Day-Trading Margin Requirements: Know the Rules

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The required minimum equity must be in the account prior to any day-trading define day trading stocks. The rules permit a pattern day trader to trade up to four times the maintenance margin excess in the account as of the close of business of the previous day.

If a pattern day trader exceeds the day-trading buying power limitation, the firm will issue a day-trading margin call to the pattern day trader.

The pattern day trader will then have, at most, five business days to deposit funds to meet this day-trading margin call. Until define day trading stocks margin call is met, the day-trading account will be restricted to day-trading buying power of only two times maintenance margin excess based on the customer's daily total trading commitment.

If the day-trading margin call is not met by the fifth business day, the account will be further restricted to trading only on a cash available basis for 90 days or until the call is met. In addition, the rules require that any funds used to meet the day-trading minimum equity requirement or to meet any day-trading margin calls remain in the pattern day trader's account for two business days following the close of business on any day when the deposit is required.

The rules also prohibit the use of cross-guarantees to meet any of the day-trading margin requirements. The primary purpose of the day-trading margin rules is to require that certain levels of equity be deposited and maintained in day-trading accounts, and that these levels be sufficient to support the risks associated with day-trading activities.

It was determined that the prior day-trading margin rules did not adequately address the risks inherent in certain patterns of day trading and had encouraged practices, such as the use of cross-guarantees, that did define day trading stocks require customers to demonstrate actual financial ability to engage in day trading.

Most margin requirements are calculated based on a customer's securities positions at the end of the trading day. A customer who only day trades does not have a security position at the end of the day upon which a margin calculation would otherwise result in a margin call. Nevertheless, the same customer has generated financial risk throughout the day. The day-trading margin rules address this risk by imposing a margin requirement for day trading that is calculated based on a day trader's largest open position in dollars during the day, rather than on his or her open positions at the end of the day.

The SEC received over comment letters in response to the publication of these rule changes. Day trading refers to buying then selling or selling short then buying the same security on the same day.

Define day trading stocks purchasing a security, without selling it later that same day, would not be considered a day trade. As with current margin rules, all short sales must be done in a define day trading stocks account.

If you sell short and then buy to cover on the same day, it is considered a day trade. Your brokerage firm also may designate you as a pattern day trader if define day trading stocks knows or has a reasonable basis to believe that you are a pattern day trader. For example, if the firm provided day-trading training to you before opening your account, it could designate you as a pattern day trader. Would I still be considered define day trading stocks pattern day trader if I engage in four define day trading stocks more day trades in one week, then refrain from day trading the next week?

In general, once your account has been coded as a pattern day trader, the firm will continue to regard you as a pattern day trader even if you do not day trade for a five-day period. This is because the firm will have a "reasonable belief" that you are a pattern day trader based on your prior trading activities. However, we understand that you may change your trading strategy.

You should contact your firm if you have decided to reduce or cease your define day trading stocks trading activities to discuss the appropriate coding of your account. This collateral could be sold out if the securities declined substantially in value and were subject to a margin call. The typical day trader, however, is flat at the end of the day i. Therefore, there is no collateral for the brokerage firm to sell out to meet define day trading stocks requirements and collateral must be obtained by other means.

Accordingly, the higher minimum equity requirement for day trading provides the brokerage firm a cushion to meet any deficiencies in the account resulting from day trading. The credit arrangements for day-trading margin accounts involve two parties -- the brokerage firm processing the trades and the customer.

The brokerage firm is the lender and the customer is the borrower. No, you can't use a cross-guarantee to meet any of the day-trading margin requirements. Each day-trading account is required to meet the minimum equity requirement independently, using only the define day trading stocks resources available in the account.

What happens if the equity in my account falls below the minimum equity requirement? I'm always flat at the end of the day. Why do I have to fund my account at all? Why can't I just trade stocks, have the brokerage firm mail me a check for my profits or, if I lose money, I'll mail the firm a check for my losses? It is saying you should be able to trade solely on the firm's money without putting up any of your own funds.

This type of activity is prohibited, as it would put your firm and indeed the U. The money must be in the brokerage account because that is where the trading and risk is occurring. These funds are required to support the risks associated with day-trading activities. You can trade up to four times your maintenance margin excess as of the close of business of the previous day. You should contact your brokerage firm to obtain more information on whether it imposes more stringent margin requirements.

If you exceed your define day trading stocks buying power limitations, your brokerage firm will issue a day-trading margin call to you. Until the margin call is met, your day-trading account will be restricted to day-trading buying power of only two times maintenance margin excess based on your daily total trading commitment.

Day trading in a cash account is generally prohibited. Day trades can occur in a cash account only to the extent the trades do not violate the free-riding prohibition of Federal Reserve Board's Regulation T. In general, failing to pay for a security before you sell the security in a cash account violates the free-riding prohibition.

If you free-ride, your define day trading stocks is required to place a day freeze on the account. No, the rule applies to all day trades, whether you use leverage margin or not. For example, many options contracts require that you pay for the option in full. As such, there is no leverage used to purchase the options. Nonetheless, if you engage in numerous options transactions during the day you are still subject to intra-day risk.

You may not be able to realize the profit on the transaction that you had hoped for and may indeed incur substantial loss due to a pattern of day-trading options. Again, the day-trading margin rule is designed to require that funds be in the account define day trading stocks the trading and risk is occurring.

Can I withdraw define day trading stocks that I use to meet the minimum equity requirement or day-trading margin call immediately after they are deposited? No, any funds used to meet the day-trading minimum equity requirement or to meet any day-trading margin define day trading stocks must remain in your account for two business days following the close of business on any day when the deposit is required. Frequently Asked Questions Why the change? Were investors given an opportunity to comment on the rules?

Definitions What is a day trade? Does the rule affect short sales? Does the rule apply to day-trading options? The day-trading margin rule applies to day trading in any security, define day trading stocks options. What is a pattern day trader?

Day-Trading Minimum Equity Requirement What is the minimum equity requirement for a pattern day trader? Can I cross-guarantee my accounts to meet the minimum equity requirement?

Buying Power What is my day-trading buying power under define day trading stocks rules? Margin Calls What if I exceed my day-trading buying power? Accounts Does this rule change apply to cash accounts? Does this rule apply only if I use leverage?

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Day trading is speculation in securities , specifically buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day.

Strictly, day trading is trading only within a day, such that all positions are closed before the market closes for the trading day. Many traders may not be so strict or may have day trading as one component of an overall strategy.

Traders who participate in day trading are called day traders. Traders who trade in this capacity with the motive of profit are therefore speculators. The methods of quick trading contrast with the long-term trades underlying buy and hold and value investing strategies. Some of the more commonly day-traded financial instruments are stocks , options , currencies , and a host of futures contracts such as equity index futures, interest rate futures, currency futures and commodity futures.

Day trading was once an activity that was exclusive to financial firms and professional speculators. Many day traders are bank or investment firm employees working as specialists in equity investment and fund management.

However, with the advent of electronic trading and margin trading , day trading is available to private individuals. Some day traders use an intra-day technique known as scalping that usually has the trader holding a position for a few minutes or even seconds.

Most day traders exit positions before the market closes to avoid unmanageable risks—negative price gaps between one day's close and the next day's price at the open. Another reason is to maximize day trading buying power. Day traders sometimes borrow money to trade. This is called margin trading. Since margin interests are typically only charged on overnight balances, the trader may pay no fees for the margin benefit, though still running the risk of a margin call.

The margin interest rate is usually based on the broker's call. Because of the nature of financial leverage and the rapid returns that are possible, day trading results can range from extremely profitable to extremely unprofitable, and high-risk profile traders can generate either huge percentage returns or huge percentage losses. Because of the high profits and losses that day trading makes possible, these traders are sometimes portrayed as " bandits " or " gamblers " by other investors.

The common use of buying on margin using borrowed funds amplifies gains and losses, such that substantial losses or gains can occur in a very short period of time. In addition, brokers usually allow bigger margins for day traders. Because of the high risk of margin use, and of other day trading practices, a day trader will often have to exit a losing position very quickly, in order to prevent a greater, unacceptable loss, or even a disastrous loss, much larger than his or her original investment, or even larger than his or her total assets.

Originally, the most important U. A trader would contact a stockbroker, who would relay the order to a specialist on the floor of the NYSE. These specialists would each make markets in only a handful of stocks.

The specialist would match the purchaser with another broker's seller; write up physical tickets that, once processed, would effectively transfer the stock; and relay the information back to both brokers. One of the first steps to make day trading of shares potentially profitable was the change in the commission scheme.

In , the United States Securities and Exchange Commission SEC made fixed commission rates illegal, giving rise to discount brokers offering much reduced commission rates. Financial settlement periods used to be much longer: Before the early s at the London Stock Exchange , for example, stock could be paid for up to 10 working days after it was bought, allowing traders to buy or sell shares at the beginning of a settlement period only to sell or buy them before the end of the period hoping for a rise in price.

This activity was identical to modern day trading, but for the longer duration of the settlement period. But today, to reduce market risk, the settlement period is typically two working days.

Reducing the settlement period reduces the likelihood of default , but was impossible before the advent of electronic ownership transfer. The systems by which stocks are traded have also evolved, the second half of the twentieth century having seen the advent of electronic communication networks ECNs.

These are essentially large proprietary computer networks on which brokers could list a certain amount of securities to sell at a certain price the asking price or "ask" or offer to buy a certain amount of securities at a certain price the "bid". The first of these was Instinet or "inet" , which was founded in as a way for major institutions to bypass the increasingly cumbersome and expensive NYSE, also allowing them to trade during hours when the exchanges were closed.

Early ECNs such as Instinet were very unfriendly to small investors, because they tended to give large institutions better prices than were available to the public. This resulted in a fragmented and sometimes illiquid market. The next important step in facilitating day trading was the founding in of NASDAQ —a virtual stock exchange on which orders were transmitted electronically. Moving from paper share certificates and written share registers to "dematerialized" shares, computerized trading and registration required not only extensive changes to legislation but also the development of the necessary technology: These developments heralded the appearance of " market makers ": A market maker has an inventory of stocks to buy and sell, and simultaneously offers to buy and sell the same stock.

Obviously, it will offer to sell stock at a higher price than the price at which it offers to buy. This difference is known as the "spread". The market maker is indifferent as to whether the stock goes up or down, it simply tries to constantly buy for less than it sells.

A persistent trend in one direction will result in a loss for the market maker, but the strategy is overall positive otherwise they would exit the business. Today there are about firms who participate as market makers on ECNs, each generally making a market in four to forty different stocks. Another reform made was the " Small Order Execution System ", or "SOES", which required market makers to buy or sell, immediately, small orders up to shares at the market maker's listed bid or ask.

In the late s, existing ECNs began to offer their services to small investors. New brokerage firms which specialized in serving online traders who wanted to trade on the ECNs emerged. Archipelago eventually became a stock exchange and in was purchased by the NYSE. Moreover, the trader was able in to buy the stock almost instantly and got it at a cheaper price.

ECNs are in constant flux. New ones are formed, while existing ones are bought or merged. As of the end of , the most important ECNs to the individual trader were:. This combination of factors has made day trading in stocks and stock derivatives such as ETFs possible. The low commission rates allow an individual or small firm to make a large number of trades during a single day.

The liquidity and small spreads provided by ECNs allow an individual to make near-instantaneous trades and to get favorable pricing. The ability for individuals to day trade coincided with the extreme bull market in technological issues from to early , known as the Dot-com bubble. In March, , this bubble burst, and a large number of less-experienced day traders began to lose money as fast, or faster, than they had made during the buying frenzy. The NASDAQ crashed from back to ; many of the less-experienced traders went broke, although obviously it was possible to have made a fortune during that time by shorting or playing on volatility.

In parallel to stock trading, starting at the end of the s, a number of new Market Maker firms provided foreign exchange and derivative day trading through new electronic trading platforms. These allowed day traders to have instant access to decentralised markets such as forex and global markets through derivatives such as contracts for difference.

Most of these firms were based in the UK and later in less restrictive jurisdictions, this was in part due to the regulations in the US prohibiting this type of over-the-counter trading. These firms typically provide trading on margin allowing day traders to take large position with relatively small capital, but with the associated increase in risk. Retail forex trading became a popular way to day trade due to its liquidity and the hour nature of the market. The following are several basic strategies by which day traders attempt to make profits.

Besides these, some day traders also use contrarian reverse strategies more commonly seen in algorithmic trading to trade specifically against irrational behavior from day traders using these approaches. It is important for a trader to remain flexible and adjust their techniques to match changing market conditions.

Some of these approaches require shorting stocks instead of buying them: There are several technical problems with short sales—the broker may not have shares to lend in a specific issue, the broker can call for the return of its shares at any time, and some restrictions are imposed in America by the U.

Securities and Exchange Commission on short-selling see uptick rule for details. Some of these restrictions in particular the uptick rule don't apply to trades of stocks that are actually shares of an exchange-traded fund ETF. Trend following , a strategy used in all trading time-frames, assumes that financial instruments which have been rising steadily will continue to rise, and vice versa with falling. The trend follower buys an instrument which has been rising, or short sells a falling one, in the expectation that the trend will continue.

Contrarian investing is a market timing strategy used in all trading time-frames. It assumes that financial instruments which have been rising steadily will reverse and start to fall, and vice versa. The contrarian trader buys an instrument which has been falling, or short-sells a rising one, in the expectation that the trend will change.

Range trading, or range-bound trading, is a trading style in which stocks are watched that have either been rising off a support price or falling off a resistance price. That is, every time the stock hits a high, it falls back to the low, and vice versa. Such a stock is said to be "trading in a range", which is the opposite of trending. A related approach to range trading is looking for moves outside of an established range, called a breakout price moves up or a breakdown price moves down , and assume that once the range has been broken prices will continue in that direction for some time.

Scalping was originally referred to as spread trading. Scalping is a trading style where small price gaps created by the bid-ask spread are exploited by the speculator. It normally involves establishing and liquidating a position quickly, usually within minutes or even seconds.

Scalping highly liquid instruments for off-the-floor day traders involves taking quick profits while minimizing risk loss exposure. The basic idea of scalping is to exploit the inefficiency of the market when volatility increases and the trading range expands. When stock values suddenly rise, they short sell securities that seem overvalued. Rebate trading is an equity trading style that uses ECN rebates as a primary source of profit and revenue. Most ECNs charge commissions to customers who want to have their orders filled immediately at the best prices available, but the ECNs pay commissions to buyers or sellers who "add liquidity" by placing limit orders that create "market-making" in a security.

Rebate traders seek to make money from these rebates and will usually maximize their returns by trading low priced, high volume stocks. This enables them to trade more shares and contribute more liquidity with a set amount of capital, while limiting the risk that they will not be able to exit a position in the stock. The basic strategy of news playing is to buy a stock which has just announced good news, or short sell on bad news. Such events provide enormous volatility in a stock and therefore the greatest chance for quick profits or losses.

Determining whether news is "good" or "bad" must be determined by the price action of the stock, because the market reaction may not match the tone of the news itself. This is because rumors or estimates of the event like those issued by market and industry analysts will already have been circulated before the official release, causing prices to move in anticipation. The price movement caused by the official news will therefore be determined by how good the news is relative to the market's expectations, not how good it is in absolute terms.

Keeping things simple can also be an effective methodology when it comes to trading. These traders rely on a combination of price movement, chart patterns, volume, and other raw market data to gauge whether or not they should take a trade.