So, European traders are complaining about starting work at 6.30am and whinging about the easier lives of traders in the United States? I don't know where they got this notion from but as someone with over 10 years' experience trading on Wall Street (sell-side and buy-side) I can tell you they are wrong. U.S. traders work just as hard, if not harder than Europeans.
Personally, I’ve never worked a shorter day than 12 hours in my life, and many days have been far longer. I'm not alone in this. - You’ll find most U.S. traders will work 6:30-6:30- no matter equity market hours.
Why is this? Well the futures market is open longer hours than the equities market, but market hours are really an irrelevance. When you're a trader your work extends far beyond actual trading time.
If you want to be competitive in today's market you need to put in a lot of preparation before the market opens and then to revise your assumptions when the market closes. There's a lot of reading about economic data and other news, and there's a lot of analyzing market moves and asssessing whether they match your expectations. Even if you use simple relative value (RV) models to analyze only moves internal to the market itself, you'll still need to maintain and improve those models (or create new ones). Market makers need to spend time working on risk models to ensure they explain P&L with as little residual error as possible.
On slower days, some of this work can be done during trading hours, but mostly it has to be done either before or after markets close. Effectively, non-market hours are the time you develop your playbook and market hours are the time you implement it. The better the playbook the better the PL! :)
Clifford Yak is the pseudonym of a senior swaps trader on the buy-side
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