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What is Market Profile Trading? Charts, Indicator, Strategy, Books, & Course

Updated: Jul 27

Market Profile is a technical concept with a unique charting technique developed by Peter Steidlmayer when trading at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), and it was open to the public in 1985.

Market profile is a style of plotting "Price" on the Y-axis and "Time" on the X-axis, which most of the time form a bell-shaped image as the body of the profile.

It helps day traders identify Other Timeframe Participants (Big players) who have money and information power. Our job as short-term traders is to follow these big sharks which give direction to markets.

Table of Contents

What is Market Profile Trading and how to read market profile chart in day trading?

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What is Market Profile Trading?

Market profile assists the short-term traders in reading the current market trends as it unfolds. It considers the latest market data as it comes and provides an excellent price, time, and volume analysis to give the best of the best information about what it wants to do next.

It provides an X-ray vision of the market as Value Area represents 2/3rd of the day’s activity (or 70% in some cases), and this will give a clear picture of the current state of the market as it unfolds.

It works in all market conditions. Usually, a trading system or indicator works in certain market conditions like a trending or sideways market. There is no such restriction to Market Profile as it clearly shows the balanced and imbalanced market conditions in both directions all the time.

Edge in Market Profile or advantages of market profile

The marketplace is full of different players like big buyers, big sellers, scalpers, intraday traders, swing traders, and positional traders. The combined action of these players together is the main reason behind price fluctuations.

Big buyers and Big sellers will execute their plans at different price levels, and they cannot trade with each other at the same price level. Others act as a bridge between these two payers by providing liquidity, as shown in the below image.

Let's say a script is trading at 100. Big Buyers will have a plan to buy this script only below 50, and Big Sellers will have a plan to sell this script just above 150.

If we restrict the trading activity in this script only to big buyers and big sellers, the price will be stuck at 100 as both of them don't have plans to trade at this level.

If we allow other players such as scalpers, day traders, swing traders, etc., then they provide liquidity to the market. Their participation will take the price to either 150 or 50 depending on all other traders' combined efforts except the big players. If the price reaches 50, big buyers will pitch in, and if the price goes to 150, big sellers will pitch in to initiate their trades.

This interaction between big players and short-term players distributes trading volume in a bell-shaped curve, as shown in image 2.

A Profile chart is a bell curve view of stock market activity. It shows a distribution of prices, as opposed to a linear timeline of prices. Prices that have received the most attention and action from traders will create larger sections of the curve. It will form a histogram. It also shows price range,poc, value area,bell curve, selling tail & buying tail in Market Profile.
Bell Curve Concept in Market Profile

The primary purpose of any marketplace is to facilitate trades. A script's price will go up until the last buyer has bought, and there are no more buyers at a higher price, which is recognized as Unfair High.

Similarly, it moves down until the last seller has sold. There are no more sellers at a lower price, which is identified as Unfair Low.

The end of the upside auction is the beginning of the downside auction and vice-versa. Hence, we can say the marketplace facilitates trades with the "Dual Auction" process.

Once the market defines a range with an unfair high and an unfair low, it negotiates within the range to establish a "Value Area."

How to learn market profile (MP)?

  1. Understand MP charts are different compared to candlestick charts

  2. Study previous day MP chart and mark VAH, VAL, and POC levels

  3. In the case of balanced open, these levels act as support & resistance

  4. In case of imbalanced open, PDH & PDL acts as support & resistance

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Free Market Profile Charts

It is effortless to plot a market profile chart using an excel sheet. First, let us understand how a #marketprofilesoftware plots the chart, then it is easy to construct in an excel sheet.

Each half an hour of the trading day is designated by a letter, which is also called Time Price Opportunity (TPO).

Split profile in Market Profile
Market Profile chart in Nifty (Split Profile)

We denote the first 30 min range with the letter ‘A,’ the next 30 min range with the letter ‘B,’ and we continue this procedure until the last range of the market.

The above chart is of Nifty, and hence the last range is denoted with ‘M’ as the Indian markets currently trade from 9.15 am to 3.30 pm with the last session ‘M” is for only 15 minutes from 3.15 pm to 3.30 pm.

O’ in the first session indicates the open price level, and ‘#’ in the last session indicates the closing price level.

This charting in Market Profile is called ‘Split’ profile, and pushing these TPOs (letters) on the left side (wherever space is present) will create the ‘Un-Split’ profile, as shown below.

Un-split profile in Market Profile Chart
Market Profile chart in Nifty (un-split profile)

Point of Control (POC) is the price level in which maximum time was spent (Price Profile) or maximum trading activity (Volume Profile) occurred on any day.

In the above image, 9980 is the point of control (POC). Value Area (VA) is the 70% price range around POC. It is the fair price of the Nifty on this particular day. So range from 9958 to 9992 is the Value Area (VA) on this day.

By the end of every trading day, the market profile chart shows not only what happened on that day but also who is responsible and when it happened.

There is much software that can plot the market profile chart in the live market automatically. Traders can use any of this software or use Excel to write the MP chart manually.

To know how to plot the market profile chart on an excel sheet (Market Profile Calculator), watch this video.

How to read market profile (MP) charts?

  1. POC - Point of Control indicates maximum trading activity

  2. VA - 70% price range around POC (VAH & VAL are high & low of VA)

  3. O - Open

  4. # - Close

  5. PDH - Previous Day High

  6. PDL - Previous Day Low

Market Profile – An Indicator or Not?

Most of the technical indicators which are available in the stock market are derived using different types of calculations from the price - Open, Close, High, Low, and Volume.

All these indicators assist traders with Buy/Sell decisions either directly or indirectly.

For example, an RSI reading of 30 indicates an Oversold situation and advises the traders to look for a long trade.

Similarly, a short-term MA (5 DMA) crossover above the long-term MA (50 DMA) indicates the end of the downtrend and advice traders to plan a long trade.

Whereas Market Profile assists the traders in reading the current market trends as it unfolds. It provides a 3-Dimensional view as compared to the traditional 2D view in Candlesticks charts. The prominent feature of the market profile is it enforces the traders to study the market dynamics and don’t generate any buy or selling decisions.

Hence, Market Profile plays a different role as compared to any traditional indicators in the market.

Does a Market Profile Work in Intraday Trading?

Market profile helps short-term traders identify the activities of Big players who have money and information power.

Many traders don’t understand the importance of TIME on both the price and opportunity at the day trade level. In day trading, the opportunity is inversely proportional to time.

An attractive opportunity to buy below value or sell above value will not last long as big players act very quickly, and their position size pushes the price very soon to the other side.

Another simple example of the importance of time is a price that is not accepted over time is a sign of rejection of that price level.

In a candlestick chart, Price variations are plotted on the “Y” axis against the Time “X” axis. In this type of chart, time remains constant throughout the price variations, which means we are not using the time parameter effectively.

If most technical charts consider only Price and Volume with a fixed time point (thereby ignoring the effect of time).

Market profile considers Price and Volume, along with TIME, which helps to identify the good trade opportunities in day trading.

Image - Nifty 30 minute chart of 24-March-2021
Image - Nifty 30 minute chart of 24-March-2021

The above image shows the same unit of TIME is allocated for both 42 points move and 120 points move. This indicates we are not using the time parameter effectively.

Now, look at the same day in a market profile chart in the below image.

Image - Nifty Market Profile chart of 24-March-2021
Image - Nifty Market Profile chart of 24-March-2021

It is evident that the time has been allocated effectively based on the price variations. It gives a 3D view of the price auction with respect to time. Also, you can see the Value Area, unfair high, unfair low, and even point of control (POC).

As an intraday trader, one should try to identify the activities of big players who have money and information power. Our job as intraday traders is to follow these big sharks who give direction to markets.

'Market Profile' is a simple technique that helps you to identify the movements of these big players.

Hence, there is no such thing as a market profile that does or does not work. It is only a trading concept that provides an extra edge for day traders and short-term traders.

If you apply it properly, you make money, and if you don’t apply it the right way, then you lose money.

Day Structures in Market Profile

If you think of all the big players as a single personality, it is possible to estimate their activity based on their convictions.

Market Profile, with its unique features, identifies a few readable patterns in the daily time frame based on the level of participation of big players.

IB Range is the first one-hour range in the market created by retail traders (most of the time).

Retail traders can only provide market depth and liquidity, but they fail to give magnitude and direction to the price.

Based on IB range and price variation around IB range, Market Profile identifies 6 important day structures:

  1. Normal Day

  2. Normal Variation Day

  3. Trend Day

  4. Double Distribution Day

  5. Non-Trend Day

  6. Neutral Day

1 - Normal Day

Day Structure 1 - Normal Day
Day Structure 1 - Normal Day
  • Most of the price auction will be inside the IB Range due to a 2-sided price auction. In the above image, all TPOs auctioned for the entire day happen within the initial balance i.e. ‘A’ & ‘B’ range.

  • Normal days are characterized by a very wide initial balance range and the whole day, the price auction happens within the IB Range.

  • IB range is subjective for every stock or index to declare a few points as wide IB or small IB (as every script/index comes with a different price level and price range). As a thumb rule, one can take the average of the last ten day’s price range (Low to high), and if the IB exceeds that average range, then it can be considered a wide IB. For example, if Nifty last 10 days' average daily range is 100 points, any initial balance range above this average of 100 points can be considered as a wide IB range.

2 - Normal Variation Day

Day Structure 2 - Normal Variation Day
Day Structure 2 - Normal Variation Day
  • As the name suggests, it is similar to a Normal Day, but with a slight variation in it. The price can move outside of IB in any one direction (either up or down). This movement of price outside of the IB range (range extension) generally will be equal to the length of the price range in the IB. For example, if the IB range is 50 points, the price will move outside of IB approximately by 50 points.

  • IB range will be a moderate range which is comparatively smaller than the normal day IB range. About 50-60% of ten day daily average range of the asset class. For example, if the average 10 days daily range in nifty is 100 points, the moderate range is 50-60% of 100, which is 50-60 points.

  • It is because OTFs don’t participate at open, they will watch the market for some time, and then they enter after the formation of the IB range to create a range extension on any one side of the IB.

  • In the above image, ‘C’ fails to create a range extension on the upside, but later OTFs enter in ‘D’ print, and their action results in a range extension on the upside.

3 - Trend Day

Day Structure 3 - Trend Day
Day Structure 3 - Trend Day
  • On Trend Day, OTF Participants will act from the very beginning of the day right from the Open. We can see two types of Trend Day – Bullish Trend Day and Bearish Trend Day

  • In a Bullish Trend Day (above example), OTF buyers will be active from the