Many days during the summer you will find the trading really slows down. There's a slow tape. This means opportunities are difficult -- but not impossible -- to come by.
It is on these slow days that we should use the time to really shape up our minds, even if our portfolios are not riding high. There will be many days where you won't find trading ideas or they just won't be the right ones. In those cases, we need to take advantage, so when the environment improves we are ready.
How do we know when the tape is weak? Just observe a trading day when prices are poor, volume is low, momentum is absent and volatility is muted. We hope for some movement but it just is not there. Money flows are a major reason, when the big institutions that gather cash (like mutual funds, banks, hedge funds) have little to invest. It simply means the market may be tired and is due for a pullback, nothing more and nothing less.
The tape slows down when the trend halts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's a dangerous time to be trading. Fills are not easy, gaps exist in the bid/ask spread that are wider than normal. Further, we have extreme moves, as there is little price depth. Simply put, stops are taken out up and down the tape, because there is little defense for prices (think shallow vs. deep water).
What I will do in these situations is take a break. I may go for a walk, read a bit more, write some things down or catch up on chart studies that I have been putting off. I will push myself to do something extra that will make me a better trader, even if it's not trading. Remember, we don't always have to be trading, whether the tape is weak or strong.
One of my main objectives in a slow tape is to turn off the noise. By this I mean to pay attention to the action in the markets and not the media presentation. This will keep me out of harm's way and not doing something I'll regret later. Remember, the market will tell you more about what is currently happening.