Imagine you purchased 500 shares of Hershey Chocolate at $50 per share; the current price is $57. You want to lock-in at least $5 of the per share profit you’ve made but wish to continue holding the stock, hoping to benefit from any further increases. To meet your objective, you could place a trailing stop order with a stop value of $2 per share.
In practical terms, here’s what happens: Your order will sit on your broker’s books and automatically adjust upwards as the price of Hershey’s common stock increases. At the time your trailing stop order was placed, your broker knows to sell HSY if the price falls below $55 ($57 current market price - $2 trailing stop loss = $55 sale price). Imagine Hershey increases steadily to $62 per share; now, your trailing stop order has automatically kept pace and will guarantee at least a $60 sale price ($62 current stock price - $2 trailing stop value = $60 per share sale price). In other words, the trailing stop order will increase in your favor and lock in any gains you’ve made in the interim. If Hershey were to fall to $60, your trailing stop order would convert to a market order for execution, your shares would be sold, and should result in a capital gain of $10 per share.