Saturday 5 November 2011

The Trend is your Friend

The Trend is your Friend


Trading is an great way to make a living and/or accumulate large sums of wealth. As a trader you alone are responsible for all your decisions that you may take to make profits and/or losses in the course of your trading career.

As a trader you alone will be responsible for all or any loss that you may make and on the other hand you do not have to thank anyone for your profits. You are the boss and you are not obligated to anyone expect yourself. 

However there is a problem that most traders do not understand and that is that most of the time the market does not move in trends. The market only trends only 30-50% of the time. The rest of the time the market is sleeping or it does not have a discernable trend from which traders can make money. Professional traders make most of their profits in a trending market.

By following trends over different time frames, traders can increase their profit making opportunity in trending markets and stay away from markets when they are not trending.

The Trend is your Friend
Weekly Chart of BHEL showing a three year trading range which finally breaks out into a trend.

Traders try to profit from changes in prices: Buy low and sell high or sell short high and cover low. Even a quick look at a chart reveals that markets spend most of their time in trading ranges. They spend less time in trends.

A trend exits when prices keep rising or falling over time. In an uptrend, each rally reaches a higher high than the preceding rally and each decline stops at a higher level than the preceding decline. In a downtrend each decline falls to a lower low than the preceding decline and each rally stops at a lower level than the preceding decline and each rally stops at a lower level than the preceding rally. In trading range most rallies stop at about the same high and declines peter out at about the low.

A trader needs to identify trends and trading ranges. It is easier to trade during trends than in trading ranges.


An uptrend emerges when bulls are stronger than bears and their buying forces prices up. If bears manage to push prices down, bulls return in force, break the decline, and force prices to a new high. Downtrends occur when bears are stronger and their selling pushes markets down. When a flurry of buying lifts prices, bears sell short into that rally, stop it, and send prices to new lows.

When bulls or bears are equally strong or weak, prices stay in a trading range. When bulls manage to push prices up, bears sell short into that rally and prices fall. Bargain hunters step in and break the decline, bears cover shorts, their buying fuels a minor rally, and the cycle repeats.

Prices in trading ranges go nowhere, just as crowds spend most of their time in aimless mulling. Markets spend most of their time in trading ranges than trends because aimlessness is more common among people than purposeful action. When a crowd becomes agitated or excited, it surges and creates a trend.


Identifying trends and trading ranges is one of the hardest tasks in technical analysis. It is easy to find them in the middle of the chart, but the closer you get to the right edge, the harder it gets.

Trends and trading ranges clearly stand out on old charts. Experts show those charts on seminars and make it seem easy to catch trends. Trouble is your broker does not allow you to trade in the middle of the chart. He says you must make your trading decisions at the hard right edge of the chart!

The past is fixed and easy to analyze. The future is fluid and uncertain. By the time you identify a trend, a good chunk of it is already gone. Nobody rings a bell when a trend dissolves into a trading range. By the time you recognize the change, you will lose some money trying to trade as if the market was still trending.

Most people cannot accept uncertainty. They have a strong emotional need to be right. They hang on to losing positions, waiting for the market to turn and make them whole. Trying to be right in the market is very expensive. Professional traders get out of losing trades fast. When the market deviates from your analysis, you have to cut losses without fuss or emotions.

You may be asking yourself the question, "What is a trend and how long does it last?" There are countless numbers of trends, but before the advent of intraday charts, there were three generally accepted durations: primary, intermediate and short-term.

The main or primary trend, is often referred to as a bull or bear market. Bulls go up and bears go down. They typically last about nine months to two years with bear market troughs separated by just under four years. These trends revolve around the business cycle and tend to repeat whether the weak phase of the cycle is an actual recession, or if there is no recession and just slow growth.

Primary Trend
Bull & Bear markets last approximately 4 years
Primary trends are not straight-line affairs, but are a series of rallies and reactions. These series of rallies and reactions are known as intermediate or medium term trends.

The intermediate or medium term trend can vary in length from as little as six weeks to as much as nine months, or the length of a very short primary trend.

Intermediate trends typically develop as a result of changing perceptions concerning economic, financial, or political events. It is important to have some understanding of the direction of the main or primary trend because rallies in bull markets are strong and reactions are weak. On the other hand, reactions in bear markets are strong and rallies are short, sharp, and generally, unpredictable.

If you have a fix on the underlying primary trend, you will be better prepared for the nature of the intermediate rallies and the reactions that will unfold.

In turn, intermediate trends can be broken down into short-term trends, which last from as little as two weeks to as much as five or six weeks.
Market Cycle Model

As an investor, it is best to accumulate when the primary trend is in the early stages of reversing from down to up, and liquidate when the trend is reversing from up to down. Second, as traders, we are better off if we position ourselves with the long side in a bull market since that is when short-term uptrends tend to have the greatest magnitude. By the same token, it does not usually pay to short in a bull market because declines can be quite brief and reversals to the upside unexpectedly sharp. If you are going to make a mistake, it is more likely to come from a counter-cyclical trade.

If you're an intraday trader, you may think all of this does not apply to you, but really, it does. It is important to remember that even on intraday charts, the predominant trend determines the magnitude and duration of the shorter moves. You may not feel a three-hour rally is closely related to a two-year primary bull market move, but it is just as related as a five or six-day trend.

Charles Dow, the author of the venerable Dow theory, stated at the turn of the century that the stock market had three trends. The long term trend lasted several years, the intermediate trend lasted several months and anything shorter than that was a minor trend. Robert Rhea, the great market technician of the 1930s, compared the three market trends to a tide, a wave and a ripple. He believed that traders should trade in the direction of the market tide and take advantage of the waves and the ripples to time your entry and exit.

Most traders ignore the fact that markets usually are both in a trend and in a trading range at the same time! They pick one time frame such as daily or hourly and look for trades on the daily charts. With their attention fixed on daily or hourly charts, trends from other time frames, such as weekly or 10 minute trend keep sneaking up on them and wrecking havoc with their plans.

Markets exist in several time frames simultaneously. They exist on a 10 minute chart, an hourly chart, a daily chart, a weekly chart, and any other chart. Traders often feel confused when they look at charts in different time frames and they see the markets going in several directions at once. The market may look for a buy on a daily chart and a sell on the weekly chart, and vice versa. The signals in different time frames of the same market often contradict one another. Which of them will you follow? Most traders pick one time frame and close their eyes to others – until a sudden move outside of “their” time frame hits them.


When you are in doubt of a trend, step back and examine the charts in a timeframe that is larger than the one you are trying to trade. A factor of 5 links all timeframes. If you start with the weekly charts and proceed to the dailies, you will notice that there are five trading days to a week. As your timeframe narrows, you will look at hourly charts – and there are approximately 5 to 6 trading hours to a trading day. Intra day traders can proceed even further and look at 10 minute charts, followed by 2 minute charts. All are related by a factor of five. The proper way to analyze any market is to analyze it in at least two time frames. If you analyze daily charts, you must first examine the weekly charts and so on. This search for greater perspective is one of the key principles of the Traders Edge Multiple Time Frame Trading System.


There is no single magic method to identifying trends and trading ranges. There are several methods and it pays to combine them. When they confirm one another, their message is reinforced. When they contradict one another, it is better to pass up the trade.
  1. Analyze the pattern of highs and lows. When rallies keep reaching higher levels and declines keep stopping at higher levels they identify an uptrend. The pattern of lower lows and lower highs identifies a downtrend, and the pattern of irregular highs and lows points to a trading range.
  2. Draw an uptrendline connecting significant recent lows and a downtrendline connecting significant recent highs. The slope of the latest trendline identifies the current trend A significant high or low on a daily chart is the highest high or lowest low for at least a week. As you study charts, you become better at identifying those points. Technical analysis is partly a science and partly an art.
  3. The direction of a slope of a moving average identifies the trend. If a moving average has not reached a new high or low in a month, then the market is in a trading range.
  4. Several market indicators, such as MACD and the Directional system help identify trends. The Directional system is especially good at catching early stages of new trends.

When you trade in the direction of this long a trend, you are truly following the markets rather than predicting them. However trading with the trend is hard to do because a logical give-up exit point will be farther away, potentially causing a larger loss if you are wrong. This is a good example of why so few traders are successful. They can't bring themselves to trade in a psychologically difficult way.
This article contains content from New Trading Dimensions, written by Bill Williams and Trading for a Living, written by Alexander Elder.