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Bulls and Bears

Anyone who has flicked through the financial channels on their cable TV box without really stopping to listen to what is being said will probably be occasionally confused by references to “bulls” and “bears”. These terms are common parlance in trading situations, and can be heard or read in any market analysis if you stay tuned long enough. They are not references to sports teams, nor to a traveling zoo visiting a trading floor, but rather to styles of market.

A “bull” market is, in short, a market on the rise. It is characterised by a great deal of investor confidence, which can carry on for an indefinite period of time. When a currency breaks its resistance level, it is expected to continue rising, to move with a singularity of purpose. This is much like the way a bull is characterised. Additionally, it triggers herd behavior, as more and more investors will join in and invest more. The term “bull market” is therefore a good definition of a market behaving confidently.

“Bear” markets, on the other hand, are the exact opposite of bulls. Where prices fall and the investor mood is negative, the support level may be broken and the price will continue to fall. The most common explanation for the terminology here is that when a bear attacks its prey, it tends to do so by striking downwards. For a true bear market to be declared, a majority of currencies need to fall, however a single currency can be described as behaving “bearishly”.

Support and Resistance – the two key words

To really understand the behavior of a currency on the Forex market it is important to see how it has behaved over a period of time. Taken over the course of a very short space of time, it is possible to make data mean just about anything. This, in turn, means that the data will be almost worthless. Over a longer period of time, however, patterns always seem to assert themselves, and establish a firm basis for predicting the future behavior of a currency price. Among the most important figures that appear in a pattern are the support and resistance points.

The point of “support” for any currency is the price level beneath which a currency never trades – effectively its market “bottom”. Whenever the price reaches this level, it almost always bounces back upwards, and for this reason many people will invest when a currency hits that point. Conversely, the “resistance” point is the traditional high point of a currency price, above which it never trades. If you are looking to cash out, this is a good reference point.

Of course, the old saying “there’s a first time for everything” exists for a reason. There will come a time when a currency breaks its support or resistance levels, and this is seen as hugely important. When a currency does this it will be expected to continue this trend, possibly for an extended period of time. It is therefore a good time to get “in” if it is rising or “out” if it is falling.

Where do you get your Forex data?

The systems of compilation for Forex data vary a great deal. There are as many different types of collation as you can reasonably imagine, and some of these methods have been proven over time to be, if not foolproof, then at least incredibly informative. Access to the right data is important in ensuring as high a possibility of success in your trading as you possibly can. This kind of data is freely available, but what information you can glean from it is inevitably limited as it will be full of figures that carry varying levels of relevancy. Raw data is useful only in so far as you can be bothered wading through the masses of information to find only the best predictors.

The data that will be truly useful to a trader is the information produced in a quickly readable form using only the data that is absolutely relevant. This comes in the form of charts and graphs, and this kind of data is available in up-to-date form from any good broker. There are historic Forex charts freely available on the Internet, and these can be used in order to help you understand market patterns. Once you sign up with a broker you will have more recent information, which is absolutely essential for forming a strategy. Your broker will also (usually) give you the chance to have a “practice account” which tests your reading of the data so that any mistakes you make are relatively harmless. In this way you can learn to read the data proactively and safely.

The reliability of trending data

When making an investment in the Forex market – or indeed cashing out of one – it is common to use the trending patterns of the currency that you are trading. This is data that has been collected over a period of time – in many cases over the course of years, even decades. Knowing how to read the data effectively can make you a lot of money, or save you from making a catastrophic loss. The way that you go about investing can make a big difference, and it is advised that you do not ignore the lessons of history. However, can it be said that the historic data is foolproof?

Well, the only true answer to that question is “no”. Very few things in this world are 100% certain, and anything that is so certain is not going to be a sound basis for investment because it will never move in terms of value. As far as is possible, the most popular methods of data analysis within the Forex market can be very reliable and aid a profit strategy, but you must accept that they carry a certain risk. That risk is reduced the longer a period of data collection continues. However it is important to be aware that the lower the risk, the lower the potential reward becomes.

It is fair to say that any sound strategy needs to have a basis in data. The more data you have, the more comprehensive your strategy. You need to be aware at the point of investment however that there is a chance your strategy will fail, no matter how much data went into creating it. This does not mean the data was bad, just that on this occasion the market won.

How does technical analysis work?

Technical analysis of currency movements is now, more than ever, part of the Forex market. As time has passed, different ways of collecting and displaying data have arisen. These differing ways can be taken in isolation to either create or back up a strategy, or can be combined in order to read how the market has arrived at its present point, and how it is likely to move forward. This enables more confident predictions and sounder investments. As time goes on, more data is collected and trends are reinforced. The awareness of a trend allows a more realistic understanding of the market. For someone just starting as a Forex trader, this kind of data is all-important.

One method of technical analysis is looking at diagrams and graphs. Taken over a period of time, this allows us to define and explain a pattern. One of the most popular styles of graph is the “Candlestick pattern”, which tells at a glance for any given day where the price was at the start of a period, at the end of the same period, and its highs and lows in the intervening time. Thus you can see at a glance if a currency is genuinely rising fast or slow, or falling at the same rate. The use of Fibonacci figures is another popular analytical tool. It looks at certain points in the rise or fall of a market and – with incredible regularity – predicts when it will stabilise or “retrace” (this means reversing its trend).

Analyzing the market to your advantage

It has been said by many experienced traders that Forex is a more volatile market than any of the available options. The theory goes that it is difficult enough to judge a single company’s value at a given time and in the future, just imagine how hard it is to do the same thing with a whole country. This philosophy takes the point of view that analyzing the Forex market relies on careful reading over a period of time. Some knowledge of world affairs is also advantageous, as it allows you to be aware in advance of the timing of important announcements which can cause market volatility.

Others will treat the Forex market exactly like they would treat any other stock market, and take a more technical approach to analyzing their next step. This is not as simple a process in Forex as it is in the stock market, as the Forex is a 24-hour market, and the data-gathering systems require some modification to work effectively on Forex. Nonetheless, where these methods of technical analysis have been correctly applied, they have proved to be an effective way of making a profit on the Forex market just as their original forms proved on other markets.

While the first method is more of a global, evidence-based approach and the second tends towards techniques and patterns, both have been proven to be successful if correctly applied. It is highly advisable, though, to recognise which one to apply at a given time, as confusion can easily arise around what exactly the data tells you. Pick the method that you require and use the other to supplement it. That is the only way you can confidently operate in the long term.

The Perils of Over-Reacting

Trading on the Forex market is something that can be quite thrilling, such is the potential for making real money. For many people, the thing that attracts them about the Forex market is exactly the same thing that can turn them off it – that is to say the high stakes which exist. Successful trading can make you very rich very quickly, but a bad trade can wipe your profit out in the blink of an eye. Having a negative experience early on can cause a trader to decide not to return to the trading arena. Even the fear of something going wrong can put the brakes on a promising trading career.

It is completely human to be cautious early on in your trading career, in fact, being over-cautious is better than being reckless, because as beneficial as a daring strategy can be, if you suffer a major loss early on in your trading career it can put the thought of failure in your mind on every future trade. You will, in all likelihood, lose leverage from your broker, and you may also become prone to a kind of paralysis which prevents you from trading at all. However, this does not mean that you should react hastily to any drop in the market because every market undergoes corrections from time to time. A short drop is not always the precursor to a crash, and judging the right time to stop your loss is something you will learn to do with experience.

Virtual Trading and how it can help you

Most people’s first experience of market trading will have been seeing it on the television, often in the shape of many frantic people in brightly colored blazers waving their arms and looking exasperated. At that point, most of us decide that either we want in, or we want nothing to do with it ever again. For the ones who want nothing to do with it, the idea of being in such a pressurised and noisy environment is a real turn-off. However, this is the 21st Century, and being a market trader on the spot no longer means getting yourself to the stock exchange, wearing a blazer and looking exasperated.

With the Internet now being as powerful a tool as the world has ever seen, we can do an awful lot with a couple of clicks of a mouse. Among these are ways of making a market profit without having to go through the chaos that many of the traders of the past once had to. You can sign up online for virtual trading accounts, and even find and choose a broker. You can add and withdraw money, and all of this without leaving the comfort of your chair. The 21st Century has been kind to us in a number of ways.

Many traders will argue that they prefer the situation on the market floor, where they can pick up tips and judge moods a lot better. But this does make it easier to get sucked in by false information and mess things up for yourself. Virtual trading allows you to make judgements based on a wider range of information, and for the considered trader it is an indispensable option.

Don’t assume that you know everything

If there is one piece of advice that should be issued to every potential Forex trader before they go anywhere near the trading floor (virtual or otherwise) it is this: “You may well arrive at the conclusion that you are always right. Get that idea out of your head now before it is proved to be dead wrong.”

The fact of the matter is that even the most experienced traders, and the most successful of those, have made mistakes in the past. In fact, the ones who have continued to trade for years and made a lot of money will very often be the ones who didn’t get overconfident. There is only one thing that can come from absolute confidence, and that is a rude awakening. Allow yourself to consider the phrase “the only thing that I truly know is that I know nothing”. Although it may not be quite true, it at least allows you to keep reasonable expectations.

The simple truth is that a bit of confidence is always worthwhile – it pushes you to make decisions that can be risky but are manageable. Too much confidence however is always bad. It does not allow you to keep an open mind. Without an open mind you will not be able to play the market successfully, as it will often be too late to react and make quick profits. The race, as corny as it sounds, is only against yourself, so take the time to learn its course and you will benefit.

Learn the lessons of history – good and bad

The world in which we live is constantly changing. Physically, morally, financially, things which we held to be true ten years ago have in many instances ceased to be the case. However, this does not mean that we cannot learn from the past. After all, a wise man once said these words, or something close: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”. In other words, unless you learn from your mistakes you stand an excellent chance of making the same mistakes again. In fact, one could go further and say that you should also learn from the mistakes of other people. It is true that you can learn much more from a mistake than you can from something flawless.

It is, then, an excellent idea to keep a watch for the same data cropping up time and again in the Forex market. Where before you might have been led to believe that a certain market was going a certain way, and followed what the data suggested, you may well have found that that action was ill-advised. When the conditions reoccur you should be highly cautious of reacting in the same way – the potential drawbacks for you could be just as negative, if not more so.

It is much better for you to do your research and be initially cautious when it comes to trading on the market. After a while of intelligent conduct you may well have earned yourself enough money to put by for security, and let your instincts dictate your actions for a while to see if they make you as much money as you expect.

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