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What is Directional Trading?

By Rachel Burkot
Updated May 16, 2024
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Directional trading is an investment strategy based on the investor’s speculation as to the way the market is heading. This strategy is based solely on the direction of the market, and it involves making a bet on whether the market will rise or decline. Directional trades involve making either a net long or net short position within a market. If the market goes up, a net long investment strategy will pay off, while a downward turn in the market will benefit a net short directional trade.

A directional trading strategy is often as simple as an investor holding onto a portfolio of stocks or bonds. Additional resources the investor can use include currencies, futures and options. Within the category of short and long directional trading, the investment may be dedicated long or short, a dedicated long or short bias, or pursuing a long or short strategy.

Dedicated long and short strategies involve taking only long or short positions in the market. A long position is the one taken most often by investors, as the long-term market is more likely to rise. Dedicated short strategies are less common today, but a number of unconventional businesspeople took advantage of this strategy during the bull market of the twentieth century. The directional trading strategy known as a dedicated long or short bias maintain either a net long or net short exposure to the market. A long and short strategy maintain a short-term market watch and select stocks to go long or short while also deciding when to go net long and when to go net short.

Long and short directional trading is also known as market timing. It is a simple concept that can be applied in any market, and it simply involves keeping a close eye on the economy to get in or out of the market based on expectations and predictions. Direction trading is the opposite of market neutral strategies, which combine long and short market positions to result in no net market exposure at all.

Directional trading is used widely among those new to the stock market and the investment world. For more advanced economists, non-directional trading has been an option, particularly a good one in a market hit by a recession. This type of trading involves not paying attention to the direction of the market at all. Non-directional traders enter the market and exit only once they make a profit. If the market continually declines, they put in a hedge fund, an unregulated investment fund that takes highly speculative positions.

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