Day-trading is the practice of buying and selling a financial instrument on the same day. This contrasts with investing, where positions are typically held for months or years. It is not uncommon for a novice to try his hand at day-trading. But the risks are high and most new traders quickly lose money. Software may be used to help beginning day traders prepare for success in this fast-paced arena.
Day traders open and close a position quickly. A typical day trade may last only seconds or up to a few hours. For particularly quick trades, software is essential to execute orders on the fly in real time. Typical brokerage firms or online Web-based brokers do not provide the speed and interface to make such active trades. Day-trading software is required for success in the field. Some day-trading platforms go beyond the normal tools of day-trading to provide additional features tailored to beginners or those who feel they need more training.
Simulators are among the most important software tools available for beginning day traders. These programs operate exactly like a live trading system but with one important distinction: they do not use real money. A virtual trading program is "funded" with fake capital that is manipulated like a real balance in the account. Using a simulator is a common step in the learning curve for beginning day traders. Firms such as ThinkOrSwim, with their "PaperMoney" product, provide this day trading software for beginners, but typically the beginners must first become official clients of the broker.
Foreign currency exchange, or Forex, is a particularly popular market for day-trading. Unlike the stock market, which is bound by strict federal regulations that require accounts to have a minimum balance of $25,000, there are no balance requirements in Forex. Additionally, the market is open 24 hours, which is ideal for beginning day traders who still work a day job. Unlike most stock-based brokerage firms, Forex brokers provide demos of their trading software to prospective clients. There is no need to become formally associated with the broker to gain access to their trading platform for two to four weeks. All Forex demos are "funded" with fake capital and function as simulators. It is thus possible for the beginning day trader to practice in the field for months before committing real money, as there are dozens of Forex brokers providing this service.
Day-trading in any financial market is extraordinarily risky, and most successful traders have spent years developing their own effective strategies. Beginning day traders do not have this experience, so some software programs offer trading signals directly. These programs analyze Forex markets in real time and then alert the day trader to potential trading opportunities. No signal system is foolproof, but many provide decent results. A beginner can at least see how the system found the potential trading opportunity.
Day-trading software, simulated accounts and trading signals are all very useful features in the modern arena of active trading. But day-trading remains a challenging endeavor even with these tools. No software system is a guarantee of success, and the emotional stress of placing large amounts of capital on the line in order to profit from small fluctuations in prices can be overwhelming for most new traders. Even when using software, it is critical to the long-term success of the beginner that he remain patient and appreciative of the learning curve, as there are no shortcuts to profit.
James Highland started writing professionally in 1998. He has written for the New York Institute of Finance and Chron.com. He has an extensive background in financial investing and has taught computer programming courses for two New York companies. He has a Bachelor of Arts in film production from Indiana University.