Learn the S&P trading strategy and you'll be able to successfully profit from the price movements of the world`s largest and most important stock market indices. Most institutional investors and the big hedge funds love trading S&P 500 index. If you too love trading stock indices, you need to learn our S&P trading system.
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Many investors use the S&P 500 index as a proxy to view the US stock market performance. When people say the "economy" is doing well, they often mean that this index (and others) has increased in value. Due to the Intermarket correlation, any sudden S&P 500 price movement can have a ripple effect across other markets, including the forex market, commodity market, future market, and even in the cryptocurrency market.
So, just because you’re a pro Forex trader or an oil trader, that doesn’t mean you should only focus on the forex market. In fact, diversification can reduce the overall risk of trading. However, you still need a profitable trading strategy for the S&P 500 if you want to track and forecast future price movements in the US stock indices.
Let’s get started by explaining what the S&P 500 index is, how to trade the S&P 500 index and we’re going to finish with our proprietary S&P trading strategy.
What is S&P 500 Trading?
The S&P 500 is a US stock market index that tracks the performance of the 500 largest US stocks. In other words, the S&P 500 index value is simply the total market value of the 500 large-cap US companies listed on NYSE and NASDAQ.
The percentage change in the US index value between two days is the index return.
Generally speaking, a stock market index (S&P 500, Dow Jones, NASDAQ) will give us information about a group of stocks. Unlike other stock indices, the S&P index includes stocks from all sectors of the US economy.
Therefore, the S&P 500 index is the most traded stock index in the world because institutional investors believe it to offer the best representation of the US stock market. The index is diversified and has delivered consistently strong returns (nearly 10 percent per year, on average).
Let’s see what makes index trading different and what are some of the advantages of S&P 500 trading.
Why trade S&P 500 Index?
Off the bat, you need to know that the S&P index moves a lot. In other words, the S&P 500 volatility is high. In the stock market, we have something called the VIX, which measures the implied volatility (expectation of future volatility) of the S&P 500 Index options.
For those of you who don’t know what’s VIX trading, we have covered you up, just check our guide How to Trade VIX Strategies– Wall Street’s Fear Index.
Higher S&P trading volatility means more trading opportunities for you. If you are a relatively risk-tolerant trader, exploring the stock market can be very profitable.
You’re going to have price movements that are way far and beyond what you see in the Forex currency market.
Secondly, trading the S&P 500 will give you diversified exposure to the entire US stock market. Rather than simply owning one single stock that might or might not perform well, the S&P 500 index will give you exposure to 500 large-cap US companies.
Your performance won’t be tight to the performance of one single stock, so you can increase the chances of making a profit.
If you want to trade the US stock indices you need to know when is the best time to trade the S&P 500. In other words, we’ll examine what are the most volatile S&P 500 trading hours.
When to trade the S&P 500?
The best time to trade the S&P 500 index is when the US session begins because that’s when the trading volume is the highest.
The US day trading futures market opens at 9:30 US EST.
As you'll find while trading with every market, the S&P 500 price vibrates its own unique way.
If you’re a day trader, you might wonder:
When is the best time to trade S&P 500?
The best times to trade SPX is during the hours with the highest volume:
- Between 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM EST, the US stock market officially opens which overlaps with the last 1.5 hours of European trading.
- Between 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM EST prior to the stock market close the professional trading activity increases again.
Usually, those are the most liquid hour of SPX trading. As a “consequence” of higher liquidity, the S&P 500 buy and sell spreads are much tighter during this time window.
To verify if this is true, check out the 15-minute chart with an 8-period ATR (Average True Range). This will measure the average range of a 2-hour period.
The above S&P 500 chart highlights that the most trading activity takes place at the open.
We must ensure that we use the best S&P 500 trading platform.
What’s the best S&P 500 Trading Platform?
In this section, we’re going to reveal what is the best futures trading strategies software platform.
First, it’s important to know that you can start trading the S&P 500 index with multiple financial products like:
- Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).
- Investment Funds.
- Contracts for Difference (CFDs).
- Spread trading.
So depending on the financial instrument used and your preferred broker you can trade the S&P 500 on the following trading platforms:
- TradeStation – low commission trading platform.
- Thinkorswim – best for options trading.
- E*Trade – most trusted futures trading platform.
- TD Ameritrade – best desktop platform.
- Interactive Brokers TWS – best for professional traders.
- MetaTrader 4 trading strategies, MetaTrader 5 and cTrader – best for retail traders.
Once you have decided which trading platform suits better your trading style, let’s see your guide to trade SP 500.
How to Trade the S&P 500?
We’re going to outline few trading instructions to keep in mind when trading S&P 500 index.
Even when it seems like the S&P 500 price seems like consolidating, the same level of choppiness you see with Forex trading won’t occur that often with the US stock indices.
Under this circumstance, if you want to learn how to trade the S&P 500 index, you kind of know-how to trade in volatile markets.
If you want to learn more about volatility trading, please check out: Volatility trading strategy - Profit Without Forecasting Price Direction.
You can trade the US indices via:
- Contracts for Difference (CFDs) which tracks the price movement of the underlying instrument. If the S&P 500 price is going up the CFD contract will rise and vice versa.
- Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) which is even better. The biggest and most heavily traded ETF in the world is the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust Fund also known as the SPY.
For small investors, it’s better to trade the S&P 500 index via ETFs or CFDs due to the use of leverage. When trading SPDR S&P 500 ETF, traders can go both long and short. So, you can profit even when the market goes down.
Now, we’re going to share with you our favorite S&P trading strategy.
S&P Trading Strategy
Having a systematic methodology for trading the SPX is of utmost importance.
Over the long run, the S&P 500 index has the tendency to gradually climb and every once in a while we get sharp sell-offs that can lead to stock market recessions. And the process repeats all over again, due to the fractal trading nature of the S&P 500 price.
You can see some example of this in the S&P 500 chart below:
Now, what’s the main takeaway from the above S&P 500 chart?
If your answer is:
“It’s more profitable to buy and hold the S&P 500 index, you’re right.”
Did you know that if you bought the S&P 500 index at the close of each trading session and took a profit at the next open, you could have gained 13.3 percent return in 2019. This means you could have singlehandedly outperformed many of Wall Street's most respected hedge funds.
See the S&P 500 chart below:
Note* This S&P trading strategy would have given you 3 wins and 1 loss if traded over the past 4 trading sessions.
However, this S&P trading strategy doesn’t have any strong backing to suggest it will work in the coming years. That’s why we need to develop an S&P best trading system with more consistency that can work year after year.
So, do you want to learn a simple and timeless way to trade the S&P 500 successfully?
With that in mind here is a profitable S&P trading strategy.
First, let’s lay down the things needed to trade successfully the S&P trading strategy:
- 3-period SMA (simple moving average strategy) calculated using the low prices
- 3-period SMA (simple moving average) calculated using the high prices
See the S&P 500 price chart below:
Note* The S&P price will be confined between the 2 moving averages 85% of the time.
Here are the entry and exit rules of the S&P trading system:
- Buy at the 3-SMA low and exit your trade at the 3-SMA high.
- For selling is the opposite: sell at 3-SMA high and exit your trade at the 3-SMA low.
- The stop loss placement is above/below the 3-SMA low/3-SMA high.
Now, to add more confluence for our S&P 500 trading signals, we’re going to add one more element:
We’re only going to buy when we touch the 3-SMA low if both moving averages are stretching to the upside. Check out our blog on multiple moving averages trading strategies.
See the S&P 500 chart below:
Conversely, we’re only going to sell when we touch the 3-SMA high if both moving averages are stretching to the downside.
See the S&P 500 chart below:
There are also ways to take advantage of the intraday price movements by using a day trading S&P 500 strategy.
Tips for Day Trading S&P
If you have a 9 to 5 job and you only have an hour to trade per day you can use our day trading S&P 500 strategy. Ideally, the S&P 500 day traders will be trading based on trading strategies that take a short amount of time.
Now, because the market structure is fractal in nature, we can use the same S&P trading strategy for day trading. However, we’re going to add a simple trading trick.
Let’s do an exercise and analyze the S&P 500 chart below.
What’s the first noticeable price behavior that jumps into your eyes?
If you pay close attention to the price action relationship with the 3-period SMA, you will notice two things:
- During strong uptrends, the price has the tendency to stay glued to the 3-SMA high.
- During strong downtrends, the price has the tendency to stay glued to the 3-SMA low.
With that in mind, we can now develop a very successful day trading S&P strategy. The entry and exit rules are the same, but to avoid the inherent intraday noise we’re only going to use the daily chart as a filter as follows:
When the daily chart shows price glued to the 3-SMA high, we’re going to switch to the 5 minute time frame (or 15-minute chart) and only take long trades.
See the 5-minute S&P 500 chart below:
Remember that you need to exercise discipline and develop a successful daily routine that can fit into your schedule.
Final Words – S&P Trading System
In summary, the S&P trading strategy is a trend-dependent strategy that can ride both bullish markets and bearish markets. If you’re an aspiring trader you can use our day trading S&P 500 strategy and take advantage of the intraday volatility.
To summarize, the S&P trading strategy has two main advantages:
- The daily volatility that appeals to traders.
- Broader exposure to the US stock market.
Don’t forget you can always use the S&P trading system with other markets (stocks, commodities, currencies, and cryptocurrencies) just make sure you manage your risk and keep losses at a minimum. Last but not least, protect yourself and use a proper risk management strategy.
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