Best Futures Trading Hours and Which Ones to Avoid
Futures markets are open almost 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
This provides traders an opportunity to trade around the clock globally.
However, not all hours are the same.
There are optimal times to trade and other times you should avoid if you want to have success in this business.
Just like any market, finding the most opportunistic times and areas to trade will keep you in the trading world for longer.
It will also help you with your psychology and mindset in the long run.
In this article, I’d like to share the best futures trading hours and which ones to avoid for the most popular futures contracts.
Futures Trading Hours – Equity Indices
United States equity index futures trade around the clock, with just a one hour and fifteen minute, break each day.
Futures open for trade on Sunday of each week at 6PM EST.
The table below shows the minimal increment of movement for each contract, this is called a tick. But fear not, it will not give you lime disease.
On the third column, you will see the resulting profit or loss from a one tick move. The symbols you see are the E-mini equity futures.
Since May, 2019, the E-mini Micro contract was included.
The equity Micro contracts are available for all the contracts you see below, the symbol is a simple change.
All you add is “M” before each symbol. The $/Tick is simply divided by 10 for the Micro from the Mini.
For example, in the table below the ES moves $12.50 per tick, while the Micro (MES) moves $1.25 per tick.
This gives new traders the opportunity to dive into the equity markets risking a small amount of capital to learn. For more information on the Micros click here.
Second last column shows you the electronic session trading.
The last column shows the only time of day when futures are halted for trading.
On Friday of each week, the market closes at 5PM EST and will not re-open until Sunday at 6PM EST.
For the remainder of this post, I will refer to times in the EST time zone.
Best Futures Trading Hours in Equity Index Futures
To understand the best futures trading hours, you first need to understand the two separate trading sessions.
Session one is the morning overlap. Session two is the US afternoon going into the close.
Let’s look into each more closely.
The Best Futures Trading Hours in the Morning Session:
- 9:30 AM – the markets open for US session trading
- 11:30 AM – European equity markets closed for trading
- 9:30 – 11:30 AM is the most liquid session and is called the US and EUR “overlap”
- European traders need to close their positions at the close, forcing an increase in volume
- These are the hours you will have the most opportunity in the morning
A large majority of volume flows into the futures market during these hours. However, this can extend to 1:00 PM each day.
This is when the futures market is moving the quickest and a plethora of opportunity surrounds traders.
Market structure is clear and a lot of volume flooding in makes order flow a very useful and profitable tool.
At TRADEPRO Academy we use these hours to trade specifically for these reasons.
It is possible to make a very good full-time income in just hours in the futures markets. There is no need to sit in front of the computer for hours on end looking for opportunity.
During these two hours, the majority of the volume is traded on an hourly basis on the session.
The volume moves price, and this volume helps the opportunity flow in the market.
Not to mention during these times a lot of news comes out of the US which helps more volume and volatility come in the markets. Again, more opportunity.
The Best Futures Trading Hours in the Afternoon Session:
- 2:00 PM – institutional and professional trading volume picks up
- 4:00 PM – market on close orders are processed (MOCs) and US closes officially
- 2:00 – 4:00 PM is the most liquid part of the afternoon as professional traders balance their books into the close
- This time zone can be tricky to trade, despite having high volume
- Lots of head fakes can happen in this time stretch, but you will have plenty of movement
- Keep a tight stop and follow the order flow closely during this time frame
The afternoon session also holds a lot of opportunities after the big traders come back from lunch. There is volume that comes into the markets after 2:00 PM.
However, it can be a little slower than the morning session. There is caution around the close of the session as big money closes positions, opens news ones.
Long story short in the last 20 minutes or so into 4:00 PM markets go crazy.
The afternoon session usually has news that drops, especially in 2018-2019 throughout the Trade Deal with China and the US. Also the Fed and FOMC meetings.
Evening Trading Hours
Since futures trading is open around the clock, there is an evening session that holds decent volume, movement and opportunity.
This is the perfect session for traders that are located in different time zones and can only access futures trading in the wee hours of the night.
Just like one of TRADEPRO’s finest, David who managed to turn his $700 account into $6,500 and counting, nearing the 6 figure mark now. Click here for more info.
The London session overlaps with the Asian session, opening at 2:00 AM. Throughout the night there may not be as much volume or crazy volatility but there is an opportunity.
There is news out of Asian markets, such as China that drops as well as presenting traders with news-driven trading.
Futures Trading Hours – Energy
Energy products have been extremely volatile since oil prices collapsed in July of 2008 from their all time highs.
The energy markets have not made a recovery since. Since OPEC countries have decided to implement production cuts and quotas, the market has been susceptible to price swings and volatiltiy.
This increased volatility has led to some amazing trading opportunities and a great market for day trading.
In the table below, you will see identical information to above.
Noticeable differences are the halt. Energy products stop trading at 5PM and re-open daily at 6PM EST.
The Best Futures Trading Hours in Energy:
- CL opens for trading on the floor, called the pit session at 9AM EST
- European trading closes at 11:30 AM EST
- The best hours for trading are the most liquid, between 9:00AM and 11:30AM
- Pit session closes at 2:30PM EST, when floor trading stops for the day
- Therefore, the best trading in the afternoon is the last hour between 1:30PM to 2:30PM EST
- Lots of institutional money is closing out positions and re-balancing their books during this stretch
On Wednesday, in the crude oil market, starting at 10:30 AM, the crude oil inventory report comes out.
This report presents traders with the opportunity to make their monthly target in just 30 minutes of trading. This is the most opportunistic time to trade the oil market.
Anyone can spare 30 minutes, once a week. With move potentials of over a dollar in oil, which is $10 per cent of movement.
Traders can make the most of this opportunity. Click here for more Crude Oil inventory info.
Best Futures Trading Hours – Conclusion
When you are day trading you want to be in position to be present during the best futures trading hours.
The more volume and liquidity present in the market, the more opportunity you will have to capitalize.
Now you know what hours you have to be available, and often time just the morning session is enough to extract a full time income from the market.
Imagine making more money than your current full time job while only working two hours every day?
That’s the benefit of knowing and using the best futures trading hours to your benefit.
Good luck and good trading.
Learn to day trade futures like the PROs, and join us in our live trading room to experience the TRADEPRO edge with our team.
The information contained in this post is solely for educational purposes, and does not constitute investment advice. The risk of trading in securities markets can be substantial. You should carefully consider if engaging in such activity is suitable to your own financial situation. TRADEPRO Academy is not responsible for any liabilities arising as a result of your market involvement or individual trade activities.