Technical Analysis – Bullish and Bearish Flags
Flags are continuation patterns that are forming before market breaks a difficult level. In essence, during these pattern’s formation, the market is building energy to break through. Flags can be either bullish or bearish, and they are part of the overall trend up to that moment. The trend is resuming after the flag is broken. The following are things that make a bullish or a bearish flag:
- They are consolidation areas. Markets spend most of the time in consolidation, not in a trending environment. This makes flags being quite popular on all financial products. In the case of the Forex market, flags are mostly forming in the Asian session when liquidity and volatility are at low.
- They resemble triangular formations. According to Elliott Waves theory, triangles are the most common way of market consolidation. Following this logic, if flags are consolidation areas, it means chances are that triangles appear during a flag’s formation.
- They are part of complex corrections. Rarely a triangle is a simple correction, as most of the times, it is part of a complex one. We will treat complex corrections in details here on the Trading Academy in future articles.
|Forex Review & Rating||Highlights||Regulation||Min. Deposit||Bonus||Visit Broker|
|*||Next-generation online CFD trading platform||CYSEC||$100||60%*||Trade!|
|*||$1,000,000 Forex Championship at XM||CYSEC||$5||100%*||Trade!|
|*||+250 instruments – forex, CFDs for stocks, commodities & indices||MIFID||$100||40%*||Trade!|
How to Treat a Flag
Before looking at ways to trade a flag, we must mention here that they are patterns that form on the horizontal or on the opposite side of the ongoing trend. If the consolidation area is forming on the same side of the main trend (it has a rising angle in a bullish trend and a falling one in a bearish trend), then the market is forming a different pattern.
Wait for the Break
Conservative traders will wait for the flag to break. This means they are placing pending orders to buy or sell above the upper trendline that makes a flag.
The bearish flag that can be seen above formed on the EURUSD pair on its way lower on the four-hour chart. It is taking some time for the market to consolidate, around forty candles. Considering the timeframe, this means that for more than a trading week, (almost one and a half weeks), the EURUSD pair consolidating in a small range with the flag having a rising angle. Technically oriented traders had all the time in the world to see the flag formation and to position themselves for the break to come. As mentioned above, conservative traders will place a pending sell stop order in this case below the lower trendline that marks the flag formation, with a stop loss at the previous higher-high value. A proper take profit will be given by a minimum 1:2 risk-reward ratio.
Look for Confirmation
However, the Forex market is known for giving tons of fake moves as this is the most difficult market to be traded. Even when fundamental news point in one single direction, there are many cases when market simply moves in the opposite one. This is because of imbalances between supply and demand levels or because of the bigger picture accounts for more than just some news. Or maybe the fundamental news is already priced in. The same is valid in the example above. What if the market breaks the lower trendline of the flag and then reverses and takes the stop loss in the above-mentioned setup? To avoid this situation, we need some confirmation that the flag is completed. This confirmation comes in the form of breaking the higher-lows series.
Using the same example on the EURUSD four-hour chart, it is not enough to place a pending sell stop at the lower trendline that marks the flag, but we need confirmation that the flag pattern is completed. This confirmation comes from the previous higher-lows series break. As it can be seen, the move that breaks the flag lower breaks the higher-lows series in the same time, making it 100% certainty that the flag is completed. The interpretation is that the main trend resumed. The main trend is a bearish one as the flag was a bearish flag, so staying short for the target is the right thing to do. Such consolidation areas or flags are forming before important economic events, like a speech or an economic release, a press conference, etc. If traders are keeping an objective eye on the pattern, it is enough to position on the right side of the market by the time the pattern breaks and the main trend resumes. Bullish and bearish flags allow for the right positioning. The example we used in this article is showing a flag that forms on the four-hour chart timeframe. What is it to do with a flag on the weekly or even the monthly chart? The right answer is that the interpretation is the same and execution should be the same too. If flags are most likely to be triangles, then for the whole time the flag is still forming, traders should look at the conditions of a triangular formation and how to trade the triangle. All these while keeping an objective eye on the main direction of the flag and placing a pending order at such a level that not only will break the flag but will invalidate the higher-lows/lower-highs series. Flags require a lot of patience and discipline, the main attributes of a successful Forex trader. Moving forward, we’ll introduce the concept of a wedge in our next article, as flags and wedges are similar patterns. One difference is that wedges are having the two trendlines converging into a common point somewhere in the future, while flags are traveling within parallel lines. The main difference between the two comes from the fact that wedges are reversal patterns, while flags are continuation ones. This way, traders know all the time what to expect from future price action when a flag or a wedge is broken. Both flags and wedges, are part of the classical patterns that make technical analysis and it is mandatory to know how to treat them. They appear often and they leave little or no room for error.
Recommended Further Readings
- Forex Trading – Explaining the Concept
– What is forex trading, generalities about trading the currency market.
- Why Trading Forex?
– Advantages and disadvantages of trading the currency market, what are trader’s expectations and what is a realistic approach to follow
- Why Trading with a Regulated Forex Broker?
– What is regulation for a brokerage house, why it is important, things to look for, how to check if the broker is telling the truth, etc.
- Benefits of Mobile Forex Trading
– Pros and Cons of mobile trading, highlighting the net benefits of it.
- Explaining Commissions in Forex Trading
– What type of Forex trading accounts are subject to paying commissions, what does it means and is this a good or a bad thing?
- Opening a Live Trading Account
– Steps to open a live trading account with a Forex broker, starting with the time taken for the whole process, documentation to be sent, verification process, trading platforms to download, etc.
Other Educational Materials
- Chart Patterns Trader. Matras K.
- Testing the Power of Technical Analysis for Forecasting the Market Trend and Future Price in FOREX Market Kermanshahi, S. (2014). (Doctoral dissertation, Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU)-Doğu Akdeniz Üniversitesi (DAÜ)).