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How to Plan a Futures Schedule for Trading

This is the second of my 3 part introductory series to futures trading.

In Part 1 I talked about what futures trading is and why I prefer trading futures as opposed to the literally hundreds of instruments out there that you could choose to trade i.e stocks, bonds commodities, options more.

And in this post I want to let you in on the best times for trading futures based on my experience in trading for 10 years and so that you can eventually develop your own instincts when it comes to the best times for you when it comes to trading. 

Understanding the best time for a trading futures schedule is part of the knowledge and instincts that traders develop over time in the markets. But it begins with first having a solid foundation in the fundamentals of day trading principles and how financial markets move and work.

But back to the focus of this post which is the topic of a trading futures schedule and the optimal times for day trading futures.

What is the Best Trading Futures Schedule for You?

The truth is there isn’t a one size fits all best futures schedule for trading. Especially since every trader has different commitments and different amounts of free time each day that they can commit to trading. Especially if they are also working full time or part time and day trade to make extra income as a type of side hustle.

So as I see it there are two main factors when coming up with a futures schedule for day trading. Keep these in mind for when you are weighing up the times you want to be able to trade futures.

They are quite simple and may seem pretty obvious but I want to point these out specifically. And further on in this post we can discuss more specific times and factors that influence the best times for trading futures.

A. Market Open Hours

Futures markets have specific trading hours that vary depending on the asset being traded. For example, equity index futures like the S&P 500 E-mini typically trade during regular market hours, while commodities like crude oil or gold might have extended trading hours.

Understanding these hours is crucial to avoid trading during periods of low liquidity or increased volatility.

B. Your Own Availability to Trade

You must factor in your own availability and trading preferences. Some traders prefer to be active during specific market hours, while others might prefer to trade during quieter periods or use automated trading strategies that operate round the clock.

If you are working or studying full-time or part time then this must also be factored in to determine your best times for trading.

Futures schedule for trading
Futures markets have specific trading hours that vary depending on the asset being traded. For example, equity index futures like the S&P 500 E-mini typically trade during regular market hours, while commodities like crude oil or gold might have extended trading hours.

The Best Futures Schedule Times for Trading in My Opinion

A good start to understanding what day futures trading is – is literally that, it’s getting in an out of positions in one day. Most day trading can be done within a few hours.

And when it comes to futures markets, in my opinion, the best time to trade is usually 9:30 am – 11:30 am EST. This period is normally known as the ‘morning session’ in trading. And this is also when volatility is high as traders enter the markets all eager to trade at this time.

And during the lunch break, trading can become slow and boring and it can also be unpredictable. In some markets, there may be a lull in trading activity during lunch hours when traders take breaks. Some traders prefer to avoid trading during these periods to minimize the risk of low liquidity and choppy price action.

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm EST is the ‘afternoon session’ and again this is generally a good time to trade but I would favor the morning session of the afternoon session when it comes to a futures schedule for trading.

Some traders go until the 4 pm bell. Futures market can be traded premarket time and after market hours as well. But the best times are the ones I mentioned on top.

Considerations for Futures Schedule Trading Times

In the futures market what you trade is contracts. You can think of contracts as in stocks positions. When you buy stocks, you can buy either 1 or 200. In Futures, you can do the same, you can buy one contract or as many as you want.

In the beginning, and probably for a year or more after you go live, you will be working only with one contract at a time.

While there isn’t a universally agreed-upon “best” time of day for trading futures, there are certain periods when trading activity tends to be higher and volatility increases, which can present more trading opportunities. 

Opening Hours 

The first hour of trading after the market opens can often see increased volatility as traders react to overnight news, economic data releases, and market sentiment. This is particularly true for stock index futures like the E-mini S&P 500.

Closing Hours

Similar to the opening hours, the last hour of trading before the market closes can also see heightened activity as traders adjust their positions before the end of the trading day.

Overlap with Other Markets 

During periods of overlap between different futures markets or with other financial markets (such as the stock market), trading activity tends to increase. For example, the overlap between European and U.S. trading hours can lead to increased volatility in certain futures markets.

develop your own futures schedule for trading
There may be a lull in trading activity during lunch hours when traders take breaks. Some traders prefer to avoid trading during these periods to minimize the risk of low liquidity and choppy price action.

Economic Data Releases 

Volatility often spikes around the release of important economic data such as employment reports, GDP figures, or central bank announcements. Traders may specifically target these times for trading opportunities.

Early Morning and Late Afternoon 

Some traders prefer to focus on trading during the early morning or late afternoon when markets may be quieter but still offer opportunities, especially if they have other commitments during regular trading hours.

Avoiding Lunchtime Lulls 

As discussed earlier there can be a decrease in trading activity during this period. Less volatility and more indecision generally is not a good time to trade.

Check out Part 1 and Part 3

Related Read: Advantages Of Trading Futures: Is Futures Trading Worth It?

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