Hajime Mabuchi is an early riser. After sobering up in a hot Jacuzzi at his home in a Seattle suburb, he takes some vitamins and drives to a nearby Starbucks coffee shop. He arrives at 6 a.m.

There the 52-year-old opens his laptop, connects to an online stock-trading site via the Internet, and starts trading Nasdaq stocks at 6:30 a.m. -- 9:30 a.m. New York time. He stays fixed to the computer screen and fires away buy and sell orders, all executed immediately with a click of the mouse.

Every second matters.