Market ‘Noise’: How Seasoned Traders Learn to Ignore It

For many years I was a futures market reporter with the FWN wire service (now called OsterDowJones). I spent time working right on the futures trading floors in Chicago and New York. Most of the time my daily reporting “beat” involved interviewing traders and analysts and then writing three daily market reports. For months at a time I would cover the same markets, day in and day out. It was a fantastic learning experience and an opportunity that very few get.

One thing I eventually discovered from covering the same markets day after day, month after month, was that the vast majority of the time the vast majority of the markets’ overall fundamental and technical situations did not change on a day-today basis. Yet, as a market reporter I was conditioned to write about why the market went up one day and why the market went down the next day, and so on. Even though a market may have been in a very narrow trading range for days or weeks, I had to ask the traders and analysts every day to come up with some fresh fundamental andor technical reasons why that market moved only a fraction.

Reporting on the New York “soft” futures markets (coffee, cocoa, sugar, cotton and orange juice) is especially difficult for a reporter. He or she needs to dig up and write about some fresh-sounding news every day. The soft markets many times just do not have much fresh fundamental news on a daily basis — or sometimes even on a weekly basis, for that matter. Conversely, it was easier covering the financial and currency markets because there was usually at least one government economic report that came out every day that would make those markets wiggle a bit. Or, some government official (like Greenspan) would make comments to which those markets took notice.

As time went on and I came to better understand markets and market behavior, and as I studied specific trading strategies, I realized that the day-to-day market “noise” is not of much use to most traders. Here’s a specific example of market noise: Recently the live cattle futures market was up a bit on a Monday due to talk that the cash cattle trade later in the week would be at higher money. On Tuesday the futures market dropped a bit because of ideas the cash cattle market trade later in the week may not be at firmer money, but steady at best. Nobody was trying to manipulate the live cattle market that week. It was just a case of differing opinions getting center stage when the market closed on different sides of unchanged.

For a trader who tries to follow the near-term fundamentals in a market too closely, hearing that kind of conflicting news can be a nuisance at least, or a factor that prevents successful trading results at most. It’s not easy for less-experienced
traders to ignore the differing daily drumbeat of fundamental news that is reportedly impacting a market.

The lesson here is that prudent traders should not become overly sensitive or reactive to most of the day-to-day fundamental news events that are reported to be moving the market on any given day. What is important for the trader is that he or
she recognizes and understands the overall trend of the market, and that daily market “noise” is usually an insignificant part of the overall process of trading and of market behavior, itself.

The author, Jim Wyckoff, can be contacted at 319-277-8643 or via email at