What is a Trading Session?
A trading session refers to the active trading hours of an asset or a given locale. Usually, different markets follow different trading hours, and a single trading day of a market is the trading session referenced by investors in a particular market.
The different characteristics of the markets for stocks, futures, bonds, and foreign exchange define their trading sessions for a particular day, and they differ from one locale to another. The U.S. session is the most clearly defined trading session among traders, and it is driven by the working hours of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The NYSE’s regular trading session starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m. EST.
- A trading session refers to the active trading hours of an asset or specific location.
- The different characteristics of the markets for stocks, futures, forex, and bonds define their respective trading sessions.
- The three main trading sessions by location include the Asian Session, the European Session, and the North American Session.
Understanding Trading Sessions
Different asset classes follow different trading session hours across the world. While the trading session for U.S. stocks starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m. EST, the U.S. bond market trading session starts at 8:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. EST during weekdays.
During the weekday holidays, the trading session for U.S. stocks closes at 1:00 p.m. EST, while the U.S. bond market closes at 2:00 p.m. EST during holidays. The futures market holds varied trading sessions depending on the commodity being traded and the public exchange.
Due to the different trading sessions for different asset classes, traders should be aware of the opening and closing time of the assets that they are trading so that they can plan their trading hours.
Pre-Market and After-Hours Trading Sessions
Although some markets have their official trading hours during the day, the increased demand for trading and the adoption of electronic trading have seen some markets extend their trading hours to include pre-market and after-hours trading.
For example, the NYSE is traditionally open from 9:30 a..m. to 4:00 p.m., but the pre-market trading starts at 4:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EST on weekdays, while the after-hours trading runs from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on weekdays. However, the pre-market and after-hours trading sessions may vary across exchanges and countries.
The extended trading hours allow traders to capitalize on business news and announcements that are made outside the regular trading hours. For example, most publicly-traded companies report their earnings before or after the market opens to avoid causing stock price volatility during trading hours. It allows investors to react to news quickly, even before the market opens, and get ahead of other investors who wait until the market opens to start trading.
Although extended trading was previously reserved for institutional investors and high-net-worth investors, the introduction of electric trading systems and other private trading systems has opened pre-market and after-hours trading to all investors.
24-Hour Trading Session
Some markets are open for trading activities 24 hours a day. The foreign exchange market is an example of a market that is open for trading 24 hours a day. The foreign exchange market comprises large banks and brokerage firms that trade different currency pairs, such as the USD, GBP, NZD, JPY, etc.
The forex market opens on Sunday evening and runs until Friday night, which is the equivalent of five trading days in a week. Although the market remains active the entire day, investors only trade for a select number of hours when there are solid market movements.
Traders may also focus on trading on the three major trading sessions, such as the London Session, the New York Session, and the Tokyo Session, instead of attempting to trade the entire 24 hours.
The Major Trading Sessions
The three primary trading sessions are named after the major financial cities – London, New York, and Tokyo. Usually, markets tend to be most active when these cities are conducting business since it is the time when large banks and companies in these cities make their daily transactions. The primary trading sessions are outlined below:
The Asian Session is also known as the Tokyo Session, and it is the first market to open. Market participants use the Asian session to develop their strategies. Activity for the Asian session is considered to run from 11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. GMT. The Asian market accounts for 6% of the world’s forex transactions.
London is the most active financial hub in Europe, and it hosts some of the world’s largest banks. Many market participants and high-value transactions in London make the session the largest and most important in the world, accounting for about 34% of the daily forex volume.
The official trading hours for London runs from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. GMT, and the period is expanded by the presence of other capital markets, such as the German and French capital markets.
North American Session
The North American Session is dominated by activity from the U.S. markets, even though other countries such as Canada and Mexico contribute to the market activities. The North American Session starts when the Asian Session is already closed, but when the European Session is midway through its trading hours.
The North American Session is also known as the New York Session, and it accounts for 16% of the world’s forex volume.
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