Market Structure Shift Meaning and Use in ICT Trading


In ICT (Inner Circle Trader) trading, understanding Market Structure Shifts (MSS) is crucial for accurately interpreting market trends and making informed trading decisions. This article delves into the significance of MSS, its distinct indicators, and how it integrates with other trading elements like Breaks of Structure and Changes of Character.

Understanding Breaks of Structure and Change of Character

Comprehending the dynamics of Breaks of Structure (BOS) and Change of Character (CHoCH) can be crucial for analysing market trends. A Break of Structure occurs when price levels move beyond established support or resistance areas, indicating a potential continuation or acceleration of the current trend. For example, in an uptrend, a BOS is identified when prices break above a previous resistance level, suggesting further upward movement.

Conversely, a Change of Character signifies a possible shift in the market's direction. This occurs when the price action breaks against the prevailing trend, challenging the recent high or low points that served as market barriers. A CHoCH often raises a red flag about the sustainability of the current trend. For instance, in a sustained uptrend, a CHoCH would be marked by a significant downward breach that violates a previous low point, hinting at a weakening of bullish momentum.

Both BOS and CHoCH are pivotal in the ICT (Inner Circle Trader) methodology, where they are used to gauge market sentiment and potential shifts in trend dynamics. Traders monitor these patterns to adjust their strategies, whether to capitalise on the continuation signalled by a BOS or prepare for a trend reversal suggested by a CHoCH.

What Is a Market Structure Shift?

MSS, meaning a Market Structure Shift, is an indicator of a significant change in the prevailing trend, marked by a series of patterns that suggest a reversal is imminent. An ICT MSS is more than a simple Change of Character (CHoCH); it includes additional signals that strengthen the case for a directional change.

The process begins with a shift in market structure that fails to sustain the ongoing trend. For example, during an uptrend, the market might fail to make a new higher high, instead forming a lower high. This initial deviation raises a caution flag about the trend’s strength.

The confirmation of an MSS in trading occurs when there is a decisive break of a significant swing point, accompanied by a strong impulse move that deeply penetrates through this point, known as a displacement. This displacement is critical—it’s not merely a slight breach but a robust move that clearly indicates a shift.

In essence, an MSS signals that the current market momentum has not only paused but is likely reversing. For traders, this is a pivotal moment: the lower highs in an uptrend or the higher lows in a downtrend prior to the break suggest that a new opposite trend is starting to take shape.

How to Use a Market Structure Shift in Trading

An MSS ultimately serves as a directional tool. It helps traders understand when a potential trend reversal is underway, enabling them to align their strategies with the new market direction.

To effectively use an MSS in trading, traders often follow these steps:

  • Observing Current Market Structure: They start by analysing the existing trend direction and key price levels. Understand whether the market is in an uptrend, downtrend, or sideways movement by identifying patterns of higher highs and higher lows or lower highs and lower lows.
  • Watching for a Break in Key Levels: The core of an MSS is the break of an important high or low, combined with a sharp price movement that breaches a significant swing point (displacement).
  • Confirming with News Releases: MSS often coincides with major economic announcements or news releases that can affect market sentiment significantly. For example, if there's a report indicating unexpectedly high US inflation rates, and this correlates with a sharp downward movement in EURUSD, it provides additional confirmation of the MSS. A stronger dollar against the euro, in this case, would signal a clear shift in market direction towards favouring the dollar.

By recognising these elements, traders can more confidently anticipate and adapt to changes in market direction. A well-identified MSS not only indicates a pause in the current trend but also the establishment of a new trend.

Using Market Structure Shifts With Other ICT Components

Using Market Structure Shifts with other Inner Circle Trader methodology components like break of structure, order blocks, and fair value gaps may enhance a trader's ability to interpret and react to market dynamics. To see how these components interact, consider following along in FXOpen’s free TickTrader platform.

Integrating MSS with ICT Market Structure

An MSS identifies a potential reversal in the market’s direction. When an MSS occurs, it often leads to the formation of a new high-low range in the direction of the new trend. For example, if a bearish MSS results in a new lower high and lower low, traders can watch for a BOS of this range. A retracement back inside of the new range can signal a decent area to search for an entry to ride the trend that’s just beginning.

Utilising Order Blocks and Fair Value Gaps

However, there are scenarios where the price doesn’t establish a new high-low range but instead returns to the area where the original displacement occurred. This displacement often leaves behind a fair value gap and an order block.

  • Fair Value Gap: This is a price range that the market skips over quickly during a displacement, leaving it untested by typical market trading. It often acts like a vacuum, drawing the price back to fill in the gap at a later stage.
  • Order Block: An order block is typically a consolidation area that precedes a strong price move and is considered a footprint left by institutional traders. It represents levels where significant buying or selling occurred, potentially acting as support or resistance in future price movements.

If the price returns to fill a fair value gap and enters the order block, this scenario can provide a potent setup for a reversal. Traders might look for confirmatory signals at these levels to enter trades that anticipate the market returning to its previous course or extending the reversal initiated by the MSS.

The Bottom Line

The insights provided on MSS and its application within the ICT trading framework can be instrumental for any trader seeking to navigate the complexities of the market effectively. To put these strategies into practice and potentially improve your trading outcomes, consider opening an FXOpen account, where advanced tools and resources are readily available to support your trading journey.


What Is a Market Structure Shift?

A Market Structure Shift (MSS) indicates a potential reversal in market trends, marked initially by a lower high in an uptrend or a higher low in a downtrend, followed by a displacement—a significant and rapid price movement that decisively breaks through a key market level.

How to Identify Market Structure Shift

Identifying an MSS involves observing for early signs of trend weakening (lower highs or higher lows) and waiting for a subsequent displacement that confirms the shift. This displacement should significantly penetrate a key swing point, clearly indicating a new direction in market momentum.

What Is the ICT Method of Trading?

The ICT (Inner Circle Trader) method of trading is a comprehensive approach that utilises various trading concepts such as market structure, order blocks, and fair value gaps, focusing on how institutional traders influence the market. It emphasises understanding and leveraging these components to align trading strategies with probable market movements.

What Is the Difference Between MSS and BOS in ICT?

In ICT, a Market Structure Shift (MSS) refers to a potential trend reversal, confirmed by a lower high/higher low followed by a displacement. A Break of Structure (BOS), however, simply indicates the continuation or acceleration of the current trend without necessarily suggesting a reversal, marked by the breach of a key high or low point within the ongoing trend direction.

This article represents the opinion of the Companies operating under the FXOpen brand only. It is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, or recommendation with respect to products and services provided by the Companies operating under the FXOpen brand, nor is it to be considered financial advice.

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