This week’s question comes from Thambirajah, who asks:
When there are conflicting trends as you mentioned in the last Q&A post – such as the daily time frame in an uptrend and weekly or monthly in a downtrend – how do you determine which one to follow?
The answer to this question will vary depending on who you ask.
It varies because it depends on your individual style of trading. Everything from the time frame you utilize to your particular outlook for a given currency pair.
For purposes of this lesson, we’re going to focus on something called a time horizon. And while a time horizon in the financial markets usually applies to equity investments, it’s just as applicable to trading Forex.
Note that a time horizon can also be called a holding period. The meaning of the two terms is virtually identical.
What is a Time Horizon?
In the financial world, the term time horizon describes the length of time an asset is held. It’s the period between the initial entry or acquisition and liquidation.
As mentioned above, the term usually refers to the holding period of investments rather than short-term trades.
But for the Forex trader, defining how long you intend to hold positions is just as important as it is for the long-term investor.
After all, it’s part of your identity as a player in the Forex market.
How Should You Determine Your Time Horizon?
For me, a typical holding period is anywhere from a couple of days to four weeks. While I have had a few trades last more than a month, it certainly isn’t the norm.
This is my time horizon because I mostly trade the 4-hour and daily charts. I do take the occasional 1-hour setup, but 90% of what I do takes place on the 4-hour and daily time frames.
You can probably see by now why I said your time horizon depends on the time frame you utilize.
On the other hand, if you trade the 30-minute charts, odds are you won’t be holding a position for four weeks. Instead, your average holding period might range from a couple of hours to a few days.
Let’s apply this line of thinking to the various trends that exist in the financial markets.
Long-Term, Intermediate and Short-Term Trends
In the equity markets, these are referred to as secular, primary and secondary trends. These terms are interchangeable with long-term, intermediate and short-term trends.
Let’s define each one.
- A long-term (secular) trend is one that lasts for 5 years or longer
- An intermediate (primary) trend is one that lasts for 1 year or longer
- A short-term (secondary) trend is one that lasts for a few weeks to a few months
Now, these various trends can sometimes be the same. If the long-term trend is down, the intermediate and short-term trends can also be down.
However, where traders tend to get tripped up is when there are conflicting signals. For instance, the long-term and intermediate trends are down, but the short-term trend is up.
So what do you do?
It all goes back to the time frame you utilize and your time horizon for a trade. If I’m faced with a situation where only the short-term trend is up, then I’m only interested in selling opportunities.
Remember that my time horizon ranges from a couple of days to four weeks, and sometimes longer. As such, I’m more interested in the larger swings in the market that compliment the intermediate and long-term trends.
Now, if you’re trading the 30-minute chart and that short-term bull trend lasts for a few weeks or months, there are probably several opportunities that you’ll want to take advantage of along the way.
It’s all about finding the right amount of momentum to compliment your style.
Let’s take a look at an example on the EURUSD. First up is the daily chart showing an intermediate downtrend.
This type of trend fits my style of trading and time horizon. As such, I’m only interested in selling opportunities. Anything else is against the trend according to my style of trading.
Now, here’s how the 30-minute chart has looked for several weeks.
If your trading style calls for short-term trades that last a few hours or maybe a day or two, you could technically look for buying opportunities within this short-term uptrend.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the way you trade. The time frame(s) you use and how long you intend to hold a position will dictate which trend(s) you pursue.
With that said, my experience has taught me that the best trades tend to materialize when all three trends align. It’s during these times that you can take full advantage of the momentum and allow your winners to run.
There are three types of trends. They are, long-term (5 years or longer), intermediate (1 year or longer) and short-term (a few weeks to a few months).
The trend you choose to trade depends on your trading style and time horizon. And the time frame you utilize will usually dictate how long you hold a position.
Finding your identity is a crucial step to becoming a successful Forex trader. Like anything in life, the only way to find what suits you is to study, practice and persevere.
Your Turn: Ask Justin Anything
I’d love for this new weekly Q&A to be successful and provide an invaluable repository of answers to common Forex questions.
To do that, I need your help.
Here’s what you can do to get involved and have your question answered in next week’s post:
- Ask questions. Post them in the comments below or Tweet them to me @JustinBennettFX
- Help me answer questions. If I missed something or if you have something to add, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Hi Justin. Thank you for your excellent articles and analysis….
I have a question for you: how you analyse the charts, I mean how you start to analyse and read a chart. Thank you again
This lesson should help: https://dailypriceaction.com/free-forex-trading-lessons/how-to-draw-support-and-resistance-levels
In relation to the above post regarding trend, can you go over how you determine which swing high and swing lows to choose to determine the most accurate picture of the trend.
I noticeed that in the eurusd chart above that for the first low chosen from the first high you waited for 2 swings down to determine the low, but after that it gets somewhat unclear which are the real swings!, is there a way to determine the real swings, hope this makes sense.
Hi Mike, I usually just eyeball it. In most cases, it’s the highs and lows that extend the farthest from the mean.
How good are emas (exponential moving average), Which day(s) would you consider a more reliable one n pivots where there are daily, weekly n monthly.
Thanks n Regards
Well, that depends on several factors including how you utilize them. I wrote a lesson here that should help: https://dailypriceaction.com/free-forex-trading-lessons/mean-reversion-guide-to-market-timing
Thanks for the Article. You have made the concept easier to visualize. Looking forward to the next post.
If I may, can I suggest that traders struggling to “eye-ball” support/resistance levels use the ZIG ZAG and SWING_ZZ indicators on MT4. Helps me to see these levels/HH/HL. Change the settings to 5 8 1
Great article mate. Really enjoyed reading that. Gave me some clarity, thanks Justin.
Thanks, Clive. Glad to hear you found it helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.
I really enjoyed the write up because it has helped me to clear some doubts in my trading.
Great Article thank you. You mention the best trades materialise when all three tends align. Do you refer to the daily, 4h and 30 minutes chart? If that is correct I would assume you only choose the 30 minute chart to time your entry?
Pleased to hear it, Tarek. I was referring to long-term, intermediate and short-term trends.
Whilst I was interested in the above issue,I have an issue of my own which raised itself when reading your article on small bodies.You define the length of the mother body as the distance between the ends of the wicks.I am a bit confused as was told to only consider the distance between the open and close.I suppose the important thing is to be consistent.However there is a difference in determining whether a body is small or not
Hi Michael, sorry but you’ll have to refresh my memory. I don’t recall writing about small bodies.
I am wondering you are not talking that much about the Pound Dollar despite the long,intermediate and short term trend aligning? Or am i the only one seeing this?
I mention the GBPUSD every weekend, but you’re right, it hasn’t been at the top of my priority list.
hi Justin, you said that you hold trades for few days or weeks, what do you do if you have an open trade already and there will be scheduled news? do you close your affected trades before the news?
Thanks for clarifying that Jb