What Are Pre-Markets?
What Are Pre-Markets?

What Are Pre-Markets?

Published May 3, 2024Updated Jul 8, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Traditional pre-markets refer to trading activity that occurs outside of the official trading hours of stock exchanges.

  • Crypto pre-markets refer to the trading of tokens that are yet to be officially listed on exchanges.

  • Some benefits of pre-markets include the opportunity to engage in early price discovery and adjust the trading strategies ahead of regular market hours.


Traditional markets generally facilitate the buying and selling of assets during designated trading hours, but trading may also occur outside these established periods. In this article, we will explore what pre-markets are, how they work, and discuss their benefits and risks.

What Are Pre-Markets?

Pre-markets refer to the trading activity before the official trading hours. They typically occur in the early morning hours, leading up to the opening of stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ. It’s worth noting that pre-markets might not always be available for all listed stocks.

Pre-market trading can provide insights into market sentiment and potential price movements based on activities, such as earning reports or macroeconomic events, that occur after the previous day's close.

What Are Crypto Pre-Markets?

Since the crypto markets operate 24/7, the term pre-market has a different meaning. Crypto pre-markets refer to trading platforms where investors can trade tokens before they are officially launched or distributed to the general public.

Typically, traders use crypto pre-markets to speculate on the value of tokens, buying and selling based on their projected worth post-launch. However, crypto pre-markets are not limited to tokens. In some cases, they allow the trading of "protocol points" that might serve as criteria for future airdrops.

How Do Pre-Markets Work?

In traditional markets, pre-market trading happens through electronic communication networks (ECNs) that match potential buyers and sellers. These trades are completed under different rules than those during regular market hours, with differences in aspects like available liquidity and price volatility. The prices established in pre-markets can influence the opening price of a stock, which often acts as an indicator of the day's trading direction.

For example, imagine a company that is set to release its quarterly earnings after the market closes. It announces higher earnings than expected, leading investors to anticipate a positive reaction in the stock market. Before the market officially opens the next day, investors can start buying company shares during the pre-market session. As a result, the demand for the company’s shares increases, potentially pushing up the stock price even before the regular trading session begins.

How Do Crypto Pre-Markets Work?

Crypto pre-markets work similarly to peer-to-peer (P2P) trading platforms but are distinguished by their focus on tokens that are yet to be launched. Crypto pre-markets can offer investors an opportunity to trade tokens during the interval between the allocation announcement, token distribution, and official listing on a trading platform. 

For instance, consider a new cryptocurrency project that announces the release of its token through an initial exchange offering (IEO). Before the tokens are officially distributed and listed on exchanges, the project opens a pre-market phase on a decentralized platform where early investors can trade the unreleased tokens. This trading activity provides early price discovery and liquidity, allowing traders to gauge market sentiment and set preliminary valuations for the project’s token. Centralized exchanges (CEXes) can also offer crypto pre-market trading, acting as custodians for the transactions.

Benefits of Pre-Markets

Early price discovery

Pre-markets can facilitate early price discovery, enabling investors to evaluate the potential market impact of external factors. This allows market participants to interpret price fluctuations that occur outside the regular trading hours, providing insights into potential market trends and market momentum for the upcoming official trading session.

Strategy adjustment

Pre-markets allow investors to effectively adjust their trading strategies, letting them respond to events that occur outside the regular trading hours. Making adjustments ahead of the market open can help mitigate risks associated with market volatility.


Pre-markets extend the trading periods, making them particularly useful for market participants who cannot align their schedules with the official trading hours. This ensures that market participants can engage in trading activities at times convenient to them.

Risks of Pre-Markets

Reduced liquidity

Pre-market trading typically experiences lower liquidity compared to regular market hours. This can lead to larger bid-ask spreads and make it difficult for investors to execute large trades without significantly impacting the market price.

Limited market participation

In general, fewer traders and institutions are active during pre-market hours. This may result in price movements that do not accurately reflect the broader market's conditions, potentially misleading early traders. In addition, the trends seen in pre-market trading may reverse once the regular trading session begins and more participants enter the market.

Closing Thoughts

Traditional pre-markets involve trading activities that take place before the official opening hours of stock exchanges. Crypto pre-markets are platforms where investors can trade tokens that are yet to be officially launched. The advantages of pre-markets include the ability for early price discovery, wider accessibility, and the opportunity to adjust trading strategies ahead of regular market hours.

Further Reading

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