Mean reversion is a concept based in statistics that assumes prices will move away from their ‘mean’ value in the short term while always returning to it in the long term. This theory cannot be confirmed given that markets are to an extent random and thus unpredictable, but there are many historical examples to support its relevance in asset classes like forex, interest rates, and stock volatility.*
Historical mean reversion
Mean reversion is especially popular among traders in forex markets. Even though many currency pairs can experience multiyear price extremes and high volatility, across decades the same pairs are widely viewed as mean reverting. The thirty-year chart of EUR/USD below illustrates how often the pair crosses the long-term mean.
EUR/USD historical prices
Managing price extreme risk
While forex pairs may revert to historical means over a long horizon, positions can still move against traders towards extremes in the short term. There are several methods traders can employ to mitigate such risks:
Scaling involves reducing lot size in order to save enough capital to act again if the market moves against you. By doing so, traders are more likely to capture the price extreme. In the example below, breaking the trade into four orders of 0.25 lots as the price moves higher allows the trader to profit from moves down from 158.00.
However, if the market continued to trade higher, then the trader would still have a full 1.0 lot of risk and could experience large losses.
EUR/JPY historical prices with scaling example
Stop-loss orders help traders to set limits for closing their position as soon as they open it. By setting exit prices upon entry using stop-loss orders, traders can automate management mechanics without having to actively enter closing orders in a moving market.
In the example below, setting a stop-loss order at 156 when entering the trade at 154 allows the trader to elect whether or not to open a new position at 158 without holding the initial position all the way to the price extreme.
Stop-loss orders can serve as a risk mitigation tool to limit adverse price action, but it should be noted that they do not guarantee a fill at a specified price; stop-loss orders technically trigger market orders when a price level is hit, and that market order can include slippage.
EUR/JPY historical prices with stop-loss order example
Another way to reduce risk in a forex pair is to diversify positions across pairs. Price extremes can exist simultaneously in multiple currency pairs; taking several different mean reversion positions reduces exposure to a single currency pair that could experience price extremes for extended periods of time.
EUR/JPY and GBP/AUD historical prices as diversification example
How to trade forex using mean reversion
Open an account to get started, or practice on a demo account
Choose your forex trading platform
Open, monitor, and close positions on forex pairs
Trading forex markets using mean reversion requires an account with a forex provider like IG. Many traders watch major forex pairs like EUR/USD and USD/JPY for potential opportunities based on mean reversion. Contrarians might go against a price extreme, while trend followers might go with it.
You can help develop your forex trading strategies using resources like IG’s Trading Academy. Once your strategy is developed, you can follow the above steps to opening an account and getting started trading forex.
Your profit or loss is calculated according to your full position size. Leverage will magnify both your profits and losses. It’s important to manage your risks carefully as losses can exceed your deposit. Ensure you understand the risks and benefits associated with trading leveraged products before you start trading with them. Trade using money you’re comfortable losing.
*IG US provides forex products only
This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG US LLC. This material does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. You should not treat any opinion expressed in this material as a specific inducement to make any investment or follow any strategy, but only as an expression of opinion. This material does not consider your investment objectives, financial situation or needs and is not intended as recommendations appropriate for you. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the above information. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. Any research provided should be considered as promotional and was prepared in accordance with CFTC 1.71 and designed to promote the independence of investment research. See our Summary Conflicts Policy, available on our website.
The terms and conditions of use set out below (referred to as "FX Blue's Terms"), form a contractual agreement governing FX Blue's relationship with you in relation to your use of this Website (“Agreement”) and you agree to be legally bound by FX Blue's Terms just as if you had signed this Agreement. By using this Website and any Information, you are agreeing to comply with and be bound by FX Blue's Terms, including any revisions that may be made to FX Blue's Terms from time to time. FX Blue reserves the right, in FX Blue's sole discretion, to change, modify, add or remove portions of FX Blue's Terms at any time by posting the revisions on the Website. You should check FX Blue's Terms periodically for changes as by using the Website after FX Blue posts any changes to FX Blue's Terms, you are agreeing to accept those changes, whether or not you have reviewed them, and you waive any right you may have to receive individualised notice of such changes. FX Blue's Terms may be supplemented by additional terms and conditions pertaining to specific content and activities. You agree and understand that such additional terms and conditions are hereby incorporated by reference to FX Blue's Terms. Your continued use of the Website means that you accept any new or modified FX Blue Terms.