Daytrading Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been playing with Bitcoin and Litecoin.

The bitcoin logo

The bitcoin logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can hear you from across the internet.   You’re asking, “What the hell is Bitcoin?”

I’m glad you asked.  It’s a cryptocurrency.

And now you know as much as you did before.

Cryptocurrencies are anonymous internet-based money.   You spend it just like money, though granted, there are fewer places that accept cryptocurrency.

The big name in cryptocurrency is Bitcoin.   In second place, trying to play silver to Bitcoin’s gold, is Litecoin.

So what do I mean by “playing with” Bitcoin and Litecoin?

I’ve been daytrading, which is generally a horrible idea…when you’re doing it with stocks.   Daytrading is gambling.  It’s the art of doing short-term flips on a stock.  You buy it today to sell tomorrow, hoping it goes up.   With stocks, I play a long game.  I buy and hold.   I buy a stock that I believe has long-term value, and I hold it for months or years.

That’s not the game I play with BTC and LTC.    I play a short game, rarely longer than a week.  When the coins are at a low price, I buy, then I immediately sell when they price is higher.   When it’s high, I short the coin, essentially selling coins I don’t own to trade back when the dollar-price is lower.   When I’m paying attention, I make money as the coins go up and I make money when the coins go down.

Why is this a good strategy for cryptocoins?

Because they are extremely volatile.   As I’m writing this, Litecoin has had a 10% swing today, from $4.03 at midnight, to a current price of $4.16, with a peak of $4.36.  On Thursday, it was floating around $4.60 all day.   In the last 30 days, it’s been as high as $8.65 and as low as $3.18.  Go back to May and the low is $1.29.

Traditional wisdom says that volatile investments are bad.   In traditional investments, that’s true.  But when a stock is this volatile, nearly every bet is a good one, as long as you’re patient.   If I buy LTC at $4.20 and it drops to $3.90, that’s bad.  I lost money.   But, if I wait a couple of days, it’s almost definitely going to climb back up.   Except for large-scale sell-offs, it’s usually going to bounce 10% in a given day.     You can buy in the dips and sell at the peaks all day long, turning 5-10% profits with each time.   If you’re brave or stupid, you can short at the peaks and make 5-10% on every downturn, too.

For example, today started at $4.03.  Buy.  Today’s peak was at 7:15AM at $4.36.   When the graphs start swinging down, sell short.   Two hours later, it bottomed out at $4.20 for a 4% return.   Then, buy while it’s low.  Ninety minutes later, it was at $4.31, another 3% return.  Short it again, then close the position at 7PM for $4.13.

Let’s walk through this.

Buy $10 worth of Litecoin at midnight, sell at 7:15AM.    You have $10.81.

Turn around and short the same amount until 9AM.   You have $11.22.

Buy that same amount to sell at 10:30AM.   You have $11.51.

Short it again before closing out at 7PM and going to bed.  You have 12.01.   That’s almost a 12% return in 12 hours, assuming you guessed all of the major swings right.  If you guessed some wrong, you’d just have to wait until the next time it swung your way, and it will.   Did I do that well?  No.  I bought in at $4.008 yesterday and sold today-once-for $4.32.   I will not complain at an 8% return over 12 hours.

The only exception to that is during major buying and selling streaks.  On July 5th, a major buying run started.  By July 8th, the price was run up to $8.65.   A huge sell-off happened then, dropping the price to $4.36 on July 9th.

If you bought at $8.65 you’d be hosed.

The lesson there is, don’t buy at the peak.   I’ve had a number of trades that could have been huge scores if I would have held onto them longer, but I’m a wimp.   I sell as soon as I’ve gotten enough money to make me smile, then I refuse to regret the decision.   That also prevents me from holding on to my positions too long.  I avoid all of the crashes that way.  That giant buy-in happened while I was on vacation, so I wasn’t paying attention.  When I’m not paying attention, I leave my money in US dollars, so there’s no risk…and also no reward.

Also, an important caveat:  while I am learning the cryptocurrency ropes, I’m playing with a non-critical amount of money.  I put $75 into the exchange in June.   Not enough to cry over losing, but enough I can play with all of the different investment options.  As I said, I’m a wimp, although a 30% return in 7 weeks is pretty sweet.

Next up, I’ll show you how to get started investing/gambling with Bitcoin.