Technical Analysis II: What are Charts?

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A chart is the most important tool for understanding the total sum of what is going on in the market. Almost all traders today, particularly those who trade actively, use their favourite types of charts to analyse the market. In the end, a chart is a visualised representation of the price movements, a reflection of the psychology of the market and a visualization of the interaction between buyers and sellers in the market. Because it is a reflection of all the activity that has taken place for a particular traded instrument, a chart also shows how the market values a particular asset based on all the information available. And because a chart has the potential to offer such insight and to accurately reflect the entire perspective of the market, it is an indispensable tool in the arsenal of any trader.

There are three major kinds of charts: bar charts, candlestick charts, and line charts. These charts are described below. Within the articles, we will use primarily candlestick charts, because they are the most commonly used charts amongst active traders.

Three major types of charts

1. Bar Charts

Bar charts provide traders with four key pieces of information for a given time frame: the opening price during that time frame; the closing price; the high price; and the low price. Bar charts can be applied to all time frames, and hence a single bar can summarize price activity over the past minute or over the past month. Different traders use time frames in various manners, although a good rule of thumb is that the longer the time frame, the more significant it is as it will account for more data — and hence will be a better reflection of the market’s psychology.

Below is an analysis of how a bar chart conveys information.

2. Candlestick Charts

The candlestick charts were invented by the Japanese in the 1700s. Just like a bar chart, a candlestick contains the market’s open, closing, low and high price of a specific time frame. The main difference is the candlestick’s body part, which represents the range between the opening price and the closing price of that particular time frame. When the body part is filled with red (or black), it means the closing is lower than the opening. When the body part is filled with blue (or white), it means the closing is higher than the opening. While the bar charts put more emphasis on the progression of closing price from the last bar to the next, while the candlestick charts put more emphasis on the relationship between the opening and the closing price within the same time frame. Above and below the candlestick’s body are the ‘wicks’, while the wick on the top is the highest price and the wick at the bottom is the lowest price of that period. Candlestick charts are more popular than the bar charts and the line charts, because they tend to be more visually appealing.

Below is an analysis of a candlestick chart and its components.

3. Line Charts

Unlike bar and candlestick charts, line charts present much less information; they only show the closing price for a series of periods. As a result, line charts serve best to measure the overall direction of long-term trends, and hence are of limited used for most traders.

Below is an example of a line chart. Note how it clearly and simply shows the direction of the trend.