Theoretically, intraday trading is all about buying low and selling high – all within the same day. It is about identifying opportunities in the market. These opportunities can be for a particular stock, sector, or the market as a whole. The success of an intraday trader lies in identifying them and taking the right position at the right time.
However, the reality is much more complicated. As a day trader identifying markets/opportunities, managing risks, and exiting positions at the right time play a significant role in your success.
One of the biggest roadblocks that intraday traders have to face is a tendency to get swayed by the market sentiment. While some traders get swayed in the direction of the sentiment, others sway in the opposite direction.
So, if there is a buzz in the market about a particular sector and most day traders are buying stocks of companies belonging to that sector, some traders participate in the trend and some short-sell such stocks playing against the hype. However, as a day trader, the margin for error is small and a wrong call can lead to losses.
Hence, it is prudent to have a plan to execute your day trading activity and keep you close to your investing strategy. This is a day trading plan – a broad framework allowing you to make trading decisions that are well suited to you. Today, we will share some steps to help you create a personalized day trading plan for yourself.
Before we begin, it is important to stress on the fact that no one size fits all and this blog should be considered as a starting point when it comes to charting your day trading plan. Please conduct the necessary due diligence before venturing into intraday trading. Let’s Begin!
In this article
Risk Comes First
Risk tolerance. This is a common term heard across investing and trading circles. However, what is risk tolerance and why is it important?
Every investment comes with associated risks. So, if you are buying shares, then the price of the share can get influenced by various factors like the country’s economic, social, and political situation, the company’s performance, etc. If the government makes a sudden policy change affecting the industry where you are heavily invested, then the share price will respond either in favor of or against you.
Risk tolerance is about the amount of risk you can take without getting too worried and making emotion-driven decisions. While long-term investors have time to allow the share prices to move up, day traders barely have a few hours.
Hence, before you start intraday trading, ensure that you assess your risk tolerance level. Various tools can help you achieve that. In simpler terms, ask yourself if you would prefer a higher potential return against a higher risk of losing your invested money OR if you would be ok with lower potential returns with lower risks?
Remember, returns are usually directly proportional to risks. Hence, finding the right risk tolerance level is crucial to your success as a day trader. Also, it will allow you to exit a loss-making position in a calculated manner.
Create and Implement Rules for Risk Management (Entry & Exit Levels)
While on the topic of risks, let’s talk about risk management too. A day trader without a strategic risk management plan is like a deep-sea diver without his gear – he is bound to fail. Risk management is primarily the difference between gambling and intraday trading.
This plan will help you have a bird’s-eye view of the overall risks of your trades, potential losses, etc. In layman terms, risk management is about knowing when to exit a position – how much loss are you willing to take and after how much profit you would quit.
Let’s say that you buy shares worth Rs.10000. The price of the claim is Rs.100, and you have purchased 100 shares. You are expecting the share price to rise. After your purchase, the share price increases to Rs.105. Do you book the profit or wait for it to rise further? It reaches 107. If you sell now, you can book a profit of Rs.700 on investment of Rs.10000 within a day. Should you sell or wait? After an hour or market activity, the share price drops to Rs.104. What do you do now? Sell and book profits or wait for it to reach Rs.107 again and sell? The share price now drops to Rs.101. No point selling it now, right? Or, is it? Before you realize, the share price drops to Rs.95 and looks like it will fall further. Should you sell it and limit your losses? By the end of the trading day, the share price nosedives to Rs.60 per share. You finally exit your position at a 40% loss from what could have been a 7% profit.
As you can see in the above example, as a day trader, you have to make these decisions at every moment. If you have several open positions, then wrapping your head around the performance of each share can be overwhelming – even impossible. This is where risk management comes in.
When you enter a position, determine the risk-reward ratio. How much risk are you willing to take for how much reward? In the example stated above, how much will you risk for a profit of Rs.5 per share? This is helpful in defining a stop-loss position. You also need to determine the take profit position – after how much profit will you exit the position. In the example above, if you had a take-profit position of Rs.5 per share, then you would have sold the shares at Rs.105 and not lost 40% of your investment.
Choose a risk-reward ratio for each trade. How much will you be willing to risk to earn a profit of Rs.10? If you are willing to risk Rs.5, then the risk-reward ratio will be 1:2. Hence, if you have invested Rs.10000 and expect to make Rs.1000 as profit, then you have to stop the loss at Rs.500. Therefore, you will sell the share either at Rs.11000 or Rs.9500.
Ensure that you have a risk management plan in place before starting intraday trading.
Choose Your Day Trading Style
There are primarily two approaches taken by day traders to create a trading plan:
- Scalping – This is a fast-paced trading approach. As the name suggests, day traders who take this approach look to book small profits or losses within a small time. They buy/sell stock and square it off within minutes. This approach requires you to understand minute stock price movements and capitalize on them. It is all about timing. Also, to make reasonable profits, you would need a favourable brokerage plan and place a large number of orders in the day.
- Regular day trading – This approach is about opening a position during the first half of the day and closing it by the end of the day. This involves a better understanding of the macroeconomic conditions that can impact the markets/sector(s). It is about identifying a potential trend and taking a position accordingly.
Learn How to Read Charts
As a day trader, you will want to look at the open, close, high, low, and last closing price of a share before investing. This information is essential to make an informed trading decision.
There are various types of charts used by traders like line charts, bar charts, and candlestick charts. Of these, most traders prefer the candlestick charts as they offer detailed information in an easy-to-understand manner.
Each chart is drawn for a specific time frame. Hence, you have one-minute charts that track the performance of the share price every minute, hourly charts, etc. There are various free tools available online to help you get the hang of reading and analyzing them. You can also read our detailed blog on ‘How to read candlestick charts’ for more understanding.
Understand Market Correlations
If anything, history teaches us what to expect from the future. Even if it is not 100%, it gives you a good place to start. This is the basis of the concept of market correlation.
For example, what if I was to tell you that every time the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) rallies, the BSE rallies too (at least more often than not).
If that’s what historical numbers tell us, then do we assume that the future markets will behave in a similar fashion? They may not. However, making trading decisions is all about probabilities and odds taken in a calculated manner. Hence, banking on prior market correlations can help you fairly estimate the direction of the markets and take a position accordingly. Also, if things go wrong, you have a risk management plan to prevent you from falling too far.
Build the Perfect Trading Plan
Every trader is unique and needs a customized trading plan. Here are some steps to follow to create the perfect trading plan for yourself:
- Where do you stand? – Intraday trading is a fast-paced activity. Hence, your skill levels will matter when you have to make split-second decisions. Before you create a trading plan, do some paper trading (dummy trading) to assess how your skills stand up to the markets. Ensure that your trading plan is based on your skills and not a perception.
- Create emotional filters – Yes, you read that right. Successful day traders stay away from the markets if they are not emotionally or psychologically up for the challenge. Identify your emotional triggers and how you react to them and ensure that you filter out days when you are not at your best.
- Determine risk-per-trade – While we have spoken about risk management and risk-reward ratio, you also need to ensure that you don’t expose your portfolio to too much risk in one trade alone. Many day traders lose a fortune by over-investing in a position. Regardless of the confidence you have in the position, markets are unpredictable. Hence, determine the maximum percentage of your trading portfolio that you will expose to risk in one trade.
- Be realistic – Who wouldn’t want to invest Rs.100 and make thousands out of it. In fact, the internet is always abuzz with such stories and claims to strategies that can make millionaires out of anyone. While we would love to see all our investors as millionaires, it is important to remain realistic while setting expectations from the markets.
- Be an informed trader – Day traders are aware of what is happening in the world. They watch the news, list to government policy changes, keep a watch on any political events (domestic or international), stay aware of social situations, etc. Being informed can give you an edge over other traders who tend to follow than take initiative and pre-empt a market movement.
- Choose a day trading strategy/strategies – There are various strategies adopted by day traders. While each of them will require some practice, it can help you approach trading in a more structured manner. You can read about some popular strategies in our blog ‘Introduction to Intraday Trading Strategies’.
- Set Entry/Exit Rules – As explained above, it is important to set entry/exit rules to help you make data-driven decisions and steer clear of emotions clouding your judgment. As a day trader, it is important to remember that sometimes the market sentiment can benefit you, and sometimes it can take you south. Hence, setting entry/exit rules is important to keep your trades price-driven and not sentiment-driven.
- Maintain records of your trades – Successful day trading involves learning from your mistakes and triumphs. If you win, then you should know what you did right so that you can replicate the process. On the other hand, if you lose, then analyzing your trades can help you identify the why’s and how’s and allow you to prevent repeating them. It can also help you understand which strategy or approach worked for you in the past and whether you need to re-look at something to be more successful in the future.
Remember, you will not always win. Intraday trading is about booking profits while keeping risks and losses in check. A trading plan allows you to structure your approach in a manner that you invest in a strategic and calculated manner. Day trading is a slow and gradual process of generating wealth. A strategic trading plan can help keep losses minimum and help you achieve your financial goals sooner. While you might need some advice early on, try to work towards understanding the markets yourself to be a better day trader.
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