You want to make sure you're always looking for the best opportunity when you're trading. That's why swing trading can be a great option - it allows you to capitalize on short-term trends while minimizing your risk.
We'll discuss the basics of swing trading and share strategies you can use to optimize the approach. We'll also provide some tips on staying disciplined when swing trading.
What is swing trading?
Swing trading is a strategy that focuses on long-term trends and price movements, usually spanning a few days or weeks. Swing traders typically enter positions with the intent to hold the positions for a relatively short timeframe. This makes swing trading different from buy and hold investing, which usually has longer timeframes and investment horizons.
A swing trade is commonly defined as any trade entered and exited within a few hours to several days or weeks. The key to swing trading is to identify potential price movements based on market activity over shorter timeframes and take advantage of those movements by promptly entering and exiting positions.
Because swing traders rely heavily on technical indicators such as support levels, resistance levels, moving averages, and trendlines, it is considered more of a quantitative approach than other trading strategies.
However, swing traders must also possess strong analytical skills and have deep knowledge of financial markets to succeed at swing trading.
Day trading vs. swing trading
So what are the key differences between day trading and swing trading?
The main difference between day trading and swing trading is a position’s duration. Day traders are focused on very short-term price movements, while swing traders often hold their positions for several days or even weeks. Day traders may place many trades in a single day, but they typically won't hold positions overnight.
Another key difference is that day traders tend to use more leverage than swing traders. Leverage is a tool that can help you amplify your returns, but it can also lead to more significant losses if used recklessly.
Because of the higher leverage levels, day trading is often considered a more risky trading strategy than swing trading.
Swing trading for beginners
How do you get started swing trading?
First, swing trading is all about momentum. Swing traders often enter positions when stocks are trending and exit when momentum fades, looking to capture short-term price movements. You must identify stocks moving significantly in one direction and ride the momentum.
Second, you need to have a defined strategy. Without a strategy, you will not be able to make consistent profits. Many traders narrow the universe of stocks they follow and focus on a few specific setups in a handful of securities.
Finally, you need to be patient. Swing trading takes time, and you will not see results overnight. Discipline, patience, and the willingness to act on the right opportunities are important characteristics of swing traders.
A simple swing trading strategy
A simple swing trading strategy example is a support or resistance breakout.
The previous day's high or low could be used to initiate an entry order. A stop-loss can then be placed outside the previous day's high or low. This strategy is best used in a market with strong momentum.
The position size will depend on your risk tolerance and overall market conditions. Typically, a position should risk no more than 1-2% of your total account balance.
Best indicators for swing trading
Several technical indicators can be used for swing trading. Momentum, moving averages, and support and resistance levels are some of the most popular. Using these technical indicators, swing traders can identify potential entry and exit points in a stock's price movement.
Momentum is a measure of how fast a stock’s price is moving. A momentum indicator such as the Relative Strength Index (RSI) can identify momentum shifts and help traders take advantage of momentum-driven trends in the market.
MACD, or Moving Average Convergence Divergence, is another popular momentum indicator. The MACD uses both a short and long-term moving average to measure momentum in a stock's price movement.
Moving averages are also commonly used to identify trends and key support and resistance levels. When the stock's price is above the moving average, it is generally considered an uptrend. If a stock's price is below the moving average, it is generally considered a downtrend.
Support and resistance levels are important technical indicators that help swing traders identify potential entry and exit points. These levels are determined by the number of buyers and sellers in the market and, along with RSI, can be used to identify when a stock is overbought or oversold.
Best trailing stop for swing trading
The best trailing stop for swing trading varies depending on a trader's individual preferences and trading strategy. One popular type of trailing stop is the percentage trailing stop, which is based on the percentage gain or loss made in a security.
For example, a 2% trailing stop would automatically sell a security if it moves more than 2% against the trader's position. If a position’s value increases 5%, the 2% trailing stop would follow (“trail”) the position and hope to lock in a gain of at least 3% if the position then begins to fade.
The percentage amount of the trailing stop is often based on the underlying security’s volatility and the expected duration of the trade. More volatile stocks typically have a wider percentage stop, while those with less volatility could use a narrower percentage stop.
Some traders use momentum indicators such as MACD or RSI to determine when to exit a trade using a trailing stop. If a trader used a momentum indicator to enter a position, a momentum reversal could be used as an exit indicator.
Automating swing trading strategies
Automation can be an excellent tool for swing trading strategies. As mentioned above, trend and momentum technical indicators are often used to identify entry and exit points. Entering and exiting positions can be automated, so you don’t have to watch multiple ticker symbols and indicators.
Learn how easy it is to automate a swing trading strategy in this Technical Swing Trading Bot example.