Scalping trading strategies and short-term profit potential

By Paul Reid

30 August 2023

Among the many commonly used trading strategies, scalping stands out as a unique and intriguing approach to achieving daily results. Rooted in the pursuit of quick profits from short-term price movements, scalping has gained popularity among traders who thrive in fast-paced environments. If your focus is on daily results, this might be exactly what you are looking for.

Understanding a scalping trading strategy: 3 golden principles 

At its core, scalping capitalizes on small price fluctuations within a condensed timeframe. It involves executing a high volume of trades in rapid succession, aiming to generate profits from the cumulative effect of these minor price movements. 

Scalping strategies are numerous, and so are the principles that provide consistency. Here are three factors to keep in mind.

1 . Short holding periods

Scalping involves holding positions for extremely short durations, often ranging from seconds to minutes. This approach contrasts with traditional investment strategies that emphasize holding assets over longer periods to capture more substantial price trends.

2 . Frequent trading

Scalping traders engage in numerous trades throughout a single trading session. The frequency of trades is a defining characteristic of this strategy, as scalpers seek to accumulate profits through a high turnover of positions.

3 . Small profit targets

The primary objective of a scalping strategy is to capture small price differentials on each trade. The cumulative effect of these incremental gains contributes to the overall profitability of the scalper's trading activities.

Techniques and technicals

Scalping relies on technical analysis tools and indicators to identify short-term price movements and trends. Traders can use tools such as moving averages, RSI (Relative Strength Index), MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence), and Fibonacci retracements to make informed decisions. Here’s how a scalping trader might apply these powerhouse trading tools.

Setting up the RSI indicator

The trader sets up their trading platform to display the RSI indicator on their chosen trading chart. The RSI typically uses a 14-period setting (price averaging over 14 trading sessions) as default, which is good for short-term trading in general, but someone following a scalping trading strategy may prefer a tighter 9-period, which is far more sensitive to recent changes.

RSI ranges from 0 to 100. Traditionally, an RSI value above 70 is considered overbought, suggesting that a bullish price trend may be due for a price pullback or reversal. Conversely, an RSI value below 30 is considered oversold, indicating a potential bounce or upward price movement.

The trader monitors the RSI values on their chosen asset, let's say they're trading a forex pair. If the RSI crosses above the 70 level, indicating overbought conditions, the trader might consider this a potential signal to enter a short (sell) position, anticipating a reverse or at least a pullback from its recent upward move.

Once scalp traders open a position based on the RSI signal, they might also set a tight profit target, capturing just a few pips. Alternatively, they might set a stop-loss order just above the recent high to protect their position in case the price continues to rise against their trade.

Setting up the MACD indicator

The MACD is used to identify potential trend changes and momentum shifts, and consists of three components:

  • the MACD line: the difference between two moving averages

  • the signal line: a moving average of the MACD line

  • the histogram: the difference between the MACD line and the signal line

The default settings are usually 12-period and 26-period exponential moving averages (EMA) for the MACD line, and a 9-period EMA for the signal line.

When the MACD line crosses above the signal line, it generates a bullish signal, indicating potential upward momentum. Conversely, a bearish signal when the MACD line crosses below the signal line, indicating potential downward momentum.

Let's say a scalp trader is monitoring a particular stock. If the MACD line crosses above the signal line and generates a bullish signal the trader — seeking quick entry and exit points — might interpret this as a potential opportunity to enter a long (buy) position, anticipating a short-term upward price movement.

Using Fibonacci retracement levels

Before using Fibonacci retracements on their trading platform, the trader must first identify the current trend, and the two significant swing points within that trend. Then the trader can draw or lay the Fibonacci retracement levels from the starting point to the ending point from high to low or low to high.

The most common levels used are 23.6% (0.236), 38.2% (0.382), 50% (0.5), 61.8% (0.618), and 78.6%(0.786). These levels indicate potential areas of support (in an uptrend) or resistance (in a downtrend) where the price might reverse or bounce.

When the price retraces to one of the Fibonacci levels, it might present an opportunity to enter a trade in the direction of the prevailing trend.

For a long-term trader following an uptrend, if the price retraces to the 61.8% Fibonacci level and shows signs of bouncing, they might consider entering a long (buy) position with the expectation that the price will continue its overall upward movement. Whereas a scalping strategy focuses on smaller price moves, and opening a long position when the retracement touches the 38.2% level is more common.

Since scalp trading aims to capture small price movements, the trader might set a tight profit target based on the anticipated bounce from the Fibonacci level. They could also set a stop-loss order just below the Fibonacci level to manage risk.

Traders often look for confluences of Fibonacci levels and other technical factors, such as trendlines, moving averages, or candlestick patterns, to increase the reliability of their signals. Chart patterns such as triangles, flags, and pennants all complement the above tools in helping scalpers to predict short-term price movements.

Challenges and considerations

Scalping requires lightning-fast execution, which necessitates a reliable and high-speed trading platform. Even a slight delay in order execution can significantly impact a scalper's profitability.

Given the high frequency of trades, transaction costs such as spreads and commissions can accumulate quickly and erode profits.

Keep in mind that volatility can present opportunities for scalping, but it also increases the risk of sudden and adverse price movements. Scalpers need to be well-prepared to manage unexpected market conditions. The Exness Stop Out protection feature safeguards Exness traders from up to 30% of stop outs, our VPS increases the speed and reliability of execution, and our competitive spreads make our platform attractive to scalp traders.


Scalping occupies a unique niche in the world of trading, catering as it does to individuals who thrive on quick decision-making and immediate results. While it offers the potential for consistent — albeit small — profits, scalping does bear transaction costs, while at the same time calling for a game plan, the emotional discipline to follow it through, and lightening-speed reactions during each trade session.

Traders considering this strategy should approach it with thorough research, risk management strategies, and a commitment to skill development. Ultimately, scalping is a dynamic and demanding strategy that requires a blend of technical expertise, mental agility, and a deep understanding of market intricacies.

This is not investment advice. Past performance is not an indication of future results. Your capital is at risk, please trade responsibly.


Paul Reid
Paul Reid

Paul Reid is a financial journalist dedicated to uncovering hidden fundamental connections that can give traders an advantage. Focusing primarily on the stock market, Paul's instincts for identifying major company shifts is well established from following the financial markets for over a decade.

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