How to Short SPY ETF When These 3 Conditions Happen

You can easily sell short the SPY ETF for a day trade using opening range breakout patterns.

These patterns also work in the gold market, the only difference being that you go long gold.

Let's take a deeper look at why you want to short SPY when you see these special patterns and how all you need are 3 very simple lines of code to do it profitably.


Short SPY ETF Using Opening Range Breakouts

Opening Range Breakouts are just a fancy term for "volatility expansion".

All financial markets go through cyclical periods of calm to periods of panic and mania.

When markets are calm, prices stay in small ranges, but when markets turn manic, price ranges increase.

You can make lots of money by watching this periodic behavior.  

Markets almost seem to "breathe" from small price ranges to large price ranges.

The key is to look for periods of calm, and then short a the period of mania that sometimes occurs directly after.

Let's look at some examples of shorting the SPY ETF (which tracks the S&P 500) when opening range breakouts occur:

Short SPY ETF Trading System

Condition 1: Look for a Large Range Day

We first want to look for a day with a larger than average range ( the high minus the low ).

Many different trading platforms have pre-built in functions that calculate the range of a day for you.  

I use TradeStation where the function is simply called "Range".

This function takes the high of the day and subtracts the low of the day, pretty simple huh?

Then we want to look for a day with the largest of these ranges in the past X number of days (you can play with the number of days to look back at, but I've found 11 is a good value).

So what does this look like in pseudo-code:

If   Range >= Largest( Range ,  11 days )   AND

Condition 2: Look for a VERY Large Range Day

The second condition we want to see before selling short SPY is that the large range day is a VERY large range day.

This can be done easily by multiplying the average true range (also called "atr") of SPY times the current day's range so we can dynamically get a normalized value to days in the past.

Average true range is just like it sounds, it's a function that take the averages of the ranges of X days.

This might sound complicated, but in our system it turns out to be pretty simple, let's look at the code:

If   Range >= var2 * atr   AND

Remember we want to see SPY's range today to be a larger than it's average times a certain amount.

Condition 3: Did SPY Close Higher Than Its Open?

Lastly we want to make sure that today was an up day (i.e., today's close is higher than today's open):

If   Close > Open   AND

This give us extra confidence that if tomorrow SPY starts to rally, we should short it at a certain point above its opening price.

If all three of these conditions are met we want to place a limit order to short the SPY ETF at the close of today plus a little bit.

Here's what your short limit order should look like in pseudo-code:

Sell short X shares at ( close + var3 * atr )

By placing the limit short order ABOVE today's close plus a little bit we set ourselves up to profit from the fact that the S&P 500 loves to revert back to its mean price which was lower.

Conclusion: Shorting The SPY ETF for a Day Trade

Short SPY ETF Trading System

Selling Short  SPY for a day trade

Short SPY ETF Trading System

S&P 500 day trading statistics.

It may seem like the rules above are complicated, but they are very simple.

That's what you want in all you're trading systems.

I like to think of building trading systems like trying to build an earth quake proof building.

The simplest solution is no building at all, right? 

But we need a building, so we want to make the building very short and very simple.  

The higher (more complicated) the building, the more likely it will come crashing down.

Keeping system rules simple is exactly the same. 

The more complicated the rules (higher the building) the more likely it will take your account down in the next earth quake.

Free TradeStation and MultiCharts Code:

About the Author

Hello! I'm Kurt the "Relaxed Trader" writing the stuff on this website. Feel free to ask me questions. I love talking to fellow traders that want to use computers to beat the stock market. Shoot me an email:

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