Last Updated on September 19, 2022
You might wonder which time frame to watch when day trading. Instinctively you might believe you need intraday bars, ie bars 5-minute bars, 60-minute bars, etc. However, after reading this article we hope you are reconsidering. Can you day trade with daily bars?
Yes, you can day trade with daily bars. As a matter of fact, this is a very viable option and for most traders a better solution than using intraday bars with a shorter time frame. We would even argue it’s better to use daily bars than intraday bars when day trading.
What is a bar in trading?
Before we start, we’ll briefly explain what a bar is in trading.
A bar is the open, high, low, and close within a certain time period. If you are using daily bars, the open is today’s opening print, the highest trade of the day, the lowest trade of the day, and the final closing price at the end of the official trading day. You can, of course, adjust the length of the trading day yourself if you want to include “unofficial” trading outside regular exchange hours.
If you are using 5-minute bars the open could be the opening price at 10 AM, the high between 1000 and 1005, the lowest trade between 1000 and 1005, and the close price at 1005.
A bar simply compresses data over a certain time frame.
The significance of daily bars
We believe that daily bars are the most significant time frame in trading. This equally applies to day traders as to swing traders.
Why are we of that opinion?
In this post, we’ll argue the case for daily bars, even though you might be a day trader. There are, of course, disadvantages as well, but they are more than offset by the advantages.
Day trading and different bars
Let’s start by showing the exact same time period in S&P 500 (SPY) by using two different time frames:
The first chart is 15-minute bars:
Let’s compress the exact same data into daily bars:
The difference is, of course, enormous. There is a lot less data!
Why could day trading with daily bars be better than intraday bars?
Let’s look at some of the possible benefits, pros, and advantages of using daily bars if you are a day trader:
Less behavioral mistakes
In our opinion, most of the price action is just randomness and noise. The more you stare at the screen(s), the more likely you are to do discretionary trades. In trading and investing, this is called behavioral mistakes. For example, one of the most common biases is the overconfidence bias that comes after a series of wins and gains.
One of the most important factors in becoming a profitable day trader is to be systematic. But the more noise you have, the more difficult it gets. Trading should be “simple”!
- 2 Reasons Why Less Is More In Trading
- Simple Vs Complex Trading Strategies
- Street Smarts Beat Book Smarts In Trading?
Less movement after the open and the close
We have in multiple posts looked at the trading movement intraday. As a matter of fact, the market slows down a lot after the first 30 minutes of the trading day. We believe that the best opportunities for day trading happen before the open, right after the open, and toward the close. We day traded for 18 years, and we concentrated all our trading within these narrow time frames.
Less noise equals more time to research
We believe you are unlikely to succeed as a discretionary day trader and thus you need to constantly find new strategies by using backtesting. It’s much easier to backtest using daily bars than intraday bars. Furthermore, it’s also much more time-effective.
Less trading – more focus
Day trading involves profiting on small movements done repeatedly. Because much of the price action midday is random and slow, you need to focus your energy on the best opportunities. And by using only the open and close price for entry and exit, you have bigger profit potential.
Another bonus is less commissions and slippage. Slippage amounts the more trades you make. To have a sensible risk and reward, any daytrading strategy in liquid instruments should have at least 0.15% in expected gains per trade to cover commissions, slippage, and some profits.
Easier to day trade and having a job
We are day trading, but we buy and sell only at the open and the close. It saves us time, for example writing this post, and you can manage another job to have a regular income.
Disadvantages of using daily bars when day trading
Everything in life is a trade-off, also by using daily bars when day trading. We can only think of one major disadvantage of using daily bars when day trading:
Limited trading opportunities
If you mainly trade at the open and at the close, you obviously limit yourself. There might be opportunities you are not aware of.
However, we have been backtesting extensively for 20 years, and we believe there are, in general terms, very few opportunities worth chasing outside the open and the close (this applies to all markets).
One other aspect of using daily bars is potentially bad quotes. Our experience and backtests indicate that the open and the close is correct, but the high and low for the day are pretty often wide off. Thus, if you are using high and low for entry, exits, target, or stops, you better pay attention.
We wrote a separate article on this subject a few years ago:
Can you day trade with daily bars? Strategies and backtests
We have been using daily bars for day trading strategies for many years.
What do we do?
We simply enter on the open and exit on the close. Below we show you some equity curves from these strategies.
Day trading with daily bars – short strategy 1
In our day trading course for Amibroker we included the following short strategy:
The trading performance statistics look like this :
- The number of trades: 157 since 2000
- The average gain per trade: 0.25%
- The win rate: 64%
- Average winner: 0.75%
- Average loser: 0.62%
- Profit factor: 2.08
Pretty good stats for a short strategy!
Some might argue this is too few trades. We disagree. We trade to make money, not to be entertained. A big part of trading is to sit on your hands and wait for the right moment.
Day trading with daily bars – short strategy 2
Our second strategy of the day is yet another short strategy, this time in the ETF with the ticker code GDXJ (Gold Junior Miners). This is the equity curve:
There are 445 trades, the average gain per trade is 0.52%, the win rate is 61%, and the profit factor is 1.8. It’s not the best strategy but it complements our other strategies, something that is extremely important in trading. We have written numerous articles about the importance of this:
- What does correlation mean in trading? (Trading strategies and correlations)
- Uncorrelated assets and strategies – benefits and advantages (examples and backtests)
- Does your trading strategy complement your portfolio of strategies?
- Why build a portfolio of quantified strategies (including two strategies)
Day trading with daily bars – short strategy 3
Our last strategy of the day is yet another short strategy, this time in GDX (the ETF that tracks gold miners):
There are 230 trades and the average gain per trade is 0.4%
Which time frame to use while day trading stocks – conclusion
Most of what’s going on in the market is just noise. To avoid behavioral mistakes, minimize commissions and slippage, and focus on research, we believe it’s better to day trade with daily bars rather than intraday bars. The odds of success are better.