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Market profile is a powerful tool used by traders to analyze market structure and gain insights into price behavior. It provides a visual representation of price and volume data, helping traders identify key support and resistance levels, market trends, and areas of value. In this article, we will delve into the world of market profile, exploring its definition, key components, and practical applications.

What is Market Profile?

Market profile is a technique developed by Peter Steidlmayer in the 1980s to analyze the auction process in financial markets. This technique was greatly refined by James Dalton in his seminal work on the subject, Mind over Markets. It organizes price and volume data in a histogram-like format known as the market profile chart. The chart displays the distribution of trading activity over time and various price levels, creating a wider graphical representation (profile) of market structure. At its core, market profile is simply a way of organizing market generated information.

Key Components of Market Profile:

Time Price Opportunity (TPO): The TPO is the building block of the market profile and is its smallest component, representing one price level that has traded during a particular time period which is generally 30 minutes long. TPO’s are represented by letters of the alphabet and often upper case for day timeframe sessions and lower case for overnight sessions. While price is trading during one 30 minute period, all price levels are marked with a particular letter. Once time shifts to the next 30 minute period, the next letter in the alphabet is printed for all price levels touched during that period. These letters are stacked vertically and horizontally (as shown below), creating the profile distribution of a trading session. See the graphic below.

Value Area: The value area represents the price range where roughly 70% of the trading activity occurred during that session (day or overnight). This is traditionally measured by time spent but can als be measured by volume. IIt is typically depicted as a shaded area on the market profile chart. In the graphic above, it is the yellow shaded area. The value area provides insights into areas of balance and identifies the fairest price levels where buyers and sellers find value.

Point of Control (POC): The POC represents the price level where the most time (or volume) was spent during a specific period. It is the peak of the market profile chart and often acts as a magnet, attracting price towards it. The POC is considered a key reference point for traders and can influence future price movements. If the POC is measured by time, then it will be the widest point of the profile where the greatest number of TPO periods are stacked horizontally. If it is measured by volume, then the market profile software will mark those TPO’s with a different color.

Analyzing Market Profile:

Identifying Market Trends: Market profile helps identify the prevailing market trend by analyzing the shape and location of both the value area and the entire distribution. Value that develops higher in the distribution is more bullish while value that develops lower is less so.

Support and Resistance Levels: The market profile highlights important support and resistance levels based on the value area and the POC. Traders can identify areas where the market has found value and expect price reactions at these levels. Breakouts or failures to break these levels can provide valuable trading opportunities.

Volume and Price Distribution: Market profile provides insights into volume and price distribution, allowing traders to gauge market participation and liquidity. Areas of high volume and tight price ranges indicate strong buyer or seller interest, while areas of low volume and wide price ranges suggest weaker participation. The general rule of thumb is that areas of greater value (measured by time spent or volume traded) act as magnets while areas of lower value tend to repel prices.

Market Profile Patterns: Traders also analyze market profile patterns to identify potential trading opportunities. Patterns such as double distribution, single prints, poor highs/lows, excess formations, and 45 degree lines can all provide valuable and actionable information for the astute trader who knows how to interpret these signals.

Practical Applications of Market Profile:

Day Trading: Market profile is widely used by day traders to analyze intraday price movements and identify key trading levels. Traders can identify potential entry and exit points based on the market profile structure and levels of support and resistance.

Swing Trading: Swing traders use market profile to identify longer-term trends and market imbalances. By understanding the market’s structure and key reference points, swing traders can get a better idea of where true value exists in the market and thus make more informed decisions on when to enter or exit trades.

Risk Management: Market profile can also aid in risk management by providing insights into the market’s volatility and expected price ranges. Traders can adjust their position sizing and risk parameters based on the market profile analysis.


Market profile is a powerful tool for traders to understand market structure, identify key support and resistance levels, and gauge market sentiment. By analyzing the market profile chart, traders can make more informed trading decisions based on a deeper understanding of price behavior and market dynamics.

It’s important to note that market profile is just one tool in a trader’s arsenal and should be used in conjunction with other forms of analysis and risk management strategies. Continual learning and practice are necessary to develop proficiency in market profile analysis and to adapt to changing market conditions.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as financial advice. Trading and investing involve risks, and it is important to conduct thorough research and consult with a qualified financial professional before making any investment decisions.