Swing trading setups

There are a variety of methods traders use to capitalize on market swings.

  • Wiley Global Finance WILEY GLOBAL FINANCE
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Each type of trading has its advantages and disadvantages. Swing trading refers to the practice of trying to profit from market swings of a minimum of 1 day and as long as several weeks. If losses can be kept to acceptable levels using stop loss techniques, swing trading can be profitable and provide a good perspective to learn about both the short-term and long-term market movements. The downside of swing trading is that you must work hard all the time to manage trades, which means you might miss out on potential profits due to market moves.

Looking for swing trading candidates

Swing traders should select their candidates from the most actively traded stocks and ETFs that show a tendency to swing within broad, well-defined channels. It's necessary to keep a list of stocks and ETFs to monitor daily and become familiar with the price action of selected candidates.

Swing trading methods

There are a variety of methodologies to capitalize on market swings. Some traders prefer to trade after the market has confirmed a change of direction and trade with the developing momentum. Others may choose to enter the market on the long side after the market has dropped to the lower band of its price channel—in other words, buying short-term weakness and selling short-term strength. Both approaches can be profitable if implemented with skill and discipline over time.

Here is an example of swing trading:

Identify a stock or ETF where the weekly trend is up and the bottoms on the daily bar chart tend to be short and sharp. Analyze how the stock or ETF has behaved since the beginning of the trend. If it has returned to the moving average 3 times and penetrated it by an average of 1.5% of its price, place a buy order approximately 1% of the instrument's price below the moving average, a little more shallow than the previous declines.

After entering a swing trade, place a protective stop reasonably close to your entry point. Swing trading is a high-wire act, requiring a safety net. Stops and money management are essential for your survival and success.

Take profits near the upper channel line. If the market is strong, you can wait for the channel line to be hit. If it's weak, grab your first profit while it's still there. What if a strong swing overshoots the channel line? An experienced trader may shift his tactics and hold a little longer, perhaps until the day when the market fails to make a new high. A beginning trader is better advised to take profits after the channel line has been hit as it's important to learn to take profits in accordance with one's trading plan.

A trader can measure their performance as a percentage of the trading channel width. The perfect trade would be buying at the bottom channel line and selling at the top channel line, which would be a 100% performance. If a trader captured one-half of the channel, it would be a 50% performance. The goal is to continually increase the performance percentage of the average winning trade.

As mentioned, other methods can be used to profit from the market's short-term swings. The important point is to develop a method that works for you; implement it consistently; adhere to explicit money management rules; and keep good records so you can track your progress as a trader.

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