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Trading GuideTrading

Identifying and Trading Market Gaps

Market Analyst
16 Apr 2024
A market gap occurs when the price of an asset opens significantly higher or lower than its previous day's closing price, without any trading activity in the intervening space.

Common Types of Market Gaps

Understanding the various types of market gaps is crucial for developing a strategic edge in trading. Let's explore the common types of gaps you may encounter:

Common Gaps:

  • Characteristics: These gaps often occur in nervous markets and typically close within a few days. They appear in a trading range, highlighting a temporary lack of interest in the stock.
  • Drawbacks: Since they are generally filled quickly, common gaps may not provide significant trading opportunities and could lead to false signals if not analysed properly.

Breakaway Gaps:

  • Characteristics: Signalling the start of a new trend, these gaps occur when the price breaks away from a consolidation area. They are powerful indicators of a market sentiment shift.
  • Drawbacks: Identifying a true breakaway gap can be challenging, as it requires distinguishing it from common gaps accurately. Misinterpretation may lead to premature or misinformed trades.

Runaway (Continuation) and Exhaustion Gaps:

  • Runaway Gaps: Indicate a continuation of an existing trend, showing that the market is moving effortlessly on moderate volumes.
  • Exhaustion Gaps: Occur at the end of a market move and signal a potential reversal by indicating the trend's last gasp.
  • Drawbacks: Both types require keen observation to differentiate from each other. Runaway gaps can extend a trend further than anticipated, while exhaustion gaps may prematurely signal a trend reversal, potentially misleading traders.

Remember, each gap type offers unique insights but also comes with its set of challenges that require careful analysis and risk management.

Causes and Implications:

Gaps are primarily driven by fundamental factors such as earnings reports, product announcements, or significant news events. These factors lead to a sudden shift in the supply and demand equilibrium, causing price movements that are reflected as gaps on the chart. The occurrence of a gap can serve as a critical trading signal, offering insights into potential support and resistance levels. For instance, a downward gap may act as resistance, while an upward gap could provide future support.

The Significance of Market Gaps in Trading Strategies

Understanding market gaps is paramount for developing effective strategies. Here's a closer look at their significance:

  • Opportunity Identification: Traders can leverage gaps by entering the market in the gap's direction, anticipating its movement towards closure. This approach hinges on the premise that if a gap fills and then extends beyond its origin, it signals the gap's initial formation was unsustainable, offering a cue for potentially taking an opposite stance.
  • Market Sentiment Indicator: Gaps often reflect underlying market sentiment, acting as a precursor to corrective price actions. The tendency of prices to reverse and 'fill' the gap post-occurrence provides traders with a strategic point of entry or exit, capitalising on the anticipated price movement.
  • Volatility and Risk: While gap trading presents opportunities by capitalising on the momentum or quick filling of gaps, it's associated with heightened volatility. This volatility introduces risks, necessitating astute risk management practices to mitigate potential losses. Traders should be wary of the increased volatility and the possibility of slippage, especially in markets prone to rapid price changes due to news announcements, earnings reports, and geopolitical events.

Identifying and Analysing Market Gaps

Identifying and analysing market gaps involves a meticulous examination of price charts, trading volumes, and accompanying news events. Here's how traders can effectively discern and interpret these gaps:

Type and Volume Analysis:

Reversal or Breakaway Gaps: Characterised by a sharp increase in trading volume. These gaps suggest a significant market sentiment shift and are closely monitored for entry or exit signals.

Common and Runaway Gaps: Typically not accompanied by a noticeable change in volume, indicating less significance in market movement.

Technical Indicators and Context:

Before making trading decisions based on gaps, it's imperative to corroborate the gap signal with other technical indicators such as moving averages, RSI, or MACD.

Contextual analysis is crucial. A gap following a major news announcement or earnings report carries more weight than one occurring in a stagnant market environment.

Drawbacks and Cautions:

  • Misunderstanding the type of gap can lead you to trade too early or make the wrong decisions. That's why it's important to wait for more information, like how the price keeps moving or what technical indicators show, before you make a trade.
  • Don't just rely on gaps alone to decide on trades. Make sure you also consider what's happening in the overall market and any recent news that might affect the price. If you ignore these things, you could miss important signals and lose money.

Risk Management

In navigating the terrain of market gaps, traders must employ rigorous risk management strategies to mitigate the inherent risks associated with these price movements. Here are pivotal considerations and strategies for managing gap risk:

Pre-market Planning:

Market makers play a vital role in managing large movements by trading out of their inventory, which adds liquidity and smoothens market flow. Traders are advised to close out orders at the end of the trading day or employ stop-loss orders to manage unexpected price gaps that may occur overnight, especially in equity markets where the risk intensifies due to after-hours news events.

Swing traders can reduce exposure by not holding or closing positions before earnings announcements. The risk escalates over weekends and long holiday breaks, necessitating cautious position sizing for trades extending beyond a day.

Hedging Against Gap Risk:

Utilising hedging techniques such as purchasing put options, inverse ETFs, or short selling correlated securities can offset potential losses from gap movements. Additionally adopting higher risk-reward ratios helps in balancing the potential gains against the risks of gap trading.

Volume and Liquidity Considerations:

High trading volume is a critical indicator for breakaway gaps, signalling strong market interest and potential for sustained movement. Conversely, low volume observed in exhaustion gaps may indicate weakening momentum, guiding traders to exercise caution.

Liquidity levels directly impact gap risk, with lower trading activity periods leading to wider spreads and abrupt price jumps. This is particularly relevant in less liquid markets and during the forex market's weekend downtime.


Relying solely on gap trading without considering broader market contexts or news can lead to missed signals or potential losses.

The excitement around gap trading can sometimes lead to irrational exuberance, overshadowing fundamental or technical analysis. Incorporating these strategies requires a balanced approach, weighing the potential for gains against the inherent risks and ensuring a disciplined adherence to risk management principles.

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