Multiple Time Frame Analysis

When trading forex using technical analysis, many traders will consult charts that cover several different time frames in order to refine their analysis.  Furthermore, many technical analysts provide different forecasts for a particular currency pair that depends on what time frame they have under consideration.

Due to the fractal nature of market price action, each of the classic chart patterns can be seen to arise on short, medium and long term forex charts. In addition, Elliott Wave Theorists often review charts of a number of different time frames in order to arrive at their most probable wave counts.

The following sections discuss the lengths of various time frames that technical analysts review and how these might be useful to a forex trader.

The Intraday Time Frame

This time frame covers the trading activity that occurs primarily within the current trading day. Technical analysts will generally use charts with very short bars to review this very recent price action.

For example, for a very short-term analysis, they might use tick charts where each change in the exchange rate of the currency pair of interest is plotted in real time as they occur. Alternatively, they might use slightly longer term bar charts with periods running from 1 minute to 15 minutes to analyze the intraday time frame depending on their intended purposes. Learn more about different types of charts here.

In general, forex traders tend to use such charts to focus on the intraday time frame because they are planning on an imminent entry or exit from the market. They will usually be scalpers or day traders, but they might even be swing or trend traders looking to time their trading activities with greater precision as a trading signal approaches.

No matter what their trading style, traders using intraday charts and their associated technical indicators will often review them for clues that the market may be in the process of reversing. They might also seek to identify the most recent support and resistance levels that the market has been respecting.

The Short or Near Term Time Frame

This especially popular time frame for technical analysis usually covers the last trading month or less. It will often be analyzed using hourly or four-hour bar charts.

By reviewing this fairly recent price action, technical traders that hold overnight positions can often look a bit further ahead in their analysis. Furthermore, by doing so, they can often develop and refine an objective plan for how to trade over the next few days.

Such a short-term trading plan might include whether they should close their trading position on a Friday or take the additional risk of keeping the position open over the weekend for additional potential gains, for example.

The Medium Term or Intermediate Time Frame

This time frame covers what has gone on over the last few months and will usually be plotted using a chart with daily bars. It generally provides forex traders with a good overall picture of the prevailing trend and so would be especially popular with those using trend and swing trading strategies.

Forex traders might also use moving averages to smooth the medium-term price action for a currency pair in order to more easily identify any trends.

The Long Term Time Frame

This extended time frame covers what sort of price action has been seen for the currency pair during the last several years. This can provide a good overall picture of the market’s recent memory in terms of price action and will generally be reviewed using a weekly bar chart.

Carry traders or other forex traders considering taking positions that they might end up holding for months or even a year would do well to review the long term technical picture for the relevant currency pair.

The Very Long Term Time Frame

This maximally extended time frame covers the overall historical perspective of the behavior of the exchange rate for a particular currency pair. In general, traders will plot exchange rates over the full range of price data available to them. Often, a bar chart constructed using monthly bars will be used to look at prices in this time frame.

Such an analysis might be used by hedgers who have especially long-term currency exposures they need to protect, often as a result of investing or transacting abroad. This time frame might also be used by investors who are considering making international investments over an entire business cycle that involve some form of currency risk.

Further reading:

Learn more about different chart types.

The Pin Bar is one of the most powerful chart patterns in forex trading.

See the best and worst times of the day to trade forex.

Risk Statement: Trading Foreign Exchange on margin carries a high level of risk and may not be suitable for all investors. The possibility exists that you could lose more than your initial deposit. The high degree of leverage can work against you as well as for you.