Currency Trading- What Are The Best Chart Time Frames To Trade

As price action traders, we primarily study charts and price bars, and the price bars in each time frame show us the ‘emotion’ of price for that specific period of time. Whether it’s a 1 hour, 4 hour or daily chart, each price bar on the chart shows the ‘emotion’ and sentiment for the period of time it reflects. For example, on a 1 hour chart we will be able to see the emotion and feeling of the market over the last hour by looking at the last price bar on that chart. That said, a 1 hour chart or a 4 hour chart is going to show us a lot more data, emotion and insight into the market than a 5 minute chart will, would you agree? Would you also agree that the daily chart will show us even more emotion than a 1 hour chart or 4 hour chart?

Today, I’m not just going to tell you what time frame to trade, but I’m going to explain to you whytime frames influence the signal you’re trading, stop placement on a trade and the chances of winning and losing a trade. The implications of these points are profound, yet they are often over-looked or ignored by day-traders and scalpers. I am going to show you some evidence of why you need to take this stuff seriously and turn off your low time frame charts once and for all.

The connection between time and trustworthiness of a relationship

Think of the market like a personal relationship between two people; the longer you’ve known someone, the more you know whether or not you can trust them, right? If someone shows you they are a trustworthy person over time then you will probably trust them, however, if a person lies a lot you may actually trust them less as you get to know them…but the point is that until you’ve spent time getting to know a person, you really can’t make any judgments about them, one way or the other.

To give you a more specific example; when you meet someone for the first time, can you really get a good feel for their personality and character in just 5 minutes of talking to them? Or would it take a full day of conversation to get a more accurate feel for their personality and overall mood? The longer you’ve known someone, the better “feel” you have for who they really are.

It’s really very similar in trading; the more you study higher time frame charts like the 4 hour and daily, the better ‘feel’ you develop for the market because you are getting to know more about it and you can see the “bigger picture” a lot easier than you can on smaller time frames. The higher time frames carry more weight because they display more data and show more time than a smaller time frame does. If you are just studying 5 minute or 15 minute charts all the time, you are missing out on the bigger, more significant picture of the market. You’ve probably witnessed this with a long-time friend; you can almost figure out how they will react in any situation…whereas with a complete stranger whom you’ve known for only 5 or 10 minutes, this would almost be impossible; it’s obviously because you’ve had more time to study and learn about your friend.

Let’s look at a chart example of how a 5 minute chart really does not tell you much about the “bigger picture” of a market. Below, we see the 5 minute USDJPY chart, and from this data we really cannot tell if the overall trend is up or down, as the market appears to just be ebbing and flowing very quickly and without much underlying or consistent sentiment:

Next, let’s compare that 5 minute chart above to a daily chart time frame of the same market; USDJPY. From the chart below, even a 6 year old can tell that overall price is moving up; there’s an uptrend underway. Due to the simple fact that you are getting to know more about the market from looking at more data, you are learning some very very important things about it (that the trend is up!) that you cannot tell from just looking at the 5 minute chart.

Another example; if you are traveling and you stay in a town you’ve never been in before for one week, and it rained the whole week, would you tell everyone it “rains a lot in that town”? Or would you agree that you really need to stay in that town for longer and observe its longer-term weather patterns to make such a judgment? Most of us would agree that you need more than one week’s data to judge a town’s overall weather pattern…in other words, a week inside of a year is basically just noise. You can’t make an assumption about a town’s weather pattern unless you look over a longer period of time. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to read a market’s underlying sentiment without analyzing higher time frame charts. Longer time periods = more data = more evidence / proof.

Why lower time frames are “noise”

Simply comparing a 5 minute chart to a 1 hour chart will show you how many more failed signals there are on lower time frames. The underlying reason as to why lower time frames (I consider anything under a 1 hour chart to be a “low time frame”) have more failed signals than their higher time frame counter parts, is because there will be a lot more meaningless price movement on a 5 minute chart than on a 1 hour. For example, if you were to just look at one price bar on a 1 hour chart, you would not see all the 5 minute incremental movements that made up that 1 hour period….you would instead see the collective picture of all those 5 minute movements.

You simply are not going to get a very strong directional movement out of a 5 minute or 15 minute chart signal, instead, you will get a lot of little meaningless movements. You’ll get a much stronger directional movement out of a 1 hour signal and even more out of a 4 hour signal and yet more out of a daily chart signal. You can expect more movement from a signal the higher up in time frame you go.

In the chart below, we are looking at some recent price action on the 5 minute EURUSD chart. You can see that there were a lot more pin bar signals that probably would have been losing trades than there were winning trades. This demonstrates clearly the fact that whilst there are more signals on lower time frames…more signals does not equal more money, in fact it usually means more losing trades and lost money.

Next, let’s look at the price action that occurred on the 1 hour EURUSD chart around the same time as the 5 minute image above. The first thing you should immediately notice is that there were a lot less losing trades and a lot more winning trades. It’s because there were less false-signals on the 1 hour chart since the 1 hour chart filters out a lot of that “noise” on the 5 minute chart.

Market noise and daily ranges

Markets move in statistical average ranges each day; meaning there’s a certain average range that the market is probably going to move within on any given day. These average ranges will change over time as markets become more or less volatile, but you need to be aware how they affect your trades. The thing about these average ranges that many day traders and scalpers are seemingly unaware of, is that if you’re trading a small time frame and you place a stop loss on that small time frame, the chances that you will get stopped out simply because your stop is within the average statistical range of the higher time frame, are quite high.

If you’re trading a higher time frame, your stop loss is likely to be outside of the average daily range of the market so you are unlikely to get stopped out from the random intra-day market noise that occurs each day. Now, that’s not to say I want you guys to place wider stops, I’m telling you to be aware that stop loss placement is a big factor in your success or failure as a trader and you need to be aware how time frames affect stop loss placement. It’s pretty obvious that if your stop loss is close to the current market price, as it is on lower-time frame trades, it’s more likely to get hit than if you’re trading the higher time frames.
Small time frames demand a lot of attention.

Would you like to check the market every 5 minutes or every 4 hours? The higher the time frame, the less you have to check the markets. If you are like most people, you probably have a full-time job or full-time school, or maybe even both; most people simply don’t have the time to sit at their computers all day trying to trade a 5 minute chart. It’s also a lot more stressful, so it really just makes no sense to try and ‘force’ money out of the market by scalping or day-trading.

I am a huge proponent of ‘letting the trades come to me’. Meaning, I check the markets two or three times a day and look for obvious signals, primarily on the daily and 4 hour charts, and if nothing meets my criteria for a trade setup, I don’t trade…I go do something else instead. I don’t sit there ruminating over the market all day wishing and hoping for a trade like many beginning and struggling traders do. I really do not care if I am in the market or not on any given day, and this is the attitude and trading mindset that you need if you want to trade completely devoid of emotional attachment to the market. My point is simply this; focusing on higher time frames is much better for busy professionals as well as for people who don’t want to have the stress of being glued to their charts all day. It also allows you to employ my crocodile trading method which is a cornerstone of my overall trading theory and strategy.

Small time frames elicit over-trading

“Over-trading”, also known as trading when no obvious signal is present, or taking “stupid” trades, or “gambling”, is something I have discussed quite a bit in other articles, so I won’t get into it too much today. However, I will say that trading low time frames like the 5 minute and 15 minute charts, etc. is one of the biggest reasons why traders trade too frequently. The longer you park your ‘bottom’ in your computer chair watching the 5 minute chart tick up and down, the greater the chance you will rationalize a reason to be in the market.

If you sit there staring at a 5 minute chart all day, the odds of you actually not entering a trade are extremely low. As humans, we struggle with self-control and self-discipline, especially when we put ourselves directly in the realm of temptation, like when trading low time frames. However, one area that we are lucky in as humans, is that we can plan ahead and avoid temptation altogether if we put our minds to it. Just as not buying junk food at the supermarket is the easiest way to avoid eating it…not immersing yourself in low time frame charts is the best way to avoid the temptation to constantly be in the market.
Learn, change, grow…

I obviously cannot speak for everyone in the trading world, but the traders who contact me on a regular basis about struggling in the market and blowing out their accounts, are typically the ones who trade the lower time frames…that has to say something right? From these experiences that I’ve had with other traders over the years, it’s pretty safe to say that ‘social evidence’ suggests that a main cause of failure in the market is trading low time frame charts. However, don’t take my word for it, last year we had over 15,000 emails hit our inbox, and I can comfortably say that the majority of the struggling traders I’ve helped were trying to trade small time frames.

Thus, YOU should do something different…don’t be like the masses of failing traders who are constantly searching for trades on the low time frame charts. Have patience, trade only the higher time frames (1hr, 4hr, daily time frames are my favorites) and see if your trading doesn’t just slowly but steadily improve.