Race to the Starting Line

GRAPHIC BY STAMEN; DATA: NASDAQ

In the hours before the opening bell rings at 9:30, trading algorithms ping Nasdaq with a range of buy and sell orders to test prices. Most orders are canceled and never result in a trade.

7:00-7:01 a.m.

Pre-market activity is still relatively light. Most buy and sell orders are more than $25,000.

8:30-8:31 a.m.

Volume picks up as computers send smaller bids and offers to Nasdaq, with the exception of a few bursts like this one at 8:30.

9:30-9:31 a.m.

Within 30 seconds of the market opening, a torrent of buy and sell orders floods Nasdaq’s servers. By now, computers have two hours of data on where prices are probably headed. With the market open, the blue buy orders tend to be for higher prices than offers to sell.

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