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Monday, December 30, 2013

Technical Analysis - Introduction to Candlesticks

Japanese candlesticks give us a better understanding of value, or more precisely, the interpretation of value given to any instrument by investors and traders than any other type of chart. They also help us have a better understanding of the psychology of traders and investors driven by fear, greed and hope, since all these characteristics are represented in price movements.
Before going through candlesticks patterns and how to trade based on them, we should first understand what different candlesticks represent by themselves.

Long candlesticks 

Long candlesticks describe strong buying/selling pressure. Price had a sharp advance/decline from the open price (traders were aggressive).

When we talk about “long” candlesticks, we are referring to the body of the candlestick.

Long Candlesticks

But, long compared to what?

We know it is long when we compare the action of any candlestick with the length of previous candlesticks. A “long” candlestick must be clearly identified in order to be a valid pattern, should there be any doubt, it is probable that the candlestick is not long “enough”.

Short candlesticks 

Short candlesticks could represent two things: not much volume or periods of indecision (demand meets supply.)

Short Candlesticks

Short candlesticks are also compared to previous action to assess the validity of the candlestick.


Marubozu candlesticks are strong candles. They have no shadows, this means that the open price equals the low/high of the period and the closing price equals the high/low of the period.

Marubozu Candlestick

The interpretation of this kind of candlesticks varies depending on where it was formed. If a bullish marubozu appears in a downtrend, it could signal a short-term reversal (bulls took control of the situation from the first minute to the last.) If a bullish marubozu appears at the top the range, it could signal a final push up, it all depends on preceding candlesticks. The same is true for a bearish marubozu.

If the marubozu breaks through an important support or resistance level, the market is likely to continue on the way of the “break through”.

Doji candlesticks 

Doji candlesticks represent periods of indecision, or fierce battle between bulls and bears.

Doji Candlesticks

Doji candlesticks are formed when the open price and the close price are virtually the same (or very close). Ideally, the open and close prices should be equal, but remember, the important thing to capture here is the essence of the candlestick.
For instance, when the close and open price is similar, it shows us that as the price went up, sellers took control of the situation, and when prices went down, the buyers the control of prices.
Doji candlesticks alone are considered neutral, but should be a warning. If for instance, in a downtrend a doji candlestick is preceded by a long bull candlestick, then it could mean a possible reversal.

Spinning tops/bottoms
Spinning tops and bottoms have small bodies and long shadows usually larger than its body.
Spinning top and bottom

Spinning tops/bottoms, as dojis, represent periods of indecision and intensive action between bulls and bears, with no clear domination.

Spinning tops/bottoms are considered neutral until a long bull/bear candlestick appears after them.

Long-legged doji

Long upper and lower shadows, open and close prices are virtually the same.

These candlesticks also represent intensive action between bulls and bears, and no one was being able to take control over prices.

Dragonfly and Gravestone doji´s are Long-legged doji´s.

Dragonfly doji

Dragonfly Doji

Long lower shadow with open and closing prices near the top of the range. Bears took control first, but then bulls were attracted by cheaper prices then taking control of prices.

This candlestick is more bullish than bearish since the bears were not able to drive prices lower because bulls took control over prices, pushing them up.

Gravestone doji

Gravestone Doji

Long upper shadow with open and closing prices near the bottom of the range. Bulls took control of prices at the beginning, but then bears resurfaced gaining control taking the price near the low (and open) of the range.

This candlestick is slightly more bearish than bullish since bulls tried to take control over prices driving them higher first, but then the bears took control over them driving them back down.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Technical Analysis Trends and Range bound Conditions

One of the basic principles of technical analysis, as we have already discussed, is that the price (or market) trends. But what exactly does that mean? Or more importantly, when is the market trending?
It is said that the market is trending when price action reaches –
UPTRENDING - successive higher highs and higher lows on its way up
DOWNTRENDING - lower lows and lower highs on its way down.
Here is a chart trending up

And here is a chart trending down

Chart 1 and 2 are clear examples of trending markets.
Another important question traders should answer is, when is the market not considered to be trending?
That leads us to the next concept...

Range Bound and Ranging Markets
The market is not trending when it is not following a clear direction (up or down). This is condition is also called as sideways or trendless markets.
Now, the market could be ranging in two different ways: when there are well defined extreme levels (support and resistance zones are well established) or when the market has no defined extreme levels.
Here is a sideway market with no well defined extremes.
Range Bound Market

As you can see, the market is not following any direction. It keeps ranging back and forth, making higher highs but also lower lows with no consistent pattern. When the market is ranging like this it is very difficult to trade.
Here is a ranging market with well defined extremes:
Ranging Market

When the market is ranging this way, trading it is relatively easier, traders tend to buy around the support zone and sell around the resistance zone.

Trendlines are very important tools for trend identification, confirmation and to measure the intensity of the trend.
Trendlines are lines connecting two or more important points when price has bottomed or topped and then it is extended to the future where it is expected to act again as a support or resistance zone. So we can say trendlines are support and resistance lines with either and upward (uptrends) or downward (downtrends) slope.
Let’s take a look at some charts.
Uptrend trendline: two or more higher lows connected (upward slope), identifying an uptrend.

There are four points (higher lows) connecting this up-trendline. As long as the market keeps trading above the trendline the uptrend is intact. If a sustained break below the trendline happened, a reversal, a correction or a consolidation period (range) is plausible. 

Downtrend trendline:
                      two or more lower highs connected (downward slope).

Here we have a downtrend trendline; it suggests that the demand for the given instrument is decreasing even when the prices are falling. Four points (lower highs) connect the trendline indicating a downtrend. As long as the price stays below the trendline, the trend stays intact. But as we see, the trendline is violated indicating that the market will reverse, consolidate or have a correction.

Two more points:
- The intensity of the trend is measured by the slope of the trendline. The steeper the trendline the stronger the trend is and the more likely prices are to react at extreme levels.
- The significance of trendlines depends on how many times price has bounced off from it: the more times the price has bounced from the trendline, the more significance the trendline has and the more likely it is to hold the price from breaking it.

At the beginning of this section we mentioned trendlines are like support and resistance zones, and it’s true because the same rules apply for both of them:
- A sustained break above/below the trendline need to happen before the trendline gets violated.
- When the market approaches to the trendline, we should think the market will get rejected from it.
- Once a trendline gets violated, it could become a resistance if it was a support and vice versa.
- Some times it can be difficult to find a trendline even when the markets are trending
- Trendlines should be part of the analysis and not the tool to make the final decision to get in or out the market. It will produce better results when used in combination with other technical tools.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Forex Trading, Technical Analysis - Support and Resistance

Establishing well-defined support and resistance zones is a key element that will help us have better trading results. Here are a few questions and answers that will help you gain a better understanding of the use of support and resistance zones.

Is there an exact level where support and resistance levels should be placed? 

No, as we have already seen, support and resistance are more like “zones” rather than “levels”. It is common however to place resistance zones just above price action and support zones just below price action, but some traders put them at or near price action. At times, it is difficult to find the exact level of support or resistance; in these cases it is valid to place support and resistance zones near price action (like we did in charts 1 and 2). 

What different methods exist to define support and resistance zones?

Based on Previous highs or lows
                                                  When ever the market approaches to previous highs or lows it has the potential to act as a resistance or support (you will see this in the next lesson on chart patterns). 

Round Numbers
                                    Many experts and bank traders put their orders at round numbers (entry orders or take profit orders) because there are so many orders around these levels that the market sometimes has some trouble getting through them. These levels tend to have a psychological support and resistance zones. Round numbers are 1.4500 or 1.0000, etc. 

Based on Moving Averages
                                                A moving average is a technical indicator that could be useful to determine support and resistance areas (we will see MA in more detail in the following lessons). 

Based on other technical indicators
                                               Other technical indicators can also be used to determine possible support or resistance areas, en example would be Fibonacci Retracements.

From the methods above, which one is more effective?
There is no correct answer for that question. Sometimes one methodology forecast support and resistance levels better than the other ones. What I recommend you is to see what is the market’s feel each day of trading, and see what is working for that particular day (i.e. there is no case to use round numbers as support or resistance if the market is not taking them in consideration).

What are false breaks?
Take a look at the chart below:
False Break

This chart is the same one as Chart 2, take a close look at what happen in the red oval, the market actually traded above the support zone but it bounced back. This is what we call a false break: the market fails to trade consistently above/below a resistance or support zone.

Whenever the market approaches to a support or resistance zone, what should I do?
That depends in your situation. Here are a few scenarios:
- If you have no open positions and intend to go long, if the market approaches to a support zone, try to find a long signal.
- If you have no open positions and intend to go short, if the market approaches to a resistance zone, try to find a short signal.
- If you have a long position and the market approaches a resistance level, try to find an exit signal.
- If you have a short position and the market approaches to a support level, try to find an exit signal.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Technical Analysis - Support and Resistance

These two are probably the most important concepts in technical analysis. Basically, support and resistance are points or levels where forces of supply and demand meet.
As the prices go down, the demand for one given instrument tends to increase, because it attracts buyers interested in cheaper prices. At some point, the demand for the given instrument will outperform the supply for it, making the price bounce back up from certain zone (support). This makes the price go up again, but there is again a certain zone in which the price is so high that it attracts more sellers interested in selling high. At this point, the supply for that instrument will outperform the demand for it, making prices to bounce back down again (resistance).
Every one of us (at least must of us) have seen a demand curve back in our school and college days, so it will probably be a good idea to illustrate these two concepts with the famous curve.
Take a look at the following image.
Supply and Demand and Support and Resistance

Imagine that curve is the demand for EURUSD, as the price goes down it will attract:
- Buyers interested in low prices (buying low to sell high), and
- Traders already short looking to take profits on their short positions.
Those two forces will make the market to go back up again because the demand for it will increase, that zone is what we call “support”.
As the prices go up again, it will attract:
- More sellers interested in high prices (to sell high and buy back at low prices), and
- Traders already long looking to take profits on their long positions.
Those two forces will make the price go down again, that zone is what we call “resistance”.
And what happens when the market breaks one support or resistance? Ahh Sharp eye... we will get to that. But for now, here is a brain feeder for you.
How do you think the market behaves when the supply for one currency meets the demand for it over a considerable period of time?
Remember, support and resistance are more like “zones” rather than “levels”. So even if we refer to “support and resistance levels”, from now on they are really zones.
Now let’s get to some real life examples.

Support Zone
A support is a price level or zone in which the demand for one given instrument outperforms its supply, preventing prices from falling below this zone. It “supports” the price from falling below it. 

Support Zone

this chart, the support zone is marked by the black line. There were several points where the market was stopped from falling below. At this level, the buyers (bulls) outperformed the sellers (bears) and the buying becomes so strong that it prevents the price from falling further.

Resistance Zone
A resistance is a price zone in which the supply for a given instrument is greater than the demand for it. This prevents prices from going above this level. The price “resists” going higher. 

Resistance Zone

In the chart above, the level at which the bears outperformed the bulls is clearly seen and it’s market with a black line. At this level, the selling (product of traders attracted by the high prices and traders closing long positions thus selling back their trade) is so strong that it prevents the price from reaching higher levels. At this zone bears outperform bulls.
NOTE: Support and resistance levels are only considered to be broken when there is a sustained break, otherwise the level is considered intact, so when prices break through any important level and bounces back quickly (like the third peak on chart 2), the important level is still considered valid.
This takes us to our next concept...

Sustained Breaks
A sustained break happens when the prices are traded above the resistance or below the support zone for several periods. Should this happen, the old resistance now becomes an important support (in the case of a break “up”) or the old support becomes an important resistance (in a break “down”).
Below are two examples that picture these scenarios
Support zone becomes a resistance.
Sustained break

The support zone is clearly seen at the left hand side of the chart, the price is rejected from that zone at least two times. Once the market breaks the support zone and continues to trade below the support zone it is considered a sustained break. The market goes down and retraces again to the support zone which is now a resistance zone. The price action gets rejected once, and on the last part of the chart, the market approached again to the resistance zone and it should be rejected again as it is now a resistance zone.
In the next chart, a resistance zone becomes a support.
Resistance becomes support

Here the sustained break happened when the market traded continuously above the resistance zone, as we can see the resistance zone became a support zone preventing the market from falling below it. This creates a possible buying opportunity.
When the price of a certain market breaks the support or resistance level, the balance between supply and demand has changed. When the price breaks an important support level, what investors thought to be a low price, now becomes a high price. When the price breaks an important resistance level, what was thought to be a high price, becomes a low price.
In terms of the demand curve this is what happens when there is a break of a resistance zone:
Shift in Demand Curve

There is a shift to the right in the demand curve when there is a break of an important level. “The balance between demand and supply changes”, what was once considered “high”, is now considered “low”.
We just saw what would happen to the demand curve once the market breaks a resistance zone, but what would happen if the market breaks a support zone?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Technical Analysis - Types of Forex Charts

Charts are prices, plotted over one specific timeframe. Vertical axes represent the price of one given instrument, while the horizontal axis represents the time horizon.
The most common types of charts used by technical analysts are:
  • Line chart
  • Bar chart
  • Candlestick chart

Line Chart
The line chart consists of dots connected by a line. These dots usually record the closing prices of currencies on one determined timeframe. 

Line Chart

The line charts are commonly used by traders whose main focus is to study only closing prices.

Bar Chart
The bar chart gives us more information regarding price at any given moment. It records the high, low, open and close price of one security during any given period.
Bar Chart

The high and the low are represented by the top (high) and the bottom (low) of the vertical line. The open price is represented by the short horizontal line on the left, while the close price is represented by the short horizontal line on the right

Bar Chart

On the chart above, every bar represents 30 minutes of price action. The top and bottom of each bar represent the highest and the lowest price of every period (30 minutes). The horizontal lines represent the open and the close of each 30 minutes bar

Candlestick Charts
Candlestick charts are very similar to the bar charts, they also record the open, close, high and low price of every period. The only difference is that candlesticks have a body on each bar.

Every “white” (or hollow) candlestick indicates that the price closed higher than where it opened. Thus the open price is the bottom of the body (not the whole candlestick), and the close price is the top of the body. In contrast, every black candlestick indicates that the price closed lower than where it opened. Thus the open price is the top of the body and the close price is at the bottom of the body.
The wicks above and below the body of the candlestick are called “shadows” or “wicks”, they represent the highest (upper wick) and the lowest (lower wick) price printed for each period. 

Candlestick Chart

Candlestick charting has become very popular for traders. The main reason for this is because it is easier to read and study the relationship of prices (and investor’s psychology) on this type of charting.
Later in our courses we will see more about candlesticks, we will learn what each one of them represent as well as other patterns that could help us make a better trading decision. We will get to that!