Stop-loss in trading

A stop-loss order is a risk management tool that you should consider as part of your trading strategy. It is a market order that helps manage trading risk by specifying a price at which your position closes out, if an instrument’s price goes against you. ​Financial markets are renowned for periods of rapid fluctuation and volatility, so it can prove highly valuable to implement a stop-loss order on your trades.

What is a stop-loss?

A stop-loss order is a market order that helps manage risk by closing your position once the instrument/asset reaches a certain price. A stop-loss aims to cap an investor’s losses on a position. If you set a stop-loss order for 10% below the buy price, it will limit your losses to 10%.

A stop-loss aims to cap your losses by closing you out of the trade once your pre-determined figure has been reached. The stop-loss order you’ve set will stay in effect either until it’s triggered, cancelled or your position is liquidated. If the instrument’s price falls below your threshold, your stake in the instrument will be sold at the next available market price. By occurring automatically once your limit is reached, it provides an exit plan, preventing you from losing any further capital on that position.

This stop-loss level is determined by the trader, who might take into account fundamental analysis factors like current underlying market conditions and the likelihood of slippage occurring. Slippage is the difference between the expected price and the actual price the trade was executed at. This can occur at periods of high market volatility, such as major news releases and events, when either entering or exiting the trade.

The stop-loss order lasts until either a) the stop-loss level is reached, b) the stop-loss is removed without closing the trade, or c) the trade is closed.

There are two types of stop-loss orders depending on your position: a ‘sell’ stop and a ‘buy’ stop. The most commonly used is the sell stop.

chart with declining figures against a ticking clock

Spread betting stop-loss

When trading the financial markets with us, you can speculate on the price movements of the underlying asset through spread betting or CFDs (contracts for difference). Spread betting is our most popular product and allows you to trade tax-free* in the UK. Here is an example of how to use a spread betting stop loss on an existing positon.

Let’s say you open a trade of £1 per point at a ‘buy’ price of 7310, placing a stop-loss at 7300.  If the price falls to 7300, the stop-loss will be triggered and your trade would be closed at the next available price.
However, even if the price were to reach 7350, it could potentially fall to 7300 and trigger your stop-loss. One way to guard against such a scenario is to implement a trailing stop-loss order.

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What is a buy stop-loss order?

If you’re opening a short position, you would use a ‘buy’ stop-loss order, as the instrument is being sold with the expectation the price will go down.

What is a sell stop-loss order?

If you’re in a long position, meaning the instrument (such as a specific currency pair, share or commodity) is being bought with the expectation that it will increase in value, you would implement a sell stop-order. The trader, therefore, benefits when the market price rises. The stop-loss order would be set up below the current market price.

Types of stop-loss orders

  •  ​Buy and sell stop-loss orders
  • ​ Trailing stop-loss
  • ​ Guaranteed stop-loss

Trailing stop-loss

A trailing stop-loss order, unlike a regular stop-loss, will follow, or ‘trail’, the price of a trade as it fluctuates. The trailing stop is set a percentage, or a specific number of points, away from the current market price, which accommodates for the fluctuation in the asset’s value, as the stop-loss adjusts.

For example, on a buy trade, the trailing stop will rise as the price of the asset rises, staying a pre-set distance away. If the market then begins to fall, the trailing stop remains at its new higher level. These stops aim to lock in profit by moving in the direction of a winning trade, while ensuring a cap is in place, in case the trade doesn’t go in your favour.

Likewise to a regular stop-loss order, a trailing stop does not guarantee that you’ll exit the position on the price you set. If the market gaps or you experience slippage above or below your set stop-loss, your position will be closed at the next available price.

Guaranteed stop-loss

If you want complete certainty that a trade will close out at the exact price you set your stop, without running the risk of slippage, you can pay a premium for a guaranteed stop-loss order. The premium is based on the current market price, and if the GSLO is not triggered, it’s refunded in full.

This is a robust risk management tool if you’re concerned about the market volatility or gapping, but can be cancelled or switched to a regular stop-loss order, or trailing stop, at any time.

Stop loss order

Where to set a stop-loss

When deciding where to set a stop-loss, traders might account for fluctuation or volatility in the market. The historical movement of the asset and its financial market is also a good indication of where to set your stop-loss. If you’re intending to go long, the stop-loss should be placed below the market price, or it should be placed above the market price if going short.

Where to place your stop-loss can also depend on what type of trader you are. A longer-term investor may choose a higher percentage distance away, whereas an active trader may choose a smaller distance.

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Stop loss calculator

When deciding where to place your stop-loss, it’s important to consider how much you’re willing to lose. Consequently, a stop-loss should be placed far enough away so that it won’t be triggered too early, but not so far away that there is a risk of losing significant capital. A trading plan should be developed so you can enter and exit strategically.

Stop-loss trading strategy

Stop-loss orders can be used for a wide range of trades, in volatile markets such as cryptocurrencies and forex trading. This is because there is more chance of slippage in a highly liquid market, and traders can take advantage of stop-loss limits. Traders can use risky short-term strategies, such as scalping, day trading and swing trading effectively by placing stop-loss orders at their desired points of exit. Learn more about trading strategies here that can be used in conjunction with stop-loss market orders.

How to set a stop-loss

You can set stop-loss orders on all of your positions with our award-winning trading platform, Next Generation. We offer endless drawing tools, price projection tools, technical indicators, stop-loss, take profit and other market orders.

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  1. Register for a live account and choose your product between spread betting and CFDs.
  2. Choose an asset from the product library and open a live chart.
  3. From the drop-down menu beside the asset name, select 'Order Settings'.
  4. Here, you are able to customise stop loss, take profit, limit and stop entry orders. You can set default measures in the form of a percentage, price amount in GBP, or points.
  5. You can also choose how long the stop-loss order stays before expiry, from anything after 1 day to open ended.
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The importance of a stop-loss

Stop-loss orders are essential to your trading strategy. Some of the benefits of implementing a stop-loss to your trades are:

  • They are useful if you cannot monitor the market for extended periods of time
  • They can help manage losses (particularly important when trading on leverage)
  • There is no cost to attach one
  • It prevents loss aversion by automatically exiting, rather than holding on to losing trades

Disclaimer: CMC Markets is an execution-only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. CMC Markets does not endorse or offer opinion on the trading strategies used by the author. Their trading strategies do not guarantee any return and CMC Markets shall not be held responsible for any loss that you may incur, either directly or indirectly, arising from any investment based on any information contained herein.

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