Understanding Trading Chart Time Frames

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If you open up a Forex trading platform you will probably see a set of tabs that look like M1, M5, M15, M30, H1, H4, D1, W1, and MN. What these tabs do is to set your trading window to a particular time frame ranging from 1 minute, all the way up to one month.

For novice traders the concepts of multiple time frames can be very confusing. But once you learn how they work, you can decide how to best use the different trading chart time frames in your own trading strategies.

There are a couple of simple concepts when trying to understand how the trading chart time frames work separately, yet together. If you click on the AUD/USD H4, then quickly switch to the AUD/USD M15, you are looking at the same trade at different points or moments in the movement of that trade.

One way to think about this is like looking at something through a microscope. If someone puts a blood drop on a slide and looks at it under the lens they will see smaller particles within the blood that they couldn’t see with the naked eye. If they use the magnification lens on the microscope and turn it to 40X or 100X power, then they could see even more details of the individual cells within the blood. It doesn’t change the blood; it just gives you a more detailed look.

Trading Chart Time Frames

Multiple time frames are like that too. The trade is the same on the M5 as on the H4 you can just see it with greater detail on the lower time frames. It is like a micro versus macro view point.

The logical mind would then want to reason that if the trend is moving down on the H4, then it should be the same on the M5. When newbies shift around to the different times and see that they aren’t always the same, they get confused.

If you were mapping out a road trip from Raleigh, North Carolina to Los Angeles, California you would notice your driving route will not go in a straight line. Roads leading from one place to another, especially if they are long trips, will not go in a straight line.

There are obstacles like mountains, waterways, and cities that prevent a linear approach to a road trip. There will be times where you will have to drive northward or southward in order to end up west.

It is the same with longer and shorter time frames. The D1 is your long-term destination and the shorter time frames are your individual roads. Although the daily trend may be down, there will be lots of up and down moves to get there.

Understanding these concepts will help you to understand how the time frames work together and individually. Trading an hourly system like the Cornflower Blue, the long term destination is what the H1 shows. But you can use the M15 and the M5 to show you a better entry or exit point. Knowing how to read the different time frames will also help you decide the best trading plan and what kind of trader you are.

Scalpers look for quick, small trades. They will not be trading on the M30 or H1 time frame because they create new candles or bars too slowly to know what is happening minute by minute. A scalper sticks to short time frames like the M5. An intraday trader will stick to the H1, or in some cases the H4 time frame, for their systems, because the moves are slower but bigger. Swing traders like the really big moves so they like to use the D1 or possibly the W1 time frame, depending on their trading strategy.

Pros and Cons of the Different Time Frames:

Pros and Cons of Different Time Frames

Short-term time frames

Pros: More trade opportunities by only needing to hold a trade a short term. You also won’t be holding trades over night and have the fees and possible reverses when you are not watching.

Cons: You can’t really employ a strategy as the moves happen too fast for analysis and set ups. The trades are small and more numerous, so your fees will be higher due to frequent trading. Moves happen so fast it can be easy to get stopped out by spikes and small reversals. The trading will be intense due to quick short moves and the need to have amazing timing.

Median time frames

Pros: You will be able to use solid trading methods and have time to analyze the trades. You will still have opportunities for multiple trades within a day. Moves are slower and you can usually see reversals or stalls and have time to react intelligently.

Cons: You will still have more trading fees because of frequent transactions. Your entry and exits may not be as precise.

Long-term time frames

Pros: The chance to look at longer term trends and make larger amounts of pips. Less likely to get stopped out because of reversals or sudden market changes. You have more time to watch the trade and make wise, less emotionally driven decisions. Not as many trades made, so you will have less transaction costs.

Cons: There will be less trading opportunities. Trades will be held overnight so you are subject to those fees. With less trading opportunities you need to make sure your system works really well on the longer time frame, as you will naturally get fewer setups while swing trading.

There is no right or wrong, best or worst trading chart time frames to trade on. Like other smart trading decisions you use the time frame that best works with your trading style and system. But realize that just because you concentrate on one particular time, doesn’t mean the others won’t be of great benefit to you. Take the time to observe and understand how they all work together, so you can be as successful a trader as you aim to be.

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