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Nial Fuller

NIAL FULLER
Professional Trader, Author & Trading Coach

What Are The Best Chart Time Frames To Trade ?

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By in Forex Trading Strategies By Nial Fuller Last updated on | 69 Comments

timeframesAs 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 why time 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:

usdjpy5min

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.

usdjpydaily

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.

eurusd5min

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.

eurusd1hr

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.

webready-tmp-intro 001Would 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…

self-growth-and-developmentI 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.

If you want to learn more about higher time frame trading and how it can improve your trading results by filtering out meaningless market ‘noise’ and allowing you to see the ‘bigger picture’ of the market, checkout my Price action trading course.

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About Nial Fuller

is a Professional Trader & Author who is considered ‘The Authority’ on Price Action Trading. He has a monthly readership of 250,000+ traders and has taught 20,000+ students since 2008. In 2016, Nial won the Million Dollar Trader Competition. Checkout Nial's Professional Trading Course here.
  1. Yakawonya Rutson September 16, 2019 at 4:44 am

    Always out with a winner post A teacher to cherish Thanks many thanks over

    Reply
  2. Nour September 15, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Nial, you are the godfather of the Forex trading.

    Reply
  3. NKAMA September 15, 2019 at 12:55 am

    You are too much sir. By this you have solved most of my problems.

    Reply
  4. Medi September 14, 2019 at 5:29 pm

    You tha God sent!

    Reply
  5. NGUYEN QUOC THANG September 14, 2019 at 1:28 pm

    Pls support me to explain more about ” Event area ” in the line ” Retrace Entry Back to an Event Area or Prior PA signal.

    Thank you
    THANG

    Reply
  6. Mahmudul Hasan September 14, 2019 at 1:32 am

    Super Nial bro…..

    Reply
  7. Diário de um Poupador March 5, 2018 at 1:32 am

    Hi, i am a brazilian guy who trades for years. I pause my trades during some years, and i came back about 2 months ago. I’ve been trying a strategy with short take, and it has given to me a lot of profits. I am trying to make my mind strong to ignore the market’s movement after i book profit. You have said a very right thing here: the market always makes a retraction.

    This article was very good, thanks. Keep it that way. God bless you.

    Reply
  8. Solomon Olusegun Oyeniyi December 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Thank you for this article.

    Reply
    • Liton khan September 16, 2019 at 12:14 am

      Very nice Boos.ok go forawd.

      Reply
  9. GANDUS December 4, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Great always to hear you big brooother Nail. God bless you. timely article for me. love

    Reply
  10. Noor Azman Abd Aziz November 26, 2017 at 2:10 am

    Nice and very interesting. This article answer the questions why i always close trades with losses while actually I have been profitting during the trading session.

    Reply
  11. Sboniso Malambule November 24, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    ive bee reading your lessons im impressed

    Reply
  12. Azmi Yusoff October 17, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Interesting article. This happen everytime. The idea of wanting to wait a little more time may cause us to lose what is supposed to be a profit instead.

    Reply
  13. Ayanda Mabuza September 18, 2017 at 10:56 am

    reading such artecles really opens my mind.Thanks Nail

    Reply
  14. Roy Peters September 1, 2017 at 2:39 am

    This happened to me recently on Eurgbp. Up 200 pips and thought it’d go higher. Next day market came down and I booked only 40pips!
    I learn a big lesson.

    Reply
  15. Rafari July 31, 2017 at 1:29 am

    ok, its been almost 2 years since I start to learn how the market move. I can say most of your articles give me a vision about how to, what to do and don’t. It’s cool because I start move to learn draw some major snr, I got stuck on making it, but your articles show me some clever way to draw “a key level” and some short term. I’ll try my best to practice it everyday !!!

    Thanks Nial, You’re Awesome !

    Reply
  16. kgothatso July 28, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    U ar really a genus.sir u teached me that i should take a risk than to lose the chance **#great things come to those who hustle (lovely)$$$$$

    Reply
  17. Alan Gillanders June 25, 2017 at 3:25 am

    Hi Nial,
    Thanks for the lesson. This has been my problem for some time. Greed. Always waiting to take more with a small investment. My profits evaporate and majority of times end in a loss.
    In the last 6 weeks I have been taking the small profits. 100 – 200 points instead of trying to get 500-1000 points. seems to be working ok. Thanks again

    Reply
  18. oluwatosn Matthew June 23, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    That’s a good trading guide. Thanks nial.

    Reply
  19. Ages Justice June 22, 2017 at 5:40 am

    Keep it up Mentor. God bless you more!

    Reply
  20. Louis June 21, 2017 at 11:43 am

    This is exactly what was missing from my trading. Realistic exit plans. Thank you Nial.

    Reply
  21. endurance oki June 21, 2017 at 8:05 am

    thank you sir for your well prepared article. Im a victim of this very situation , i’ve almost hit my profit target then i said i should let the profit run but to my very face , the profits were evaporating until i closed the trade .

    Reply
  22. DAVID SHUBE June 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks Nial, booking profits on-time is right, cos too much emotional traits is involved when one realized that the trade is going to retrace unexpectedly.

    Reply
  23. PEERALLY June 20, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you, Nial.

    Reply
  24. Kate M June 20, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Thanks Nial, way to go. You keep writing evolving lessons like these, Ill always have something to learn. And again an opportune time to write this particular article, I think you are the Yoda of trading:)

    Reply
  25. Lucas Obiora June 19, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Thanks Nial, that’s an eye opener to me, I have that problem of letting profits run into losses, thank you very much for the article.

    Reply
  26. Kay June 19, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Thank you Nial, well explained and organized article. Definitively help me to prepare my Profit plan. Regards

    Reply
  27. smg June 19, 2017 at 3:17 am

    Thank you

    Reply
  28. richadi36 June 19, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Thanks Nial. I really got immense knowledge about booking profits.

    Reply
  29. Suleiman Bhadmus June 18, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Amazing,am definitely going to include all this point in my trading plan. Though am still on demo, but what have learned from this article in very key to a successful trading.
    Thanks a lot Mr.Nail Fuller.

    Reply
  30. Matt June 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    This happened to me last week. Was up 700 proffit and closed with 700 loss because i had such an attachment to what i thought was a fullproof longterm move in one direction so i wanted to ride the waves but it looks like it wasnt the long term move in that direction i thouht it was.

    Reply
  31. akhtar butt June 18, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    Hi, Dear Nial Fuller, , excellent, well-explained with reality and experience. Thank, cheer

    Reply
    • Bebe April 30, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      Excellent article,Thanks Nail

      Reply
  32. Akpos June 17, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Nice….this has been my bane in trading. Not booking profit….

    Reply
  33. John Promise June 17, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Thanks Nial. My mentor.
    Remain blessed.

    Reply
  34. Thendo June 17, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Thanks Nial.. great advise. Am looking forward to not closing or closing when the trade goes against you but hasn’t hit your stop loss…

    Reply
  35. Luis June 17, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Thanks so much Neil as always, great article!, mm please i have a question, what about the case that all the other trading books and gurus says about let profits run until at least 1:2 Risk reward ratio? , because they say if i close before that 1:2 im cutting my profits and that can damage me in the long run! , but in the real life im bored to wait sometimes for a 1:2 and when im at 90% to achieve that profit target the markets turns down eliminating all my profits and making a loss for me, but when i book the profits i see my account growing, what you can reccomend me about that?.

    Reply
  36. Bruno June 17, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Before reading the whole article, I’m writing this! Just the header alone struck the cord. Toy, Nial, are a mind reading mentor! I’m at that stage in my trading where my edge is consistently delivering profits! But, yes, most times, these profits evaporate. Alot is happening around the political and business world and price is fluctuating between these events. Yes, price still does was it’ll do, but the whipsawing is alarming! I can’t say enough how soothing this article is to me because I make sizeable % of my Acct only to watch some diminish or disappear, even into losers.

    Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  37. Mavhungu Lufuno June 17, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Amen

    Reply
  38. Elpadrino June 17, 2017 at 4:54 am

    Thanks Nial #Legendary

    Reply
  39. Alin June 17, 2017 at 4:20 am

    I am one of those loosers who do not book much profits on the trades, because I’m setting
    way too large TPs. Thanks for the posting!

    Reply
  40. Shankara Motay June 17, 2017 at 3:59 am

    Thank you very much

    Reply
  41. Rongsquare June 17, 2017 at 12:44 am

    Amazing thank you Nail

    Reply
  42. Mike Coe June 16, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    Your articles just keep getting better and better, Nial! Great stuff! Thank you very much.

    Reply
  43. Siyabonga Mkhize June 16, 2017 at 11:10 pm

    Powerful thank you sir

    Reply
  44. KRISTOFA OKENTA June 16, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    Good Teaching As Always.
    Thank you For Sharing Your
    Heart With Us.

    Reply

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