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Technical Analysis

What is Technical Analysis?

Technical analysis attempts to forecast future price movements by examining past market data.

Most traders use technical analysis to get a "big picture" on an investment's price history. Even fundamental traders will glance at a chart to see if they're buying at a fair price, selling at a cyclical top or entering a choppy, sideways market.

Technical analysts make a few key assumptions:

    * All market fundamentals are reflected in price data. Moods, differing opinions, and other market fundamentals need not be studied.

    * History repeats itself in regular, fairly predictable patterns. These patterns, generated by price movements, are called signals. A technical analyst's goal is to uncover a current market's signals by examining past market signals.

    * Prices move in trends. Technical analysts believe price fluctuations are not random and unpredictable. Once an up, down or sideways trend has been established, it usually will continue for a period.

Get in and get out - at the right time

Technical analysis can add discipline and minimise emotion in your trading plan. It can be hard to screen out fundamental impressions and stick with your entry and exit points as planned, but, technical analysis helps you see your trading plan more objectively and dispassionately.

Technical analysis can add discipline and minimise emotion in your trading plan. It can be hard to screen out fundamental impressions and stick with your entry and exit points as planned. While no system is perfect, technical analysis helps you see your trading plan through more objectively and dispassionately.

Price chart types

Bar charts

The most common type of chart showing price action. Each bar represents a period of time - a "period" as short as 1 minute or as long as several years. Over time, bar charts show distinct price patterns.

Candlestick Charts

Instead of a simple bar, each candlestick shows the high, low, opening and closing price for that period of time it represents. Candlestick patterns provide greater visual detail as they develop.

Point & Figure Charts

Point & figure patterns resemble bar chart patterns, except Xs and Os are used to mark changes in price direction. Point & figure charts make no use of time scale to associate a certain day with a certain price action.

Technical Indicator Types


Trend indicators smooth price data out, so that a persistent up, down or sideways trend can be easily seen. (Examples: moving averages, trend lines)


Strength indicators describe the intensity of market opinion on a certain price by examining the market positions taken by various market participants. Volume or open interest are the basic ingredients of strength indicators.


"Volatility" refers to the magnitude of day-to-day price fluctuations, whatever their directional trend. Changes in volatility tend to anticipate changes in prices. (Example: Bollinger Bands)


Cycle indicators indicate repeating market patterns from recurrent events such as seasons or elections. Cycle indicators determine the timing of a particular market pattern. (Example: Elliott Wave)


Support and resistance describes the price levels where markets repeatedly rise or fall and then reverse. This phenomenon is attributed to basic supply and demand. (Example: Trend Lines)


Momentum indicators determine the strength or weakness of a trend as it progresses over time. Momentum is highest when a trend starts and lowest when the trend changes.

When price and momentum diverge, it suggests weakness. If price extremes occur with weak momentum, it signals an end of movement in that direction. If momentum is trending strongly and prices are flat, it signals a potential change in price direction. (Example: Stochastic, MACD, RSI)


Using Technical Indicators

Price charts help traders identify trade-able market trends - while technical indicators help them judge a trend's strength and sustainability.

If an indicator suggests a reversal, confirm the shift before you act. That might mean waiting for another period to confirm the same indicator's signal, or checking out another indicator. Patience will help you read the signals accurately and respond accordingly.

Types of Moving Averages

One of the most widely used indicators, moving averages help traders verify existing trends, identify emerging trends, and view overextended trends about to reverse. As the name suggests, these are lines overlaid on a chart that "average out" short-term price fluctuations, so you can see the long-term price trend.

A simple moving average weighs each price point over the specified period equally. The trader defines whether the high, low, or close is used, and these price points are added together and averaged, forming a line.

A weighted moving average gives more emphasis to the latest data. It smoothes out a price curve, while making the average more responsive to recent price changes.

An exponential moving average weighs more recent price data in a different way. An exponential moving average multiplies a percentage of the most recent price by the previous period's average price.

Finding the best moving averages and period for your pair

It can take a while to find the best combination of moving average and period length for your currency pair. The right combination will make the trend you're looking for clearly visible, as it develops. Finding that optimal fit is called curve fitting.

Usually traders start by comparing a few timeframes for their moving averages over a historical chart. Then you can compare how well and how early each timeframe signaled changes in the price data as they developed, then adjust accordingly.

When you've found a moving average that works well for your currency pair, you can consider this as a line of support for long positions or resistance for short positions. If prices cross this line, that often signals a currency is reversing course. Here's an example:

Longer-term moving averages define a trend, but shorter-term moving averages can signal its shift faster. That's why many traders watch moving averages with different time frames at once. If a short-term moving average crosses your longer-term moving average, it can signal your trend is ending - and time to pare back your position.


Stochastic studies, or oscillators, help monitor a trend's sustainability and signal reversals in prices. Stochastics come in two types, %K and %D, measured on a scale from 0 to 100. %K is the "fast", more sensitive indicator, while %D is "slow" and takes more time to turn.

Stochastic studies aren't useful in choppy, sideways markets. In these conditions %K and %D lines might cross too frequently to signal anything.

Relative Strength Index (RSI)

Like stochastics, RSI measures momentum of price movements on a scale of 0 to 100.

Always confirm RSI signals with other indicators. RSI can remain at lofty or sunken levels for a long time, without prices reversing course. All that means is that a market is quite strong or weak - and likely to stay so for a while.

Adjust your RSI to the right timeframe for you. A short-term RSI will be very sensitive and give out many signals, not all of them sustainable; a longer-term RSI will be less choppy. Try to match your RSI timeframe to your own trading style: short-term for day traders, longer-term for position traders.

Divergences between prices and RSI may suggest a trend reversal. Of course, make sure you confirm your signals before acting.

Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands are volatility curves used to identify extreme highs or lows in price. Bollinger Bands establish "bands" around a currency's moving average, using a set number of standard deviations around the moving average. Creator Jon Bollinger recommends the following:

Touching a high or low band doesn't necessarily mean an immediate trend reversal. Bollinger Bands adjust dynamically as volatility changes, so touching the band just means prices are extremely volatile. Use Bollinger Bands with other indicators to determine the trend's strength.

Fibonacci Retracements

Fibonacci retracement levels are a sequence of numbers discovered by the noted mathematician Leonardo da Pisa in the 12th century. These numbers describe cycles found throughout nature; technical analysts use them to find pullbacks in the currency market.

After a significant price move, up or down, prices often "retrace" most or all of the original move. As prices retrace, support and resistance levels often occur at or near the Fibonacci Retracement levels. For currencies, that means retracements usually happen at 23.6%, 38.2%, 50% or 61.8% of the previous move.


Cashing in on Short-Term Currency Trends

Most of the time, markets don't show a clear trend - they bounce back and forth between support and resistance levels. This sideways movement is called a trading range. Below is a strategy that can help you identify entry points on short-term trends, while protecting your profits with trailing stops.

Trade Set-up

The strategy uses two charts with different time periods (10-minute and hourly), along with two technical indicators: a 200-bar moving average and a 14-bar slow stochastic study.

Step 1: Identify a trend

Compare the moving averages on both charts. A trend may be developing when price is consistently above or below the moving averages on both charts.

Step 2: Pinpoint entry

Once you've identified a trend, look for the following two conditions at the same time on the 10-minute chart:

1. Price is no more than 20 pips above (to buy) or 20 pips below (to sell) the moving average.

2. The "fast" stochastic (%K) crosses above the "slow" stochastic (%D) below 20 (to buy), or crosses below the "slow" stochastic above 80 (to sell).

Step 3: Ride the trend

Set a trailing stop after the trade entry.

On a LONG position, the stop order should be 10 pips BELOW the 200-period moving average on the 10-minute chart. You'll RAISE the stop as the trade goes in your favour.

On a SHORT position, place the stop 10 pips ABOVE the moving average. You'll LOWER the stop as the trade goes in your favour.

An example: EUR/USD, June 2002

Step 1: Compare the hourly and 10-minute EUR/USD charts.

On the hourly chart, price is almost exclusively above the 200-hour moving average, indicating a persistent uptrend.

On the 10-minute chart, price moves (and remains above) the moving average in the last third of the chart.

Step 2: Pinpoint the entry zone

When the market is within 20 pips of the moving average on the 10- minute chart, and the stochastic lines cross. As indicated in the chart, conditions are right around 8pm on June 27.

Buy EUR/USD at .9883

Protective t-stop set at .9858 (10 pips below MA)

Sell EUR/USD at .9992

Protective t-stop has moved up to .9967

Profit = 109 pips, or US $1090

+ Remember that contingent orders such as trailing stops may not necessarily limit your losses.


Using Indicators to Identify Trends

You've probably heard the expression "the trend is your friend" - but what does it mean? If your trend takes a sudden counter-move and your trailing stop activates at a loss, it's natural to ask yourself: how can you be sure the next trend will be more friendly?

Confirm the trend is real

Using technical indicators in combination can help ensure a potential trend has staying power - a good habit for all kinds of technical trading, but especially in Forex. Currencies tend to move in trends naturally due to long-term macroeconomic factors and short-term international capital flows. All of this makes it that much harder to see a trade-able trend that will last.


From a trader's perspective, a trend is a predictable price response at levels of support or resistance that change over time. Trendlines mark these levels, with support acting as the "floor" and resistance as the "ceiling". When prices break through either of these levels, that signals a trend for that movement to continue.

It's easy to draw perfect trendlines on historical charts - but harder to be right when the trend is still developing. Still trendlines help focus your attention on finding support and resistance levels, the first step to identifying a new trend.

Start by drawing trendlines over longer timeframes (daily or weekly charts) and then carry them forward into shorter timeframes (hourly or 4-hourly). That way you'll highlight the most important support and resistance levels first and not lose the major trend development by chasing a short-term, minor one.

Directional Movement Indicator (DMI)

Developed by J. Welles Wilder, the DMI minimises the guesswork in spotting trends and helps confirm trendline analysis.

The DMI system has two parts:

?ADX (average directional movement index). If the ADX reading is above 20, that indicates a "real" or sustainable trend. The ADX also measures the trend's strength: the higher the ADX, the stronger the trend.

The ADX also provides an early indicator of a trend's end. When it drops from its highest level, it may be time to exit the position and wait for a fresh signal from the the DI+/DI-.

?DI+ and DI- lines. When DI+ crosses up through DI-, that's considered a buy sign. When the opposite happens, that's usually a sell sign.

Wilder recommends following the "extreme point rule" to confirm the signals. Note the extreme point for that period in the direction of the crossover (the high if DI+ crosses up over DI-; the low if DI- crosses up over DI+). Only if that extreme point is breached in the subsequent period is a trade signal confirmed.

Many traders use the parabolic indicator along with the ADX to identify a trend's end. The parabolic indicator follows the price action but accelerates its own rate of increase over time and in response to the trend. The parabolic continually closes in on the price, and only a steadily accelerating price rise (the essence of a trend) will prevent the price from falling below the parabolic, signaling an end to the trend.

Trading short-term

The methods above can be used for short-term decision making, even in markets that are trading sideways - a "trendless" market.

However, if you're trading short-term, don't ignore the big picture entirely. There's no point in trying to ride a short-term trend that is counter to the larger trend.

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