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Types of Orders in Trading: From Basics to Advanced

Understanding the types of orders in trading, from the basics like market orders to more complex mechanisms like buy stop or sell limit, is crucial for navigating the fast-moving and volatile markets of today.

Knowing when and how to use these diverse orders can significantly impact your trading outcomes. It’s a foundational skill that can mean the difference between capitalising on opportunities in a timely manner and missing out on potential gains due to market fluctuations.

Market Orders

What is a Market Order?

A market order is an instruction sent to your broker from the trading platform to buy or sell CFDs (Contracts for Difference) or spread bets, (if applicable in your region) at the best available price in that instrument at that time. The ability to complete that order at the desired price will be determined predominantly by market conditions - price movement at that time, liquidity, and whether there is major news announced. Market orders can be executed to enter or close a position and can be seen on a deal ticket as a ‘market execution’ order. Conversely, attached orders (such as a stop loss), will become a market order when the price of an instrument reaches a specified level, again sending the order to be filled at the best price at that time.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantage of a market order is its ability to facilitate quick transactions, which is crucial in fast-moving market environments. However, this can also be a drawback as you cannot specify the price, which might lead to buying or selling at undesirable prices especially in volatile markets. For less liquid stocks, like those of small-cap or obscure companies, the bid-ask spreads are usually wider.

Limit Orders

What is a Limit Order?

A limit order directs your broker to buy or sell a stock or other security at a specified price or better. This type of order allows you to control the prices at which you trade, ensuring that you do not pay more or accept less than your specified price. For example, a buy limit order is executed only at the limit price or lower, providing a safeguard against overpaying in a volatile market.

Advantages and Disadvantages

While limit orders offer precise control over transaction prices and can protect against significant losses by pairing with stop orders, they are not without drawbacks. The primary disadvantage is that the order may not be filled if the market price never reaches the specified limit. This can result in missed opportunities, especially in fast-moving market conditions where prices may surpass your set limits before an order can be executed. Limit orders can also be subject to slippage, where the execution price differs from the expected price due to rapid market movements. Additionally, limit orders typically incur higher brokerage fees due to their complex nature and the increased time it takes to monitor and execute these orders effectively.

types of orders and when to buy and sell

Stop Orders

What is a Stop Order?

A stop order is an instruction to execute a trade once the market price reaches a specified level. If the market trends downward, a sell stop order is placed below the current price and will be executed when the market hits that level, typically to limit losses or protect profits. Conversely, in an upward trend, a buy stop order is set above the current price and will be executed when the market reaches that level, often to enter a position as the stock breaks out above resistance.

Types of Stop Orders

You can utilise three main types of stop orders: stop-loss, stop-entry, and trailing stop-loss. Stop-loss orders are essential for exiting positions when the market moves against you, especially when you cannot monitor the market continuously. Stop-entry orders help you enter the market in line with the current trend.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Stop orders provide the significant advantage of executing trades automatically, thus protecting against unexpected market movements. However, they are not without risks. Short-term market fluctuations can trigger stop orders, resulting in exits from positions as intended by the order's purpose. Additionally, the execution price may not always match the stop price due to slippage, especially in fast-moving or volatile markets.


Each order type serves a unique purpose and offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. Market orders provide quick execution but lack price control, making them ideal for highly liquid stocks but risky in volatile conditions. Limit orders offer price certainty, but at the cost of potentially missing out on trades if the market doesn't hit the specified price. Stop orders help automate trade execution to protect against adverse market moves, though they carry the risk of premature activation and slippage.

By understanding and strategically employing these different order types, traders can better manage risk, optimise their entry and exit points, and ultimately enhance their potential for success.

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