Monday, July 20, 2009

The Psychology of Trading Slow Range Days

If you click on the chart above for the S&P 500 e-mini (ES) futures, you'll see that the market has probed both extremes of its overnight range, reverting back into the range each time. Note how the market's volume has been steadily declining during the range trade, as large participants have elected to sit out the chop.

Trade location is central to trading such slow ranges well: you want to wait for the market to show you that it is failing at or near a range extreme before entering to fade the recent move. If you examine the NYSE TICK during the 9:00 AM CT hour, for example, you'll see how selling dried up at the morning low. Those tells are useful in executing trades in ranges with good risk/reward, as the distance to your stop (below AM lows) is meaningfully less than the distance to the targets at VWAP and the upper range extreme.

To make such trades, however, requires selectivity and patience. Many traders overtrade slow, range markets trying to catch each squiggle within the range. That puts them short when near the bottom of the range and long when they're near the top. Unless there's distinct evidence of weakening or strengthening that could generate a breakout move, those poor location trades are likely to cost money over time.

For more, here are specific ways of identifying range bound market conditions as they're unfolding.