A stock trader or equity trader or share trader is a person or company involved in trading equity securities. Stock traders may be an agent, hedger, arbitrageur, speculator, stockbroker. Such equity trading in large publicly traded companies may be through one of the major stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange or the London Stock Exchange, which serve as managed auctions for stock trades. Stock shares in smaller public companies are bought and sold in over-the-counter (OTC) markets.
Stock traders advise shareholders and help manage portfolios. Traders engage in buying and selling bonds, stocks, futures and shares in hedge funds. A stock trader also conducts extensive research and observation of how financial markets perform. This is accomplished through economic and microeconomic study; consequently, more advanced stock traders will delve into macroeconomics and industry specific technical analysis to track asset or corporate performance. Other duties of a stock trader include comparison of financial analysis to current and future regulation of his or her occupation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that growth for stock and commodities traders was forecast to be greater than 21% between 2006 and 2016. In that period, stock traders would benefit from trends driven by pensions of baby boomers and their decreased reliance on Social Security. U.S. Treasury bonds would also be traded on a more fluctuating basis. Stock traders just entering the field suffer since few entry-level positions exist. While entry into this career field is very competitive, increased ownership of stocks and mutual funds drive substantial career growth of traders. Banks were also offering more opportunities for people of average means to invest and speculate in stocks. The BLS reported that stock traders had median annual incomes of $68,500. Experienced traders of stocks and mutual funds have the potential to earn more than $145,600 annually.
Contrary to a stockbroker, a professional who arranges transactions between a buyer and a seller, and gets a guaranteed commission for every deal executed, a professional trader may have a steep learning curve and his/her ultra-competitive performance based career may be cut short, especially during generalized stock market crashes. Stock market trading operations have a considerably high level of risk, uncertainty and complexity, especially for unwise and inexperienced stock traders/investors seeking an easy way to make money quickly. In addition, trading activities are not free. Stock speculators/investors face several costs such as commissions, taxes and fees to be paid for the brokerage and other services, like the buying/selling orders placed at the stock exchange. Depending on the nature of each national or state legislation involved, a large array of fiscal obligations must be respected, and taxes are charged by jurisdictions over those transactions, dividends and capital gains that fall within their scope. However, these fiscal obligations will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Among other reasons, there could be some instances where taxation is already incorporated into the stock price through the differing legislation that companies have to comply with in their respective jurisdictions; or that tax free stock market operations are useful to boost economic growth. Beyond these costs are the opportunity costs of money and time, currency risk, financial risk, and Internet, data and news agency services and electricity consumption expensesall of which must be accounted for.
Stock speculators and investors usually need a stock broker such as a bank or a brokerage firm to access the stock market. Since the advent of Internet banking, an Internet connection is commonly used to manage positions. Using the Internet, specialized software, and a personal computer, stock speculators/investors make use of technical and fundamental analysis to help them in making decisions. They may use several information resources, some of which are strictly technical. Using the pivot points calculated from a previous day's trading, they attempt to predict the buy and sell points of the current day's trading session. These points give a cue to speculators, as to where prices will head for the day, prompting each speculator where to enter his trade, and where to exit. An added tool for the stock picker is the use of "stock screens". Stock screens allow the user to input specific parameters, based on technical and/or fundamental conditions, that he or she deems desirable. Primary benefit associated with stock screens is its ability to return a small group of stocks for further analysis, among tens of thousands, that fit the requirements requested. There is criticism on the validity of using these technical indicators in analysis, and many professional stock speculators do not use them. Many full-time stock speculators and stock investors, as well as most other people in finance, traditionally have a formal education and training in fields such as economics, finance, mathematics and computer science, which may be particularly relevant to this occupation since stock trading is not an exact science, stock prices have in general a random or chaotic behaviour and there is no proven technique for trading stocks profitably, the degree of knowledge in those fields is ultimately neglectable.
In 1963 Benoit Mandelbrot analyzed the variations of cotton prices on a time series starting in 1900. There were two important findings. First, price movements had very little to do with a normal distribution in which the bulk of the observations lies close to the mean (68% of the data are within one standard deviation). Instead, the data showed a great frequency of extreme variations. Second, price variations followed patterns that were indifferent to scale: the curve described by price changes for a single day was similar to a month¹s curve. Surprisingly, these patterns of self-similarity were present during the entire period 1900-1960, a violent epoch that had seen a Great Depression and two world wars. Mandelbrot used his fractal theory to explain the presence of extreme events in Wall Street. In 2004 he published his book on the ¸misbehavior of financial markets - The (Mis)behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Risk, Ruin, and Reward. The basic idea that relates fractals to financial markets is that the probability of experiencing extreme fluctuations (like the ones triggered by herd behavior) is greater than what conventional wisdom wants us to believe. This of course delivers a more accurate vision of risk in the world of finance. The central objective in financial markets is to maximize income for a given level of risk. Standard models for this are based on the premise that the probability of extreme variations of asset prices is very low.
Outside of academia, the controversy surrounding market timing is primarily focused on day trading conducted by individual investors and the mutual fund trading scandals perpetrated by institutional investors in 2003. Media coverage of these issues has been so prevalent that many investors now dismiss market timing as a credible investment strategy. Unexposed insider trading, accounting fraud, embezzlement and pump and dump strategies are factors that hamper an efficient, rational, fair and transparent investing, because they may create fictitious company's financial statements and data, leading to inconsistent stock prices.
Day trading sits at the extreme end of the investing spectrum from conventional buy-and-hold wisdom. It is the ultimate market-timing strategy. While all the attention that day trading attracts seems to suggest that the theory is sound, critics argue that, if that were so, at least one famous money manager would have mastered the system and claimed the title of "the Warren Buffett of day trading". The long list of successful investors that have become legends in their own time does not include a single individual that built his or her reputation by day trading.
Speculation in stocks is a risky and complex undertaking because the direction of the markets are considered generally unpredictable and lack transparency, also financial regulators are sometimes unable to adequately detect, prevent and remediate irregularities committed by malicious listed companies or other financial market participants. In addition, the financial markets are subject to speculation. This does not invalidate the well documented true and genuine stories of large successes and consistent profitability of many individual stock investors and stock investing organizations in history.