| Price Action - The Footprint
of the Money
Judy MacKeigan - Buffy
"What is Price Action?" is a question frequently asked by aspiring traders. Traders who ask, feel it is a well kept secret when all they receive for an answer is: “Swing highs, swing lows, test of top/bottom, etc., are all price action.” The answer still leaves them in the dark. Understanding price action enables a trader to minimize questionable entries and improve exits. Price action is the footprint of the money.
Let's start with the very basics. The bars on the following chart are labeled as traders commonly referred to them.
Up Bar is a bar with a higher high and higher low than the previous bar. The bars marked off are in an uptrend. Notice how the close is higher than the open until what turns out to be the last bar of the trend where the close is lower than the open. There were more sellers then buyers on the last bar.
Down Bar is a bar with a lower high and lower low than the previous bar. The bars marked off are in a downtrend. Notice how the close is lower than the open until what turns out to be the last bar of the trend where the close is higher than the open. There were more buyers then sellers on the last bar.
Inside Bar, also called a narrow range bar, is a bar with the high that is lower than the previous bar and low that is higher than the previous bar. Some traders do not consider an inside bar that has either an equal high or an equal low as an inside bar, others do. Inside bars usually represent market indecision. As on any bar, the closer the open and close are to each other shows just how undecided the market is as neither the buyers or sellers are in control. Buyers are in control on the inside bar marked on the chart because the close is at the top of the bar.
Outside Bar, also called
a Wide Range or Engulfing Bar, is a bar with a high that is higher than
the previous bar and with a low that is lower than the previous bar thereby
engulfing the previous bar. Since the open and close are close together
on the marked bar, neither the buyers or the sellers are in control and
the market is undecided which way to go.
Another definition used for this bar – especially if candlestick
charts are used - is that the open and close have to engulf the previous
bars open and close and not just the high and low of the bar. With this
definition, the wide range bar or engulfing bar does not need to have
a higher high or lower low to qualify. The first definition most probably
came about with bar charts where it is harder to notice the open and close.
The following chart has the swing highs and lows marked in both an uptrend and a downtrend. Price on a given time frame is in an uptrend if it is making a higher highs (HH) and a high lows (HL) and in a downtrend if it is making lower highs (LH) and lower lows (LL). If price is doing anything else, it is in a consolidation pattern - range, triangle, pennant, rectangle etc.
The trend is considered in place until price is no longer making higher
highs and higher lows in an uptrend or lower highs and lower lows in a
downtrend. After a trend is broken, there is usually a period of consolidation
that is easier to see on a lower time frame.
When price is in a consolidation pattern that is often referred to as
chop, it is usually in a range with no trend pattern to the swing highs
The above chart shows how an exact test of high or low may mean a change
in trend as it failed to make a higher high on test of last swing high
or a lower low on test of last swing low.
It is possible for one time frame to be in one trend and another time
frame to be in a different trend or show consolidation. This is where
the phrase "trend within a trend" regarding price action and
the different time frames comes from. An example would be that while price
may be rising on a daily chart, the intraday chart will show retracements,
corrections of various types and consolidation periods
Pull up a 15 minutes chart and mark the highs as higher high (HH) or
lower high (LH) and the lows as lower low (LL) or higher low (HL). (The
note tool was used in Ensign to mark these charts.) You can also print
out the chart and mark it by hand. Use red lines if price in a downtrend
and green lines if price in an uptrend. Remember price is in an uptrend
if it is making HH - and HL and in a downtrend if it is making LH and
LL. If price is doing anything else, it can be a consolidation pattern
- range, triangle, pennant, rectangle etc.
Now take the same chart and change the time frame to a 5 minutes chart,
keeping the colored notes and numbers from the 15M by using the padlock
with the L to lock lines in Ensign. Mark the new highs and lows with green
numbers for an uptrend and red numbers for a downtrend.
Now we can see by the yellow HH and LL what trend is on the 15M at the same time we are able to see the trend on the 5M
Both charts are in a downtrend until the 5M makes a HH at the first green #1. The downtrend is broken when the LH at black #3 is exceeded. Price then goes on to make a HL starting an uptrend that continues until price makes a lower high at the red #1. The 15M just made a HH at the black #5 and will not make a HL until black #6. At this point, we are expecting a HL on the 15M, and are waiting for a long signal on the 5M. Some traders would take the entry on the pair of reversal bars at red #2, others would wait until the last swing high at red #1 is exceeded.
The time frames are now in agreement (shown by green #1-#4) up to the black #7 HH. After the HH at #7, the 5M goes into a downtrend (shown by red #1-#6) to what is still a HL on the 15M at #8.
So, while the 15M price action shows only two trends, the 5M shows five different trends!
While you may trade the trends on the smaller time frame, waiting for
price action to show it is going to move in the same direction as the
larger time frame is trading with the trend. The
trend is your friend!