Friday, July 1, 2022

The Daily & the Weekly Market Maker Cycles | ICT Intraday Trading Templates

All financial markets are dominated by investment banks, so called institutional traders or smart money. To be more precise: All financial markets are dominated by JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Citi, XTX Markets, UBS, State Street Corporation, HCTech, HSBC, BoC Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. Their positions represent up to 80% of the total volume of the Forex market, the bonds market, the stock market and the commodity market. And yes, they also do take their own speculative positions. But the vast majority of their volume is simply called 'market making activity' because they are buying and selling for their clients. Their main clients are hedge funds, pension funds, commercial banks, corporations, other financial institutions and central banks. In fact central banks are their dearest clients. They practically own the markets. The sheer volume of their orders could never be bought or sold in single lots in any market. Hence the 'market making' and hence the 'liquidity provision'. Big banks do this for commission and they risk their client's money for market manipulation and extra profit.  

This is critical information for the small retail trader as it tells one very important clue: If the big banks are primarily market makers and liquidity providers then they will by default drive the market at will to and from areas of liquidity. Intention, logic, strategy, measures. Price is not random and price levels are predictable. Michael J. Huddleston, the Inner Circle Trader (ICT) and author of most of the smart money trading concepts, comments: 

"There is always a puppeteer. There is always someone pulling the strings. It's never being left to randomness of buying and selling. There is no support and resistance in the marketplace. These are all notions that promote the idea of free trade. When it comes to the truth of the markets: It's complete and utter control and manipulation. It's a very simple approach. It's about price: It's the open, the high, the low, and the close of the daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly bars. It's not support nor resistance what is moving the price order flow. It's all about where the money is. The retail textbooks will never teach you this: Price moves to where the money is. And the money is at the levels where most retail traders have their entry and stop loss orders - just to get harvested by the smart money during false moves and false breakouts.

The good news is that the market makers continuously leave footprints in their accumulation-manipulation-expansion-distribution framework: order blocks, imbalances, fair value gaps and liquidity voids, liquidity pools, stop runs, and equilibrium (HERE - HERE - HERE)

Big banks do not use a lot of indicators and they employ more software engineers and programmers than technical analysts. Both for one good reason: Market making and order processing is completely automated by algorithms that guarantee maximum return. They use daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly charts, and completely ignore popular retail indicators, forecast methods, and trading systems. Their market making strategy is exclusively focused on how to break down huge orders into tiny chunks, how to buy and sell these continuously and most efficiently and on how to fool the retail trader crowd most profitably. Smart money drives the markets in daily and weekly cycles around the clock and accumulation, manipulation, expansion and distribution is the business model. The typical weekly market maker cycle looks like this: 

(1.) The week starts with a trap move on Sunday night or early Monday morning. 

(2.) Then follows an 'accumulation phase' and the setting up of an initial high and an initial low in the Asian session, during which price is usually held in a narrow range. 

(3.) The accumulation phase is followed by what Wyckoff coined the 'spring', an engineered false breakout against the real intention of the market maker to 'support or resistance levels' to harvest the retail traders' entry and stop loss orders there. The market maker considers these levels as 'liquidity pools'.

(4.) Next the market maker initiates the actual planned market move. This results in the formation of a trend that can be slow and steady, or it could be swift and furious. In the cash market a trend can be just a few hours, in the futures market up to 8 or 10 hours. On the chart the trend will be seen as a series of drives or pushes in the market maker's intended direction.

(5.) Towards the end of the day or the end of the session, there will be a corrective distribution phase and pattern of some type (wedge, pennant, head and shoulders, M or W formation), when price pulls back from the high or the low of the day because the market maker liquidates positions (see also HERE).

There are very high odds for the weekly low or high to form before the opening of the New York session on Wednesday. The odds further increase between Tuesday and Wednesday, focusing on Tuesday's London session to Wednesday's opening of the New York session. Even the market maker doesn't have infinite amounts of capital. Therefore he has to orchestrate retracements to book some profit before to continue. This is why sudden aggressive pullbacks seemingly occur out of nowhere.  


To get a more detailed picture of how the smart money's manipulation actually works on a day-to-day basis, Michael Huddleston elaborated six ICT Intraday Trading Templates. They provide an idea of when to expect what, clues related to the daily and weekly bias and range, and a perspective on the internal structure of the daily and weekly market maker cycles: 

1. The Classic Buy or Sell Day Template: This is the best template to make money since it is a wide range trending day that unfolds mostly on Monday, Tuesday and latest on Wednesday during the London session. The New York session will eventually give a retracement to continue with the trend that was set during the London session. The daily range will last for 7 to 8 hours once the profile is established. 

Mostly it will give a rally or drop from the daily opening price to the low or high of the day during the London session. The trend usually lasts into 11:00 EST.

2. The London Swing to Z Day Template: This template is found in the middle of a larger price swing when the trend is exhausted after a large explosive move. It is a narrow range day and ideally occurs on Thursday. 

Price will initially drop below the opening price, then run above the opening price and go back to the range into consolidation. It first appears to unfold as the Classic Buy or Sell Template. But if it continues consolidating, do not look for continuation into the New York session. Take profits.

3. The London Swing to New York Open / London Close Reversal Template: The bullish version of this template always begins like a Classic Buy or Sell template with a decline below the opening price before price starts rallying. Once price drops, a buy entry forms, price rallies to a higher time frame Point of Interest (POI), e.g. a bearish order block (OB), into a Fair Value Gap (FVG), etc. If this happens during the New York session, it indicates a classic market reversal. 

The template is used to either reach for a bearish order block on a higher time frame, for a turtle soup raid or to close a range. On a bullish day it will first create an initial low of the day during the London session, run up and create the high of the day during the New York session around the London Close, then run back down and clear the initial low that was created during the London session. Ideally it can pan out after the market is in exhaustion based on the higher time frame's dominant trend.

4. The Range to New York Open / London Close Rally Template: Generally this template is to be expected on days with high or medium impact news events like interest rate announcements, etc.

Ahead of these events price will remain in consolidation during the Asian and London sessions. Lows will be cleared initially and after the news price explodes into a directional move.

5. The Consolidation Raid on News Release Template: Unfolding during the New York session on days with high impact news, mostly FOMC press releases. During and shortly after the news old highs and lows of prior consolidation levels will be taken out. Ideally buy when a low is taken out and sell when a prior high was breached.

6. The London Swing to Seek & Destroy Template: This is the kind of day that won’t make you money. The Market Makers clear intention is to take out both buyers and sellers. Initially it would give you a London Open opportunity and setup, but very likely that won’t come to fruition. The narrow range zig-zag template lasts throughout the New York session and will oftentimes create an inside day. The template is usually applied in the middle or at the end of a larger price swing.