What Is a Flat Market?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2018
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A flat market is any type of market situation in which prices on any goods sold in that setting are not moving much in either direction. Projections of future movement in this type of market do not produce any expectations of much in the way of change. With no apparent hints of any type of uptrend or downtrend in the near future, the market is likely to remain stagnant or flat until some event shakes up both buyers and sellers and ushers in a period of robust competition that causes prices to begin fluctuating once again.

There are a number of reasons why a flat market may develop. In some cases, the reason has to do with investors choosing to slow trading activity in anticipation of some major upcoming event they believe will make a significant difference in the marketplace. When this sort of wait-and-see situation exists, the phenomenon is sometimes called a deer market, calling to mind how a deer will freeze for a period of time while assessing the situation, then take some sort of immediate action when the time is right.


Another reason for a flat market involves a general state of stagnation in the economy. When this is the case, there is little to be gained by making trades, and investors tend to simply hold onto whatever assets they already have. In this scenario, there may or may not be some expectation of some event occurring that will make a huge impact on the market. Instead, investors are simply waiting out the period of stagnation, remaining sensitive to any small indications that the market will make some sort of movement one way or the other in a given time frame.

While a flat market may involve a decrease in overall trading volume, that is not always the case. This type of market situation can exist even when trading remains at near to normal levels. The difference is that the market prices of the leading assets traded in those markets are not changing a great deal from day to day. For newer investors who are attempting to create and grow portfolios, this can be a good time to acquire some assets, especially if historical data indicates that those assets are likely to appreciate once the flat market situation ends. While it is not unusual for any marketplace to experience this type of lull now and again, events such as the changing of leadership at a major company trading within that market, unanticipated natural disasters, and even significant shifts in the political arena may be enough to jolt the flat market out of its lethargy and open a new period of rapidly fluctuating prices.



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