Educational Explainers - Lead Lag Effect - NIFTY

Last week we looked at what Indexes are (Over here).

This week we are investigating the lead-lag relationship between Spot price and Future prices in NIFTY.

So what does academic research and years of observing the market tell us? The verdict is out..

Life as a Resource Allocation Problem | Year End Musings - Delivered late!

The missus and I were off to Bhutan this year end, and while I was there, I was receiving some calls to attend a trading conference. So there began a discussion on the value of attending conferences and my view on it.

My view is that trading or anything of value has to have a lot of nuance, which comes from years of experience and practice, and expert is an expert because he/she has developed that nuanced skill/intuition.

With that said, ask yourself as to what would you like to focus on, depending on were you are on your learning curve -

If you are a beginner - It would help immensely to find a mentor, and work with him/her to develop core skills, in other words try to be an Apprentice - Takes at least 8 to 10 Years

If you think you are at an Intermediate level - At this point, it would help to connect with more experts to understand what others are doing, and and build your skills by borrowing ideas and adapting them to your context, as Cal Newport says - this could be the Creative Active phase. - Beyond 8 to 10 years

If you think you are an expert - It would again help to engage with others in the space, to continuously learn and understand the space at a more macro level. This is at a point when you have reached Mastery - 15 + years of experience

Now the reason I called these things out is to help you contextualize - what would help you at a given point of time. I personally believe a lot of our adult life is a Resource Allocation Problem, the better we get at it, the better would be the outcomes.

We have these three fundamental resources which feed into one another - Time, Energy (Cognitive & Physical) and Money.

Money can help us buy Time a bit, but Energy determines how well we can use that Time.

Hence we need to ask ourselves where would you like to allocate your fundamental resources so as to achieve your goals.

You can use your time, money and energy to either attend a conference or perhaps buy a few books or may be fund a trading account. Which one these would help you get to your goals faster, and that depends on where you are on the learning curve.

Lastly think of it this way, if you have to choose a heart surgeon, which one of would you choose, the one who has spent 10,000 hours doing surgery or the one who has attended 100 conferences.

To flip the context - So which category of surgeon would you want to be?

Its the same with Trading.

Market Profile & Order-flow Charts | Revisited

A few days back I received a comment on the blog about Market Profile and Order-flow as a tool which offers an edge in the market.

Here is the comment.

And here are my previous articles about the same.

Part 1 & Part 2

I thought it’s important to explain to novices as to how the “information flow” in stock market works and which is what is the foundational reason behind price moves in an Index.

Disclaimer: My comments here are only in the context of Indexes and specifically about NIFTY 50 and NIFTY FUT

So let’s start with the basics

What is an Index? - An Index is a Collection of Stocks which are weighed together to arrive at an aggregate value. This weightage is based on market cap of the constituent stocks for NIFTY. If you want to have a look at the constituent stocks and their weight-age, this is the place.

What makes an index move up or down? - Say the average range of the index is 100 points, why does it move so much? It moves because its constituent stocks move. Say for instance if the top 5 stocks by market cap - Reliance, HDFC, HDFC Bank, ITC, Infy etc. move down the market will move down, and visa versa.

Now that we know what is an Index and why does an Index move up or down, lets get to some nuances here.

What is “Information Flow” and what is its relevance here?

Information flow is about the direction of causality for price discovery in a given market. If that sounds a bit wonkish - it essentially means, in the context of an Index, what moves first, and what causes what. Does the future prices move ahead of Spot? or it is the other way around. There are different statistical ways of measuring the the strength and direction of causality, but that is beyond the scope of this post, look up “tests of causality” if you are interested, if you are even more interested look up Judea Pearl’s work. Oops! Sorry for that diversion, back to Information flow and price discovery.

So to repeat, there can only be two types of informational flows

a) (Stocks) Spot -> Index Futures - Spot prices lead Futures

b) Index Futures -> (Stocks) Spot - Futures prices lead Spot

Like everything else, its more about which type of information flow is more dominant in a given market. Its not necessarily binary.

As I pointed out here, for NIFTY its type (a) which is more dominant (Image below from 2) Reference). Which is not true for all markets though, for instance the S&P 500 works on type (b) logic.

If you are wondering as to why does it happen, well there are tomes of academic papers on that, but it boils down to two factors largely, one is cost/barriers to trading in a given product, and relative volumes.

So to sum this point while type (a) is a fundamental reason for index moves, type (b) can also happen and may provide a minor edge to the participants.

Hope you all are still with me.

So far we looked at

1) What is an Index? 2) Why does it move/What causes its moves?

Now lets get to the topic of this blog post.

Market Profile and Order-flow Charts. I will not spend time in explaining the basic concept of Market Profile and Order-flow, that I did in the previous posts, do refer to them for the basics. But here I am going to explain Order-flow more than Market Profile. Both are unrelated but for some reason a lot of sellers and vendors offer them together. Let’s move on.

Let’s understand the process flow of an order, i.e. an order you put to buy or sell one lot.

  • Buy/Sell Order Placed by you ->

  • Order goes to Broker’s OMS (Order Management System) ->

  • Then goes to Exchange’s OMS ->

  • Finally reaches the CLOB (Central Limit Order Book) ->

  • Order now gets queued based on Price and Time priority (Depending on Market or Limit Order type) >

  • Finally once it matches another Buy or Sell order it gets executed.

If you notice I have not used the word order-flow anywhere yet in this sequence of events. The reason being, only after an order is executed we get to see the Order-flow Information i.e. Bid/Ask Volume traded at a given Price.

To reiterate Order-book (LOB - Limit Order Book) comes first and Order-flow later.

^LOB is the information that you see in the Market Depth window of your trading platform

So in a way Order-flow is stale info. Its all done and over by the time you see it (*Assuming what you see is what it is).

If someone claims that there is a “Predictive Edge” in Order-flow they are essentially claiming that “if X volume at bid or ask happens at a given Price” it means the price will go further up or down.

For a second ignore predictive edge, even a statistical edge will do? Show me one Order-flow based back-test and I would be happy to update my views here.

If this is not enough, you also need to understand how Level 1 Data Feeds work.

None of the feeds in India give you tick by tick data, we don’t have the infrastructure as retail traders to receive it, what data-feed providers like TrueData, GDFL and E-signal give is a Per Second Aggregate of Ticks. So what you see in an order-flow is an *aggregate information for a second or as some call it “Snapshot Data”. Which can never be accurate, to put it differently its not meant to be, there will always be “missing” info. in it.

And lastly always ask yourself, if Order-flow info had such an edge, why wouldn’t these indicator sellers keep it to themselves and print money.

Personally, I have used and tested both Order-flow and Order-Book information to the extent it’s possible with retail level latency and infrastructure and have not found any edge there.

So to sum it all up, Order-flow, if at all has an edge, it would be in a market with type (b) information flow, which we are not. And secondly, in markets with type (b) information flow, you might-as-well use Order-book Info. why would you want to look at stale order-flow info.?

This is all I had to share, hope it helps you, saves a bit of your time (by helping you avoid rabbit holes) and more importantly your money.


1) Does Index Futures Dominate Index Spot? Evidence from Taiwan Market - Ching-Chung Lin, Shen-Yuan Chen, Dar-Yeh Hwang and Chien-Fu Lin

2) Domestic and international information linkages between NSE Nifty spot and futures markets:an empirical study for India - Sanjay Sehgal & Mala Dutt

Tuesday evening musings - Learning from the master

I've always been interested in the skills development space, more specifically in the context of crafts. In my attempt to dig up more literature in that area, I came across two books. One, is 'Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford' and the other is 'The Craftsman by Richard Sennet'. Both excellent reads for those looking at understanding the virtues and value of manual work.

Getting to why I got to write this post. This morning while coaching one of my students, a sharp boy I must say, asked me very specific trade execution related questions and I was pleasantly surprised and glad that he did. He was one of the first among perhaps, 50 odd people who I have coached, to ask such questions. That's when I was reminded of what Sennet says in the book while describing how people learnt in Antonio Stradivari's workshop.

     Page 78, The Craftsmen

    Page 78, The Craftsmen

Quora Question - Which are the best intraday trading indicators?


Which are the best intraday trading indicators?

Before using indicators, understand what an Indicator is and what it does.

What is an Indicator?

An Indicator is nothing but some sort of arithmetic function performed on the historic price or volume data and usually is presented through charts/graphics.

What does an Indicator do?

So given the definition of an Indicator, all that it does is it gives us a way of comparing past with the present in a normalized way. For example if you use moving averages, you know that the price was above moving average (MA) earlier now its below. So in a way a MA give you a reference to compare past with present. The time frames could differ, for an intraday trader, past 1 hour is “past” and for a positional trader it could be past few days that constitutes the “past”.

Hence, an Indicator is NOT a predictive tool, its only an analytical tool. Therefore they are called “Lagging” indicators

Sorry for being a broken record - All Indicators are Lagging in nature, hence they cannot Predict the price, they can only give us a reference to compare the present with the past.

But I have seen Indicators working - you may say?

A developing trader during a coaching session told me, Sandeep, why are you bothering me with all this probabilities, I can show you how indicators work. He went on to show me some Oscillators, he said “Look the moment the oscillator went into the Oversold zone, the price shot up”. I was laughing, and was telling myself “Not again”.

So in essence, this is what transpired, he showed me several instances of the oscillators working and I showed him several instances when the same oscillator did not work as intended.

Now, you may ask but it does work sometimes - Yes it does, and the reason it does it because of what is known in Psychology as “Self Fulfilling Prophesy”. In simple words, imagine if a whole lot of traders believe that the moment the indicator goes in oversold level it should go up - and they buy the stock - now because a lot of traders would buy, the price would go up bit for sure.

Now if you ask me what caused the price to go up? Was it the indicator or the “buying” which happened because of the beliefs of traders.

So what works and what do “professional” intraday traders use?

Here is what most professional traders do

  1. Do follow certain indicators, oscillators etc. knowing very well that they are not “Predictive” in nature. They use it only for context.
  2. Use better tools to understand market structure like - Market Profile Charts, Footprint Charts. These charts work more like an x-ray and tell us whats happening inside a specific 3 or 5 min time frame. For example if the price moved from 100 to 110 in 5 minutes, these charts would tell you at what point in the given price range did the maximum transaction happen. For example its quite possible that more than 70% of transactions happened at 101. It can also tell us that most transaction happened at 110, that makes a huge difference right? - Whichever way it is, Market profile charts give us better context by putting volume along with price. Now again, this too is not predictive, else everyone wold be using it and minting money forever. All that Market Profile tools do is, give you a better and more realistic sense of whats happening in the market. More about it here - Market Delta Videos.
  3. Use probabilities - Now if indicators are not predictive, what else is. Well this is where the use of market statistics helps us take more informed decisions. Probabilities can be used in different contexts. Let me start with some context and basics
    1. Probabilities - If X happens - how many times does Y happen? If prices crosses VWAP, how long does it stay above VWAP in a specific stock/index etc.
    2. You may be able to calculate - 90% - It stays at least for 5 mins. 60% of times it stays for 45 minutes. 50% of times 60 minutes and so on.
    3. Now that you know there is a probabilistic edge in what you are doing, meaning there is a greater than 50% probability of a specific event to occur, all that you need is to participate in as many occurrences as possible and let the probabilities work in your favor. So long as you don’t change any of the variables, probabilities would work it’s magic.
    4. At any given point of time, there could be multiple probabilities that one can analyze and figure out, a bit of hard work, but then once you get it right, it works.
    5. You may ask? Why do people not use probabilities then? -
      1. Not as intuitive as an indicator - People want easy peasy stuff. Hard work/analytical work is not something a lot of people can do, people are looking for shortcuts in the wrong place,usually ie.
      2. Most people, lack basic critical thinking and reasoning skills - I can vouch for this as I have been a faculty in a b-school and I coach traders. I think this is partly because of our rote based education system. Hence most people keep looking for that holy grail indicator, which is some sort of a never never land. Just the way some people look for that ultimate qualification/degree which would lead them to the road to riches. But doesn’t work.
      3. Difficult to use probabilities, across stocks/asset classes - Most retail traders trade several stocks + indexes etc. Each may have its own specific probabilities, its almost impossible for retail traders to think probabilistic-ly across several stocks. They don’t have a research team to back them. The only way out is to stick to a select few indexes or stocks and work with them.

These are the points that come to my mind now, will update if I realize I have missed something. Hope this helps you become a more informed trader.


Quora Question - What is the best technical course in trading for developing myself as a professional trader?


What is the best technical course in trading for developing myself as a professional trader?

I wish there was a simple answer to this question like - These are the top 5 trading universities in the world, write the TMAT exam and apply for each of them.

Ok. Let’s get real.

The fact is there is no such university. You would need to design your career/education and life.

The following are some recommendation that I would have if you are looking at becoming a professional trader

    1. Your best bet in this case would be to pursue - Chartered Market Technician Program this program. Its a self study program and you would need to clear a qualifying exam to be certified. Pretty well recognized in the industry. - Please note this is not at all a necessity. Nor is it sufficient by itself. Its a nice to have certification.
    2. There are no other professionally run courses that I would recommend. Always go with a “Caveat emptor” mindset when looking for a commercially run program.
    3. Zerodha has done an awesome job of creating content for an Indian context - Zerodha Varsity - This could be a good starting point.
    4. Look for mentors on Twitter, Trading forums, Seminars, Conferences - identify who are the people who contribute better, connect and seek inputs. Again, not easy, but this is what works in the longer run. And yes please beware of snake oil sellers, there are thousands of them. And the best actually never sell, because they don’t have to, they trade for a living.
    5. Create a learning plan and ecosystem for yourself - Listen to videos, podcasts - make notes, structure your learning, that would help you connect the dots.
    6. In this whole process you will learn a lot about trading and also about your own personality and what kind of trading works for you. From this phase onward you would become more nuanced in what you want to learn. That would be the starting point on your way to become a professional.

Finally want to leave this post with a task for you - Listen to a dozen interviews of traders on - Chat With Traders Podcast | Hosted by Aaron Fifield - Usually Aaron starts with the question - How did you get into Trading?