Trading Hours Explained in Depth

Trading hours may seem simple, but when you scratch the surface there is more than meets the eye.

Trading hours may seem straight forward but, if you get into the weeds, it becomes more complicated. Here we will explain the intricacies of trading hours including: pre- and post-market trading, open and close call auctions, partial closures, and more!

How to Trade After-Hours?

If you have an online brokerage account you probably already have the ability to trade after-hours and may not even know it. Although there may be some limitations. When placing a trade, there is usually on option called "Time-in-force" or similar. The options include:

  • Day — Regular trading hours (9:30am-4:00pm, M-F). Canceled at the end of the day
  • Day + ext. — Regular trading hours plus extended hours
  • GTC — Good til canceled. Regular trading hours. Stays open multiple days
  • GTC + ext. — Good til canceled. Regular trading hours plus extended hours
  • Ext AM — Pre-market hours only
  • Ext PM — Post-market hours only
  • EXTO — Extended hours overnight

Pre- and Post-Market Trading

The New York Stock Exchange is officially open for trading from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM EST. But pre-market trading starts at 4:00 AM and post-market (or after-hours) trading ends at 8:00PM. While after-hours trading was once restricted to only institutional investors, today anyone can trade after-hours through their online brokerage account. After-hours trading carries only a fraction of the number of trades that occur during regular trading hours. This increases volatility and risk. But there are good reasons to trade after-hours.

Most companies release their earnings reports or other big news after hours. This reduces the size of immediate unthinking emotional reaction by investors. By the next day, investors have had time to fully read and understand the news. This way markets react more rationally. Knee-jerk reactions can still occur after-hours, but they are usually smaller than during regular hours and will correct by the time regular markets open.

There are higher risks to trading after hours. After-hours trading is mostly large professional traders. So if you do trade after yours, you are up against the big players. Also, because there is significantly less volume volatility can be much higher. You should be careful not to place market orders as they could be filled at a price that is unacceptable to you.

TradingHours.com offers tools to help explore market hours around the world.

Trading Hours Around the World

Just as global markets regular trading hours vary, so do their extended hours. There is a complete list of market hours available. Some markets also have more complicated schedules where they close in the middle of the day for lunch. Lunch closures are only in Asia. Some middle-eastern markets are closed Friday and open Sunday.

Additional, markets can close early without warning in case of emergencies. If markets are crashing closing a market can give investors time to process information with the hope that after having more time to think, reason will prevail and markets will level off.

Call Auctions

But that's not all! Markets actually close for a sort time between pre-market trading and regular hours and between the end of regular hours and the start of after-hours trading. This is when call auctions occur.

Most major markets start and end trading with a call auction. The goal of a call auction is to close all outstanding orders. Multiple orders are batched together to create one large contract and arrive at a single price. This allows markets to determine a set "open" and "close" price for each security.

Call auctions are not required during regular trading hours because buyers and seller are paired up on a continuous basis. This is called continuous trading. A call order is only required to close out all outstanding orders in a continuous trading system. Cryptocurrency trading for instance never closes and therefore does not need call auctions.

The Bottom Line

Extended-hours trading is more complicated and riskier. But for savvy investors, after-hours trading can be beneficial. Trading after hours lets you take advantage of breaking news that happens outside of normal hours. This is especially important because most companies break big news after markets close.

Further, because extended hours trading is mostly done by large institutional investors, pre-market trends can be an indicator for how markets will trade that day. This is especially important for forex traders. However, after hours trading carries higher risks due to the higher percentage of professional investors and lower trading volumes.