If you are looking to learn technical analysis you have landed at the right page. Forex Technical Analysis Tutorial will give you a strong foundation of professional technical analysis.
If you are a complete beginner to the trading space, we advise you to start from our Forex tutorial for beginners.
If you have some basic knowledge of the field, or even have good experience, I am confident that you will find value in this technical analysis tutorial.
The information contained in this technical analysis tutorial is the essence of accumulated trading and technical analysis experience from several technical experts.
We ask you to be patient while reading, especially in the beginning. If you feel that a topic is not clear, just keep going, it will be clearer by the end of the tutorial.
Note: We are using tradingview as our charting platform for this tutorial.
Technical Analysis: The Very Basics
Technical analysis is a method that employs chart analysis tools to forecast possible future price movement.
It is based on one major assumption that freely traded securities (such currencies, shares etc.) travel in trends and shape identifiable repetitive patterns.
This assumption is based on the fact that human feelings, behaviors and reactions are probably repetitive. And economic conditions move in cycles.
And since the price is determined by the people trading it, then the price will tend to have repetitive patterns. (We will discuss this more in the trends section).
Technical analysis is not a science. It is a way of finding tendencies. A “tendency for the price to move in a certain direction”, not “to actually move in a certain direction”.
Expecting sure outcomes from technical analysis forecasting is a great misconception. As expectations are subject to percentage of failure. Looking for holy grail system that generates 90 percent successful outcomes is imaginary.
Also, technical analysis can’t forecast unexpected extreme news events. such as a terrorist attack in Europe, or explosion in an oil field in Nigeria.
Technical analysts analyze and monitor the charts of securities to make trading or investment decisions.
What Are Charts
A chart is simply a visual (graphical) representation of data. It represents the price movement with time. A chart quickly transforms a table of data into a clear visual representation of the information.
Because a technical analyst is mainly concerned with studying the charts to recognize patterns and trends, he is also called “chartist”.
Charts have several benefits for traders, a few of them are:
- By viewing any security’s chart, you can see decades long of price history in few seconds.
- Charts can help you sense the character or behavior of the security you are analyzing. You can spot any repetitive behavior or pattern.
- Using charts is a must if you are planning to create a systematic trading strategy.
- Charts can help you find correlations between several securities.
Few terms before we start:
- Closing price: is the price where the last transaction happened for this security for a specific time frame. For example, the closing price for a “daily” period is the last price of the day.
The time period can be a day, a week, a month, or even intraday such as, one hour, or even one minute.
- Opening price: is the price where the first transaction happened for this security for a specific time frame. For example, the open price for a “daily” period is the first price of the day.
- Highest price: is the highest price that was reached within the period
- Lowest price: is the lowest price that happened within the period.
Charts come in different styles. The main types of charts are line, bar, and candlestick charts.
A line chart is simply a line that connects closing price for the security. For example, if the price of instrument “X” closed the trading day two days ago at $50, and closed yesterday’s trading day at $51, then closed today at $53. We can represent these numbers visually by a line graph that connects closing prices as illustrated in the image below.
This is the most basic chart type. To construct a line chart for any security, you only need the closing price for that security for every time period.
The one-hour line chart is simply a line that connects the closing price (last transaction price) for every hour. While a weekly line chart connects the closing price for every week.
The line charts only provide part of the information, as they only show the closing price of the instrument, ignoring other important information – such as at what price the trading period opened or the highest price that instrument traded at during this period.
The bar charts takes this information into consideration . The bar chart represents the open, close, high and low for the security the specified time frame.
Every bar is a horizontal line. The highest point in the bar is the highest price that was recorded during the time period and the lowest point is the lowest price. The left vertical notch is the opening price of the time period, and the right vertical notch is the closing price.
Note: You can change the time period on the main horizontal toolbar in the metatrader or tradingview platforms.
The candlestick charts are like the bar charts; however, they are just thicker. The horizontal bar is wider and that makes candlestick charts more visual.
If the candle is red or black(filled), then it is a down candle. That means the opening price is higher than the closing price..
If the candle is white, blue (or hollow sometimes), it is an up candle. That means the opening price is lower than the closing price.
The long thin upper and lower lines are the high and low and called shadows or wicks of the candle.
There are two main types of chart scales. The linear and the logarithmic.
The linear scale is the default scale for all charting platforms. Where the vertical price scale, represent the dollar amount change in price. The distance between prices are equal, i.e.- the distance between $1 and $2 is equal to the distance between 9$ and 10$.
This is an example char of both scales of the bitcoin price.
Same chart but on a logarithmic scale :
On the logarithmic scale, the vertical distance represents the percentage change in price.
That is- the distance between $1 and $2 is larger than the distance between $9 and $10. Because the percentage of movement from $1 to $2 is 100%, while from $9 to $10 is near 10 percent. So, the distance between $1 and $2 will be 10 times larger on the chart price scale.
In the below chart, the distance between $190 and $200 is compared with the distance between $460 and $470. While both have $10 change, the distances are different.
The rule of thumb for when to use a logarithmic scale is when the security’s price makes sharp parabolic movement. Also, it is better to use it if analyzing charts with long history. See the long term weekly chart for the same instrument on a linear and logarithmic scale below.
In most cases you will be using the linear charts, unless you will be analyzing a very long term history of an instrument. Note that all chart examples in this Technical Analysis Tutorial will be linear charts.
Now let’s dive into the main core of this part. The tools of technical analysis.
Important Note: Most examples we introduce in this tutorial have successful outcomes. However, that doesn’t mean that these tools and patterns are failure-proof, they are NOT. We just don’t see value in showing examples of failed patterns.
Technical Analysis: Trends, Support and Resistance
If you hit the google search looking for the term “Trend”, one of the first results should be “A general direction in which something is developing or changing”. The trend is a dominant bias in any aspect of life.
For example, we could say that the trend for classic 19th-century men caps is strongly dominant these days. And that basically means that a lot of demand is going on for 19th-century men caps that make them a theme these days, weeks or months.
Demand is always the main driver for any product. Price and supply are the other parts of the equation. The interaction between the three is constantly changing and make up the market.
In the financial markets (Whether in Forex, Stocks, or any other asset class), any financial instrument price is driven by demand and supply.
The instrument is said to be in an uptrend when there is enough demand to make it move higher for a period of time.
What creates those trends is some major underlying fundamental and economic factors. Major factors like monetary policy outlook can impact securities persistently for a period of time, creating long term trends.
Technical analysis is not concerned with the factors behind a trend, or the reasons behind the change in the prices of the instrument under analysis.
The reasons behind the price movement can vary widely, from political, economical, investors expectations and emotions, and many more. In most cases, these factors, and their interpretation can’t be accurately expected or gauged.
Technical analysis is concerned with the price itself as it reflects all these factors(price discounts everything) and therefore no additional information is necessary.
Studying the price movement for decades, practitioners observed a repetitive behavior that is dominant across all asset classes. The main cornerstone for technical analysis is based on this one main idea of trends.
The most basic and fundamental assumption that technical analysis relies on is that the prices of freely traded securities that have sufficient trading volume -move in trends and trends tend to continue rather than reverse.
Technical analysis is the art of identifying a trend at an early stage and maintain a trade position until evidence indicate that the trend has reversed.
Simply stated, a trend is a directional movement of the price that can be to the upside, downside, or just horizontally(Sideways).
The directional trend is a dominant motion in one direction that is interrupted by smaller moves in the opposite direction, these opposite moves are called corrections or pullbacks(We will discuss corrections further later in this tutorial).
In many instances, a trend can be spotted by bare eyes. However, for professional technicians and this technical analysis tutorial, it’s not just about the general directional move. The practitioner needs to be more specific, and use structured methods for trend identification.
let’s discuss the most popular and reliable method; identifying the structures for each trend type.
Directional Uptrend And Downtrend
An uptrend, also called bullish trend, in its general definition is a directional move to the upside that can be spotted visually. Technically, an uptrend should have a distinctive structure of consecutive waves, where each wave surpasses the prior wave.
An uptrend is a series of higher highs(peaks) and higher lows(troughs). Where each high surpasses the previous high, and each low is above or equal to the prior low. Each major upside wave is followed by a downside correction.
A Downtrend, also called a bearish trend is the exact opposite of an uptrend. It is a series of lower highs and lower lows. Where each low surpasses the previous low and each high is lower or equal to the prior high.
– The terms peak, high or swing high have the same meaning. As well as trough,low and swing lower.
– The terms up equals bullish and down equals bearish.
We will be using all these terms interchangeably throughout the tutorial.
Before moving to a real-life trend example, we need to explain three more key concepts, support & resistance, breakouts and corrections.
Support & Resistance
The troughs and peaks that the price establishes -while trending-are support and resistance levels.
These levels are extremely important as they reflect a change of equilibrium between supply and demand. Indicating a shift of psychology from a selling interest to buying interest or from buying interest to selling interest.
Support and resistance determine when trends have reversed in the past and are a clue as to when they will reverse in the future.
For instance, if supply is higher than demand, the price of an instrument falls. As the price reaches a support level below, demand increases again to exceed supply forcing the price to reverse direction and move higher.
The opposite is true for resistance. If the price was rising due to higher demand, the area at which the price reverses to the downside reflects a change from higher demand to higher supply and thus the price reverses direction, making this level as resistance.
Support and resistance are levels where the price tends to stop and reverse direction. Resistance is a level above the price, where supply gets strong enough to exceed demand, forcing the price to move back lower.
Oppositely, support is a level below the price. where demand gets strong enough to exceed supply, forcing the price to move back higher.
Resistance usually turns to support when a breakout completes(Breakout means penetration. We will explain what is a breakout shortly),as illustrated in the chart below. The opposite is true when a breakout below support materializes, support usually turns into resistance. This is a very important phenomenon.
Here is a real life chart example:
Support and Resistance Zones
When the price forms multiple highs or lows near but not at the exact level then the whole area should be marked support or resistance, and it is called a support or resistance zone.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Here is an example chart:
What is a Breakout?
A breakout is simply a move beyond a price level – typically a support or a resistance. A breakout usually signals a major move ahead or a change of a trend.
Many technicians have their own methodology in identifying a valid breakout. For some traders, a breakout above or below a level is merely the price ability to trade above or below that level.
For example, if a trader identifies 1.3000 as an important level for the EURUSD, and the price trades just above that level at 1.3001, he/she might consider this a valid breakout! Although this approach might be valid for some, it’s not optimal.
The Closing Filter
Many technicians use the closing technique to confirm a valid breakout. Simply stated, the price must close above or below a specific level on the time interval being analyzed to confirm a valid breakout.
We prefer this method, and it will be the default method in this technical analysis tutorial. Simply, for a breakout to be valid there should be a closing above or below the level for the time interval being analyzed.
The Percentage Filter
Another method traders use is based on the price ability to move minimum percentage points beyond a certain level. An arbitrary number of 1 or 2 percent is common.
However, it’s is more efficient to decide on this percentage based on the nature of the underlying instrument under analysis. For example, some instruments are more volatile than others and may require a wider filter of 3 percent.
A false breakout is simply when the price of an instrument successfully breaks below/above support or resistance but fails to maintain the move for a sufficient distance, and the moves back in the opposite direction.
Specialist breakout is a form of false breakout. It is called specialist because it is believed that this breakout is a result of manipulation from big players in the market, such as big market makers. Where the price breaks a significant resistance or support level, to trigger stop loss order placed above or below that level, then move back in the opposite direction leaving traders with loss.
Also forcing the public to believe that the price is heading in the breakout direction, then they would sell to make profit.
Forex Directional Trend Chart Example
Let’s get back to our directional trends. Here is a real-life example of a Downtrend on NYMEX Crude Oil Daily Chart. This chart example is intended to help you identify the downtrend correctly(Same procedure goes for an uptrend).
It might look confusing at first sight, however, if you start reading the chart from the left-hand side and move with the price action it should make sense in no time.
If you start from the left-hand side of the chart and move forward with the price action, you will notice the clear structure of lower highs and lower lows(Downtrend). Which was maintained for the whole period we examined.
Note that in mid-October, there was a move higher beyond the prior swing high. But, for us, that wasn’t a valid breakout as the price has marginally closed above the previous high. Therefore the structure of the downtrend(lower highs and lower lows) was still intact.
As mentioned earlier, for the breakout to be valid, it should be clear and noticeable. If it doesn’t scream a breakout, do not take it.
Forex Sideways Trend
When the price movement go undefined, where a technician can’t spot any series of uniform higher highs and higher lows(uptrend). Or lower highs and lower lows(downtrend). Then it is a sideways trend.
When the highs and lows are mixed without a clear sequence, and they appear roughly near the same level, that would result in a horizontal movement and a shape that looks similar to a rectangle. In that case, the market is said to be sideways, flat, ranging, or trend-less. All names have the same meaning.
Here is an illustration of a sideways trend.
In the NYMEX Crude Oil chart example above, there was a period where the price entered a sideways trend. It was a part of the overall downtrend. Zooming into this period between September and early November we can extract the following sideways trend chart example:
A breakout of the sideways range in any direction usually signals a trading opportunity and a change in the trend.
Trends are Fractal
A fractal is a repetitive pattern. Fractals are infinite patterns that are self-similar across different scales.
Trends of different lengths tend to have the same characteristics. In other words, a trend in annual data will behave the same as a trend in five-minute data.
As a trader or investor, you must choose which trend is most important for you based on objectives and personal preferences, and the amount of time you can devote to watching market.
The chart above is a clear illustration of the fractal nature of trends. You can see multiple short term trends within one longer-term trend. If you zoom further into the price action, you will find inside these short term trends shorter trends and so on.
Remember: Long term trends are more reliable than short term ones. This is a general rule of thumb in technical analysis and for any technical analysis tool. The shorter the time interval the more unexpected and noisy it is. Why?
As I mentioned earlier in this tutorial, major and dominant demand trends are a result of major fundamental factors, these factors are usually persistent. While, in the short term, the price can be affected by any temporary factors, such as misinterpretation of data, irrational exuberance or false news.
Although the trend concept is easy to understand, its application is difficult and tricky.
Determining when that larger trend is reversing is a tough decision. Because the price oscillates back and forth in smaller trends along its travel in the larger trend. Therefore, any signs of reversal may only be for smaller trends(corrections) within the larger trend.
Remember: Several technical analysis studies and research found that an actual trend lasts only a short time. Probably less than 30 percent of the trading period. During the remaining time, prices remain in an indefinite trend or sideways trends.
While there is no study of the accuracy of this percentage, the main idea to keep in mind is that as a trader you should anticipate periods of sideways movement more than anticipating a uniform up or downtrends.
We will cover retracements in greater details later at this tutorial. For now, we need to understand some basic concepts.
Corrections are moves in the opposite direction of the overall trend that contains them. A correction can be seen as another trend with a smaller magnitude.
A correction or also called retracement, in a trend, can provide a new opportunity for the trend trader who missed the initial wave in the longer-term trend to jump onto it.
The stronger the trend, the shorter the retracements are. When the trend is strong, the corrections are usually short lived and limited to above 50% of the main trend.
Usually, but not always, breakouts are followed by retracements. i.e. sometimes the price breaks a support level to the downside and following the breakout it retraces back higher towards the broken support to retest it. This process is called a pullback.
Throwbacks are the opposite of pullbacks. The price breaks a resistance level and then retraces back lower to retest the broken resistance.
Note: You do not have to worry about the lingo. It is enough to know that both are retracements.
Note that the price may fail short just ahead of the support or resistance and resume the move in the direction of the breakout.
Trend Structure Break
We have just explained in the previous part this method of identifying trends using the peaks/troughs. This is the most important and widely used method. We mentioned that the trough and peaks are potential support and resistance levels. So what if the structure breaks?
A key warning the trend could be reversing or stalling is a breakout below the latest trough in an uptrend. Or latest peak in a downtrend.
While this break doesn’t guarantee a trend reversal(just like any other technical development), it is an important development that should be considered in your decision-making process.
Breaking the latest trough in an uptrend or peak in a downtrend is important by definition, as this break will invalidate the uptrend or downtrend structure. Thus, the price no longer has the structure of higher highs and higher lows and therefore the trend could be reversing.
Here is a chart example of a clear downtrend structure that was violated by breaking the latest high.
Trend structure break is our favorite trend reversal identification method in this technical analysis tutorial.