What’s day trading?

Day trading consists of the direct opening and closing of stock positions with major stock exchanges, either using a computer on the trading floor of a branch office of a day trading firm, or using one’s home or business computer to access an internet broker. The keyword in this definition is direct. In day trading, a trader has direct electronic access to NASDAQ market maker or NYSE specialists.

The market makers are NASD brokers and dealers who buy or sell NASDAQ stocks for the accounts of others, engage in the securities business for their own proprietary accounts. In essence, the market makers are stock merchants. One NASDAQ stock will have many market makers who are continuously trading in that stock and thus making a market for that stock. On the other hand, one NYSE stock will have one assigned NYSE specialist. The role of the NYSE specialist is to maintain a fair and orderly market in that security. The specialist may act either as a broker and execute orders for other securities brokers or as a dealer in a principal capacity when trading for his or her wo0n account. The specialist will take on the role of a principal infrequently in order to maintain stock marketability and counter temporary imbalances in the supply and demand of that security.

The day trader does not need a stock broker. The trader is not using a telephone to call a stockbroker, and the broker is not relaying that order to the brokerage firm’s order desk. The clerk is not routing that order to the market maker. Day trading firms eliminate all that. Consequently, day trading firms have eliminated time delays and most of the expenses associated with middlemen processing trade orders. The day traders are their own brokers, and their order executions are fast and affordable.

The day trader can simply key in the stock symbol on a computer that has specialized trade execution software, press the appropriate function key, and buy or sell shares of stock on a major exchange. The software used by the day trading firms for order execution is relatively user-friendly7 and provides an efficient interface between the stock exchanges and the day trader.

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