Swing Trading: Advantages and Disadvantages

By: Christopher Lewis

Swing trading is by far one of the most popular ways to trade financial markets. But as with any type of strategy, there are both pros and cons when using it, and knowing those ahead of time can be crucial in order to decide if it is for you in the long run.

Advantages of Swing Trading

• It allows you to take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of markets. Financial markets never go in one direction forever, and by being able to take advantage of that, you can increase your returns as you in theory are going to be making money when the market rises over the next few days, and then make some when the market pulls back, as it will certainly do sooner or later.
• By being in and out of the markets, you can identify more opportunities. If you look at any financial chart, you can see that there is almost always a definite long-term trend, but the market might not always be at a support or resistance area. By being in and out of the market in a matter of a few days, (typically) you can collect profits, and identify other markets that are setting up for other trades. This allows you to spread the risk around, and ties up a lot less capital instead of constantly having to come up with margin for new positions as you find new trades. By closing your first position, you will not have to deposit more money in your account to cover the second one.
• Stop losses are typically smaller than longer term trades. The stop losses on a swing trade might be 100 pips based upon a 4 hour chart, while a stop loss on a weekly chart that is based upon the overall trend might have to be 400 pips. This allows for you to place larger sized positions instead of extremely low leveraged ones via the longer-term trends.
• You have clear boundaries. The swing trader is a more technical based trader, and as such will normally have a specific area that they deem as being a sign the trade is working against them. Because of this, you know exactly when the trade isn’t working and can limit the damage a bad trade can do. Longer-term traders normally have to give a wide berth for the markets as they wait for them to “go with the fundamentals”.

Disadvantages of Swing Trading

• You can get whipsawed often. Just because the market shows support or resistance at a specific area, doesn’t mean they will be respecting it today. Also, anytime you place a trade, you are risking money. Because of this, as a swing trader, you are risking it more often. Odds are you will have losses from time to time, no matter how good you are.
• You have to be well-versed in technical analysis. While not necessarily a “disadvantage”, it means extra work. Almost anyone can tell the trend on a chart that is going from the lower left to the upper right over time, but someone trying to swing trade that chart needs to identify entry and exit points. This is something technical analysis can do, but you need to learn it first. This takes time.
• It takes a different mindset than long term trading, and more nerves. While it isn’t necessarily scalping, the swing trader does run the risk of being “spooked out of the markets” as pullbacks in these smaller ranges appear to be more violent than to someone looking at a weekly chart. This is a psychological issue, and one that most traders will eventually have to deal with during their career.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to swing trading, just like anything else. To be honest, most traders do a little of various different styles as the markets aren’t necessarily always conducive to one particular type of trading and sometimes can call for others. A good trader will be able to use various types of trading in order to increase their funds. The trader must adjust to the markets, not the other way around.