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- 1. How to Day Trade the Forex Market In 2 Hours or Less a Day (EURUSD or GBPUSD)
- 2. Day Trading Forex – Basic Guidelines
- 3. Trading Beyond the Hard Right Edge
- 4. How to Day Trade the Forex Market – Active Trade Management
- 5. How to Day Trade the Forex Market – Trade Examples
- 6. Additional Notes on Day Trading the Forex Market
How to Day Trade the Forex Market In 2 Hours or Less a Day (EURUSD or GBPUSD)
The following guide assumes a basic understanding of how the forex market operates. If you are new to forex, check out Introduction to trade Forex, which provides some background on trading currencies.
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Day Trading Forex – Basic GuidelinesCopy link to section
Most of my day trades in the forex market are based on these simple concepts. For simplicity, assume I am talking about an uptrend unless otherwise noted. The same concepts apply to downtrends.
- Trade when London and/or the US markets are open. I opt to trade from 8:30 to 10:30 AM EST (15:30 to 17:30 on my charts below), but anytime while London is open is fine. I trade for about two hours per day, that is all.
- I use a one-minute chart.
- Only trade in the direction of the trend.
- Wait for a pullback. The pullback must stall out or show signs the price is starting to move back in the trending direction before reaching a major prior swing low.
- On the pullback, the price must consolidate (move sideways)–stop falling–for at least 2 bars+ (2 one-minute bars, or more). Buy a breakout above the high price of the consolidation. This requires patience. If the price stalls and then breaks out in the opposite direction of the overall trend then there is no trade. As long as the trend is intact, continue to look for pullbacks, consolidations, and then consolidation breakouts in the trending direction.
- Stop Losses and Targets are set at the start of each day and may be slightly adjusted during the day based on expanding or contracting volatility. Measure the trending price moves between pullbacks, and then subtract several pips from the smaller ones…that is your target on each trade. The stop loss is placed just outside the consolidation on the opposite side of the breakout. In order to take a trade, the expected profit must be at least 1.5 times the risk of the trade. Determine the stop loss and target based on these methods, then see if the reward is more than 1.5x risk. If all is good then proceed. If prior trending moves show that it will be hard for the price to reach a target that is at least 1.5x risk then avoid the trade.
- Exit all position at least two minutes before major news events. For the EURUSD and GBPSUD that includes major news related to the EUR, GBP, USD, and CHF. Don’t trade until after the news is released. Cancel all pending orders before news and when you are away from your computer. Create a day trading routine to avoid mistakes.
Knowing the strategy isn’t enough, and below there are multiple examples of this strategy in action. Price is constantly moving, so we need to be able to plan our trades before and as they are forming. Before a trade is taken we also need to know what we will do once we are in the trade, depending on what the market does next.
Trading Beyond the Hard Right EdgeCopy link to section
If you want to really learn how to day trade the forex market (or any market), master “trading beyond the hard right edge.” Most people look at what has already happened on their chart, come up with one trade idea and then pray it works out. Since we can’t see what happens next (beyond the hard right edge of our chart), inexperienced traders tend to think of scenarios they want to happen, or that they fear. Most people gravitate toward one or the other. They think about entering a trade and the price flying in their direction for an easy profit and high-fives from friends. This is fantasy. Or they enter a trade and imagine the price plummeting against them, stopping them out. This is fear. Either of these scenarios are possible, but so are a host of other possibilities, and which one is more prevalent in your mind will bias your trading.
We don’t want to be biased by one extreme view. Rather, we want to consider all possibilities: the price could drop, rally, or do nothing.
If you are very optimistic, you may miss clues that the market is turning against you. If you are very pessimistic you may avoid a good trade, or jump out of it too early. What is missing? Your strategy gets you into a trade, with an initial profit target and stop loss. Once you are in the trade though, it is a different world. All sorts of things could happen. What if the price moves in your favor slightly and then starts to move against you? What if the price moves to within 0.1 pips of your target and then reverses? What if the price does absolutely nothing after you get in…for 10 minutes? You were expecting something to happen, and now that it hasn’t what do you do?
As a day trader you need to consider the various things could happen, and what you will do in each circumstance. This may seem impossible, but it’s not. Actually, there are only a few things that could happen. The price can rise, fall, or move sideways, and it may do it quickly or slowly. The combination of the price moving higher-quickly tells us something different than higher-slowly. A quick downward movement followed by a slow upward movement tells us something different than slow-down and quick-up.
Have a plan for each combination that could arise. It is a fair bit to think about…but you have a lot of time while trading. Placing an order takes almost no time or effort. Hitting buttons is easy. The real effort is the thinking and analysis that occurs before the trade. Once the trade is placed, you should already know what you will do in any situation. Develop your thinking and analysis skills so you can do this on the fly.
How to Day Trade the Forex Market – Active Trade ManagementCopy link to section
Trading beyond the hard right edge is an advanced form of active trade management. It is a mind frame, where you look at what has happened and come up with scenarios for exactly what you will do (exit, adjust stop loss or target, or change nothing) in various scenarios after you enter a trade. As discussed above, there are only a few things need to consider–direction, size of moves, and speed of moves.
Here are some examples of how I use these three factors to strategize every day trade.
- If the trend is strong and the market isn’t giving any warnings signs, I will usually let the price do whatever it wants. My target is likely to get hit, so I leave my stop loss where it is and if I get stopped out I get stopped out. It was worth the risk because everything is moving well.
- If the trend is very strong, I also decide before the trade if I am allowed to adjust my target or not. If I am allowed to increase my gain, where am I going to move the target to? This will be based on the length of prior price swings (we play odds/tendencies, not what we hope will happen). If I adjust my target, and then price pulls back from it, do I get out or let it make another attempt at the new target? Decide what you will do before the trade is even placed.
- Usually, I don’t adjust targets. Maybe 1 in 10 trades is worth adjusting the target for. Remember, the target is based on the lengths of prior swings seen that day, so unless there is very good reason that this particular move is likely to be much bigger than the others (a unicorn) there isn’t usually sufficient reason to adjust a target. If a target is approached, and just barely missed, I usually close the trade immediately. Never let a trade that almost hit your target turn into a loss. This is why you need to plan ahead; if you don’t, it will be very hard to hit that “close” button when profit is evaporating and you are experiencing regret/anger/fear/hope.
- Say the trend is up, and we just a had a very deep pullback, retracing all or most of the prior up wave. The trend is still technically up, but the deep pullback could be the first wave lower of a downtrend (if the price proceeds to create a lower high after..called truncation). So thinking ahead, I say to myself “The trend is still up, so I want to get long using my usual entry method, but I also know that selling pressure is present. Therefore, I will buy to capture any remaining upside momentum, but if the price shows any weakness once I am in the trade I will exit immediately.”
- Various situations call for different exits. For example, if things look pretty good, but not ideal, I will allow the price to make three attempts to move in my direction. If it moves in my direction three times but doesn’t hit my target, I look to exit.
- I may also opt to give it only two chances to go in my favor if the setup is slightly less favorable (trend not as strong). Exit after two attempts if it doesn’t hit the target.
- If the trend is likely over but you are squeezing the last bit of juice out, or if the trade is at an inflection point which could go either way, only give it one attempt. If it moves in your direction and then falters, bail immediately. It is probably a false breakout.
- If you take a trade and it immediately moves against you, there isn’t usually much you can do about that. You get stopped out. When we take a trade we need to let it make at least one attempt (or more) in our direction before bailing on it. If you find this happens to you often, you need to work on entries because something is wrong.
To day trade the forex market successfully you need to read and adjust to market conditions. You decide which direction you are going to trade, and before the trade you decide how to manage that trade. Where you entered is no longer relevant; you can’t do anything about your entry price once in a trade. You adapt to what happens after you are in the trade. Like Napoleon on the battlefield, you have calculated everything beforehand.
How to Day Trade the Forex Market – Trade ExamplesCopy link to section
Here is the April 14 EURUSD 1-minute chart, along with comments below. I traded for about an hour and a half.
This day (two hour period) was dominated by news at 830 AM EST (1530 on chart). The brown boxes mark consolidations in the price which is what we are watching for. I used a 10 pip stop loss and 18 pip profit target on this particular day.
- The first trade was the first slow down after a very strong move higher. This is one where you just look at the upside momentum and decide you need to get in, on a pullback, as soon as the price starts moving higher again. The long trade occurs as the price crosses above high of the sideways movement (high of the brown box). +18 pips.
- Trade 2. The price is still rallying, and then has a pullback (just before trade) and then pops higher again. When it pulls back again, it pauses at almost the same low, showing very little selling momentum. This one you want to give a chance to hit the target. +18 pips.
- Trade 3 and 4. Trend was up. Kept buying. Stopped out on both. Trade 3 never really moved my direction. Trade 4 did move in my direction but then reversed. Cut the losses early. -9 pips and -5.3 pips.
- Trade 5. We now have a little downtrend, but we can see the price is still respecting the 1.0655 area (horizontal line). Given the overall moves higher, going short isn’t even a consideration yet. Buy again when the price stalls at support and then moves higher. The price just about reached the target and then pulled away from it. Closed immediately. +14.9 pips.
- Trade 6. Didn’t actually take this one. But it was similar to trade 5…but with the added benefit that just before this trade the price made a short-term higher high (at 16:58 relative to the minor high at 16:42). That would have been another profitable one.
In less than two hours of trading we had 5 trades: 3 winners and 2 losers, for a total of 36.6 pips. Assume you have a $2000 account and risk 1% (can lose up to $20 on each trade). With a 10 pip stop loss you can trade 2 mini lots to stay within this risk tolerance. Therefore, your daily profit is 36.6 pips x $1 (how much a mini lot is worth per pip) x 2 (how many mini lots you are trading) = $73.2, or 3.66%. With a $10,000 account, you make $366 for two hours work. Once consistent, you can increase risk to 1.5% or 2% per trade (no need to go higher than that), pushing your revenue to $732 on a $10,000 account. That’s based on one strategy…the forex strategies guide has many more.
Here is the April 15 EURUSD 1-minute chart (I learned a new trick in MT4–if you drag an order from your account history onto the chart it will put the trade levels for that trade on your chart).
On April 14 we had lots of “clean movement”. On April 15 we had a Euro conference begin right around the time I started trading (1530 on chart) and that created some price whipsaws. Best to avoid…but as we can see I did take one trade in there…
- Based on swings prior to the first trade I opted for a 14 pip target and 8 pip stop loss.
- We can see the price moving mostly sideways but in a very jagged way. Just before the first trade the price tried to move lower, but failed. It rallied paused, and I bought when the price broke above the brown box (I manually draw these…for you…I don’t’ draw them while I am actually trading). This trade was almost 10 pips onside, and then I took a full loss on it. I make mistakes too. Given the choppy nature we were seeing, I should have bailed much earlier. The reversal was very fast, so maybe it is a flat trade, but at worst should have only been only a -5 or -6 pip loss. This is a slightly different strategy than the one discussed above–I wanted in because the price had just had a false breakout, and not necessarily because of the overall trend (like all other trades).
- Trade 2. Sharp move in our direction, little pullback to near old resistance (range top), pause, enter as price starts moving higher. Classic! +14 pips.
- Trade 3. Pretty much the same. The price is now moving a little sideways, but the price held above the prior swing low, and all the elements are there so I am triggered in. +13.6 pips (entry price had slippage slightly reducing profit on trade–target stays at originally planned level despite the slippage).
- x: I marked a box and put an x under it. This slowdown/stall is way too close to a recent high. This trend has been running up and a deeper pullback is likely.
- NFs: tried to get long twice, but to no avail. Price kept dropping. This why we wait for the price to move back in our direction. It never broke above the brown box, so no trade. By the second NF you can see my comments…I am basically saying I will only give this trade one chance to go (if it fills, which it didn’t) because by this time the price had retraced the whole last leg of the rally, indicating weakness.
- The price then lulls a little and it is almost 10:30 AM EST (1730 on chart) so that was it for the day.
Overall, in less than an hour of trading we had 3 trades: 2 winners and 1 losers, for a total of 19.6 pips (a bit higher if I don’t make that mistake on the first). Assume you have a $2000 account and risk 1% ($20 on each trade). With an 8 pip stop loss you can trade 2.5 mini lots. Therefore, your daily profit is 19.6 pips x $1 (how much a mini lot is worth per pip) x 2.5 (how many mini lots you are trading) = $49, or 2.45%. With a $10,000 account, you make $245 for an hour of work….you don’t even need to give up your day job. Once consistent, you can increase risk to 1.5% or 2%, pushing your revenue up to about $490 on a $10,000 account (for this particular day).
To learn more about how to day trade forex, including basics to get you started (order types, currency pairs to focus on, defining trends…), 20+ strategies and a plan to get you practicing and successful, check out my Forex Strategies Guide for Day and Swing Traders eBook.
Here are a few more chart examples, this time from the GBPUSD 1-minute chart.
Here is a chart from July 27. As the US session begins the price is ranging in a small band, which isn’t attractive for trading. By 16:20 (a little more than an hour after the US opens) though we have seen a strong move down, indicating the start of a downtrend. During the first two hours of that downtrend I have drawn three potential trades. These were picked because there was a pullback and a consolidation. There were other pullbacks with no consolidations, and other consolidations with no pullbacks. The three trades highlighted had both. Waves had been moving about 10-12 pips prior to our trades, so a 10 pip target is realistic, along with a 5 to 6 pips stop loss. No problem on any of the trades this day; take home 30 pips, multiplied by however many lots you are trading.
Days like the above are fairly easy. When there is a trend, we continue to trade it until there is evidence of a reversal. At that point, we wait for another signal. But not everyday has a beautiful trend. Sometimes the price action is much choppier, and if you don’t pay attention you can lose a lot of money in a hurry chasing big moves that never come. NOT TRADING WHEN CONDITIONS AREN’T RIGHT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES THAT DO ARISE.
The next charts shows the day prior. The London and US overlap session was a snooze, as traders awaited the Fed Interest Rate Announcement later in the day (Tip: if there is a big announcement later in the day, the morning is often fairly quiet as major institutions await the news). One thing to always note is the y-axis. On the chart above the price moves about 90 pips. On this day, the price moved about 30. So those move that look big, actually aren’t. I recommend that you always set your y-axis to about 80 or 90 pips (may change a bit over time), as this will keep movements in perspective from day to day.
Once the US session gets going, the price drops, but then bounces above where the decline began. No short. We then get no consolidations which would offer us a long trade. The price then drops below prior swing lows, negating any long trades. By this point…about 16:15 we can see that average wave is only about 4 pips. That isn’t big enough for us. We typically need at least a few pip stop loss, so if we can only expect to make a few pips, the reward:risk isn’t there.
Also, notice how a trend never really gets going. The price doesn’t move in one direction, pullback and consolidate. Rather, it reverses course abruptly (moving past a prior swing high/low), or doesn’t provide an opportunity to get in. If there is no good setup, don’t trade.
On days like the above, once you see the market isn’t moving very well, it is probably best to step away after an hour or so (especially if you know there is a major news announcement later in the day). If you sit there all day, you are going to be tempted to trade. Instead, if you sit there for an hour and the market is absolutely dead, go do something else for a few hours, and then tell yourself you can come later and see if there are any opportunities in the US session (especially if a news announcement is coming out), or just wait until the next day. If you trade during the London session, and it is dead, stop after an hour and come back and check your charts once the US session begins.
Not finding a good trading opportunity sucks, especially when you sit there all morning. But you know what sucks even more? Losing your capital on trades you know you shouldn’t be taking, which then messes with your head and reduces the capital you have to throw at good trades which may come tomorrow or the day after.
Below is another trading day example. This time, a nice strong trend is in play. On this chart, I have added in a few comments about deeper pullbacks. When you have a very strong trend with long trending waves, like in the chart below, it is reasonable to assume that some pullbacks will be more complex or deeper than others. Those deeper pullbacks are often forecast by the price moving above recent minor swing highs (downtrend, or dropping below minor swing lows in an uptrend) and the occasional weaker wave in the trending direction. These are pieces of evidence that tell us to be a bit more cautious and maybe wait for the next consolidation before trading (assuming overall trend remains intact). They don’t indicate a major reversal though. For that to happen, the price needs to fail to follow through in the trending direction, like it eventually does at the far right of the chart.
Additional Notes on Day Trading the Forex MarketCopy link to section
I recommend using a daily stop loss and a loss from top. If you lose 3% (three trades risking 1%), stop trading. Read Day Traders: How and Why to Use a Daily Stop Loss for more details. Once you master this method, this should be a rare event. We call it “blowing up” (when you lose three trades right off the bat and have to stop trading). You should only blow up once every month or two.
On days were volatility is lower, your stop loss and target will be a bit smaller. But by continuing to risk 1% (or 1.5% or 2%), your position size will increase. If you’re well practiced you still should be able to make a good daily income, no matter if volatility contracts or expands. Be aware of super tiny stop losses though, and huge positions sizes…that can spell disaster (see Reducing the Risk of Catastrophic Trading Losses).
For day trading forex, use an ECN account with near zero spreads, and pay the small commission if you plan on day trading forex regularly. When volatility shrinks the tight spread becomes more important. When it is quieter, the spread becomes much more of an obstacle, because if it is quieter our targets are going to be smaller. Our payoff relative to the spread decreases. On really quiet days, or days where you don’t see valid trade setups, you have to be content not to trade. Save your capital for better opportunities.
When daily movement in the EURUSD is below 70 pips, day traders tend to struggle a bit more because there is less movement than when the pair is making 100+ pip moves per day. If overall volatility in the EURUSD is really, check out Find Day Trading the EURUSD Tougher Lately? for some possible solutions.
My order is poised in anticipation of a trade. Assume I want to buy. I set up a buy stop order (don’t confuse buy stop with a stop loss order–the stop loss order is attached to our buy stop order) with a 8 pip stop loss and 14 pip target (or whatever it is on that particular day). I then place it way above the current price (so it doesn’t accidentally get filled before I want it to). When a slowdown forms, I drag the order–with stop loss and target attached–down to the entry price I want (just above brown boxes on charts). That way, my order will trigger as soon as the price moves out of the brown box. If you use market orders and are even a second delayed the price could be well away from the entry point we want (not good!). You can set this up using an MT4 plugin, discussed here. If you trade with a broker that supports NinjaTrader–a great trading platform–that will also work well.
From looking at these examples, day trading may seem easy. It isn’t. It will take 6 months to a year of practicing two hours a day (including a few hours on weekends going through charts, reviewing, self-assessing and working on problem areas) before you will likely be able to trade like this consistently (see 5 Step Plan for Forex Trading Success). What you are basically doing is planning your trades before the market even moves to your entry location. You have an idea of where you want your trades to take place before the market even approaches that area. If the market doesn’t go there, you don’t trade. If the market does something unexpected, you adapt and hatch a new plan. You are always thinking ahead, strategizing exactly how will get in and out of trades (based on all the price movement evidence for, or against, your trade)…before the trade is even placed. This is mentally taxing, which is one reason I only trade two hours a day (when I day trade). It is a skill and it takes a lot of work to develop…and maintain (if you don’t trade for a while, you’ll be “rusty”).
Don’t let a losing trade or two throw you off. Focus on what is happening, plan and then jump on opportunities. Keeping the mind busy with important trading tasks will keep your sabotaging emotions at bay.
Some days you may have 8 or 9 trades. Other days only one or two. Some days your stop loss will be 20 pips and your target 35…other days your stop will be 3.5 pips and your target 6. Adapt..and have fun! That‘s how to day trade the forex market, the EURUSD, or any forex pair.
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