Contributor, Benzinga
May 18, 2023

Day trading scalping is a popular strategy that involves making multiple trades within a short period, typically a few minutes, to profit from small price movements in a security. It's a fast-paced and intense form of trading that requires quick reflexes, discipline and a solid understanding of market dynamics. 

Although the strategy minimizes your risk exposure and makes for profitability even in the flattest market, it might not be the best option for you if your goal is to get rich quickly, as success stories in this field require time, effort and patience. Emphasis is on accepting and consolidating small wins while considering the next trade. Benzinga explores the ins and outs of day trading scalping, including its benefits and key considerations for a successful scalp trading plan. 

What is Day Trading Scalping?

Day trading scalping involves placing multiple trades daily to capture small profits from quick price movements. Traders who adopt this strategy are known as scalpers. Scalpers can place from 10 to over 100 trades daily. They aim to buy and sell assets rapidly, often holding positions for only a few seconds or minutes at a time. The goal is to accumulate small gains over time, which can add up to significant profits when done consistently.

To execute this strategy, scalpers typically employ technical analysis tools and indicators to identify short-term price movements and trading opportunities. It often involves highly liquid and volatile assets such as forex pairs, stocks and cryptocurrencies. To excel as a scalper, you must have excellent skills and discipline because you must make quick decisions based on rapidly changing market conditions. 

A missed or dwindling opportunity can quickly turn a profit into losses. You must have excellent risk management skills to be able to cut losses quickly and avoid holding losing positions for too long. Getting greedy and trading too big are the easiest ways to lose since big wins aren't the core objectives. Scalpers also profit by monitoring news and trading events that may cause price movements, as well as setting profit targets relative to the stock price.

While day trading scalping can be highly profitable for experienced traders, it is unsuitable for everyone. It requires a significant amount of time and effort to master, and it can be mentally and emotionally challenging due to the fast-paced nature of the strategy. Additionally, scalping involves paying attention to small price movements, which can be tough to do for extended periods without causing fatigue or burnout.

Step-by-Step Guide to Day Trading with the Scalping Strategy

Scalpers base their decisions on hot stocks from a watch list, buying at breakouts and selling if there is no movement. They aim to make small profits by selling half of their position as soon as they make a profit and adjusting the exit of the remaining positions. Furthermore, they aim to achieve their daily goal by taking 3-5 trades. If you're a beginner, the following steps can help you kickstart scalping.

1. Choose a Market

Scalping is commonly used in the forex and futures market, but it can be applied to other tradable instruments, including stocks, options, and cryptocurrencies. The key is to choose assets with high liquidity and low spreads to ensure fast execution and minimal slippage. Some popular instruments for scalping include major currency pairs (such as EUR/USD, USD/JPY), blue-chip stocks, E-mini S&P 500, E-mini Nasdaq in the future markets and cryptocurrencies with high trade volumes and volatility. Ultimately it boils down to the trader's preferences, risk tolerance and trading strategy.  

2. Set up Your Trading Account 

Set up your trading account in brokerages with a robust trading platform offering real-time data, advanced charting capabilities, fast and reliable order execution, low spreads or commissions and a range of cutting-edge tools and features to help you make quick and informed trading decisions. Some popular brokerages for day trade scalping include NinjaTrader, TradingView and Interactive Brokers. Choosing a broker that meets your trading needs and preferences is essential.

Unlock your technical analysis skills using the advanced indicators and other trading tools available on your trading platform. The tools will enable you to identify potential trades, including support and resistance levels, chart patterns and technical indicators. You'll be able to see clearly when the market is experiencing volatility, creating more trading opportunities.

4. Choose a Timeframe 

Scalpers typically thrive on short-term price movements. You should consider using shorter timeframes, such as one-minute, three-minute or five-minute charts. These timeframes allow you to quickly capture small price movements and exit trades. However, your chosen timeframe may depend on your trading strategy and personal preferences. 

5. Entering a Trade

Your entry strategy is also fundamental. Two popular entry mechanisms among scalpers include retracement and breakout strategies. If you're a retracement trader, you'll need to look out for pullbacks in an uptrend to enable you to buy at a lower price. Breakout traders only buy when the market breaks a critical resistance level and forms a higher high. Either way, once you identify a potential trade, enter the trade with a tight stop loss and a profit target. Subsequently, you must monitor your trades closely to determine whether to close the trade or adjust your stop loss or profit target.

6. Manage Risk

An excellent risk management strategy is vital in trading and much more in scalping. Although placing a stop limit can prevent potential losses, you should consider the overall risk associated with your trades to determine your maximum risk tolerance. A standard guideline is to limit the amount risked on a single position to no more than 1% of your trading balance. This rule helps preserve most of your account balance if a trade is stopped, allowing for further trading opportunities.

An Example of Day Trading Scalping

Scalp trading comes in various forms. However, you'll need 1-min charts, Level II quotes and exchange order books to pull off the most advanced scalping. Most scalpers do not necessarily focus on micro price movement but on the bid/ask spread; this process requires tremendous skill. Fortunately, there is simpler scalping you can quickly learn. A common form of scalping involves buying many shares, waiting for a slight price increase, and then selling the shares for a profit.

For instance, say you enter a limit order to buy 10,000 shares of ABC at $1.98 — the closest support level. Your trade will execute once ABC falls to $1.98, and you'll proceed to monitor it on your one-minute chart. Suppose the stock bounces to $2.02 off the support level a minute later. In that case, you can immediately close the position regardless of how favorable the price movement remains. By closing at that price, you'll gain $400 since your equity increased from $19,800 ($1.98 X 10,000)  to $20,200 ($2.02 X 10,000).

So within a minute, you've made $400 and can proceed to the next trade. You can repeatedly trade the same security during a session, particularly on highly volatile days. If you're just starting, it makes sense to go for highly liquid securities, which offer better chances of profit.

Benefits of Scalping Trading

Scalp trading offers benefits compared to other strategies. Here are some of the advantages.

Quick profit: Scalping allows traders to make profits quickly. Scalp traders open and close trades in minutes, allowing them to accumulate profits faster than other trading strategies, especially when trading high-volume and liquid assets.

Minimizes risk: Scalping enables traders to reduce their exposure to risk by limiting their position size and holding periods. Since trades are opened and closed quickly, there is less risk.

High flexibility: Scalp traders can easily exploit market volatility to find daily trading opportunities. They don't have to wait for a specific market condition to arise before trading. They take advantage of minor price changes, even in stable markets. This process makes for high flexibility. 

Reduces market exposure: Since scalpers open and close trades quickly, there is less time for unexpected news or events to impact the market and their positions.

Considerations for Scalpers

Before you start scalping, you must put the following factors into consideration.

Adequate capital: You should consider your financial situation before becoming a scalper. You need significant capital to trade frequently and take advantage of small price movements.

Reliable technology: Scalping needs lightning-fast trade execution, so you must look out for brokers with platforms that offer the most advanced tools if you hope to earn a reasonable profit when scalping. Your chosen brokerage must offer zero commissions or at least a heavy volume discount. Imagine getting charged a flat commission for hundreds of trades; your entire profit and even capital could disappear. So a zero-commission brokerage is ideal. The brokerage must offer direct market access.

As a scalping trader, you only profit off minor price movement of assets or bid/ask spread, meaning you must hit a high percentage of trades to make significant money. Direct market access means knowing when your trade will get executed. An advanced charting tool is a must, You'll potentially be opening and closing orders within one to three minutes, so a five-minute candlestick is a no. Instead, what you need is a one-minute chart with real-time price updates. Remember, time is everything.  

Tradable assets: You must look out for the right asset type to increase your chances of success. The appropriate tradable instruments for scalping include high-volume and liquid assets with tight bid-ask spreads that you can frequently trade without excessive slippage.

Planning, discipline and patience: What is your trading plan? Scalping isn't one of those trading strategies you can jump in and out without a good plan; otherwise, you'll lose money. You must define your entry and exit strategies, set profit targets and stick to your plan to avoid making impulsive decisions. You must also have strong discipline and patience to wait for the right opportunities and avoid making emotional decisions.

Risk management: Since scalping involves taking small profits on each trade, you must have an excellent risk management strategy to avoid significant losses.

Compare Day Trading Scalping 

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Frequently Asked Questions


Is scalping good for day trading?


Yes, scalping is a popular and profitable technique used in day trading.


Is scalping profitable?


Yes, scalping can be profitable, but it requires a solid strategy, discipline and risk management skills.