Volume Profile is an advanced charting study that displays trading activity over a specified time period at specified price levels. The study plots a histogram on the chart meant to reveal dominant and/or significant price levels based on volume. Essentially, Volume Profile takes the total volume traded at a specific price level during the specified time period and divides the total volume, buy volume or sell volume and then makes that information easily visible to the trader.
Typical levels of significance
- Point of Control (POC) – The price level for the time period with the highest traded volume.
- Profile High – The highest reached price level during the specified time period.
- Profile Low – The lowest reached price level during the specified time period.
- Value Area (VA) – The range of price levels in which a specified percentage of all volume was traded during the time period. Typically, this percentage is set to 70%; however, it is up to the trader’s discretion.
- Value Area High (VAH) – The highest price level within the value area.
- Value Area Low (VAL) – The lowest price level within the value area.
What to look for
Support and Resistance Levels
The first thing that most traders will use the volume profile for is identifying basic support and resistance levels. It is important to note that using Volume Profile as an identifier for support and resistance levels is a reactive method. This means that unlike proactive methods (such as trend lines and moving averages), which are based on current price action and analysis to predict future price movements, reactive methods rely on past price movements and volume behavior. Reactive methods can be useful in applying meaning or significance to price levels where the market has already visited. Basic technical analysis has shown that a support level is a price level that will support a price on its way down, and a resistance level is a price level that will resist price on its way up. Therefore, one can conclude that a price level near the bottom of the profile, which heavily favors the buy-side in terms of volume, is a good indication of a support level. The opposite is also true. A price level near the top of the profile, which heavily favors sell-side volume, is a good indication of a resistance level.
High Volume Nodes (HVN) are peaks in volume at or around a price level. HVN can be seen as an indicator of a period of consolidation. Usually, there is a great deal of activity on both the buy and sell-side, and the market stays at that price level for a great deal of time compared to other levels in the profile. This can imply a “fair value area” for the asset. When price approaches a previous HVN (or fair value area), a sustained sideways movement is expected. The market is less likely to break through that price immediately.
Low Volume Nodes (LVN) are the opposite. They are valleys (or significant drops) in volume at or around a price level. Low Volume Nodes are usually a result of a breakout rally or a breakdown. There will typically be an initial burst of volume during a rally or a breakdown and then a significant drop-off. The drop off can imply an “unfair value area” for the asset. When price approaches a previous LVN (or unfair value area), the market is much more likely to rally through or bounce off of that price level. Because it is seen as an unfair value area, the market will not spend as much time there compared to some other levels in the profile.
Just like with most other tools or studies, Volume Profile has a number of uses. There are many trading strategies out there using Volume Profile as a key component. Below are the basics of one such strategy, which is based on comparing the current day’s opening price to the previous day’s Volume Profile.
- If the current day opens above the previous day’s value area (but still below the Profile High), look for price to retrace back towards the Point of Control and then proceed to rise (the direction of the day’s open). Therefore during the retracement to the Point of Control, there is a buying opportunity.
- If the current day opens below the previous day’s value area (but still above the Profile Low), look for price to retrace back towards the Point of Control and then proceed to fall (the direction of the day’s open). Therefore during the retracement to the Point of Control, there is a selling opportunity.
- Suppose the current day’s opening price is entirely outside of the previous day’s profile (above the Profile High or below the Profile Low). In that case, this can be seen as a possible runner in the direction of the opening price relative to the previous day’s profile range.
Volume Profile is an extremely valuable technical analysis tool that is used by traders everywhere. The key to Volume Profile’s continued relevancy is its versatility. It is a charting tool that truly does have a wide array of uses. Unlike many other studies, there is little to no debate about Volume Profile’s usefulness. The data that is provided by Volume Profile is indisputable, leaving it to the trader to find new and creative ways to use it. Even though it is a great reactive method for discovering traditional support and resistance areas in its simplest form, traders are still coming up with ways to chart the indicator in predictive or proactive ways. Consider the trading strategy example given earlier in the article. Being able to compare a real-time event (the current day’s open) with historical events (the previous day’s volume profile) and make a trading decision based on the relationship is an excellent example of this.
1.0.0 (September 10, 2020) - Released