The financial realm is a dynamic space with a multitude of opportunities. For seasoned investors and those new to the game, one such opportunity lies in after market trading.
This article specifies an overview of after-market trading, its returns, probabilities, and how it influences stock prices. By understanding the dynamics of this unique trading window, investors can make informed decisions that align with their financial goals.
Understanding After-Market Trading
The term after-market trading refers to trading securities outside of the normal trading hours. A typical trading day at the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq is 9:30 a.m. through 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
However, after-market trading extends this window, typically from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time. This extension allows investors to react to news and events that occur outside of standard hours.
Trades during these extended hours take place via Electronic Communication Networks (ECNs), which are digital systems that match buyers and sellers outside traditional market hours.
ECNs have democratized after-market trading, making it accessible to individual investors who previously could not participate due to limitations in traditional trading systems.
The Upside of After-Market Trading
US Stocks after-market trading offers several advantages that can benefit certain types of investors. The following are some of the major advantages:
The extended hours of after-market trading provide investors with the chance to respond to news and events that can influence market movements.
This could range from company-specific events like earnings reports to macroeconomic updates such as monthly jobs reports.
Additionally, unforeseen events may force investors to take or close out positions in response to price fluctuations.
During after-market hours, dividend investors may still be eligible for dividends if they missed the opportunity to buy during regular market hours on the day before the ex-dividend date.
Extended-hours trading can offer advantages to investors with constraints that prevent them from participating during the standard trading session.
Having said that, individuals occupied with their daytime occupations can still engage in the market, thanks to after-hours trading, which offers an extra layer of flexibility.
Thriving on Volatility
While volatility can be detrimental in many cases, some investors actively seek it out as it presents greater income opportunities.
Due to the lower volume of trades that occur after hours, traders may find better prices in the pre-market or experience larger price swings due to a lack of available shares to trade.
However, it’s essential to understand that if the ECN utilized for after-market trading becomes unavailable due to technical issues, brokers may try to reroute orders to other participating ECNs for execution.
If this isn’t possible, brokers may need to cancel all orders entered for the after-market session.
Navigating the Risks of After-Market Trading
While after-market trading can offer potential benefits, it also carries specific risks. As an investor considering participation in after-market trading, it’s crucial to be fully aware of these risks and understand how to navigate them.
Some brokers even require investors to accept the ECN user agreement and consult with their brokerage representative before they’re allowed to trade, ensuring they fully grasp and accept these risks.
Low Liquidity/High Volatility
After-market trading typically involves low-volume trading, making it challenging, and sometimes impossible, for investors to buy and sell stocks.
This low liquidity often results in volatile prices due to the scarcity of available trades—this lack of liquidity can make orders difficult to fill and could potentially jeopardize your desired price.
After-market trading often involves price uncertainty. Investors may not see or get filled at the best available price since the prices/quotes available during after-market trading are typically provided by a single ECN.
As a result, after-market trades often have wider than normal bid-ask spreads due to illiquidity.
Competition and Restrictions
After-market trading often sees professional traders capitalizing on opportunities, which can spark volatility and potentially greater losses for less experienced investors.
Moreover, after-market trading may be restricted to limit orders depending on the ECN and brokerage, which could mean your trades go unfilled.
Pros and Cons of After-Market Trading
Like any financial strategy, after-market trading has its benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a quick comparison:
- Allows investors to seize early opportunities.
Offers greater convenience by not restricting trades to select hours.
- Presents potentially higher profit opportunities due to increased volatility.
- Enables investors to act when new market information is revealed.
- Often leads to lower liquidity, making transactions more difficult.
- Frequently results in greater price volatility due to larger bid-ask spreads.
- May result in greater competition due to limited availability of shares.
- Could result in restrictions based on your broker’s policies.
The Impact of After-Market Trading on Stock Prices
After-market trading can significantly affect the opening price of a stock at the start of the next regular trading session, particularly if certain events have occurred, such as earnings releases or periods of extremely low liquidity.
Because after-market trading typically involves a lower volume of available shares, it could result in stock movements that do not resolve until the subsequent day. This price volatility may be temporary as the market may adjust to spikes in price to address liquidity shortages of securities once regular trading hours resume.
After-market trading can also affect a stock price if the company releases significant news or earnings after market close.
This information can either positively or negatively impact the valuation of the security, and traders may try to capitalize on this new information. In some cases, significant news may trigger larger activity from after-market traders, further influencing the opening price on the subsequent day.
How to Trade After-Hours
To get involve in after-hours trading sessions, one must have an account with a brokerage firm that offers the feature of after-hours trading. Keep in mind that not all brokerage firms provide access to after-hours trading, so it’s advisable to inquire with your broker about the availability of this service.
Also, each brokerage firm offering after-market trading may have different operating hours—ensure you understand the specific timings.
Assuming your brokerage firm allows after-market trading, you can place orders via their online trading platform. The process is similar to placing an order during regular trading hours, with some important differences.
Not all order types are typically available during after-market trading. For instance, limit orders might be the only available option, and market orders may only be partially filled owing to the order book’s illiquidity.
For instance, some firms like Charles Schwab do not allow stop, stop-limit, fill-or-kill, immediate-or-cancel, or all-or-nothing orders.
A Look at After-Hours Trading: A Case Study
Let’s consider a historical example involving Nvidia Corp. (NVDA), which highlights the challenges and risks associated with after-market trading.
In 2019, Nvidia released its quarterly earnings, resulting in a substantial surge in its stock price. Within a brief ten-minute period following the announcement, the stock price jumped from $154.50 to nearly $169.
Nonetheless, the situation took a different turn the following morning. When the market opened for regular trading, traders and investors had the opportunity to digest Nvidia’s results. The stock’s value dropped from $164 to $161 during this period, and by the close of the trading day, it settled at $157.20.
This closing price was only $3 higher than the previous day’s closing value, marking a substantial decrease compared to the nearly $15 increase observed during the after-market session.
Investing in after-market stocks provides investors with a unique opportunity. Despite this, it’s crucial to consider your investment goals, risk tolerance, and trading style before getting involved.
While most investors might prefer to stick with the familiar buy-and-hold strategy executable during normal trading hours, for those prepared for its nuances, after-market trading could be a valuable investment tool worth exploring.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does After-Hours Trading Affect Opening Price?
Yes, it can. After-market trading can influence the opening prices of securities due to the volume of trading that may occur during these extended hours.
Can You Trade After Hours?
Yes, provided your brokerage authorizes you to do so. However, it’s crucial to understand how after-market trading works and the associated risks.
Your brokerage might ask you to meet with an investment representative to ensure you’re aware of the challenges posed by after-market and premarket trading.
Why Can Stocks Be So Volatile in After-Hours Trading?
After-market trading often sees lower trading volume and less liquidity due to fewer traders and investors in the market. This situation leads to wider bid-ask spreads and consequently, greater stock price volatility.