Also known as foreign exchange or currency trading, forex is one of the most traded markets in the world. In forex trading, traders hope to generate a profit by speculating on the value of one currency compared to another. This is why currencies are always traded in pairs—the value of one unit of currency doesn’t change unless it’s compared to another currency
Two trade opportunities
SCENARIO 1: BUY TRADE If you believe the current value of the euro is strengthening against the US dollar, you might enter a trade to buy euros in the hopes that the currency’s value will become stronger compared to the US dollar. In this scenario, you think the euro is bullish (and the US dollar is bearish).
SCENARIO 2: SELL TRADE Conversely, if you think the current value of the euro will weaken against the US dollar, you might enter a trade to sell euros in the hopes that the currency’s value will become weaker compared to the US dollar. In this scenario, you think the euro is bearish (and the US dollar is bullish).
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW The buy or sell action you take to enter a trade always applies to the base currency. The opposite action automatically applies to the quote currency. So, if you buy the EUR/USD, this means you’re buying euros and selling US dollars. If you sell the EUR/USD, you’re selling euros and buying US dollars.
WHAT IS A PIP?
Typically in forex, currency pairs display their prices with four decimal points. A few, such as those that involve the Japanese yen, display two decimal places. No matter what currency pair you’re trading, the last large number behind the decimal always represents a pip, the main unit price that can change for the currency pair. As you trade, you’ll track your profits (or losses) in pips.
WHAT IS A LOT?
In forex, a lot is a standard unit of measurement. At most forex dealers, one standard lot usually equals 100,000 units of currency.
WHAT IS LEVERAGE?
One of the benefits of this market is the ability to trade on leverage. You don’t need $10,000 in your account to trade the EUR/USD. Currency pairs can have a leverage ratio of up to 50:1. This means you can control a large position ($10,000) with a small amount of money ($250). Many traders find the leverage that most forex dealers offer very appealing. Nonetheless, you should know that trading this way can also be risky. It can produce substantial profits as easily as it can cause substantial losses.
Fundamental Analysis is a broad term that describes the act of trading based purely on global aspects that influence supply and demand of currencies, commodities, and equities. Many traders will use both fundamental and technical methods to determine when and where to place trades, but they also tend to favor one over the other. However, if you would like to use only fundamental analysis, there are a variety of sources to base your opinion.
Central banks are likely one of the most volatile sources for fundamental trading. The list of actions they can take is vast; they can raise interest rates, lower them (even into negative territory), keep them the same, suggest their stance will change soon, introduce non-traditional policies, intervene for themselves or others, or even revalue their currency. Fundamental analysis of central banks is often a process of poring through statements and speeches by central bankers along with attempting to think like them to predict their next move.
Trading economic releases can be a very tenuous and unpredictable challenge. Many of the greatest minds at the major investment banks around the world have a difficult time predicting exactly what an economic release will ultimately end up being. They have models that take many different aspects into account, but can still be embarrassingly wrong in their predictions; hence the reason that markets move so violently after important economic releases. Many investors tend to go with the “consensus” of those experts, and typically markets will move in the direction of the consensus prediction before the release. If the consensus fails to predict the final result, the market then usually moves in the direction of the actual result – meaning that if it was better than consensus, a positive reaction unfolds and vice versa for a less-than-consensus result. The trick to trading the fundamental aspect of economic releases is to determine when you want to make your commitment. Do you trade before or after the figure is released? Both have their merits and their detractions. If you trade well before the release, you can try to take advantage of the flow toward the consensus expectation, but other fundamental events around the world can impact the market more than the consensus read. Trading moments before the economic release means that you have an opinion on whether the actual release will be better or worse than the consensus, but you could be dreadfully wrong and risk large losses on essentially a coin flip. Trading moments after the economic release means that you will be trying to establish a position in a low-volume market which presents the challenge of getting your desired price.
Like it or not, some countries around the world don’t get along very nicely with each other or the global community and conflicts or wars are sometimes imminent. These tensions or conflicts can have an adverse impact on tradable goods by changing the supply or even the demand for certain products. For instance, increased conflict in the Middle East can put a strain on the supply of oil which then makes the price increase. Conversely, a relative calm in that part of the world can decrease the price of oil as supply isn’t threatened. Being able to properly predict how these events will conclude may be a way to get ahead of the market with your fundamental perspective.
There are a variety of weather-related events that can cause prices to fluctuate. The easiest example is the propensity for winter to create massive snow storms that can drive up the cost of natural gas, which is used to heat homes. However, there are a variety of other weather situations that can change the value of tradable goods such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, and even tornados. While some of these events are very unpredictable, sometimes it can help to break out the old Farmer’s Almanac or pay close attention to the Weather Channel to see how weather patterns might unfold.
The seasonality as related to weather is something that makes sense as the natural gas example pointed out above, but there are other seasonal factors that aren’t related to weather as well. For instance, at the end of the calendar year many investors will sell equities that have declined throughout the year in order to claim capital losses on their taxes. Sometimes it may be beneficial to exit positions before the year-end selloff begins. On the other side of that equation, investors typically come back to equities in droves in January, a phenomenon called “The January Effect.” The end of a month can be rather active as well as businesses that sell products in multiple nations look to offset their currency hedges, a practice termed “Month-End Rebalancing.”
Some fundamental factors are more long-lasting while others are more immediate, but trading them can be both difficult and rewarding for those who have the intestinal fortitude to trade them. Also, the fundamental factors listed above are just the start to a list that is much longer in length as new fundamental methods of trading are created every day. So keep your eyes open for new situations that arise and maybe you could be fundamentally ahead of the curve!
Technical analysis is the study of historical price action in order to identify patterns and determine probabilities of future movements in the market through the use of technical studies, indicators, and other analysis tools.
Technical analysis boils down to two things:
Markets can only do three things: move up, down, or sideways.
Prices typically move in a zigzag fashion, and as a result, price action has only two states:
Technical analysis of a market can help you determine not only when and where to enter a market, but much more importantly, when and where to get out.
Technical analysis is based on the theory that the markets are chaotic (no one knows for sure what will happen next), but at the same time, price action is not completely random. In other words, mathematical Chaos Theory proves that within a state of chaos there are identifiable patterns that tend to repeat.
This type of chaotic behavior is observed in nature in the form of weather forecasts. For example, most traders will admit that there are no certainties when it comes to predicting exact price movements. As a result, successful trading is not about being right or wrong: it’s all about determining probabilities and taking trades when the odds are in your favor. Part of determining probabilities involves forecasting market direction and when/where to enter into a position, but equally important is determining your risk-to-reward ratio.
Remember, there is no magical combination of technical indicators that will unlock some sort of secret trading strategy. The secret of successful trading is good risk management, discipline, and the ability to control your emotions. Anyone can guess right and win every once in a while, but without risk management it is virtually impossible to remain profitable over time.
Any analyst or trading guide will tell you how important it is to manage your risk. However, how does one go about managing that risk? And what exactly do they mean by managing risk? Here is a step-by-step guide to one of the most important concepts in financial trading.
This is a personal choice for anyone who plans on trading any market. Most trading instructors will throw out numbers like 1%, 2% or on up to 5% of the total value of your account risked on each trade placed, but a lot of your comfort with these numbers is largely based on your experience level. Newer traders are inherently less sure of themselves due to their lack of knowledge and familiarity with trading overall or with a new system, so it makes sense to utilize the smaller percentage risk levels.
Once you become more comfortable with the system you are using, you may feel the urge to increase your percentage, but be cautious not to go too high. Sometimes trading methodologies can produce a string of losses, but the goal of trading is to either realize a return or maintain enough to make the next trade.
For instance, if you have a trading method that places one trade per day on average and you are risking 10% of your beginning monthly balance on each trade, it would only theoretically take 10 straight losing trades to completely drain your account. So even if you are an experienced trader, it doesn’t make much sense to risk so much on one single trade.
On the other hand, if you were to risk 2% on each trade that you place, you would theoretically have to lose 50 consecutive trades to drain your account. Which do you think is more likely: losing 10 straight trades, or losing 50?
|STARTING BALANCE||% RISKED ON EACH TRADE||$ RISKED ON EACH TRADE||# OF CONSECUTIVE LOSSES BEFORE $0|
The amounts of methodologies to use in trading are virtually endless. Some methods have you use a very specific stop loss and profit target on each trade you place while others vary greatly on the subject. For instance, if you use a strategy that calls for a 20-pip stop loss on each trade and you only trade the EUR/USD, it would be easy to figure out how many contracts you may want to enter to achieve your desired result. However, for those strategies that vary on the size of stops or even the instrument traded, figuring out the amount of contracts to enter can get a little tricky.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting as close to the amount of money that you want to risk on each trade is to customize your position sizes. A standard lot in a currency trade is 100,000 units of currency, which represents $10/pip on the EUR/USD if you have the U.S. dollar (USD) as your base currency; a mini lot is 10,000.
If you wanted to risk $15 per pip on a EUR/USD trade, it would be impossible to do so with standard lots and could force you in to risking either too much or too little on the trade you place, whereas both mini and micro lots could get you to the desired amount. The same could be said about wanting to risk $12.50 per pip on a trade; both standard and mini lots fail to achieve the desired result, whereas micro lots could help you achieve it.
In the realm of trading, having the flexibility to risk what you want, when you want, could be a determining factor to your success.
There may not be anything more frustrating in trading than missing a potentially successful trade simply because you weren’t available when the opportunity arose. With forex being a 24-hour-a-day market, that problem presents itself quite often, particularly if you trade smaller timeframe charts. The most logical solution to that problem would be to create or buy an automated trading robot, but that option isn’t viable for a large segment of traders who are either skeptical of the technology/source or don’t want to relinquish the controls.
That means that you have to be available to place trades when the opportunities arise, in person, and of full mind and body. Waking up at 3am to place a trade usually doesn’t qualify unless you’re used to getting only 2-3 hours of sleep. Therefore, the average person who has a job, kids, soccer practice, a social life, and a lawn that needs to be mowed needs to be a little more thoughtful about the time they want to commit. Perhaps 4-Hour, 8-Hour, or Daily charts are more amenable to that lifestyle where time may be the most valuable component to trading happiness.
Another way to manage your risk when you’re not in front of your computer is to set trailing stop orders. Trailing stops can be a vital part of any trading strategy. They allow a trade to continue to gain in value while the market price moves in a favorable direction, but automatically closes the trade if the market price suddenly moves in an unfavorable direction by a specified distance.
When the market price moves in a favorable direction (up for long positions, down for short positions), the trigger price follows the market price by the specified stop distance. If the market price moves in an unfavorable direction, the trigger price stays stationary and the distance between this price and the market price becomes smaller. If the market price continues to move in an unfavorable direction until it reaches the trigger price, an order is triggered to close the trade.
Many market participants are knowledgeable of the fact that most popular markets close their doors on Friday afternoon Eastern Time in the US. Investors pack up their things for the weekend, and charts around the world freeze as if prices remain at that level until the next time they are able to be traded. However, that frozen position is a fallacy; it isn’t real. Prices are still moving to and fro based on the happenings of that particular weekend, and can move drastically from where they were on Friday until the time they are visible again after the weekend.
This can create “gaps” in the market that can actually run beyond your intended stop loss or profit target. For the latter, it would be a good thing, for the former – not so much. There is a possibility you could take a larger loss than you intended because a stop loss is executed at the best available price after the stop is triggered; which could be much worse than you planned.
While gaps aren’t necessarily common, they do occur, and can catch you off guard. As in the illustration below, the gaps can be extremely large and could jump right over a stop if it was placed somewhere within that gap. To avoid them, simply exit your trade before the weekend hits, and perhaps even look to exploit them by using a gap-trading technique.
News events can be particularly perilous for traders who are looking to manage their risk as well. Certain news events like employment, central bank decisions, or inflation reports can create abnormally large moves in the market that can create gaps like a weekend gap, but much more sudden. Just as gaps over the weekend can jump over stops or targets, the same could happen in the few seconds after a major news event. So unless you are specifically looking to take that strategic risk by placing a trade previous to the news event, trading after those volatile events is often a more risk-conscious decision.
There is a specific doctrine in trading that is extolled by responsible trading entities, and that is that you should never invest more than you can afford to lose. The reason that is such a widespread manifesto is that it makes sense. Trading is risky and difficult, and putting your own livelihood at risk on the machinations of market dynamics that are varied and difficult to predict is tantamount to putting all of your savings on either red or black at the roulette table of your favorite Vegas casino. So don’t gamble away your hard-earned trading account: invest it in a way that is intelligent and consistent.
So will you be a successful trader if you follow all six of these tenants for managing risk? Of course not, other factors need to be considered to help you achieve your goals. However, taking a proactive role in managing your risk can increase your likelihood for long term success.
Sometimes there is a misconception that you need highly evolved market knowledge and years of trading experience to be successful. However, we often see that the more information we have the more difficult it is to create a clear plan. More information tends to create hesitation and doubt, which in turn allows emotions to creep in. This can prevent you from taking a step back and looking at a situation subjectively.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. In trading, if you don’t set out a plan for your trades and develop strategies to follow you have no way to measure your success. The vast majority of people do not trade to a plan, so it’s not a mystery why they lose money. Trading with a plan is comparable to building a business. We are never going to be able to beat the market. In general it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about being profitable overall.
When trading, as in most endeavors, it’s important to start at the end and work backwards to create your plan and figure out what type of trader you should be. The most successful traders trade to a plan, and may even have several plans that work together. Always write things down. Why? Because it will help you stay focused on your trading objectives, and the less judgment we have to use the better. A plan helps you maintain discipline as a trader. It should help you trade consistently, manage your emotions, and even help to improve your trading strategy. It is also important to use your plan. Many people make the mistake of spending all their time creating a plan, then never implementing it.
Make sure you do your own research and build a plan according to your needs. Find confidence in what you know. The tools you have selected for your strategy are key, from the type of chart to the specific drawing tools to even the most elaborate of strategies. Test your plan in the beginning to make sure you are on the right track. After you have begun trading, continue testing it regularly. This allows you to measure your success by clearly seeing what works and what does not work. From there you can tweak elements that might be weaker and not contributing to your overall goal. Ask yourself the following questions (The answers to these will assist you in the foundation for your trading plan and should be referred back to regularly to insure that you are on track with your plan.)
If your immediate answer is, “to make money” you should stop right there. If the only goal is to make as much money as fast as we can, we are ultimately doomed, because it’s will never be enough. Managing your losses should be your primary goal. This will create an environment in which profits can be generated.
Solid retirement? New career? Spend more time with family and friends?
Look at things in percentages; remember leverage is a double-edged sword. That is why risk and money management are key.
Deciding what type of trader you are can be tough; especially since the trader you want to be can be very different from the type of trader you should be based on your behaviors and characteristics. Once you have laid out your goals, risk appetite, strengths, and weaknesses it should become apparent which type of trading fits you best. You will notice three columns in the chart; they are labeled short, base and long. Base equals the timeframe charts you spend the majority of your time, if you are not sure, this is the timeframe chart that you keep going back to. Short and long are the timeframe charts that you refer to confirming or denying what is happening in the base timeframe chart. A common mistake traders make is jumping around randomly between chart timeframes.
Once you decide what type of trader you are, you should begin to invest yourself into education and research. Make continual learning a priority, each person’s strategy or methodology is unique and cannot be duplicated. Therefore your plan is most successful when it is based on your individual needs. Evaluate your needs and the effort required. Make sure you understand why you are placing trades. An initial investment maybe monetary but will benefit you over the long-term. Time and research should be continuing investments. Research by way of following current global events and keeping up to date on current analysis tools will help educate you further on all aspects of trading. Ask yourself, “Am I a fundamental or technical trader?”
Creating a strategy using fundamental and technical tools is key, but we first need to learn a little about each of these types. Some traders choose to use fundamental analysis to assist with their trading decisions. This type of analysis is based on the news. News can be considered anything ranging from economic, political, or even environmental events. As a result, fundamental analysis is much more subjective.
Other traders may choose to use technical analysis to drive their trading decisions. This type of analysis is more definitive and relies more on the math and probabilities behind trading. The specific type of analysis used can be an indicator. They could be either leading or lagging. There are very few leading indicators available, which may give an idea of where the market is going to go. Fibonacci is the most popular, but most misused and misunderstood.
After determining some of the types of analysis you will use, it’s time to develop a trading strategy. This can be through fundamental analysis, technical analysis, or a combination of both. It is key that you develop a strategy and include it as a part of your trading plan.
A strategy is a step-by-step systematic approach to how and when we are going to use tools developing a sequence of analysis. Here is what we can expect to see in a trading strategy:
This sequence will lead us to what a high probability trade looks like visually based on the indicators and analysis we are using. Since we have what we need for our strategy, let’s take a look at the money and risk management side of trading.
Talking about money and risk management can be a difficult step for many people. Trying to determine what your risk tolerance is can be even harder. Ask yourself, “How much money do I really have to trade with?” Be honest with what is truly available to you. One mistake that people make is thinking that trading is an investing or holding activity, and keep depositing money. Trading is not a deposit and hold activity. Liquidation can and does happen when 100% of the total margin requirement of all open positions is no longer met. Those who make money may not have more winning trades than losing; they may just manage their losing trades so the winning ones make them profitable overall. It can be easier to win fewer times and still be profitable. A common characteristic of new traders is to quickly take profits but let losing trades run, consequently they have to maintain a higher risk to reward ratio.
Let’s think in terms of probability. It is helpful to use the 3% rule and always have a cushion. This is an example of the 3% rule in action: 3% on a $10,000 account is equal to $300 risk per trade. Then divide the cost of risk by the account equity, to get the number of losing trades or $10,000/$300 or 33.3 trades. These answers will help you determine if you can meet your goals. It allows you to give yourself room for flexibility. Traders limit their trading and the plan if there is not enough room for the losses. When developing your trading plan and approach it’s important to take other costs into consideration, some may have more of an impact than others, but all contribute to your investment in a trading plan. Assuming we have the right strategy decided and how much equity to risk, let’s figure out timing.
Timing when trading can be everything. When do the markets open? When do they close? What instruments (like currency pairs) am I trading? Some markets are open when others are closed or they may overlap. Here are the open and close times for some of the major markets. More volatility occurs at market opening and closings but also when reports or news are released. The beauty of trading some instruments is the ability to trade them even if the market you physically reside in is closed. The illustration below shows the overlap of markets that are open. Notice the times where more than two markets are open simultaneously. From 8am Eastern Time or 1pm GMT to 12pm Eastern Time or 5pm GMT, it displays the most markets open globally. Picking your times to trade or watch the market maybe easier since there is likely a market open somewhere in the world.
We have reviewed some of the the key components of a trading plan, now it is time to plan the actual trade, and how to stay on track.
There is no magic combination but some things to consider when trying to increase your trade probability may help.
Documentation, this is crucial to our success. If we are not consistent in the way we apply our methodology, it is hard to go back with any degree of accuracy to see if the plan worked. We will never know for sure what the probabilities are in trading but you have a much better chance of being successful if you follow a predetermined plan. We can continue to fine tune and make the strategy as mechanical as possible, removing emotion will keep you on your path.
It’s important to answer the tough questions first, that is what will separate you from the vast majority of those losing money trading.
Make sure you are prepared, continued research and education will be your best weapon in your continued success.
Market volatility is a reality that, before long, every trader has to face. When the markets are moving, here are a few strategies to help you manage risk and come out on top.
To trade the trend, all you have to do is pretend that you are coloring between the lines. When the market gets near support, look for it to rise; if it approaches resistance, prepare for a drop. The cool thing about trending markets is that they’re so easy to spot, and it doesn’t matter which timeframe you look at! Trends can turn up just as easily in a two-minute chart as a two-hour chart. Take a look at this chart of the EUR/USD (Euro / U.S. Dollar) on a two-minute timeframe:
It’s that easy. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to determine how many pips you look to risk or gain; that is a skill that is more determined by experience than anything else.
Like it or not, traders often act in herds. Occasionally levels will break violently as too many traders are aware of them and stop orders begin to pile up around their edges.
An alternative to trying to pick out where the market might turn around is to poach that level and trade the breakout.
The key is to find the level you are looking to exploit, set up the order before the market reaches it and keep your stops and targets within striking distance of the spikes. Sometimes that means only looking to get 15-20 pips on a currency pair that typically moves close to 100 pips per day, but if fast-paced, electric opportunities are what you seek, breakouts are rarely matched in their levels of excitement. Admittedly, breakouts tend to be a little quick and require you to be alert, but they can be great opportunities.
One potentially exciting and impulsive way to trade is to place trades around major economic news events. Trading news announcements can be risky due to the large moves that can follow a news release. Therefore, you should be prepared well ahead of time.
First of all, making sure you place your trade BEFORE the news event hits is one of the vital keys in doing this successfully. You can make an educated guess as to what the market will tell you before the event is released as well as make a logical guess as to which way the market will move based on your educated assumption.
As an example, consider the event that typically creates the most movement during any given month: the U.S. release of Non-Farm Payrolls. As a general rule, the USD/JPY (U.S. Dollar / Japanese Yen) typically has the most logical reaction to major US economic releases; that is to say that if data is bad for the US, the USD/JPY goes down, and if data is good for the US it goes up.
Analysts will also publish expectations for news releases like NFP. These are important because the market has likely priced in the expectations. If the expectations are met then traders should not expect too large of a move. Alternatively , if the announcement is way outside of expectations, then there could be a large move. You can find expectations and upcoming news announcements on our economic calendar.
Before NFP is officially released, there are a variety of economic indicators that also measure employment and can be used as guides to making an educated guess. By aggregating these pre-NFP releases and scoring them on their previous effectiveness, one can then venture a “guess” as to what NFP will reveal.
|LEADING EVENT||CURRENT RELEASE||PREVIOUS RELEASE||GOOD OR BAD FOR NFP?|
|ADP Employment Change||175k||227k||Bad|
|Initial Jobless Claims 4-Week Moving Average||333k||357.25K||Good|
|Continuing Jobless Claims||2.991M||2.833M||Bad|
|Challenger Job Cuts||45,107||30,623||Bad|
|ISM Manufacturing PMI Employment Subcomponent||52.3||56.5||Bad|
|Markit Manufacturing PMI Employment Subcomponent||53.2||54.0||Bad|
|Markit Services PMI Employment Subcomponent||54.1||55.2||Bad|
|SM Non-Manufacturing PMI Employment Subcomponent||56.4||55.6||Good|
|Chicago PMI Employment Subcomponent||Weakened for 2nd straignt month||Lowest since April 2013||Bad|
|Chicago PMI Employment Subcomponent||60.7||55.1||Good|
Since the educated guess calculated a bad result, the logical assumption would be to sell USD/JPY before the release. Of course, it is vital to use stops and targets as managing a wrong guess is paramount to saving the balance of your account. As you can see from the chart below, predicting a bad result would have been a pretty good guess.
The NFP report isn’t the only one that can be utilized in this fashion either. For instance, you could pull together Consumer Confidence data to guess what US Retail Sales might be, or compile inflationary data to guess the tone of a central bank’s monetary policy decision. The possibilities are endless.
Every Friday afternoon at 5pm Eastern Time, the forex market closes for the weekend. However, the lack of movement on your trading screen is an illusion; the market is still moving. Prices continue to revalue themselves based on what is happening around the world even when markets are closed; you just don’t see that movement until Sunday at 5pm Eastern Time. This results in a “market gap.”
One very simple way to trade volatility would be to look for these gaps that occur over the weekend and attempt to trade them. Just like any strategy to trade, it doesn’t work every time, so be sure place your stops and targets at reasonable levels.
For instance, let’s assume China released some data over the weekend while markets were closed that showed that their economy was contracting more than most expected. The typical reaction to this type of news would be for currencies of nations that are heavily reliant on trade with the Asian Giant to depreciate, the AUD being chief among them. Since the markets are closed though, you don’t see that movement until Sunday at 5pm Eastern Time when the forex market opens for business for the week.
What is left behind is what is called a “market gap.” It is a region on your chart where a candle (or bar) jumps from one price to a completely unrelated price with nothing in between. Then, as if on cue, the market sometimes ambles its way back to the price that it closed at on Friday. This is called “closing (or filling) the gap.”
Simply put, there are many ways for you to have an exciting time trading the market. While every methodology laid out here has its merits, they also have their potential for unmitigated disaster. Being laser-focused on managing risk and making sure that your spontaneity doesn’t turn to recklessness is a vital component to trading for the long term.