Friday, August 12, 2011

Trading plan: Trading Range day

Since most trading days are trading range days, its essential to have a plan to trade them well. Identifying a trading range day is a lot easier: If its not a trend day, it's very likely to be a trading range day. Rather than go with the default, I use a simpler heuristic. After the first two up and down moves (including any gaps), if you are back where you started from, its likely to be a trading range day. For example, today the first move up was the gap and the bull trend bar b1 and the second move down was b8. At this point, you are back where you started, so this is likely to be a trading range day with b1-b8 as the opening range.

   On a trading range day, the first few bars are likely to have a lot of overlaps and tails, preventing a clear signal bar. One way around this is to trade a smaller timeframe such as the 3m chart as shown here. The entries are mid-bar on the 5m chart and do not really make much sense but are much clearer on the 3m chart. Once the first hour or so is complete, you should no longer look at the 3m chart since the setups there are likely to be of lower probability of success.

Trading range days often have two legged moves in each direction followed by two legged moves in another without really moving too far from the range. Most swing entries are likely to fail and your breakeven stop is likely to be hit. So a valid plan is to take every two legged move and exit on the second push. For example, if you sold 3m b2 on the chart shown to the left, you would exit when the second push ended either on strength at the close of 3m b9 or when a bar ticks beyond a prior bar (above 3m b14).

However, I avoid trading this way, simply because I prefer larger moves. A viable plan is to buy near the low of the range and sell near the high of the range. Simply stated, trade the failed breakouts of the range and try to hold it till the other end of the range is tested. So for example, the 5m b32 gave a failed breakout of the HOD b1. The right approach is to short this and try to hold it till b9 low is tested.

To constrain yourself to truly taking trades only near the ends of the trading range, divide the opening range into three parts and mark out the central part. Take only buy signals below it and sell signals above it. Hold it till the price crosses to the other side (b27) or attempts to bounce back a second time (b50). Ignore all entries that would take place in the center. This should allow you to swing even on a trading range day and avoid most of the choppy entries. When a new lod or hod (b30) extends the range, adjust your box accordingly.

Using this system, you would have only taken the long above b17 and the shorts below b32 and b56. These also happen to be the best swingable trades today. Note that this may not work on TTR days, when the range of the day is 5 points or less. TTR days are best not traded at all, since any trade is low probability.

Just as you stop trading trends when the trend terminates into a trading range, you need to stop trading a range when it breaks into a trend. Take the first plausible pullback and ride the new trend and avoid trying to insist it to turn back into the trading range.

Along with the Trading plan: Trend days, you have 90% of the days covered. The remaining trends are hard trends, soft trends, Spike and channel and TTRs. Recognizing these and trading them correctly is the key to successful trading.


  1. Cad--
    as always, thanks for the great instruction.
    when you can, pls give a bit more definition as to what is the first reversal.
    e.g, on this chart it was b2. HOwever, on others you seem to ignore the first 1-2 bars and label the 1Rev a bit later.

  2. JimJin, 1st reversal (1Rev) is essentially a trend attempt that fails and results in a reversal. That reversal could lead to a prolonged trend move. It does not always succeed and if another reversal occurs that could possibly turn into a trend move, it could also be a 1Rev. I have considered renaming it to Opening Reversal, since there can be more than one.

  3. Cadaver

    Man, you make it look so easy!!!
    I have been reading through Al's book "Bar by Bar" and just wanted to ask you for confirmation, the techniques you guys use, these can be applied to any time frame?

    Cheers and thanks so much for posting, very educational.

  4. Sniper, yes it works for any timeframe

  5. Hi Cadaver,

    I see that your 2nd trade last target was +11. According to my chart you would have entered on stop at 1180 therefore your exit was 1169. I have a MM of the opening range at 1168.25 which was also the globex open. Is this why you exited at 1169 or do you have other reasons?

  6. RF, the MM could be a factor, but for me a bounce and LOD at the close or prior day was a real possibility and did not want to lose existing profits.

  7. Cadaver,

    How do you define the Opening Range?


  8. obx, the simplest way to define an opening range is the first two moves or the first two ups and downs.

  9. Hello my friend, I can't see the top chart, any way of re-uploading it??

    Thank you so much for this invaluable information.