In the fast-paced world of FOREX trading, time can have a major impact on a trader's success. The 24-hour nature of the FOREX market means that investors can respond to currency price fluctuations in real time. However, not all hours of the day are equally ripe with opportunity. In this article, we will discuss the delicate relationship between timing and potential profit in FOREX trading. We will base our advice on the four major trading markets – London, New York, Sydney, and Tokyo. Each market has unique characteristics, opening and closing times, and a slightly different influence on currency pair volatility. Understanding these dynamics can help you as a trader to enter the market at the best times, increasing your chances of making a profit.
Understanding FOREX Market Hours
The FOREX market is open 24 hours a day but closes on weekends. Unlike the stock market with its set opening and closing times, FOREX trading starts each week in Sydney when the financial markets open in Australia at 10:00 PM GMT on Sunday. The markets close in New York Friday at 10:00 PM GMT.
Within this period, four major trading sessions, each centered in a global financial hub, influence FOREX prices and movements. These four markets are not the only markets in the world, but they are the most significant. The Sydney session, which starts at 10:00 PM GMT and ends at 7:00 AM GMT, gets the ball rolling. It is then joined by the Tokyo session that operates from 12:00 AM to 9:00 AM GMT. After that, the London session follows from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM GMT. The London session is known for its high volatility in terms of volume and FOREX prices as it overlaps with both the Tokyo session in the morning and the New York session in the afternoon.
The final session to come alive is the New York session, which runs from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM GMT. Each session's opening and closing have a bearing on the volume and volatility of FOREX activity. This is highly dependent on the economic activity and data releases of their respective regions. As a result of this round-the-clock system,FOREX has developed its unique dynamic, offering traders various opportunities across different time zones. As you can see, with so many market changes, not all sessions can be equally profitable.
The Best Time to Trade FOREX in the London Market
London is often considered the epicenter of the FOREX trading world. This market boasts the largest share of global trading, with about 30% of all transactions taking place during this session. The market operates from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM GMT, which is perfectly aligned with the business hours of the 27-nation European economic bloc.
The best time to trade in the London market is during its high-volume hours. FOREX trading volume ramps up soon after the market opens and generally peaks between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM GMT. This surge in activity comes after the release of major economic news, with important data from both the UK and the Eurozone causing high volatility. As a FOREX trader, you will know that high volatility brings the potential for higher returns.
Another important moment occurs when the London session overlaps with the New York session, starting from 1:00 PM GMT and lasting until the close of the London session at 5:00 PM GMT. This golden period is the period of peak liquidity and volatility as traders from both financial centers—two of the largest in the world—are active. The surge in transaction volume during these hours can lead to large swings in currency pairs, especially those involving the Euro, British Pound, and the US Dollar.
For traders, especially day traders using short-term strategies like scalping or swing trading, this overlap presents a rare moment of high volatility and high volume. Understanding these timings and their impact is a crucial part of a successful FOREX trading strategy. If you have chosen your FOREX broker well, you will be able to trade on their platforms throughout the trading hours of the main markets. That said, nowadays, all brokers understand the need for 24/5 service.
The Best Time to Trade FOREX in the New York Market
The New York market is known as the "North American" session. It runs from 1:00 PM to 10:00 PM GMT. It is the second-largest FOREX trading platform in the world. The Big Apple's trading hours are important to the global FOREX market, with about 20% of the total daily trading volume taking place during this session. Traders should note that although we are discussing the four biggest FOREX markets, they are not the only FOREX markets. Many other smaller markets in the Americas and Australasia make up the balance of the total global FOREX market.
Peak trading activity in the New York market normally starts around the market's opening at 1:00 PM GMT. This period witnesses a powerful uptick in trading volumes because major American and European financial institutions are working at the same time. Additionally, significant economic news from the United States — the world's largest economy — is usually released between 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM GMT, further pushing up market volatility and potentially offering good trading opportunities.
It's important to know that the New York trading session overlaps with the London session between 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM GMT. As we have mentioned, this time is characterized by heightened trading activity.
Given the sheer volume of transactions taking place during this overlap and the influence of the U.S. and U.K. markets on global currency trends, this four-hour window is often considered the best time to day trade, particularly for short-term traders looking to take advantage of quick market movements.
The Best Time to Trade FOREX in the Sydney Market
A key player in the FOREX market is the Sydney session, which operates from 10:00 PM to 7:00 AM GMT. As the financial center of the Australian economy, Sydney gets the ball rolling for the day in FOREX trading because it's the first major market to open after the weekend break. For this reason, it is known as the 'market opener.'
Trading volumes in the Sydney session, although not as high as London or New York, are still important due to Australia's economic clout, particularly in the commodity sector. The best times to trade in the Sydney market usually fall within the first couple of hours following its opening when liquidity is on the rise, making it an appealing time for traders who take a special interest in the AUD, NZD, or JPY pairs.
A major part of the Sydney trading session is when it overlaps with the Tokyo session, which happens between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM GMT. This period marks increased activity as Japanese and Australian financial institutions are both open for business. During this time, there is increased volatility. This is an ideal time to exploit the market movements.
The Best Time to Trade FOREX in the Tokyo Market
The Tokyo market is the gateway into Asia. This market operates from 12:00 AM to 9:00 AM GMT. Japan is the world's third-largest economy, which makes it a major player in the FOREX world. The Yen is one of the seven major currencies in the global FOREX market, which contributes to high trading volumes during this session.
Trading in the Tokyo session sees increased activity in currency pairs involving the Japanese Yen. As such, the best times to day trade in the Tokyo market generally align with the start of the business day in Japan. This session is especially fruitful for traders focusing on the JPY, or on Asian regional currencies like the AUD and NZD.
The Tokyo session overlaps with the Sydney session from 12:00 AM to 7:00 AM GMT. This overlap period often provides a boost in liquidity and volatility, particularly for AUD, NZD, and JPY currency pairs, as both Australian and Japanese financial institutions are operating at the same time. Traders can use this moment as a good time to make the most of the heightened market activity.
When is the Absolute Best Time to Trade?
The golden hours of FOREX trading are known to be during the overlap of the London and New York markets, from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM GMT. This period is often viewed as the apex of FOREX trading due to the surge in volume and volatility. Since these two global financial powerhouses will be in operation at the same time, frequent and substantial price movements can be expected.
As a retail FOREX trader, you will find that the pairs that often show the highest volatility during these hours include the "majors". These are currency pairs that include the US dollar (USD) against the Euro (EUR), British pound (GBP), Swiss Franc (CHF), Canadian dollar (CAD), Australian dollar (AUD), New Zealand dollar (NZD), or Japanese yen (JPY). The EUR/USD pair is the world's most heavily traded currency pair.
Traders should note that while these hours can offer lucrative opportunities due to increased market activity, they can also pose a substantial risk due to the quick price fluctuations. You must be well-prepared, follow soundrisk management strategies, and stay informed about market news and events. All these factors can drastically impact currency values during peak trading hours.
Key Factors to Consider
When it comes to FOREX trading, timing isn't the only contributor to your success. There are a few other important factors to consider that can influence your trading results:
Economic News Releases
FOREX markets are strongly influenced by macroeconomic news releases like interest rate decisions, employment reports, GDP data, and more. These announcements can lead to quick price movements and increased market volatility. For this reason, staying informed about FOREX news releases, and understanding their potential impact, is vital for any FOREX trader. You must stay on top of the economic calendars to which you subscribe.
Market Liquidity and Volatility
The liquidity of a market is influenced by the number of buyers and sellers active at any given time. Higher liquidity can lead to tighter spreads and more stable pricing. At the same time, volatility refers to the amount by which an exchange rate fluctuates over a certain period. Both liquidity and volatility rise and fall during the day as different markets open and close, affecting the chances of profit-making for traders.
Choice of Currency Pairs
The choice of which currency pair to trade can depend largely on the time of day. For instance, the Japanese Yen typically sees more volatility during the Asian session than the Euro or British pound. Hence, the choice of currency pairs should be aligned with the active trading sessions and the economic events scheduled during those times.
If you consider these factors, as well as the timing of your trades, you can make more better decisions. You can also manage risk more effectively and increase your profit-making potential in the dynamic world of currency trading.
The Bottom Line
As a retail trader, you should keenly know that the FOREX market is strongly influenced by the timing of trades, which is directly linked to the operating hours of the four major markets: London, New York, Sydney, and Tokyo.
As we have discussed, each of these markets has its unique characteristics, best trading hours, and overlaps that give good opportunities for traders. The London-New York overlap is one period every serious trader should always keep front of mind.
However, understanding the 24-hour FOREX market dynamics goes beyond recognizing these operational hours. Economic news releases, market liquidity, volatility, and the best choice of currency pairs, all play a crucial role in shaping trading outcomes. Therefore, an informed trader like you should consider all these factors together as you navigate the world of FOREX.
What is the best time to trade FOREX?
Generally, the best time to trade FOREX is during the London and New York market overlap, which happens between 12:00 PM and 4:00 PM GMT. This is when the market is most active due to the high volume of trades.
Is there a specific day of the week that is best for FOREX trading?
Midweek, particularly from Tuesday to Thursday, tends to be the most volatile and can provide the best opportunities for trading. This is because the most significant market moves take place during these days.
Can I trade FOREX on weekends?
No. The FOREX market is open 24 hours a day, five days a week, from Monday to Friday. It is closed on weekends. That said, if you live in a time zone that is far behind Sydney’s time zone, you can likely trade on Sunday in your time zone when Sydney opens up.
What are the four major FOREX markets?
The four major FOREX markets are London, New York, Sydney, and Tokyo, each having different operational hours and characteristics affecting the overall market activity.
How does the overlap of FOREX trading sessions affect me?
Overlaps in FOREX trading sessions lead to increased trading volume and volatility. The most significant overlap occurs between the London and New York sessions, leading to a higher likelihood of price swings and potential trading opportunities.
How does economic news affect the best time to trade FOREX?
Economic news releases often lead to increased volatility in the FOREX market, as they can result in significant price movements. Traders must look out for these news releases to trade based on the market's reaction.
Does the best time to trade FOREX depend on the currency pair I'm trading?
Yes. Different currency pairs have different levels of volatility at different times. Generally, a currency pair will be most volatile when at least one of the currencies' markets is open.
Is the FOREX market easier to predict and trade at certain times?
Predicting the FOREX market is never guaranteed. However, trading during the high volume times when the London and New York markets are both open can lead to more significant price moves, potentially offering more opportunities for traders.
Adrian Ashley is a seasoned business and finance writer. With a corporate career spanning over 20years, he has developed deep experience in such diverse areas as investing, business, finance,technology and macroeconomics. He is passionate about captu...