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Technical Trading Primer: What's Your Trading Timeframe?

Typically, day traders use technical trading strategies that take advantage of the market's behavior -- but unlike other strategies that allow for careful study of technical indicators and charts, successful day traders need significant "fluency" with the market.

Special subsets of day traders include scalpers and rebate traders, who earn money by taking advantage of market mechanics (or try to).

In day trading, your risk per trade is typically the least of the three, but compounding and margin make up for that. The difficulty of day trading, coupled with the risk of loss is one of the reasons why this timeframe has such a notoriously high failure rate (less than 20% of day traders actually make money).

Swing Trading Strategy

While some sources relegate the "swing trade" definition to those taking less than a week, today's swing traders fit within a bigger window: typically holding for more than a day on average but less than a month. For that strategy to hold weight, bigger gains are required to justify the longer holding periods.

Because swing trading results in bigger percentage moves than day trading, it can produce equally impressive losses. As in day trading, strict battle-tested trading rules are a hallmark of successful swing traders.

Learning Patience With Position Traders

Many people don't realize that technical traders can -- and often do -- operate using longer time frames. In the case of position traders, positions can be held for a year or more. As a result, this isn't a strategy that's recommended for anxious would-be traders. Position traders often don't know whether a trade is on track on not for quite a while.

The term "trend trading" is sometimes used interchangeably with position trading, but that's a bit of a misnomer. It comes from the fact that most position traders take advantage of long-term market trends, one of the principle tenets of technical analysis. In reality, trend traders can fall along any of the three major timeframes.

Which Strategy Makes Sense for You?

Even though a big deal is made on and off Wall Street about these three "trader types," in the real world successful practitioners of all three timeframes can produce uncannily similar gains. Which one works best for you is largely a function of which market timeframe you're most able to wrap your head around.

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