Momentum Trading Strategy In S&P 500 (Day Trading System)
Last Updated on March 7, 2023
This article presents a lasthour trading strategy. This is in practice a momentum strategy.
Here is the hypothesis: if SPY rallies from the open until the last hour, can we make money by going long one hour before the close and exiting on the close? This is a “last hour” trading strategy:
The momentum day trading strategy in the S&P 500 – long
Previously I have written about the different periods of the trading day:

Which Trading Hour Is The Best? When Should You Buy And Sell During The Day?
 At what time of day does SPY set high and low?
 SPY sets low or high in the last hourÂ â€“ a daytrading strategy
 Return in the first hour, middle of the day, and the last hour
This is a strategy I have traded live over the last year (just a few trades). I have tested with different thresholds, but it seems like the more SPY is up from the open (it works better from the open than from yesterday’s close), the more likely to rally the last hour.
I have used a threshold of 1.25% from open to the last hour, and I get 18 fills from 2010 until the present and 13 winners. This is an average of .39% per fill, not bad for such a short holding period.
Considering a total holding period of 18 hours over more than 2.5 years, a total gain of 7% must be considered extraordinary.
Here is the equity curve:
There are few fills, though. Increasing the threshold to 1.5%, we get 8 fills and 6 winners, and the average increases to 0.49%.
I don’t get such remarkable results if I measure from yesterday’s close to the last hour. I’m not sure why. Does anyone of the readers have any suggestions?
It’s still good, but the average drops. Here are the results from yesterday’s close to last hour:
Threshold  P/L  #fills  #wins  Avg 
1.25  7.41  66  40  0.11 
1.5  4.89  42  23  0.12 
1.75  5.53  29  19  0.19 
2  4.07  21  14  0.19 
2.5  3.89  12  10  0.32 
3  1  4  2  0.25 
The momentum day trading strategy in the S&P 500 – short
To reverse it, ie. to go short if a large drop from the open, does also work (see below for explanation).
There seems to be a tendency downwards for small movements, but large drops get reversed.
However, measuring from close until the last hour, my results are a bit disappointing. Using the open, I get tradeable results using a threshold of about 1.5%, but 1.75% seems better (the more movement, the better). Here is the equity curve for 1.75% (15 fills, eight winners):
Why does this strategy work? I have no idea except for the following:
 Short covering, or
 rebalancing in ETFs
There are a lot of traders who fade SPY. If SPY just continues higher, a lot of them might want to take a stoploss by covering and thus needs to buy (and they may take profits on big down days and buy during the last hour).
The other reason is the growth in leveraged ETFs. A lot of the leveraged ETFs need to rebalance every day, pushing more fuel to the fire.
When the market goes up, leveraged bull ETFs need to buy more to keep the leverage ratio. When the market drops, it’s the opposite effect because bear ETFs need to buy.
According to academic research papers, as much as 1050% of the MOC orders could be attributed to these ETFs!
In another article, we looked at the return during the last hour of trading. The trading edges are small, but this article shows there are possibilities to find market inefficiencies. There are several ways to go about to inefficiencies in the markets.
However, day trading is hard and we believe overnight strategies are easier prey to hunt for.
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Larry Williams once spoke about “The trade nobody wants”, which is buying at the low of the day on the close. From practical experience its a bit same if you are 1 hour from the close in an uptrend, as a short term trader you do not want to take that (long) position. Quite often though it leads to a close rally. Its quite logical – however with the change of markets I am uncertain how much importance should be put on MOC going forward.
Hi Oddmund,
I am not sure what you mean by “According to the mentioned research paper as much as 1050 on the MOC orders could be attributed to these ETFâ€™s! Reading the research paper gave me new insights on how the markets work.”….
It’s supposed to be 1050%.
Hi,Oddmund:
Nice discovery. Just wondering where you get intraday data for backtest.
Thanks.
Hi, you have to buy it – pay for it.
Thanks. Which data source would you recommend?
I have used IQFeed.
Ho….this strategy still works? Do you know the drawdown?
I’m trading it, but few trades. I have not checked its performance since 2013….