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Which time frame?
Valued Contributor
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One of the big decisions for a trader is which time frame to trade in. Daily or weekly charts or down into intra-day; hourly or maybe even fifteen or five minute charts. Typically, the decision is taken to use shorter charts (fifteen minute or hourly) based more of the fact that it gives more signals hence more trades and hence more thrills. Of course, trading for thrills is the worst thing possible, but that’s another story for another day.


The first consideration should be the trading system being used, will it work in the time frame the trader wants to use?  robust system should be able to trade in pretty much any time frame but it needs to be tested to ensure it does. That then we’re left with two important issues.


Firstly, does your work life leave time for real intra-day trading? If you have a busy full time job can you monitor and successful trade intra-day on fifteen minute or hourly charts? My thinking is that on the fifteen minute charts the answer is no, both the trading and the job will suffer and you’ll end up fired and not a trader.


Hourly is potentially possible depending on the type of job and flexibility it offers. I trade ALSI futures on the hourly chart and while I miss the occasional signal due to meeting or flights I can work it into my daily work routine. But generally, for a full time employed person daily charts is the better option. Slow I know, but more likely to be successful and success is what we want.


The second issue is to understand is what changing time frames does to the trading process. The shorter the time frame the shorter the trade durations, the increased frequency of trades per month (and hence costs), the smaller the profit and in theory the smaller the losses (if you are ruthless with stop losses).


What is also important is that as the time frame shortens the speed of execution becomes more important. If you’re a minute late entering a trade on an hourly chart it’s hardly noticeable. But being a minute late on a five-minute chart means you’ve probably missed the trade. So, shorter time frames requires expert knowledge of the platform (in order to execute with speed) but also confidence of the trade in order to execute quickly.



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