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thinkorswim® Trade Flash: A Source for Potential Trading Ideas

Keep an eye on the “big fish” that are trading with the TD Ameritrade trade scanner, Trade Flash. Learn what the professionals are trading.

https://tickertapecdn.tdameritrade.com/assets/images/pages/md/Needle, haystack: Trade Flash offers streaming trading info on institutional trading activity
3 min read
Photo by Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Learn what the large traders are doing from the Trade Flash gadget on thinkorswim®
  • Gain additional insight by understanding how big trades are moving the stock market

  • Identifying large trades could help you find setups on a chart

It doesn’t matter whether you’re just starting out as a trader or are a seasoned pro: Sometimes the hardest part is finding trade candidates. Many traders say the market is often difficult to figure out and can sometimes distract them with random noise and mixed signals. With quarterly earnings releases, interest rate decisions, pandemics, policy shifts, and so on moving the markets, focusing on what to trade can be a challenge.

Don’t you wish there was a tool that could cut through all that and highlight potential trade opportunities in real time? Well, there is. It’s a “gadget” called Trade Flash on the thinkorswim® platform from TD Ameritrade.

You can find Trade Flash on the left sidebar of the thinkorswim platform. It streams all kinds of information about what large traders are doing—those whose volume can sometimes move markets. Trade Flash streams real-time intraday commentary from a network of more than 500 professional traders. Here’s some of the info that can pop up in a flash:

  • Events such as third-party analyst up/downgrades
  • Block trades
  • Trade imbalances
  • Events on the trading floor

Trade Flash also provides information about substantial price moves—each with detailed written context—as well as “unusual” trades. What type of activity might be deemed unusual? Flashes might highlight different combinations of price, volume, volatility, and liquidity—anything that might help you uncover what could be potential opportunities worthy of a second glance.

Setup Is a Flash

To add the Trade Flash gadget, log in to the thinkorswim platform, click on the plus (+) icon at the lower left of the side panel, and then select Trade Flash. Once you’ve added the gadget (see figure 1), you’ll begin to see “flashes” throughout the U.S. trading day, which cease shortly after the close of the market. Given the short shelf life of this type of information, flashes are removed overnight after each trading session.

Trade Flash offers insights into what the institutional players are doing

FIGURE 1: TRADE FLASH BY TD AMERITRADE. The Trade Flash gadget on thinkorswim offers insight into what the institutional players are doing. Image source: the thinkorswim platform from TD Ameritrade. For illustrative purposes only. Past performance does not guarantee future results.

Here’s a quick look at what Trade Flash tells you:

  • Trade Flash will show high-quantity trades as well as trades that result in a large delta.
  • You’ll see information about substantial price moves, including written context.
  • Symbols highlighted in blue are clickable, so if you see a symbol you’re interested in, you can promptly get more info.
  • All highlighted symbols support the thinkorswim right-click menu functionality in case you want to quickly create an alert.

And perhaps the most important part: If you want to take action on a symbol in Trade Flash, just select it in the feed and you’ll automatically be directed to the Trade tab. Another cool feature is the ability to link the symbols in Trade Flash to charts and watchlists. When you link to your watchlist, you can scroll through either your current account positions or another watchlist. You could pull up one of the built-in watchlists, such as Analyst Upgrades found under Lovers and Losers, or the Top 10 Active NYSE found under Top 10, and link it to Trade Flash. This way you get to see the big institutional trades and stocks that may be making large moves during the trading day.

What Might Move the Market?

When it comes right down to it, markets—and the stocks that make up markets—are driven by supply and demand. If you took Economics 101, one of the first lessons you learned was that the more buyers there are, the higher prices can go, and the more sellers there are, the lower prices can go.

The buyers and sellers who drive most of the market volume are typically institutional players, so it might be a good idea to watch their large trades and capital as it flows into and out of the stocks on your watchlist. That’s how using Trade Flash can help give you additional insight into the market.

What if you want to see trades that don’t quite meet the threshold to make it into Trade Flash? You could expand Options Time & Sales, which can be found beneath the Option Chain on the Trade tab. The biggest options trades of the day are listed at the top. They may not be as large the the ones you find on Trade Flash, but you get to see which options are trading actively during the trading day. 

So consider adding the Trade Flash gadget or check to see the biggest options trades of the day. They might help you gain some insight into what the big traders are doing and get a sense of what’s happening to stocks with actively traded options. These tools may just alert you to some potential opportunities you might not notice otherwise.


TD Ameritrade does not make recommendations or determine the suitability of any security, strategy, or course of action for you through your use of our trading tools. Any investment decision you make in your self-directed account is solely your responsibility.

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Key Takeaways

  • Learn what the large traders are doing from the Trade Flash gadget on thinkorswim®
  • Gain additional insight by understanding how big trades are moving the stock market

  • Identifying large trades could help you find setups on a chart

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Content intended for educational/informational purposes only. Not investment advice, or a recommendation of any security, strategy, or account type.

Be sure to understand all risks involved with each strategy, including commission costs, before attempting to place any trade. Clients must consider all relevant risk factors, including their own personal financial situations, before trading.

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Past performance of a security or strategy does not guarantee future results or success.

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