The Best Day Trading Stocks

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The best day trading stock is one that provides opportunity in its price movements and has ample volume so you can get in and out of those opportunities quickly. These two factors are known as volatility and volume, and how much volatility and volume there helps you pick the best day trading stocks or ETFs for your trading style and personality.

Volume and Volatility

Some day traders like lots of volume without much volatility.

The price moves one cent at a time and they scalp the small movements. Others prefer lots of action in the stocks or ETFs they trade (see Find Day Trading Stocks With the Biggest Moves). The price moves quickly, often moving several percentage points in a day, and may jump several cents or more in seconds.

Volume and volatility do change over time, though. Specific events may make a stock/ETF very popular for awhile, but when the event is over the volume and volatility dry up. This cycle may repeat over and over again. An example of this is the S&P 500 VIX ST Futures ETN (VXX).

When the S&P 500 is moving higher, VXX is relatively calm, but when the S&P 500 falls, VXX jumps to life and there's a big jump in volatility and volume. Below is a list of the most popular day trading stocks and ETFs. All have lots of volume, averaging over 10 million shares per day, but vary in volatility.

Beta is a baseline for determining volatility.

It measures how much a stock moves relative to the S&P 500. A beta above 1 or below -1 means the stock is more volatile than the S&P 500. Betas in between -1 and 1 mean the stock tends to be less volatile than the S&P 500. ETFs track their own indexes, not the S&P 500 (except for SPY), therefore Beta readings are not provided for the ETFs below.

To quickly see how volatile an ETF is, relative to the SPDR S&P 500, open a SPY chart on Click Settings>Comparison, type in the symbol of the ETF you want to compare and check mark the box beside it. Also, checkmark "Show percentage scale." Now you can see how many percent an ETF (or multiple ETFs) moves relative to SPY (for more see How to Get the Most Out of FreeStockCharts).

Most Popular Stocks and ETFs for Day Trading

Consistently the most popular ETF among day traders is the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY). It routinely trades over 100 million shares per day and the huge volume allows you to trade smaller or larger position sizes adapted to the volatility. Here are other high volume stocks and ETFs to consider for day trading. Betas are provided where applicable. All numbers are subject to change. Make sure a stock/ETF still aligns with your strategy before trading it.

Most Popular Stocks and ETFs with Average Volume and Beta (August 28, 2015)
Stock/ETFsAvg. VolumeBeta
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)128 million1
Bank of America (BAC)85 million1.71
S&P 500 VIX ST Futures ETN (VXX)62 million 
MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM)57 million 
Apple (AAPL)53 million0.98
Gold Miners ETF (GDX)49 million 
MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ)36 million 
Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF)36 million 
Intel (INTC)34 million0.94
Micron Technologies (MU)34 million2.16
AT&T (T)34 million0.37
Russell 2000 ETF (IWM)33 million 
Microsoft (MSFT)33 million0.9
PowerShares QQQ Trust (QQQ)33 million 
Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NUGT)32 million 
General Electric (GE)31 million1.28
Facebook (FB)30 million0.69
Sirius XM Holdings (SIRI)28 million1.85
Ford (F)27 million1.3
China Large-Cap ETF (FXI)27 million 

Screening for Stocks Yourself

Screen for day trading stocks using or another stock/ETF screening site. On Finviz, click on the Screener tab. To look for stocks, under the Descriptive tab go to Industry>Stocks Only. To search for ETFs only, go to Industry>Exchange Traded Fund. To look for both together, leave the field set to Any. Under the Technical tab, alter the Beta setting to seek stocks that are more or less volatile.

On top of the Screener, there's a drop-down menu called Order. Select Average Volume (3 Month) from the list, and put in descending (Desc) order. The stocks/ETFs at and near the top of the list have the most volume, and this is where most traders will want to focus their search.

Final Word On The Most Popular Day Trading Stocks and ETFs

There are lots of options available to day traders.

Screen or search for good day trading stocks on a regular basis, or trade the same one all time, such the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY). Knowing which stock or ETF to trade is only part of the puzzle, though, you still need to know how to day trade those stocks.