fbpx

What is After Hours Trading?

Share to Linkedin Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Share to Print More
Benzinga Money is a reader-supported publication. We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article. Learn more.

Jump straight to Webull! Get real-time market data, analysis tools and $0 commissions.

One of the curious oddities in our modern society is the normal session hours of the stock market. As you know, most trading activity occurs 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. This makes active participation in the equities sector cumbersome for those who live near the west coast, where the regular session shuts down right after the lunch break.

However, with after-hours trading, all investors have the option of taking their game into overtime. Naturally, this opens many opportunities but you should also be aware of the risks.

What is After-Hours Trading?

As the name implies after-hours trading is an extended session that occurs beyond the confines of normal trading hours. In some cases, trading on particular securities can last until 8 p.m. EST. This extra time affords participants the ability to trade shares on major developments that happen outside the regular schedule.

Moreover, after-hours trading may also broadly refer to premarket sessions, which are trades that happen before the opening bell at 9:30 a.m. Advanced traders may use this time if they’re wagering on international stocks, where breaking news could materialize at “unusual” hours.

After-Hours Trading Schedules

For many years, investors of all stripes could only participate during normal session hours. Since 1985, those hours were the familiar 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, for both the NYSE and Nasdaq. However, in June 1991, the NYSE opened extended trading for institutional investors, where they could trade until 5:15 p.m. EST.

Primarily, the motivation for opening the trading floor was to respond to global demand. During this period, the concept of a globalized economy became planting small seeds. As well, international equities markets in London and Tokyo offered more hours of trading, making them attractive for well-heeled investors.

Each exchange has slightly different rules regarding their non-regular hours, which you can find below.

NYSE

Premarket trading hours: 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EST

NYSE American, NYSE Chicago, NYSE National

  • Premarket trading hours: 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EST
  • Extended-session trading hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST

NYSE Arca

  • Premarket trading hours: 4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EST
  • Extended-session trading hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST

Nasdaq

  • Premarket trading hours: 4 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. EST
  • Extended-session trading hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. EST

Observed holidays

Below is a list of holidays that equity exchanges observe.

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Good Friday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Finally, please note that Black Friday and Christmas Eve feature shortened hours, both being 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST.

Who is Eligible to Trade After Hours?

When the NYSE initially launched after-hours trading, only institutional investors — organizations that invest on behalf of others, such as mutual funds and insurance companies — enjoyed this expanded opportunity. However, the rise of technology has evened the playing field, so much so that regular retail investors can now participate in these extended sessions.

The mechanism that makes after-hours trading possible is the electronic communication network or ECN. To provide quick background information, regular sessions feature market makers that act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers. In contrast, ECNs get rid of the intermediary altogether, allowing buyers and sellers to trade directly with each other.

While this sounds more efficient, everything has its advantages and disadvantages. Mainly, retail investors who take their first steps in the extended sessions quickly find out why market makers are so important to proper and orderly trading.

Also, while anyone is technically eligible to trade after hours, each ECN has its own set of rules. As well, brokerages that offer extended session access have their own guidelines and restrictions. Therefore, trading after dark isn’t as easy as it might sound. You really must perform your due diligence.

Finally, you might consider following this adage: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Benzinga covered an interesting case involving social media firm Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) in an article entitled, “The After-Hours Twitter Trades That Preceded Friday’s Plunge.”

In short, the trades that you see on ECNs can be differing from the activity during regular sessions. Yes, you can make money exploiting strange dynamics — but, unless you are well-versed in trading protocols, you are more likely to be taken advantage of.

Pros and Cons of After-Hours Trading

Understandably, the concept of after-hours trading is incredibly attractive. While everyone else has packed up their bags and left for home, you can burn the midnight oil, perhaps moving shares on news items that became public knowledge following the closing bell.

At the same time, you’re now competing with professional traders and institutional investors. Chances are, these are parties that know more than you and have far more resources. In other words, you should enter this arena with the humility that you may be competing at a disadvantage.

Pros

  • Headline trading: The most obvious advantage of after-hours trading is the ability to trade on breaking news, disclosures and other developments that occur outside normal session hours. For instance, American publicly-traded companies are headquartered across this country, meaning that their earnings disclosures could occur when the closing bell has already rung. International companies trade in other time zones, presenting challenges if you’re limited to only regular hours. Also, government agencies also release important data such as the monthly jobs report during premarket sessions.
  • Schedule adjuster: As mentioned earlier, regular sessions are convenient largely for Americans who live in the eastern side of the country. For those who live near the west coast — or as far out as Hawaii — these hours are inconvenient as they coincide mostly with morning hours. After-hours trading allows these geographically disadvantaged traders to have more time on the clock.
  • Scoring a deal: Extended sessions occur exclusively via ECNs and each one has its own set of rules. This means it’s possible that you can score a great deal on a trade because asset pricing after hours is not consistent across the board.

Cons

  • Wild pricing: One of the risk factors that Benzinga mentioned in its article, “The Risks of PreMarket and After-Hours Trading, Part 1,” is the wild pricing during extended sessions. During normal hours, market makers provide liquidity for actively traded stocks, which in turn narrows the bid-ask spread. The more liquidity, the narrower the spread. But extended trading has no market makers, making it relatively illiquid and therefore broadening the spread. Combined with disparate ECNs running concurrently, you will likely see very wild pricing dynamics.
  • Crazy volatility: Not only is the pricing of assets wild, how quickly they change within a unit of time is a risky hallmark of after-hours trading. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, “…your order may only be partially executed, or not at all, or you may receive an inferior price when engaging in extended-hours trading than you would during regular trading hours.”
  • New kid on the block: Ever had the experience of transferring to a new school in the middle of the academic year and having to introduce yourself to everyone? That’s what you will feel when you engage in the extended sessions. Except for this time, the pain is not to your social standing but to your wallet as very few average Joe retail investors trade after hours. Instead, you are competing with professionals.

Factors that Affect After-Hours Trading

Trading after hours follows its own rhythm. Further, certain catalysts often impose a greater impact on your portfolio than during normal hours.

Volume

Due to the elimination of the liquidity-providing intermediary (market maker), extended sessions usually feature very low volume compared to regular session levels. In part, this means that the bid-ask spread is incredibly wide, forcing you to watch your trades carefully.

Spark

A spark refers to an event that inspires extended-session trading, typically a breaking news report or a financial or economic disclosure.

Participation

Most traders call it a day when the regular session is over so you’ll find little participation.

Costs

Extended trading can cost you mainly through the wide bid-ask spreads. The wider the spread, the more “energy” it takes bidders (buyers) to break even at the asking price.

Best Brokers for After-Hour Trading

Due to growing interest and demand from retail investors, some major brokerages now allow anyone to take their shot during extended sessions. Below is a list of names to consider.

Best For
Intermediate Traders and Investors
Overall Rating
Get started securely through Webull’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Webull, founded in 2017, is a mobile app-based brokerage that features commission-free stock and exchange-traded fund (ETF) trading. It’s regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Webull offers active traders technical indicators, economic calendars, ratings from research agencies, margin trading and short-selling. Webull’s trading platform is designed for intermediate and experienced traders, although beginning traders can also benefit.

Webull is widely considered one of the best Robinhood alternatives.

Best For
  • Active traders
  • Intermediate traders
  • Advanced traders
Pros
  • Commission-free trading in over 5,000 different stocks and ETFs
  • No account maintenance fees or software platform fees
  • No charges to open and maintain an account
  • Leverage of 4:1 on margin trades made the same day and leverage of 2:1 on trades held overnight
  • Intuitive trading platform with technical and fundamental analysis tools
Cons
  • Does not support trading in mutual funds, bonds or OTC stocks
Best For
Options Trading
Overall Rating
Get started securely through TD Ameritrade’s website
Commissions
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.

Best For
  • Novice investors
  • Retirement savers
  • Day traders
Pros
  • World-class trading platforms
  • Detailed research reports and Education Center
  • Assets ranging from stocks and ETFs to derivatives like futures and options
Cons
  • Thinkorswim can be overwhelming to inexperienced traders
  • Derivatives trading more costly than some competitors
  • Expensive margin rates
Best For
Fund Investing
Overall Rating
Get started securely through Charles Schwab’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Charles Schwab is a solid choice for traders of all skill levels. It offers full access to the U.S. equity and options markets as well as 30 international markets. Traders can create a diverse portfolio with $0 commissions and no account minimums. Schwab’s margin trading is expensive but Schwab makes up for it with affordable futures and options trades, along with a comprehensive mobile offering.

Best For
  • 3 trading platforms perfectly in sync makes matching your platform to your skill level a snap
  • Excellent futures trading education for new traders
  • $0 account minimum means anyone can start trading
Pros
  • Wide range of available assets to trade, including futures and 30 global markets
  • SmartStreet Edge platform is powerful enough for advanced traders, yet easy enough for new traders to utilize
  • Unique educational resources (like infographics and podcasts) make learning fun
Cons
  • Margin rates are more expensive than competitors
  • More limitations on available margin than competitors
  • Expensive mutual funds

An Opportunity for the Daring

Due to the complexities of the modern world, access to after-hours trading has never been more important. Not only does this provide greater engagement potential for Americans, it helps attract international investors to participate in our equity and commodity markets. At the same time, people who trade after hours must know what they are doing. Beyond the many nuances and potential pitfalls, mostly professionals consider the extended session home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What happens if I trade after hours?

1
Q. What happens if I trade after hours?
asked
1

The same benefits and consequences that apply during regular trading hours also apply to the extended sessions. In other words, after-hours trading is just like regular trading, but with rules, limitations and additional risks you must take into account.

answered

Q. Is it considered a day trade if you sell after hours?

1
Q. Is it considered a day trade if you sell after hours?
asked
1

To clarify, if you bought stock on Monday morning and you sold later that day during extended trading, this qualifies as a day trade. However, the mere act of selling after hours does not automatically denote day trading.

answered

Turn to Webull

0 Commissions and no deposit minimums. Everyone gets smart tools for smart investing. Webull supports full extended hours trading, which includes full pre-market (4:00 AM - 9:30 AM ET) and after hours (4:00 PM - 8:00 PM ET) sessions. Webull Financial LLC is registered with and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). It is also a member of the SIPC, which protects (up to $500,000, which includes a $250,000 limit for cash) against the loss of cash and securities held by a customer at a financially-troubled SIPC-member brokerage firm.