Range Trading 101: How to Profit from Ranging Markets - Morpher
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Range Trading 101: How to Profit from Ranging Markets

Author Image Ovidiu Popescu

Ovidiu Popescu

Range Trading

Just like a tightrope walker balances with precision, range traders excel in markets that lack a clear trend, instead moving within a defined price range. In this guide, we’ll explore the fundamentals of range trading, drawing inspiration from trading virtuosos like Linda Bradford Raschke and Paul Tudor Jones, who have mastered the art of profiting in markets that others may find directionless.

Understanding the Basics of Range Trading

Range trading, at its core, involves identifying stocks or securities that fluctuate within a specific price range. This is similar to predicting the highest and lowest scores in a series of basketball games; traders aim to buy low at the support level and sell high at the resistance level.

Range Trading Candles

Imagine you’re observing a game where the scores consistently fall between 80-100 points. As a range trader, you’d bet on the scores staying within this range, capitalizing on the predictability of this pattern.

Key Indicators and Strategies in Range Trading

Range traders use a variety of technical indicators to identify and capitalize on range-bound markets. Some of the key tools and strategies include:

  • Horizontal Support and Resistance Levels: Identifying clear support and resistance levels is crucial in range trading. These are the levels where the price has historically reversed.
  • Bollinger Bands: This indicator consists of a moving average (typically the 20-day MA) and two standard deviation lines (bands) above and below it. Traders look for prices touching or approaching these bands as potential reversal points within the range.
  • Oscillators: Tools like the Stochastic Oscillator or the Relative Strength Index (RSI) are vital in range trading. They help identify overbought and oversold conditions, signaling potential reversal points at the range’s boundaries.
  • Price Action: Understanding candlestick patterns and other price action signals can provide additional confirmation for range-bound trade setups.

Range Trading Strategies

The section ahead will detail three range trading strategies, differentiated by their respective settings, indicators, and market approach. The same market segment will serve as the basis for demonstrating each strategy’s application. The comparison aims to delineate the distinctive operational aspects of these strategies and their potential adjustment for effective range trading.

The information provided is structured to enhance the reader’s understanding of how each strategy functions within a given market range. The objective is to present a clear framework for each method, facilitating an informed choice regarding strategy selection based on individual trading preferences and market analysis.

The content focuses on presenting the factual aspects of range trading, emphasizing the mechanics and technical considerations inherent to each strategy without subjective assessment.

Classic Range Trading with Support and Resistance

Range Trading Strategy 1

The “Support and Resistance Range Trading” strategy focuses on identifying and acting upon price movements that occur within established support and resistance levels. This strategy is typically applied in market conditions where the price exhibits consistent oscillation between these levels without establishing a long-term trend.

Begin by analyzing the chart to identify clear support and resistance levels. These are price points where the market has repeatedly turned around, creating a horizontal ‘floor’ (support) and ‘ceiling’ (resistance).

Execute a buy order when the price touches or approaches the support level, as indicated by the green circles on the chart. These are points where the market sentiment has previously pushed the price back up, suggesting a likelihood of repetition.

Consider a sell or short order when the price reaches the resistance level, where the price has historically faced downward pressure.

Place a stop-loss order just below the support level for buy orders and just above the resistance level for sell orders to protect against the possibility of a range breakout.

In the provided chart, the orange circle indicates the point at which a stop-loss would be triggered, as the price action has moved contrary to the anticipated range-bound behavior.

Set profit targets slightly before the price reaches the opposing boundary of the range to account for potential reversals at these key levels.

The red circle in the chart represents a breakout point where the price has moved beyond the established range, signaling the end of the range trading conditions. At this point, range traders would cease trading according to this strategy and reassess the market for a new pattern or trend.

Trading Rules:

  • Chart Timeframe: Employ a 1-hour chart to identify the range and make precise entries and exits.
  • Range Identification: Establish the support and resistance levels based on historical price reversals.
  • Entry Points: Buy near support and sell near resistance, using candlestick patterns or other indicators for additional entry confirmation.
  • Volume Analysis: Monitor volume to gauge the strength of the price movement at the range’s boundaries. Low volume at these points could indicate weak support or resistance.
  • Stop-Loss Orders: Place stop-loss orders outside the identified range to minimize potential losses from unexpected breakouts.
  • Profit Targets: Set profit targets within the range, below resistance for sell orders and above support for buy orders.
  • Position Sizing: Risk a small percentage of the trading capital per trade to manage risk effectively.
  • Monitoring: Watch for signs of a breakout from the range, which would invalidate the current strategy.
  • Adaptability: Be prepared to adapt the strategy if the market exits the range-bound state and begins to trend.

Range Trading with Bollinger Bands

    The “Bollinger Bands and ATR Range Trading” strategy combines Bollinger Bands for identifying the trading range with the Average True Range (ATR) for setting stop-loss orders and determining the stability of the range.

    Range Trading Strategy 2 Bollinger Bands

    Why Use Bollinger Bands with ATR for Range Trading:

    • Bollinger Bands: Offer dynamic support and resistance levels that adjust with market volatility, identifying the range for potential trades.
    • ATR: Provides a measure of market volatility, helping to set stop-losses that account for the current market conditions and determining when the market exits a range-bound state.

    A stable range is identified when the Bollinger Bands move parallel to one another, and the ATR is relatively flat, indicating steady volatility.

    The range is considered broken, and trading is ceased if the ATR breaks out of its continuous range, suggesting a change in market conditions. In the chart you can see this range indicated with the blue corridor on the lower half of the chart. 

    Buy when the price hits the lower Bollinger Band and turns upwards.

    Sell or go short when the price touches the upper Bollinger Band and starts to revert.

    Set stop-loss orders at a distance of 2x the value of the ATR from the entry point. This allows the trade to withstand the normal fluctuations of the market as indicated by the ATR.

    In the provided chart, it’s noted that the stop-losses were not triggered when trading within the Bollinger Bands, demonstrating the effectiveness of using ATR to set stop-loss levels.

    Exit a long position when the price approaches the middle SMA or the upper Bollinger Band.

    Exit a short position when the price nears the middle SMA or the lower Bollinger Band.

    Trading Rules:

    • Chart Timeframe: Employ a 1-hour chart to monitor the interaction between price and Bollinger Bands, and to observe the ATR.
    • Bollinger Band Settings: Use the standard 20-period SMA and 2 standard deviations.
    • ATR Settings: Set the ATR period to 14, which is standard, to assess the market volatility.
    • Entry Points: Confirm entries with the price touching Bollinger Bands and additional indicators like RSI for overbought/oversold signals.
    • Volume Analysis: Use volume to confirm the strength of the signals at the Bollinger Bands’ extremes.
    • Stop-Loss Orders: Calculate stop-loss based on 2x the ATR value from the entry point to accommodate the volatility indicated by the ATR.
    • Profit Targets: Set profit targets within the range, ensuring to exit before the price can potentially reverse at the SMA.
    • Position Sizing: Risk a defined percentage of the trading capital to keep risk under control.
    • ATR Range: Cease trading if the ATR indicates a breakout from its normal range, signaling a possible end to range-bound conditions.
    • Adaptability: Be ready to adapt or cease the strategy if the market shows signs of entering a trend, as indicated by a changing ATR.

    The integration of Bollinger Bands with ATR refines the range trading strategy, allowing for dynamic and responsive stop-loss placements and a clear indication of when to exit the range trading approach. This strategy is particularly suited for markets with consistent volatility, as the ATR provides a real-time volatility gauge, enhancing decision-making in entry and exit points and risk management.

    Range Trading Using Oscillators and Indicators

    The “Stochastic Oscillator Range Trading” strategy leverages the Stochastic Oscillator, a momentum indicator that compares a particular closing price of an asset to a range of its prices over a certain period of time. The sensitivity of the oscillator to market movements makes it ideal for identifying entry and exit points within a range.

    Range Trading Using Oscillators and Indicators

    Understanding the Stochastic Oscillator:

    • The Stochastic Oscillator is presented as two lines: the %K, which measures current market conditions, and the %D, a moving average of the %K.
    • The oscillator fluctuates between 0 and 100, with readings below 20 indicating an oversold market and above 80 indicating an overbought market.

    A trading range is established by identifying levels where the price has consistently reversed, signifying support and resistance.

    The range is affirmed by the Stochastic Oscillator by showing repeated movement from overbought to oversold conditions and back without a clear breakout trend.

    Buy Signal: A buy signal is generated when the Stochastic Oscillator falls below 20, indicating an oversold condition, and then crosses back above this threshold. This is shown by the green circles on the charts. 

    Sell Signal: A sell signal occurs when the Stochastic Oscillator rises above 80, indicating an overbought condition, and then falls back below it.

    Unlike other strategies that may trade less frequently, the Stochastic Oscillator strategy involves more frequent trading, capitalizing on the rapid momentum swings within the range.

    Positions may be held for longer periods as the strategy waits for the full oscillation from overbought to oversold conditions, or vice versa.

    For this strategy we will simply revert to setting stop losses at around 1% from the price.  outside the identified range to protect against potential breakouts.

    Take-profit orders are placed near the opposing range boundaries or when the Stochastic signals an exit.

    Trading Rules:

    • Chart Timeframe: Use a 1-hour chart to observe the Stochastic Oscillator movements in relation to price action.
    • Stochastic Settings: A typical setting is 14 periods for %K and 3 periods for %D.
    • Entry Points: Enter trades based on crossovers of the %K and %D lines in conjunction with oversold and overbought levels.
    • Volume Confirmation: Confirm entries with volume analysis, ensuring that market entry and exit points are supported by trading volume.
    • Monitoring: Regularly review the Stochastic Oscillator for continued validity of the range and exit immediately if there’s evidence of a breakout.
    • Adaptability: Stay flexible and ready to exit trades if the market shows signs of transitioning into a trending phase, as indicated by sustained moves beyond the 20 or 80 levels.

    Psychological Aspects of Range Trading

    Emotional Discipline Required for Range Trading

    Range trading necessitates strict adherence to established rules, challenging traders to overcome instinctual responses. Jesse Livermore, a notable figure in trading history, stated, “The human side of every person is the greatest enemy of the average investor or speculator.” Success in this strategy hinges on the ability to forgo impulsive actions driven by greed or fear. For example, a trader who sets a buy order at $50 and a sell target at $55 must maintain this strategy, regardless of whether the market value unexpectedly climbs to $56.

    Overcoming the Temptation to Trade Outside the Range

    The challenge in range trading lies not only in identifying the range but also in resisting the temptation to trade when prices are outside of this range. As billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio advises, “You have to be an independent thinker in markets to be successful because the consensus is baked into the price.” This means that even if there is a buzz around a stock that’s currently at $100, well above the identified range high of $90, a disciplined range trader should refrain from buying, recognizing that the potential for a reversal is high.

    The Psychological Pitfalls of Breakouts and Fakeouts

    Breakouts and fakeouts can trigger emotional responses that lead to hasty decisions. Market expert Alexander Elder noted, “The goal of a successful trader is to make the best trades. Money is secondary.” This highlights the importance of not chasing profits during a breakout or panicking during a fakeout. For instance, if a currency pair typically trades between 1.1200 and 1.1300 and suddenly spikes to 1.1350, a disciplined trader would wait for confirmation of a true breakout rather than reacting to the initial move.

    Practical Tips for Effective Range Trading

    Best Times for Range Trading (Low Volatility Periods)

    The most opportune times for range trading are typically during low volatility periods when prices move sideways. According to market timing expert Linda Bradford Raschke, “There are times to go long, times to go short, and times to go fishing.” For example, the Forex market often experiences lower volatility during the mid-session hours after London’s morning session but before New York’s session begins, which may present stable range-bound conditions.

    Asset Selection for Range Trading (Currency Pairs, Stocks, Commodities)

    Selecting the right asset is crucial for range trading. Currency pairs like EUR/CHF and USD/JPY have historically exhibited range-bound characteristics due to economic policies that tend to stabilize these currencies. Similarly, some stocks tend to trade in ranges due to consistent business performance without significant growth or declines. Conversely, commodities can be more volatile and less suited to range trading unless during periods of market equilibrium.

    The Role of News and Economic Events in Range Trading

    News and economic events can disrupt a trading range, so it’s essential to be aware of the economic calendar. Experienced trader John Murphy asserts, “The most significant currency moves usually occur when unexpected events happen.” For example, a surprise interest rate hike can cause an immediate breakout of a currency pair from its range.

    Conclusion 

    Diligent record-keeping and regular trade review are fundamental for iterative refinement of range trading strategies. Echoing the sentiment of trading psychology expert Dr. Van K. Tharp, “Good records make good traders,” the act of recording the specifics of each trade enables the dissection of one’s trading patterns. For example, a trader who consistently captures gains in a stock trading between $10 and $15 can leverage this historical data to fine-tune approaches for future similar market conditions.

    The article has presented three distinct methodologies: classic support and resistance, Bollinger Bands with ATR, and the Stochastic Oscillator. Each requires a disciplined adherence to its parameters, and just as Matt Levine might wryly observe, sometimes the market is less a wild casino and more a ledger demanding meticulous bookkeeping.

    Support and resistance trading operates on the principle of transactional clarity, with entries and exits executed at established price thresholds. The Bollinger Bands with ATR strategy introduces a dynamic component, calibrating trades to current market volatility. The Stochastic Oscillator approach caters to traders seeking higher frequency activity, exploiting rapid price shifts and extended trade durations.

    Traders must employ restraint, particularly in range trading, to avoid reactionary measures prompted by market chatter or unforeseen news. Such discipline, coupled with a robust log of trades, paves the way for continual strategy enhancement and, ultimately, steady performance in the often unpredictable markets. Thus, range trading stands as a testament to the power of a methodical and analytical approach to the markets.

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    Disclaimer: All investments involve risk, and the past performance of a security, industry, sector, market, financial product, trading strategy, or individual’s trading does not guarantee future results or returns. Investors are fully responsible for any investment decisions they make. Such decisions should be based solely on an evaluation of their financial circumstances, investment objectives, risk tolerance, and liquidity needs. This post does not constitute investment advice.

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