I didn’t always use volume as a criteria for my trading. In the beginning I only used price and some other indicators to select trading candidates. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but I find volume is helpful to select great stocks.

If you do some research, you will quickly find out that all famous discretionary traders used volume: Livermore, Darvas, O’Neil and many more. But famous today’s traders use volume information, too: Minervini, Zanger, Ryan

1. Volume shows greed and fear

Netflix - Trading volume and price action
Netflix shows high demand on rising prices. A clear signal for strength and greed.

The trading volume can give you clues about the greed and fear in a stock or any other trading instrument. An example of this trade model can be found on this BTC to USD website, live.

  • If the volume is high on up-days it shows greed. Traders are heavily buying the stock and absorb all possible selling volume.
  • If the volume is high on down-days people are fearfully. They sell a lot of stocks and throw their trading positions out of the window.

You can easily determine which side is in control if you look at the volume action. But the volume must be in synch with the price action.

2. Price and volume must be in synch

The best way to interpret volume is to look at the price simultaneously. Huge volume and huge price moves shows clearly which side is in control: Buyers or sellers.

If you see small price moves with high volume, you should be sceptical. Why? Because volume should be in synch with price! If this is not the case, volume should be seen as a warning sign. Maybe somebody is selling into strength or buying falling prices heavily.

Small moves and huge volume is NOT a selling signal, but you should monitor the stock closer.

3. Volume and small caps

Trading volume action in small cap stocks.
A long period with low volume. After that there are a few days with high one day volume. Such a behavior can be normal in stocks with small average trading volume.

Stocks with small trading volume are much more difficult to analyze. Sometimes there is one good volume day, but the other day the stock is crashing on low volume. This happens because there are not enough traders which trades the stock.

If only one mutual fund wants to buy a position in a smaller stock, there is not enough buying power for big trends. As soon as the mutual fund completed the position, the price and volume collapse.

A solution is to wait until there is enough interest and volume in the stock.

4. Everyone can see “monster volume”

Monster price and volume action in a stock.
Monster price and volume action. The stock is traded at 34 times the average volume.

You will not believe it, but there are traders out there which buys a ton of stocks in a second without looking at the price. Why? Because it’s their job! If a fund wants to buy a position and makes only money by fees, they can buy without looking at the price. In that situation a stock can explode to the upside with high volume.

Everyone can see “monster volume” in the chart. A 5x, 7x, 10x or 20 times the average volume is clearly visible and shows high demand or selling pressure. If you do some research, you will see that the most powerful trends started with more than 10 times the average volume. Screen for such situations and put the stocks on your watchlist.

5. Excessive volume

Excessive volume action
At the high of the mania, RIOT traded at 4 times of all outstanding shares. That means that all available company shares changed 4 times the owner on one day!

Volume is good, but too much volume can be a problem. It’s like a motor which is out of control

In some special situations all outstanding shares are trades multiple times per day in a stock. That shows a high focus of all traders on that stock. And if a stock is highly in focus and everyone knows about it, there will not be enough buyers left. It maybe will work for some days or weeks, but then the stock has no fuel left and collapse.

6. One day wonders

Besides excessive volume there is another type which I call “one day wonders“. A stock explodes to the upside with huge volume and price action. The next day the stock is doing like if nothing happened: No volume, no price action anymore.

Such situations should make you sceptical. If that stock is the best stock in the world, where are the buyers? Maybe there was just one buyer and you. Normally such a stock will return to the level before the huge price move or collapse if no one is there to support higher prices.

7. Volume in ETFs

NAIL ETF with volume action.
The homebuilders ETF can be used for monitoring the sector itself. The high demand in a 3x leverages ETF shows a high demand of the whole sector. But volume spikes are not a good sign. Sometimes they are caused by hedging and sometimes by selling pressure.

ETFs and volume is a different thing as stocks and volume. The reason is that ETFs are based on price movements of a basket of stocks. Even the ETF is traded on piece a day, it can explode to the upside. The underlying stocks determines the price movement of the ETF.

But the volume of an ETF can give you clues about the demand of the ETF or sector. If a sector ETF is traded with high volume, it can show you that the whole sector is on demand.

Of course this is not true in every situation. Sometimes there are large short-sellers in ETFs which hedges their portfolios.

8. Options expiration

A lot stocks are traded by options, too. You know that options have an expiration day. On that day, options are exercised and the option holder has to deliver.

The trading volume is very high on such a day, but price movement can be “normal”. You should know these days and ignore it. Of course this effect can have implications on a stock or the price move, but normally this is just intraday.

9. You don’t see all volume

Today there are a lot of ways to trade stocks. Especially market participants with huge volume uses different stock exchanges as you and I. There are market like OTC, Dark Pools or ECNs. The volume of such exchanges is normally added to the main volume after close.

10. Volume on news and earnings

Amazon Price Action
Strong volume on good news (earning report). Often this is the start of a huge trend.

News and earning reports can influence prices heavily. Sometimes this can be good for you and sometimes bad. But you should watch price and volume closely on such days.

If there is a great earnings report and nobody reacts with price and volume action, you should be sceptical. On the other side, if the market reacts strongly I can give you a clue that maybe more price and volume action will follow.

You must always have in mind that huge and smart market participants are not willing to buy their whole position in one day.

Recommended books

Here is a small list of recommended trading books about this topic.

Last update: 2022-05-20 / affiliate links / Images: Amazon Product Advertising API


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