How volatility should change your strategy: Trader

Market volatility has surged of late, and that means anyone trying to make money off stocks has to change their strategy, according to chart-focused trader Todd Gordon.

As of Wednesday's close, historical volatility in the S&P 500 is at the highest level since the end of 2011. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq composite has seen a 2 percent move in seven of its last 10 sessions.

With markets moving this forcefully to the upside and downside, with a decided emphasis on the latter, techniques that worked while stocks crept mildly higher could now get traders in trouble.

"You're going to see three or four times a travel range in one trading day as you normally would," Gordon said Wednesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch." "A volatile market takes more action."

Read MoreThe inspiring story of the worst market timer ever

Gordon recommends that traders reduce their targeted holding periods. For instance, while he tends to hold onto positions for a week or longer, in markets like these he sticks with trades for three sessions or less.

He also recommends that technically minded traders utilize shorter-term charts showing intraday movements, rather than daily or weekly charts.

Finally, Gordon says it's critical to closely examine the size of one's trades. A smaller trade could now have the same risk/reward profile of a larger trade put on in less volatile times.

Still, on the whole, volatile markets are great for those who can make skilled moves quickly.

"Generally they say you make 70 percent of your money 30 percent of the time," Gordon said. "We love the volatility."


Trades to Watch

Trader Bios


Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

Read more