Auction Market Theory (AMT)

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Written By
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Written By
Dan Buckley
Dan Buckley is an US-based trader, consultant, and part-time writer with a background in macroeconomics and mathematical finance. He trades and writes about a variety of asset classes, including equities, fixed income, commodities, currencies, and interest rates. As a writer, his goal is to explain trading and finance concepts in levels of detail that could appeal to a range of audiences, from novice traders to those with more experienced backgrounds.

Auction Market Theory (AMT) provides one perspective on how financial markets operate, essentially functioning as giant auction houses.

The continual interaction of buying and selling pressure determines price movements.

This approach, when applied in financial markets, considers every bid as an attempt to buy and every offer as an attempt to sell.


Key Takeaways – Auction Market Theory (AMT)

  • Auction Market Theory (AMT) views financial markets as giant auction houses, where buying and selling pressure determines price movements.
  • The concept of fair value in AMT refers to the price level where buyer and seller aggression balance out, facilitating the maximum trade volume.
  • AMT recognizes the impact of market events on price changes, as events can induce imbalances in buyer and seller aggression, leading to market movements.
  • AMT suggests that notional “fair prices” of securities/assets (e.g., what value investors might do) are less relevant than focusing on buying and selling activity.


The Basics of Auction Market Theory: Buyer and Seller Aggression

The underlying premise of AMT is the “aggression” of buyers and sellers, which manifests in their urgency to execute trades.

When buyers are more aggressive than sellers, they bid prices higher, thereby causing the market to move up.

Contrarily, when sellers are more aggressive, they drive prices lower, causing the market to move down.

Market events – such as earnings announcements, changes in interest rates, or significant global events – often trigger these imbalances in aggression.

While traders who focus on value might focus on what the fundamental value of a security is, AMT proponents will focus more fundamentally on what drives asset pricing – i.e., buying and selling activity.


The Concept of Fair Value in Auction Market Theory

Fair value, as defined in Auction Market Theory, is the price point where buying and selling aggression balance out.

This point of equilibrium is where the maximum trade volume can be facilitated, as it is the price where the willingness to buy and the willingness to sell coincide.


The Application of Auction Market Theory

Okay, so the theory is straightforward… how do you apply it?

Practitioners of Auction Market Theory typically use a tool known as Market Profile, a type of charting that illustrates price at various points of trading volume.

These charts offer a visual representation of market activity, helping traders identify areas of high and low trading activity and understand where the market finds balance or experiences imbalance.

More can be seen in the video below:

Market Profile: A SMB Trader Reveals How to Use This Tool to Make Effective Trades in $SPY


The Impact of Market Events on Auction Market Theory

A key element of Auction Market Theory is its recognition of the importance of market events in driving price changes.

For example, an unexpectedly positive earnings report can lead to increased buyer aggression, while a sudden interest rate hike can cause an increase in seller aggression.


Limitations and Criticisms of Auction Market Theory

One common criticism is its overemphasis on market equilibrium or fair value.

Market prices can deviate from the so-called fair value for many reasons, such as market sentiment, algorithmic trading, or liquidity purposes.

Moreover, AMT primarily focuses on short-term imbalances and might not adequately account for long-term trends influenced by factors like changes in economic fundamentals.


FAQs – Auction Market Theory

What is Auction Market Theory?

Auction Market Theory (AMT) is an economic theory that proposes financial markets operate like a continuous auction, driven by the imbalance between buyer and seller aggression.

According to AMT, this imbalance is often induced by market events, causing prices to rise or fall.

The markets continue this fluctuation until they discover a level where buyer and seller aggression are balanced, referred to as the fair value.

At this point, the most trade can be facilitated. AMT provides a framework for understanding price behavior and the dynamics of supply and demand in the market.

What is the concept of Fair Value in Auction Market Theory?

In the context of Auction Market Theory, fair value is not related to the intrinsic value of a financial instrument but instead refers to the price level where the aggression of buyers and sellers is in equilibrium.

In other words, it’s the price at which the market facilitates the maximum trading volume.

This equilibrium allows the market to function smoothly without major imbalances that could potentially disrupt the market.

How does Auction Market Theory explain market movements?

Auction Market Theory explains market movements by considering the imbalance between buyer and seller aggression.

If buyers are more aggressive (due to positive market events or higher demand), prices tend to rise until they reach a level where seller aggression matches buyer aggression (fair value).

Conversely, if sellers are more aggressive (due to negative market events or lower demand), prices fall until buyer and seller aggression balances out.

AMT provides an understanding of how and why prices move the way they do.

What are the key components of Auction Market Theory?

The key components of AMT include:

  1. Buyer and Seller Aggression: The key dynamic that influences market prices.
  2. Market Events: These events, such as economic news, corporate reports, or geopolitical developments, can create imbalances by influencing buyer or seller aggression.
  3. Fair Value: The price level where buyer and seller aggression balance out and the market is in equilibrium.
  4. Market Profile: A tool commonly used in AMT, which organizes price, time, and volume data to provide a graphical representation of the market’s auction process.

Market Profile is a statistical tool developed by J. Peter Steidlmayer and the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) that organizes price, time, and volume information into a distributional bell curve.

This curve is used to identify the price levels that are most accepted (most traded) by the market, signifying fair value.

Market Profile is directly related to Auction Market Theory because it graphically represents the auction process in the market, showing price movements and areas of balance and imbalance.

It helps traders understand where the market is likely to move based on AMT principles.

How can Auction Market Theory be used in trading strategies?

Traders can use AMT to make informed decisions by identifying areas of price imbalance and areas where the market is most likely to trade (fair value).

This insight can guide entry and exit points, risk management, and overall trade strategy.

For instance, a trader might buy when the market price falls below fair value (indicating an imbalance of seller aggression) and sell when the price rises above fair value (indicating an imbalance of buyer aggression), betting on a return to balance.

Does Auction Market Theory work for all types of markets?

While Auction Market Theory was initially developed for futures markets, its principles can be applied to any market where buyers and sellers interact, including stock, commodity, currency, and even real estate markets.

As long as the market operates under supply and demand dynamics, AMT can provide insights into price behavior.

What are the limitations of Auction Market Theory?

AMT can be complex to apply in real-time trading, requires a deep understanding of Market Profile and price behavior, and it assumes that markets always function efficiently, which may not be the case due to factors like market manipulation or extreme events.

Also, AMT is a descriptive theory, meaning it describes market behavior but doesn’t predict future prices with certainty.



Auction Market Theory is a tool for understanding market dynamics and making informed trading decisions.

While it may not capture all market phenomena, it does offer insights into how markets react to events and how buying and selling aggression shifts.

The combination of AMT with other market analysis tools can provide traders with a more nuanced view of market behavior, enhancing their ability to predict and respond to market movements.

Auction Market Theory paints a compelling picture of financial markets as dynamic auction houses, where buyer and seller aggression, driven by market events, continuously shape price movements until a balance (“fair value”) is found.