Trading Efficiently – The 2 to 3 Hour Trader

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Trading Efficiently – The 2 to 3 Hour Trader

Day trading stocks for years I found I always traded best in the morning, then usually gave some profits away in the afternoon, only to make some back at the close to basically finish up where I was at in the morning. It took me years to realize that trading all day is not a very efficient strategy for a day trader.

Now, trading forex and futures, I finally am able to trade efficiently, as well as retain my mental edge. There are highly profitable times–times where are conditions are ripe for extracting a profit–and low profitability times, and I only trade during the former.

I recommend only trading during the few hour span in which your strategies are most profitable, whether you trade futures, forex, stocks or commodities. My strategies work best in volatile conditions with lots of movement and trends, therefore, my discussion below will focus on these times. The best times for you to trade may vary, but I still recommended that you don’t trade the whole day.

There are two reasons for this.

  • Efficiency: By only trading the two to three most volatile (and potentially profitable) hours of the day I get much better use of your time. While I may make a bit more if I trade all day, the amount I am likely to make is on a decreasing scale.

I trade forex for about one hour a day, from about 8:00 EST to 9:00 EST. During this time I can usually extract about 15 to 20 pips if there is some good movement over one to four trades. After this, trades generally begin to take a bit longer and solid opportunities take longer to materialize. True, some days I could make much more I traded all day, but other days I would end up losing what I had already made.

On average, I find it best to simply trade that hour or so and call it quits. If I was to trade for 6 hours I may end up, on average, making 30 pips for the day. That is much less efficient though; the first 20 pips comes in an hour, while the next 10 pips takes 5 hours, since my strategies generally do worse as the trends die out as the day progresses.

  • Mental Capital: Your most important trading tool is your brain, and your ability to stay calm, disciplined and focused. After a couple hours of staring intently at my screen, I need a break. If I don’t take one I am prone to start making mistakes. It is not only that there is usually two to three hours which have the best opportunities, but after trading those hours your brain is starting to get tired. Focus and discipline may become lost and with it some profits.

If you keep trading after the most volatile hours are over (or your most profitable hours), make sure you are fully alert and not feeling tired. If you are, you’re more likely to make bad decisions.

For these reasons, I have chosen to trade forex for approximately one hour per day around the start of the US forex session. This is one of the most volatile hours of the day, so I get the “most bang for my buck” trading at that time.

I then switch over to futures, and trade the first two hours of the US equity markets. The first two hours are usually the most volatile of the session, providing the most trading opportunities, quickly.

It took time to learn, but less is more. While the strategies you employ may be different than mine, and therefore more profitable at other times of the day, I encourage you to trade efficiently.

Don’t trade all day just because you can. Keep track of your trading stats and see at what times you are most profitable. You’ll likely find a pattern where almost all of the money you make comes within a few hour span, and the rest of the time you are losing, breaking even or barely scratching out a profit.

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Trade only during the few hours that are most profitable. By doing so, you’ll also save yourself “mental capital.” The times you do trade you’ll be more focused and disciplined, and you’ll have more time to focus on other endeavours and get fresh for the next trading day.

Managing Risk Efficiently in Six Steps

Any analyst or trading guide will tell you how important it is to manage your risk. However, how does one go about managing that risk? And what exactly do they mean by managing risk? Here is a step-by-step guide to one of the most important concepts in financial trading.

1. Determine Your Risk Tolerance

This is a personal choice for anyone who plans on trading any market. Most trading instructors will throw out numbers like 1%, 2% or on up to 5% of the total value of your account risked on each trade placed, but a lot of your comfort with these numbers is largely based on your experience level. Newer traders are inherently less sure of themselves due to their lack of knowledge and familiarity with trading overall or with a new system, so it makes sense to utilize the smaller percentage risk levels.

Once you become more comfortable with the system you are using, you may feel the urge to increase your percentage, but be cautious not to go too high. Sometimes trading methodologies can produce a string of losses, but the goal of trading is to either realize a return or maintain enough to make the next trade.

For instance, if you have a trading method that places one trade per day on average and you are risking 10% of your beginning monthly balance on each trade, it would only theoretically take 10 straight losing trades to completely drain your account. So even if you are an experienced trader, it doesn’t make much sense to risk so much on one single trade.

On the other hand, if you were to risk 2% on each trade that you place, you would theoretically have to lose 50 consecutive trades to drain your account. Which do you think is more likely: losing 10 straight trades, or losing 50?

STARTING BALANCE % RISKED ON EACH TRADE $ RISKED ON EACH TRADE # OF CONSECUTIVE LOSSES BEFORE $0
$10,000 10% $1000 10
$10,000 5% $500 20
$10,000 3% $300 33
$10,000 2% $200 50
$10,000 1% $100 100

2. Customize Your Contracts

The amounts of methodologies to use in trading are virtually endless. Some methods have you use a very specific stop loss and profit target on each trade you place while others vary greatly on the subject. For instance, if you use a strategy that calls for a 20-pip stop loss on each trade and you only trade the EUR/USD, it would be easy to figure out how many contracts you may want to enter to achieve your desired result. However, for those strategies that vary on the size of stops or even the instrument traded, figuring out the amount of contracts to enter can get a little tricky.

One of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting as close to the amount of money that you want to risk on each trade is to customize your position sizes. A standard lot in a currency trade is 100,000 units of currency, which represents $10/pip on the EUR/USD if you have the U.S. dollar (USD) as your base currency; a mini lot is 10,000.

If you wanted to risk $15 per pip on a EUR/USD trade, it would be impossible to do so with standard lots and could force you in to risking either too much or too little on the trade you place, whereas both mini and micro lots could get you to the desired amount. The same could be said about wanting to risk $12.50 per pip on a trade; both standard and mini lots fail to achieve the desired result, whereas micro lots could help you achieve it.

In the realm of trading, having the flexibility to risk what you want, when you want, could be a determining factor to your success.

3. Determine Your Timing

There may not be anything more frustrating in trading than missing a potentially successful trade simply because you weren’t available when the opportunity arose. With forex being a 24-hour-a-day market, that problem presents itself quite often, particularly if you trade smaller timeframe charts. The most logical solution to that problem would be to create or buy an automated trading robot, but that option isn’t viable for a large segment of traders who are either skeptical of the technology/source or don’t want to relinquish the controls.

That means that you have to be available to place trades when the opportunities arise, in person, and of full mind and body. Waking up at 3am to place a trade usually doesn’t qualify unless you’re used to getting only 2-3 hours of sleep. Therefore, the average person who has a job, kids, soccer practice, a social life, and a lawn that needs to be mowed needs to be a little more thoughtful about the time they want to commit. Perhaps 4-Hour, 8-Hour, or Daily charts are more amenable to that lifestyle where time may be the most valuable component to trading happiness.

Another way to manage your risk when you’re not in front of your computer is to set trailing stop orders. Trailing stops can be a vital part of any trading strategy. They allow a trade to continue to gain in value while the market price moves in a favorable direction, but automatically closes the trade if the market price suddenly moves in an unfavorable direction by a specified distance.

When the market price moves in a favorable direction (up for long positions, down for short positions), the trigger price follows the market price by the specified stop distance. If the market price moves in an unfavorable direction, the trigger price stays stationary and the distance between this price and the market price becomes smaller. If the market price continues to move in an unfavorable direction until it reaches the trigger price, an order is triggered to close the trade.

4. Avoid Weekend Gaps

Many market participants are knowledgeable of the fact that most popular markets close their doors on Friday afternoon Eastern Time in the US. Investors pack up their things for the weekend, and charts around the world freeze as if prices remain at that level until the next time they are able to be traded. However, that frozen position is a fallacy; it isn’t real. Prices are still moving to and fro based on the happenings of that particular weekend, and can move drastically from where they were on Friday until the time they are visible again after the weekend.

This can create “gaps” in the market that can actually run beyond your intended stop loss or profit target. For the latter, it would be a good thing, for the former – not so much. There is a possibility you could take a larger loss than you intended because a stop loss is executed at the best available price after the stop is triggered; which could be much worse than you planned.

While gaps aren’t necessarily common, they do occur, and can catch you off guard. As in the illustration below, the gaps can be extremely large and could jump right over a stop if it was placed somewhere within that gap. To avoid them, simply exit your trade before the weekend hits, and perhaps even look to exploit them by using a gap-trading technique.

5. Watch the News

News events can be particularly perilous for traders who are looking to manage their risk as well. Certain news events like employment, central bank decisions, or inflation reports can create abnormally large moves in the market that can create gaps like a weekend gap, but much more sudden. Just as gaps over the weekend can jump over stops or targets, the same could happen in the few seconds after a major news event. So unless you are specifically looking to take that strategic risk by placing a trade previous to the news event, trading after those volatile events is often a more risk-conscious decision.

6. Make It Affordable

There is a specific doctrine in trading that is extolled by responsible trading entities, and that is that you should never invest more than you can afford to lose. The reason that is such a widespread manifesto is that it makes sense. Trading is risky and difficult, and putting your own livelihood at risk on the machinations of market dynamics that are varied and difficult to predict is tantamount to putting all of your savings on either red or black at the roulette table of your favorite Vegas casino. So don’t gamble away your hard-earned trading account: invest it in a way that is intelligent and consistent.

So will you be a successful trader if you follow all six of these tenants for managing risk? Of course not, other factors need to be considered to help you achieve your goals. However, taking a proactive role in managing your risk can increase your likelihood for long term success.

Making Sense of Forex Market Hours

When you are starting out trading forex pairs, whether it be in the spot market or using binary options, there is a lot of basic information required. Many traders skip over this basic information, and instead seek out strategies immediately. The forex market is open 24-hours a day because banks/businesses are open at different times around the world, providing liquidity to forex pairs. Yet each hour of the day has different tendencies based on what part of the globe is open for business. Understand forex market hours, and hourly tendencies, and you’ll be better able to apply your strategies at opportune times.

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Forex Market Sessions

Major markets are open at different times throughout the day. Which market(s) is open directly affects the liquidity and volatility and forex pairs.

The EURUSD for example is most liquid and volatile during the London and New York sessions, especially during the “overlap” period when London and New York are both trading.

The USDJPY typically has the most volatility when Tokyo first opens, and when New York opens many hours later.

Currencies generally see increased liquidity when one or more markets that actively trade, or use, that currency are open for business.

Here are the forex sessions based on different time zones:

Figure 1. GMT

Figure 2. EST (New York)

These charts do not show every market in the world, although these are the major ones. The Canadian market is open while New York is open, and London overlaps with other European markets.

Germany opens one hour before London; therefore, some consider that to be the open, and not the start of the London session. Volatility, on average, doesn’t see a marked increased until London opens though.

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Those major sessions directly impact currency pair volatility. The charts below show hourly volatility. If your strategy is based on volatility or you’re using a trending strategy, focus on times of day where the price moves are largest. The “spikes on the chart” are ideal times, as the price needs to be making higher highs or lower lows in order for volatility to increase during that time (see: Trading Efficiently – The 2 to 3 Hour Trader).

If you are using more of a range trading strategy, or prefer low volatility, trade during the sedate times, where the charts show decreased hourly volatility.

All figures below are current as of January 9, 2020. While subject to change, the charts provide a good overall context for relative intra-day volatility.

Figure 3.

8 to 17 GMT provide the best trending opportunities, with 13 to 17 generally providing the biggest moves.

Those seeking reduced volatility, or times more likely to quietly range, trade between 20 and 5 GMT.

The USDCHF is very similar to the EURUSD in terms of its hourly volatility structure, although the USDCHF moves less overall each day and therefore overall hourly volatility is several pips less.

Figure 4.

Figure 5.

Figure 6.

The NZDUSD has very similar hourly volatility to the AUDUSD, and they both move roughly the same amount each day.

Currently updated volatility charts and other forex statistics are available at Daily Forex Stats.

Learning the basics, such as what the market sessions and hours mean to you as a trader, can significantly help in determining what strategies to exercise and when. No matter what time frame you trade on, you should have a checklist which helps you determine what type of market environment you are trading in. This will also help with filtering trades and capitalizing on good opportunities.

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