must work around the markets based on the style of trading you chose to do and the time zone that you live in. You must also decide how you want to balance your life between work and play. Everyone is different – some enjoy their work so much, that is all they want to do. Others work hard and then on occasion they like to play hard. The bottom line is you need to figure out how to best balance your life and what works best for you and your personal situation.
- Financial demands: swing trading can be less financially demanding, especially if you are just getting started. In order to start swing trading, ideally you will have at least $5,000.00 to put into a trading account. More is better but you can start with less. However, the less money you have to start with, the more limited number of choices you will have in tradable stocks. To open a margin account, you must deposit at least $2,000.00 according to government regulations. In comparison, day trading accounts in the US require that a minimum deposit of $25,000.00 be put into your account before you can start trading.
- Less idle time: no sitting around waiting for an alert or a trade to set up. Swing trading allows the investor to take and/or monitor positions and then continue on with their other duties and responsibilities for the day. They are not tied to a computer screen waiting for an alert from a scanning software program or for a market event to take place that will move securities decidedly in one direction or the other. In comparison, day trading requires a lot of sitting in front of their computer screen, which some may find tedious.
Given all of the factors listed above, swing trading may be a better option for you compared to day trading. However, as I previously mentioned, it is also possible to be a swing trader and a day trader. If you have the time, temperament and financial ability to do both, then that is an option you should consider. Many of the skills required to do swing trading, such as recognizing chart patterns, are equally applicable to day trading.
Tools and platforms you will need
Like starting any other business and profession, be it part time or full time, you require a few important tools to trade. First, you will need to open an account with a broker if you do not already have one. Your broker will supply an online order execution platform. It will be up to you to learn how to use it, but all of the platforms are pretty straightforward and easy to use.
Fortunately, there are numerous brokers and stock trading platform options available today that allow you to trade online. The brokerage choices available to you will depend on the country you are currently residing in.
If you do not have an active trading account, I suggest you do a Google search to find current reviews on brokers in your area that come recommended. The following is a list of factors you will want to consider when choosing a broker:
- Account type – Different account types are available for swing trading. A normal investment account allows a trader to buy shares up to the limit of the cash deposited in the account. In comparison, a margin account allows the trader to borrow money against security that they have in their account. The additional borrowing gives the trader more buying power however a trader does take on more risk of loss when trading with borrowed funds.
- Commissions and fees – These costs can vary between brokers. For a swing trader, the commissions are not as important because of the limited number of trades that are done with this type of trading compared to a day trader. Most brokers offer competitive rates of under $10.00 per trade.
- Platforms and tools – Trading platforms can vary from brokerage to brokerage. Some brokerage firms offer different levels of services for various costs. To do swing or position trades, you will want a platform that offers real-time quotes and a straightforward order process that executes immediately so you can confirm your trades. It would also be ideal to have a platform that can do real-time charting, provide at least a basic level of technical analysis (moving averages, etc.) as well as provide research reports, financial data and analysts’ ratings.
Fortunately for the swing trader, a number of excellent free resources and online tools are readily available. Listed below are several I have used in the past.
- Finviz (finviz.com)
- ChartMill (chartmill.com)
- StockCharts.com (stockcharts.com)
- Estimize (estimize.com)
- StockTwits (stocktwits.com)
- CNBC (CNBC.com)
- Yahoo Finance (finance.yahoo.com)
Some swing traders will chose to start out paper trading which can help you gain valuable experience before putting your real money at risk. In this case, you can delay opening a trading account until you feel ready and prepared to start live trading.
Swing trading financial instrument choices
There are numerous types of financial instruments that you can swing trade with and each one of them has its own advantages and disadvantages. The particular instrument you prefer over others may be based on your personal risk profile, your level of experience in the market, the current market conditions, your personal temperament, etc.
Below are a number of different instruments that you can consider for swing trading. The list is not all-inclusive but does cover the most popular vehicles for this type of trading. This list includes:
- Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): You can trade ETFs on the market through your brokerage account similar to how you would trade a regular company’s stock such as Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) or Apple Inc. (AAPL). You can buy them and sell them as a day trade or hold them longer for a swing trade. Today you can find ETFs that track virtually everything from indexes and bonds to stock sectors, commodities, currencies, and even the volatility of the market.
- Individual stocks: One of the obvious choices for swing trading is with individual company stocks. There are pros and cons to holding individual stocks compared to ETFs. Holding an individual stock can expose you to single event risk. Suppose you are long a stock and some negative news comes out such as the loss of a big contract, an SEC investigation or a lawsuit. This is something you would like to avoid, but if you swing trade individual stocks, you are always subject to single event risk. However, individual stocks can outperform other companies stocks that are in the same sector such as healthcare. This means individual stocks could outperform an ETF covering the entire sector that the stock is part of.
- Currencies: Also referred to as Forex trading is another swing trading instrument. In this case you are looking for one currency to move in the direction you expect (up or down) compared to another currency. For example the US dollar going higher compared to the Japanese yen. Forex trading, like all styles of trading, requires a lot of research and practice.
- Cryptocurrencies: Trading these new currencies has been a whole new frontier and has attracted both sophisticated and very unsophisticated traders and investors. Some of the more popular coins include:
- Bitcoin lite
The level of interest in cryptocurrencies has dropped significantly in 2018 however potential for highly volatile moves in price remain.
- Options: Options are a more sophisticated instrument that can be used in swing trading. They can be used to take a position in hopes of financial gain or they can be used as a type of insurance to protect an existing stock position. Trading options and using them in various strategies requires additional education and experience not provided here but a swing trader should be aware of their existence and consider using them as you gain more knowledge.
As a trader, the money you are investing in the market, your capital, is one of your most important and vital tools. Without capital, there is no way for you to make money, no matter how many other tools and skills you might possess. Protecting this capital should, therefore, be the highest priority for any swing trader. To protect your capital, there are 4 very important processes a successful trader must use:
- Properly assessing the risk and the reward: To have a good trade setup, you should expect to get at least 2 times the reward in comparison to the risk that you are taking. Obviously, having more than 2 times the reward is even better. If you use this risk to reward strategy in your trading, you will still be marginally profitable even if you are wrong 60% of the time.
- Setting stops and targets: The stop-loss is a must for a successful trader and is one of the most important tools a trader will use to preserve their capital. A winning trader must have a belief that a stop-loss is one of their best friends. Any trading system or strategy will have losses – that is a given. A successful trader will accept losses when they happen and move on to the next trade. The discipline in following your trading plan also applies to taking profits at your expected target price. Taking profits too early negates the process you initially went through to determine your risk to reward ratio. By exiting a trade early, you may be barely getting a 1 to 1 risk to reward ratio. That means you now need to be right 50% of the time just to break-even. This is not good odds if you want to be a successful trader.
- Managing the dollar size of the trade: Managing and controlling how much of your capital you invest in one trade is also very important. Even with the best planning and strategies, you will never know which of your trades will become winners and which ones will turn into losers, therefore, you should not overcommit your capital to any one trade. Most experienced traders use the “rule of thumb” that says you should not put more than 2% of your capital at risk on any one trade.
- Maintaining a journal of trading activity to measure and improve performance: In industry and other sectors we often hear the phrase, “what gets measured gets improved”. You need to measure performance (very important) and then take that information and use it to determine what actions you can take to improve on that performance. This is one of the main reasons keeping a trading journal is so important to being a successful trader. Maintain a trading journal and review it regularly helps to determine what works and what needs to be changed.
Fundamental and Technical Analysis
Both fundamental factors and technical analysis can be used by swing traders to assess the potential for a profitable trade.
Fundamental analysis is an analysis of hard data on a company, a commodity, a financial instrument, a sector, etc. That data can include one or more of the following:
- total revenue
- earnings per share (EPS)
- price to earnings ratio (P/E)
- leverage: the amount of debt to equity
- product pipeline: future potential growth driver
- competitive advantages a company may have over competitors
- conditions that might favor or disadvantage a particular sector/commodity
- company management
- peer-to-peer comparisons
- regulatory environment and pending changes
- short interest
- hot sector manias
Technical analysis of securities is based on the principle that past price movements in a financial instrument are a predictor of the future moves in the price. Trading volume (the number of securities being traded) is often combined with price movement to help improve these price prediction models.
Charts can be created to represent price movements over different periods of time. These charts of price movements sometimes trace out recognizable patterns that a swing trader can use to find entry and exit opportunities on securities.
Other technical indicators can be generated using established formulas such as simple moving averages, relative strength indicator and moving average convergence-divergence. These can also be used in a swing trader’s arsenal of tools to trade profitably.
Both fundamental and technical analysis are topics that are discussed extensively in the book “How to Swing Trade” by Brian Pezim. A basic understanding of these topics is critical for a trader.
There are a number of different strategies that you can use to identify swing trade opportunities. The strategies that you decide to use will depend both on market conditions and, of course, your own personal preferences.
The following 3 strategies are the ones that I discuss in my book and primarily employ:
- Regularly scanning for trades: Swing traders often have a daily or weekly routine of scanning for trading opportunities in the market. Scanning can generally be done on your broker’s platform because most brokers now offer scanning software. If your broker does not offer this service, scanning can be done through several very good websites such as Finviz (com) or Chartmill (Chartmill.com). However, these scanning tools only provide you with a list of possible trades based on the criteria entered. It is up to you to review the information presented and to then decide whether there is a good trading opportunity. The entry price on the trade and the reward compared to the risk needs to be at the top of your mind before your capital is put at risk with a decision to buy or sell.
- Short-term gap trades: The “gap trade” is another swing strategy that can be used in different scenarios. In this strategy, you are hoping to take advantage of a multiday run in a stock based usually on some good or bad news. When news comes out about a particular stock or sector, investors and traders will generally take a few days to digest the news before a new valuation is determined. Under the right conditions, overnight gap trades can be a profitable trading strategy. They can be employed at most any time but they do work much better in markets that are trending either higher or lower. In times of volatility and no market leadership or direction, the following day’s gap direction can be less predictable and therefore it may be better to avoid the added risk of holding overnight.
- Hot sector manias: These trades will also pop up on regular scans when you do technical analysis but they start out as being “story-driven” trades. This is probably one of the best opportunities for a swing trader to make a great profit. The unfortunate aspect of this strategy is that it does not occur that often. You may get 1 or 2 of these opportunities in a year and then go a year or 2 without any hot sector mania stories. So how do you find these trends at an early stage? To find new hot sector trends you need to be constantly vigilant by reading business articles, monitoring social media sites, using connections that you might have with the investment community, your regular technical scans and participating in chatrooms with other traders.
These strategies do not work at all times and therefore you will need to be constantly tuned to the overall market to ensure that the strategy you are using is appropriate for the existing market conditions. As I have alluded to before in this book, sometimes the best trade is “no trade” at all.
How to Swing Trade
All of the points listed above are discussed and presented in much more depth in Brian Pezim’s book; “How to Swing Trade”. If you are a beginner trader, this book will equip you with an understanding of where to start, how to start, what to expect from swing trading, and how you can develop your own strategy based on your personal goals.
If you are a trader with some existing experience, this book will give you some insights on the author’s approach to swing trading, rules that I follow and some strategies that I have used over the years to make profitable trades.