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Understanding Gap Trading Strategies


Gap trading is a common stock trading term, referring to a strategy that aims to take advantage of the price difference or “gap” between the last closing price of a financial asset and the next opening price to capitalize on potential short-term fluctuations in the market. Let’s break down how you might be able to take advantage of this strategy for your portfolio. You could also benefit from working with a financial advisor to help make smart investment decisions for your financial goals.

How Gapping Works

In the stock market, gapping refers to a strategy that aims to take advantage of a significant price difference that typically happens in between the last closing price in a trading day and the next opening price the following trading day.

Gaps can be caused by various factors. These can include news announcements, earnings reports, and geopolitical events, among other examples.

Traders analyze gaps as part of technical analysis to understand market behavior. A gap in pricing can signal important directional changes that offer investors valuable insight. Aside from short-term price movements, a gap can also reveal shifts in market sentiment and potential trading opportunities.

What Is Gap Trading?

Gap trading is a strategy that traders use to capitalize on the gaps that happen in stock prices. This concept is fundamental because gaps can signal strong bullish or bearish sentiment.

A trader could buy a stock if it gaps up at the open and sell it if it gaps down. For example, when a company releases positive news after market hours, this might result in a gap up that prompts traders to buy the stock with the expectation of a continual rise. On the other hand, a disappointing post-market earnings report could cause a gap down, providing an opportunity for traders to short-sell the stock and profit from the falling price.

It’s important to note that trading gaps can be associated with increased volatility and may present both opportunities and risks for investors.

Some traders use gap trading strategies, while others approach gaps with caution, considering them as potential areas of price acceleration or reversal. As with any trading strategy, you should rely on thorough research and risk analysis before making a trading decision based on gapping patterns.

Understanding Gaps

An investor smiling after her gap trading strategy paid off.

A trading gap is commonly represented as a price range on a chart where no trading activity has taken place. As explained earlier, this usually happens due to significant events or news related to the company or the overall market. Gaps can be categorized into full gaps and partial gaps.

A full gap happens when the opening price of a stock significantly deviates from the previous day’s high or low price. This largely occurs following major news events or economic announcements affecting the stock market. A full gap, for example, can indicate strong buyer enthusiasm and a potential upward trend, which can create a buying opportunity. Conversely, a full gap down might suggest heavy selling pressure, indicating a potential downward trend and an opportunity to short-sell the stock.

A partial gap, on the other hand, happens when the opening price is within the previous day’s price range, indicating less impactful news or minor sentiment changes in the market. Nevertheless, a partial gap can also affect trading decisions. A partial gap down may represent a potential short-sell opportunity, where a trader could profit from decreasing stock prices. Conversely, a partial gap-up might signal a buying opportunity, assuming the price will continue to rise.

How to Find Gapping Stocks

Finding gapping stocks can involve a variety of online tools, which allow traders to filter stocks based on price gaps that typically happen outside of market opening and closing hours. Financial advisors who use these tools can help identify stocks that could benefit your portfolio.

When looking for a gapping stock, it’s important to note that there are three types of gaps that you may want to think about as you decide on your investing strategy.

  • Upward gap (positive gap): This occurs when the opening price is higher than the previous day’s high.
  • Downward gap (negative gap): This occurs when the opening price is lower than the previous day’s low.
  • Exhaustion gap: This type of gap usually occurs near the end of a trend and may signal a potential reversal. An exhaustion gap can be an upward or downward gap.

The type of gap that you could benefit from will largely depend on your financial situation and investment goals. But make sure you also understand why the stock price change is happening and whether it can lead to an eventual reversal.

If a stock price reverts to its previous position before the gap, but continues to increase, this could indicate a strong bullish status. Traders might interpret this as a signal to continue holding or even adding to their positions.

Bottom Line

A couple reviewing an investment opportunity with a gap trading strategy.

Gap trading is a widely used strategy, profiting from the gaps in stock prices. Understanding full and partial gaps as well as effective strategies to fill the gaps can unlock significant profit opportunities. While gapping is an important market event, it carries risks, underscoring the need for proper risk management techniques during gap trading. For personalized advice on the topic, seeing a financial advisor can be beneficial and help you take advantage of sudden shifts in the market.

Tips for Investing

  • Investing in a long-term plan can be difficult, with many factors to consider. An experienced financial advisor can weed through the potential pitfalls and help you reach your long-term goals. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • You may want to use a free investment calculator to estimate how your investment dollars can grow over time.

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