A stock trade is actually a transfer of ownership in a publicly traded corporation. The trade refers to the exchange of money for ownership rights, which are denoted in shares of stock. In common parlance, the term trade has come to mean a shortly held position taken with the intent of capitalizing on near term volatility. Those who do this for a living are known as day traders, but many people will buy or sell stock in shortly held positions with the hopes of making a lot of money.
An example of how this is done:
A trader buys 1000 shares of stock ABC at $50. The stock price moves up to $54 dollars after a positive earnings announcement creates buying interest. The trader sells his 1000 shares at $54 and makes $4 of gain per share on the position. Total earnings are 1000 x $4 = $4000. The trader made $4000 in a short time period, or an 8% gain on his investment of $50,000. Traders will also use some tools such as margin buying power and options to create leverage, and magnify the extent of their gains. Caution must always be taken by the trader however as losses are also magnified by leveraged positions.
Generally speaking short term trading is discouraged by the government, both for the safety of the trader’s capital as well for general healthy functioning of capital markets, since trading increases volatility. Let’s not forget that the purpose of capital markets are for corporations to access public wealth so they may make investments in their businesses, and for the public to invest in corporations that they believe will make money for them, so that their personal wealth will grow. This relationship is beneficial to both parties and it is why capital markets are such positive drivers of economic growth. The value of having short term traders involved in these markets is always up for hot debate, especially with the explosion of high frequency algorithmic trading.
No matter which side of the issue you are on, you should always understand what you are doing when you place a trade. Always understand what exactly you are trading, the maximum amount of money you can lose, and how you can be most effective in placing your orders. This includes understanding how your broker works, how much you pay for commissions, the types of orders you are placing, and how you are determining that a particular moment is the best time to place the trade.
As always please contact us with any questions you may have!