The trading universe is a vast one and for the individual trader, trading their own account, there are a number of choices they are going to need to make about their own approach. Which type of market are you going to trade? How are you going to use technical analysis to get a better understanding of what’s happening? Which sort of strategy will you use? How will you employ effective money management techniques in order to protect and grow your trading capital? What impact will your psychological makeup have on your trading? And part of the reason it can take a beginner an inordinately longer amount of time than they first estimate to become proficient is that as their understanding grows, their beliefs about what the correct approach to take is will shift. This is the quantum leap between knowledge and practical experience – understanding the true nature of trading the markets.
When all is said and done, there are usually some strong similarities between the various types of trading. However, there are certainly some differences too – sometimes well-defined differences and sometimes those which are far more subtle. This is perhaps why when we talk to other traders we will state “I am a day trader” or “I am a forex trader”. I have found that this isn’t uncommon when telling someone outside of the trading world what we do when really “I am a trader” would suffice. The different types of trader we’d normally state would include forex, futures, stock and options with the additional specification of whether we day or swing trade.
Forex trading of course, is where many begin and with good reason. Forex is very familiar, trades 24 hours a day and is a liquid market. Forex gives you easy access to trading and gives you a variety of ways to start. You can of course begin with a standard sized account, but there’s also the ability to trade mini or micro lot accounts meaning that while you’re learning the ropes you need not experience more risk than necessary. But the other familiar place which a new trader often starts out with is stock trading. Many investors recognize the potential to work a long term investment they hold in various stocks as the market undulates back and forth. And trading stocks around a core position can be a profitable way to manage an investment. But as the trader becomes more experienced, the trades often become detached from their investments and more about the opportunities which present themselves. Stock trading can certainly be a profitable venture, but it also needs to be understood like any other type of product.
Futures trading is regarded as the purest type of trading system. The reason for this is that the players are mostly made up of hedgers and speculators. A futures contract is an agreement to buy or sell a specified amount of the underlying product at a certain price and at a specific date. However, most futures contracts are closed out before this date. Trading costs can be kept low, accounts can be highly leveraged and centralized exchanges are highly regulated. Forex and stock traders have an easy route into futures as well, as there are equivalent markets available. There are a number of highly liquid forex futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and various stock index futures available globally like the Dax from Eurex for example.
Options trading is perhaps seen as rather more complex for the regular activities of an individual trader. There are indeed many different types of options strategies designed to take advantage of specific market conditions and expectations or to hedge a position in another product. However, options strategies only need to be as complex as you make them. They are simply derivatives of an underlying market in just the same way as futures contracts are. So we can choose to trade them in a much more straight forward way if we wish to. Options trading is another fantastic way to use your capital if you have a decent understanding of how they work. On the other hand like all other trading, if you don’t have a grasp on how they work your account can disappear very quickly indeed.
Whichever type of product you choose to trade, you still need to determine the timeframe you wish to trade in. Individual traders are for the most part day traders or swing traders and sometimes a mix of both. Day trading is typically done with futures markets (although frequently done with other types of product too) as they offer great liquidity, low costs and centralized exchanges – meaning you have direct market access to the one place a product trades. Day trading can mean holding a position for minutes or hours but you always end the day with no net position open. Opportunities are numerous, but then opportunities are there to make money just as they are to lose money. Over-trading and losing control of a situation are certainly dangers of day trading. So properly understanding the instrument you trade and having the discipline to stick to a thorough trade plan are imperatives for success. With this in mind, day trading has the potential to be extremely profitable if it’s done correctly.
Swing trading is where you hold a position in a market for several days or perhaps even longer in the hopes that you can capture bigger swings within the overall market trend. Swing trading again can be done using any product type but is often done best with forex, stocks or options markets. The amount of capital involved in swing trading is usually much greater than day trading. Taking into account leverage, swing traders are often naturally more drawn towards these products. Of course the other drawback to futures and indeed options in relation to swing trading is the fact that they expire. With options you have the added flexibility of choosing the expiry which you trade, but with futures markets, the front month is usually the only expiry which has any liquidity. If you’re anywhere near the front month expiration date, this obviously has the potential to be a problem. Swing trading certainly has the potential to be very profitable too and like day trading, it has its own particular strengths and weaknesses.
The trading universe is inextricably linked by its very nature. What one participant or group of participants do has a knock-on effect on another group and so on. So by having a level of understanding about a number of types of trading, not only is an individual better informed about what might be the most suitable approach for them personally, but they also have the potential to recognize different types of players influencing the markets and so mitigate their own risk or devise a plan to exploit these opportunities. It is for this very reason that the Premier Trader University has been designed to be all inclusive in its education, allowing its members to learn about all the different types of markets and broadening their understanding of the trading universe. A better understanding means more informed decision making about the path you choose to follow.