For as long as financial markets have existed, people have tried to profit by constantly buying and selling.
What is new is that now almost anyone, anywhere can be a day trader.
And that's the problem, say critics of the industry. The North American Securities Administrators Association issued a report earlier this month that accuses day-trading firms of deceptive marketing and other improprieties. Industry groups insist that's the exception, not the rule.
More reputable day-trading firms screen customers to make sure no one puts their life's savings at risk, but there are no hard-and-fast limits.
Day trading is not the same as online investing.
Millions of Americans have accounts with online discount brokerages, buying and selling stock without the input of an adviser.
Most of those people are traditional investors, who buy stocks for the long-term. Online investors who make very frequent trades can act as day traders though.
The pros use specialized services with high-speed connections directly to markets.
Often, though, professional traders start by trading frequently with an online broker.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society