Loading the player...
A:

Most investors know that the major stock exchanges have standard trading hours - set periods of time each day when trading occurs through the exchange. Most major exchanges trade from 9:30am to 4pm EST each day, with the first trade in the morning creating the opening price for a stock and the final trade before the end of trading at 4pm providing the day's closing price.

But there are actually, broadly speaking, three markets in which shares can be traded: pre-market, regular market and after-hours market. The regular market trades between 9:30am and 4pm EST; the pre-market trades from 8am to 9:30am EST; and the after-hours market trades from 4:30pm to 8pm EST. The pre- and after-hours markets function in the same fashion as the regular market in that the shares are traded between parties at an agreed upon price. In other words, the price you will receive is the price that someone in the after-hours or pre-market is willing to pay.

The major difference between the markets is that the pre- and after-hours markets will generally have less liquidity, more volatility and lower volume than the regular market. This can have a huge effect on the price you end up getting for your shares, so it is usually important to use a limit order on any shares that you buy or sell after normal trading hours.

Generally speaking, price changes in the after-hours market have exactly the same effect on a stock as changes in the regular market do: a $1 increase in the after-hours market is the same as a $1 increase in the regular market. Therefore, if you have a stock that falls from $10 to $9 during the day's trading session, but then rises by $1.50 to trade at $10.50 in the after-hours market, you will have experienced a $1 loss during the day's session ($10 - $9), but because prices rose in after-hours trading, you would be sitting on a $0.50 per share gain.

However, once the regular market opens for the next day's trading (when most individual investors will have the opportunity to sell), the stock may not necessarily open at the same price at which it traded in the after-hours market. For example, if a stock's price increases greatly in the after-hours market due to a rumor of increased sales, there could be a lot of investors who want to sell immediately at the market open, increasing selling pressure and possibly driving the price of the stock down.

The price changes seen in the after-hours market are generally useful for showing how the market reacts to new information released after the regular market has closed. However, after-hours price changes are generally more volatile than regular-hours prices, so they shouldn't be relied on as a 100% accurate reflection of what a stock will trade at when the next regular session opens.

In the past, the average investor could only trade shares during regular market hours - after-hours trading was reserved for institutional investors. But with the advent of computers and electronic communication networks, today's markets are open more than ever, and individuals are free to trade after hours too. The day when investors will be able to trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week, may not be too far off.

To learn more, see The Nitty-Gritty Of Executing A Trade and What is after-hours trading?

RELATED FAQS
  1. Why are the bid and ask quotes usually so far away from each other in after-hours ...

    After-hours trading is defined as the exchange of securities outside of an exchange's specified regular trading hours (usually ... Read Answer >>
  2. Where can I find information about pre- and after-hours trading on the NYSE and the ...

    The stock market, particularly the NYSE and Nasdaq, is traditionally open between 9:30am and 4pm EST. Over time, with the ... Read Answer >>
  3. What trends and data influence after-hours traders the most?

    Learn about the specific information that after-hours traders review to influence their trading. Read Answer >>
  4. Why does after-hours trading (AHT) exist?

    The advent of the Internet and electronic information exchanges has opened financial market trading to millions of investors ... Read Answer >>
  5. What is after-hours trading? Am I able to trade at this time?

    After-hours trading (AHT) refers to the buying and selling of securities on major exchanges outside of specified regular ... Read Answer >>
  6. What are the main risks of after-hours trading?

    Trading outside of traditional stock market hours brings some unique risks that you should be aware of. Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Can I Sell A Stock At The After-Hours Price?

    Most major exchanges trade from 9:30 am to 4 pm Eastern Standard Time, but you’re not limited to selling stock between those hours.
  2. Investing

    What's After-Hours Trading?

    After-hours trading occurs on major exchanges outside of regular trading hours, and takes place between 4:30 and 8 p.m. Eastern time.
  3. Trading

    What Is The Difference Between After-Hours Trading And Late Trading?

    “After-hours” trading and “late trading” both refer to investments made outside of normal business hours. While the two activities sound similar and often take place in similar time frames, the ...
  4. Trading

    Activities You Can Take Advantage Of In The Pre-Market And After-Hours Trading Sessions

    A great deal can happen in between the New York close of the market and the open the following morning. Learn how you can access opportunities and hedge against risk outside regular trading hours.
  5. Investing

    The NASDAQ Pre-Market: What You Need To Know

    Curious about pre-market or extended-hours trading? Here's a quick guide so you'll know what to expect.
  6. Investing

    Why Late Trading Is Illegal

    Institutional investors got a sweet deal that soured retail investors' mutual fund returns.
  7. Investing

    The Opening Cross: How Nasdaq Stock Prices Are Set

    The National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations, commonly referred to as Nasdaq, is a computerized marketplace where stocks are traded from 9:30am to 4pm Eastern Standard ...
  8. Trading

    Eight Items That Impact Daily Trades

    Find out which factors can help you squeeze more profit out of each position.
  9. Investing

    The Daily Routine Of A Swing Trader

    From pre-market to after hours, see what you need to do to capture gains quickly.
  10. Investing

    Ways To Gauge The Market Open Direction

    Accurately predicting the stock market’s opening moves can be a useful tool. If your projection is accurate, you have opportunity to profit. Of course, the first step is to correctly gauge the ...
RELATED TERMS
  1. After-Hours Market Close

    The last transaction and final price of a security that is traded ...
  2. After-Hours Trading - AHT

    Trading after regular trading hours on the major exchanges. The ...
  3. Nasdaq-100 After Hours Indicator

    An indicator of post-market sentiment and trading activity, calculated ...
  4. Extended Trading

    Trading conducted on electronic exchanges either after regular ...
  5. Opening Price

    The price at which a security first trades upon the opening of ...
  6. Closing

    The end of a trading session. The closing of a trading day halts ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Fiduciary

    A fiduciary is a person who acts on behalf of another person, or persons to manage assets.
  2. Sharpe Ratio

    The Sharpe Ratio is a measure for calculating risk-adjusted return, and this ratio has become the industry standard for such ...
  3. Death Taxes

    Taxes imposed by the federal and/or state government on someone's estate upon their death. These taxes are levied on the ...
  4. Retained Earnings

    Retained earnings is the percentage of net earnings not paid out as dividends, but retained by the company to be reinvested ...
  5. Demand Elasticity

    In economics, the demand elasticity refers to how sensitive the demand for a good is to changes in other economic variables. ...
  6. Dark Pool

    A dark pool is a private financial forum or exchange for trading securities.
Trading Center