Simplifying Some Basic Auction Market Theory / Market Profile Concepts Part 2


Now that we have covered basic volume profile and excess, it makes spikes easier to understand. You may not think you need to understand the concept, but given they often offer some of the juiciest trades to be had, you may want to. Most Market Profile traders would define a “spike” as a move during the last 30 minutes of the day that takes price outside of the existing range of the day. For example, here is Wednesday March 27, 2024. Price traded between 5294 and 5270.75 until the last 25-30 minutes broke higher.

This was a spike up.

Tuesday March 26,2024 had seen a spike down to close the day, I’ve market out the range for the day prior to the last 30 minutes (5278-5294.5) to stick with the strict textbook definition before we deviate. I’ve also left a few candles from the next day visible so you can see what happened to those late sellers. Ouch.

I’ll use this spike down as an example to explain what is happening, we’ll explore my deviations from more traditional definitions, and then we’ll move into how they can be traded.

First, I’ve additionally marked 5283 and 5284.5 for visual purposes. The 10:30AM low was 5284.5 and this was never violated until 1:45PM and only very briefly as it was snapped back above 84.5. 

We can see just from candles that all day long participants seemed to agree that 84.5 was a “low” price as can be seen by the persistent buying response down there. Now let’s add a volume profile which I will end prior to the end of day move lower. 

You can see why there was a buying response at 84.5 as it was below the developing value area low for the day. That VAL was even higher earlier in the day. So up until 3:25PM we had an entire day’s worth of participants that agreed that 83-84.5 was below value and should be bought. Then, in the last 35-40 minutes a participant, or group of participants, decided to sell it far lower. 

The textbook spike occurred at 5278 which was low of day as of 3:30. But looking at this picture (pasted again below) can you see how 83-84.5 might be relevant as well? So again, you’ll see most profile traders were monitoring 5278 into the next day. I was as well, but I was also monitoring the 83-84.5 range.

In the first two sections we talked about how this is almost always a mistake. In the case of a late day spike there isn’t enough time in the day for us to find out if these sellers were wrong and to be punished, or if they were right and the prior 6 hours of participants were wrong. This is a spike. The day ends and we therefore don’t know who was right and who was wrong until the market opens the next day (we get to see what Asia and Europe think of it overnight). This low (or high) could have been an excess low (or high) but because the market was closed, we can’t make that assessment. Every spike has the potential to be an excess low (or high). That determination cannot be made until the next trading session, however.

Let’s now look at the overnight action that occurred afterward. Based on the first two sections you’re probably not surprised to see price float up toward value for the day. The first key test before the value area from the 26th would be 78 in this case since it was the technical spike. Once reclaimed, price proceeds to 83-84.5 which also corresponded to a proper retest of the day’s value area low. It is important to note that spike bases (like VAL and VAH) are not a hard resistance or support. It is very common to get excursions above and below before a decision is made. 

You can see that after the failure to reclaim 83-84.5 price went back down to 78 again to see if there was interest proceeding lower. There was a brief trap but no traction lower, and another test of 83-84.5 was in order. Once 83-84.5 was reclaimed (which included the 26th VAL) the next target was VPOC from the 26th (again from the first 2 sections on volume profile). 

I’ve placed a purple line at VPOC and at VAH for the next picture. You can see the test of 88 VPOC where profits are taken since that is the primary target for the trade. Once 83 holds on the pullback, the full trade progression is completed at VAH and high of day. The trade sequence was therefore fully complete and short-term traders exit their longs. If you were wondering why we sold off just before and at the open on the 27th, this is a big part of the reason why. Are overnight traders generally considered strong participants? I generally think not. You can lastly see how upon the loss of 83 on the 27th (minor lower wick first off 83), price nuked in a straight line straight down for a battle over 78 again. This was the opportunity for cash hours participants (generally considered stronger) to fight over 78. It was quite a battle to be sure.

General rules on a spike: 

On a spike down, monitor for price to remain below the spike. If it does, then we hold off on longs and consider shorts. If the prices below the spike are rejected (price doesn’t want to trade back down there) then we are generally looking to be long at least to a next key area and avoid shorts at least until a next key area.

The opposite is true for a spike up.

There are numerous reasons for why a late day spike may occur that are beyond the scope of this. However, perhaps the key takeaway (which you should know from the first two sections) is that it generally isn’t the best idea to be initiating a short and holding it overnight on a spike down (or longs on a spike up). You are selling below value (or buying above), and you don’t know if that move will be rejected or not. If I happened to have been short from much higher in the day, I would be covering a large portion of my short position into the spike down and then giving consideration as to whether or not I want to hold runners. I make the assumption (and am generally correct) that price will at least revert back to and test the spike base.