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.

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.

Second last column shows you the electronic session trading.

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.

Futures Trading Equity Index Hours


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:

  • 9:30AM – the markets open for US session trading
  • 11:30AM – European equity markets close for trading
  • 9:30 – 11:30AM 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


The Best Futures Trading Hours in the Afternoon Session:

  • 2:00PM – institutional and professional trading volume picks up
  • 4:00PM – market on close orders are processed (MOCs) and US closes officially
  • 2:00 – 4:00PM 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

Recently, the Russell 2000 Index has been brought back to CME for 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.


US Futures Trading Hours – Energy Products

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


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.