The Ultimate Swing Trading Strategy Guide
You may have heard the term swing trading being used amongst traders, but do you know what it is? In this article, we will delve deeply into the topic, explaining exactly what swing trading is, sharing the best swing trading indicators, presenting some effective swing trading strategies and much more!
Table of Contents
- What is Swing Trading?
- What Is a Swing Trader?
- Advantages of Swing Trading
- Associated Risks
- The Best Instruments For Swing Trading
- Which Time Frame is Best?
- How to Start Trading
- Best Swing Trading Strategy
- #1: Trend Trading
- #2: Counter-Trend Trading
- #3: Moving Average Strategy
- #4: Bollinger Band Strategy
- #5: A Versatile Strategy
- Improving Your Strategies
- Managing Risk in Forex
- Money Management
- Top Tips for Forex Swing Trading
- Choosing a Broker
- Final Thoughts
What is Swing Trading?
Before we can answer this question clearly, it is important to first explain the different trading styles and timeframes that exist in trading.
The financial markets are hugely diverse, and there are many different ways to attempt to gain profits from them. Alongside the large variety of available trading strategies, there are also different trading styles. One of the main variations in trading style is the time frame over which you trade.
At one end of the spectrum, there are long-term traders; people aiming to follow extended trends which can last months or even years. One of the key advantages of long-term trading is that it offers the potential for large profits. However, like all other forms of trading, there is potential for losses as well. Successfully following a trend for several months will normally outweigh what can be achieved in the short term.
Additionally, long-term trading will often not require much attention beyond a small amount of monitoring each day. But it does require more patience, and will likely offer less frequent opportunities to trade.
At the other end of the spectrum are scalpers. Scalpers make ultra-short-term trades - often lasting only a few minutes - and only looking to make small profits before exiting. Scalpers are happy to gain just a pip here and there.
There is an advantage to the extremely short length of these trades - namely, curtailing your exposure to the market. Also, because you are only looking for very small price movements, opportunities for trading are plentiful.
The downsides of scalping include:
- A huge investment of time and attention
- The requirement for extremely well-run and disciplined exit management
- Transaction costs can be significant due to the high number of trades
One step up from scalpers are day traders, who hold positions for a few hours to a day. A day trader will not hold a position beyond the end of the day - thus avoiding exposure to any market-moving stories that break overnight.
Swing trading sits somewhere in between day trading and long-term trading, with trades lasting anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The swing trader is essentially looking for multi-day chart patterns to benefit from bigger price moves, or swings, than you would typically get in one day. In that respect, at least, swing trading is better than day trading.
Many people find this style very appealing because it offers an acceptable compromise between the frequency of trades and the associated time demands.
What Is a Swing Trader?
Based on what we have now learnt about different trading styles, we can say that swing traders are considered anyone who trades with a multi-day to multi-week time frame. They generally work on four-hour (H4) and daily (D1) charts, and they may use a combination of fundamental analysis and technical analysis to guide their decisions.
Whether there is a long-term trend, or the market is largely range-bound, doesn't really matter. A swing trader is not going to hold on to a position long enough for it to be important.
Instead, volatility is the key - the more volatile the market is, the greater the number of short-term price movements and, thus, the greater the number of opportunities.
Advantages of Swing Trading
There are several benefits of swing trading, especially for those new to trading.
As noted, extremely short-term trades require constant monitoring. On the other hand, long-term trades may not be active enough for most people, and require a lot of trading discipline.
Swing trading tends to appeal to beginners, simply because it uses a more user-friendly time frame. Swing traders spend much less time analysing and trading as they are doing fewer trades than scalpers over longer periods. This gives them more time to think about and place their positions, yet also means they only need to spend a few minutes a day making trades.
Benefiting From Longer Trends
While scalping and day trading relies on short-term volatility, swing trading allows traders to take advantage of longer term trends. Analyses performed on larger units of time are often sounder, whereas shorter-term trading is more vulnerable to noise and false signals.
This also means that each trade has more time to generate a profit, due to trades following longer trends affecting prices.
One of the main costs of trading is the spread, or the difference between the buy and sell prices of an asset. While spreads are very small, they do get charged every time you trade, eating into the profits of ultra short-term frequent trading.
For swing traders, the spread matters less because they place fewer trades and over longer time scales. The spread, typically a few points or pips, gets charged less frequently and should therefore be smaller compared to the size of the overall profits made.
A Larger Range of Indicators
The swing trading time units - four-hourly, daily and weekly - makes it possible to get the most out of the simplest indicators.
Indeed, if we take the example of a daily candlestick closing above the 20-period moving average, it's much more representative than the same candlestick closing above the moving average on a 5-minute chart. Generally, analysis over longer time frames tend to be more accurate, and the best swing trading strategy can benefit from this.
Exploiting Larger Price Movements
Swing traders can exploit significant price movements or oscillations that would be difficult to obtain during a day. The more volatile the market, the greater the swings and the greater the number of swing trading opportunities.
What are the main risks of swing trading?
- The accumulation of swap fees: Swaps are daily interest rate fees that are charged on positions held overnight. While these aren't an issue for scalpers or day traders, these fees can add up for longer-term trades.
- Fundamental risk: Economic and political events outside trading hours could impact the financial markets to disrupt a trend and affect your trading strategy.
The Best Instruments For Swing Trading
So which markets can you swing trade?
The best swing trading strategy can be used on a range of instruments, including ETFs, Futures and all CFD instruments, including, stocks, Forex, commodities and even indices.
In the Forex market, swing trading allows traders to benefit from excellent liquidity and enough volatility to get interesting price moves, all within a relatively short time frame. Some of the most popular currencies for Forex swing trading are:
- Euro: Pairs include the AUD/EUR, EUR/CAD, EUR/JPY and EUR/GBP
- Japanese Yen: Pairs include the USD/JPY, JPY/CAD and JPY/GBP
- British Pound: Pairs include the GBP/AUD, GBP/CAD and GBP/CHF
- US Dollar: Pairs include the NZD/USD, USD/CAD, AUD/USD and EUR/USD
For the best stock swing trading strategy, indices are also very attractive instruments. These include:
- The DAX30 CFD
- The CAC40 CFD
- the Dow Jones 30 CFD
- The Nasdaq 100 CFD
- The Nikkei 225 CFD
Some stock indices have larger spreads than other instruments, such as Forex pairs, but as we've seen that's not so important for swing trading because you only need to pay the spread once. The same goes for exotic currency pairs, such as the USDCZK.
Which Time Frame is Best?
There is no fixed answer to this question. It all depends on the trends you have identified and how long they will take to come to a conclusion.
How to Start Trading
Are you eager to get started with swing trading? You can get started with the following simple steps:
- Open an account: You can see the full process for opening an account in our article How to open a MetaTrader 5 account.
- Open the platform and make your first trade: Now, simply choose an asset and open your first trade. You can see the full process in the tutorial video below:
Once you have your account and your platform and you know how to make a trade, the next step is to create a strategy. We've shared our favourite swing trading strategies in the following sections.
Best Swing Trading Strategy
Swing trading is a style, not a strategy. The time horizon defines this style and countless strategies can be used. As such, it can be challenging to identify the best forex swing trading strategy.
These strategies are not exclusive to swing trading, nor indeed to Forex, and, as with most technical strategies, support and resistance are the key concepts behind them.
These concepts give you two choices for your strategy: following the trend, or trading counter to the trend.
For either type, it's useful to have the ability to visually recognise price action, or the movement of an asset's price on the chart.
#1: Trend Trading
One simple strategy which is good for beginners to start with is trend trading. Trend trading can be applied to different trading instruments. As such, it can be considered a best stock swing trading strategy, or a best option strategy for swing trading as well.
When identifying a trend, it's important to recognise that markets don't tend to move in a straight line. Even when ultimately trending, they move up and down in step-like moves. We recognise an uptrend by the market setting higher highs and higher lows, and a downtrend by identifying lower lows and lower highs. The best swing trading strategy will involve trying to catch and follow a short trend.
Look at this daily chart of EUR/USD.
Depicted: Admiral Markets MetaTrader 5 - GBPUSD Daily Chart. Date Range: 7 February 2019 - 26 May 2021. Date Captured: 26 May 2021. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
This Japanese candlestick chart shows an uptrend, starting in March 2020 and lasting around 12 months moving in a typical zig-zag pattern.
Although the trend is bullish, there is a section, highlighted by a red square, where a reversal takes place.
During this period the market is not setting new highs, whilst lows are falling. After this period, running against the main trend, the uptrend resumes.
With this simple trading method, we are looking to catch the bullish trend we have identified but only when we are confident it is set to continue.
How long will a pullback persist? We have no way of knowing. Instead, we look for confirmation that the market has gone back to its original trend.
In other words we:
- Look for a trend
- Wait for a countertrend
- Enter the market after we see the counter trend has played out.
In this case, the tell-tale signal that we are seeking is a resumption in the market setting higher lows.
One version of this strategy would try and run the trend for as long as we can. In this version of the strategy, we do not set a limit. Why not? We don't know how long the trend might persist, and we don't know how high the market can go. So, we will not try to make a prediction by setting a price target.
You have to wait, observe and allow the market to move adversely to some degree. It also means that when the trend breaks down, you will have to give back some of your unrealised profits before closing out. But that could be more than made up by riding a trend for longer.
Want to know the good news?
In the long run, with the right risk management, the profits should outweigh the losses incurred from those times when the trend breaks down.
#2: Counter-Trend Trading
This next strategy is the opposite of the first one. We use the same principles in terms of trying to spot relatively short-term trends but now try to profit from the frequency with which these trends tend to break down.
Remember that as noted earlier:
- Uptrend = Higher highs and higher lows
- Downtrend = Lower highs and lower lows
We also saw how an early part of a trend can be followed by a period of retracement before the trend resumes. A counter-trend trader would try to catch the swing in this period of reversion. To do so, we would try to recognise the break in the trend. In an uptrend, this would be when a fresh high was followed by a sequence of failures to break new highs - we would go short in anticipation of such a reversion. The opposite is true in a downtrend.
When counter-trending, it is very important to maintain strong discipline if the price moves against you. If the market resumes its trend against you, you must be ready to admit you are wrong, and draw a line under the trade.
If you're ready to try a best swing trading strategy on the live markets, Forex is one of the best markets to try swing trading. Why? It's simple - the market is open 24 hours a day, 5 days a week, which means you can trade when it suits you. It is also a very volatile market, which means there are plenty of opportunities to utilise the best swing trading strategy. And, with Admiral Markets, you can access 40+ currency pairs and live markets, absolutely free.
#3: Moving Average Strategy
Since swing trading is a style, it is difficult to say what is the best moving average strategy for swing trading. However, I will suggest some of the best periods to be used for swing-trading, using moving averages.
Swing traders usually have a different approach. They often trade with larger timeframes (4H, Daily) and usually hold their trades for a longer period of time. Therefore, the best MT4 swing trading strategy may be one with a daily chart. In any case, it can be best for swing-traders to first choose an SMA and use larger period moving averages to avoid premature signals and noise. Below are 4 moving averages that can be especially useful for swing traders:
- 20/21 period: The 21 moving average is a preferred choice among some traders when they are making short-term swing trades. Amid trends, the price tends to respects it very well and it signals shifts in the trend as well.
- 50 period: Many traders consider the 50 moving average a standard moving average for swing-trading and, as such, it is very popular. Many traders use this to ride the trends since it is an ideal compromise between too long and too short term.
- 100 period: Traders are sometimes attracted to round numbers, and this is definitely the case with the 100 moving average. This works well for resistance and support – particularly on a daily or weekly timeframe.
- 200/250 period: The same is also true for the 200 moving average. The 250 period moving average is often a popular choice for daily charts because it portrays a year of price-action (a year contains about 250 trading days)
#4: Bollinger Band Strategy
The Bollinger band is a well known indicator that traders use in swing trading because it can indicate potential turnaround points for prices. I'll now present a best swing trading strategy using the Bollinger Band indicator.
The Bollinger Band is made up of three curves that are formed with the help of standard deviations and a moving average. The middle band is based on a moving average set for a definite period, while the lower and upper bands are both standard deviations of the middle band. Generally, the middle line is the 20-day moving average, whereas the lower and upper bands are at 2 standard deviations from the middle line.
When the underlying quote moves to the outside of the upper Bollinger band, it is considered to be "overbought", which can signal a time for taking profits and liquidating.
On the contrary, when the underlying falls below the bottom Bollinger band, it is considered to be “oversold”. This signals prices that could cover losses. When the underlying quote moves up from the bottom band, then the middle band is the first line of resistance as continued trading above the middle line would normally lead the quote towards the upper line.
If a quote moves down from the upper line, the first support would then be the middle line; if it fails to hold at the middle band, then the lower band would be the next level to pay attention to.
#5: A Versatile Strategy
If you'd like to take an even deeper dive into swing trading, along with learning a versatile strategy that even beginners can use, check out our recent webinar on the topic!
Improving Your Strategies
There are several things you can try to improve your swing trading strategies. The first is to try to match the trade with the long-term trend. Although in the examples above we were looking at an hourly chart, it can help to also look at a longer term chart - to get a feel for the long-term trend. Try and trade only when your direction matches what you see as the long-term trend.
Another way to improve your swing trading strategy is to use a secondary technical indicator to confirm your thinking. For example: if you are a counter-trend trader, and are thinking of selling, check the RSI (Relative Strength Index) and see if it signals the market as being overbought.
A Moving Average (MA) is another helpful indicator you could use to help your swing trading. A MA smooths out prices to give a clearer view of the trend. And because a MA incorporates older price data, it's an easy way to compare how the current prices compare to older prices.
You can see this in the following Forex chart of the EURUSD pair:
Depicted: Admiral Markets MetaTrader 5 - EURUSD Daily Chart. Date Range: 2 April 2020 - 26 May 2021. Date Captured: 26 May 2021. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
In the chart, the red and green smooth lines are both moving averages:
- The red line represents the moving average of 25 periods.
- The green line represents the moving average of 100 periods.
The method we are using to identify market movement utilises both moving averages. Together with this indicator as our input signal, we will use the basic stop loss and take profit.
When the red line crosses the green line, it suggests that we can see a price change in the direction of the crossing.
In the graph above, the shorter red MA crosses the longer green MA on three occasions, all highlighted by red vertical lines.
On the 5 June 2020 and the 13 May 2021, the red MA crosses above the green MA. This is providing a signal to buy. On 17 March 2021, the red MA crossed below the green MA, providing the signal to sell. It is important to bear in mind that, with this method, due to the nature of the MA, the trend will start before we receive our signal.
When trends turn against you...
What happens if we don't close a swing trade in time?
There can always be unexpected price changes. Therefore, we must always adopt good risk management. Let's look at this with an example.
Depicted: Admiral Markets MetaTrader 5 - GBPUSD H1 Chart. Data Range: June 14, 2016, to June 29, 2016. Disclaimer: Charts for financial instruments in this article are for illustrative purposes and does not constitute trading advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any financial instrument provided by Admiral Markets (CFDs, ETFs, Shares). Past performance is not necessarily an indication of future performance.
After observing the crossing of ascending MAs we could have entered a purchase order. If we do not set our objectives correctly, with a take profit and stop loss order, a later fall can occur that causes us to lose a large part of our capital.
In the early hours of June 24, 2016, the results of the Brexit vote began to be evident.
What was the result? The value of the pound sank.
If we had maintained a long position, we would have been trapped for a long time in a very bad trade.
There was a fall of several hundred pips in less than a minute. In these circumstances, good risk management is essential. If your position is the right size compared to your capital, you can weather the storm. Below we explain how.
Managing Risk in Forex
Something you might have heard about trading Forex is that the majority of traders lose money. However, it is worth noting that this is also true for successful traders.
The truth is that no trader wins 100% of the time - sometimes you misjudge the market, sometimes it moves unexpectedly, sometimes you might just make a mistake. This is where risk management and money management are so important.
In trading, but especially Forex, you have to know how to lose before knowing how to win. And when we talk about knowing how to lose, you should know how to lose little to win big. Put simply, if you can manage your risk by closing out losing trades early, this will help ensure your profits are bigger than your losses.
Some tips for managing your risk in swing trading include:
- Define your maximum acceptable loss. While you obviously want your next trade to make a profit, it's important to consider the maximum amount you are willing to lose on a trade. Once you know this amount, you can set a stop loss to close your trade automatically if it moves too far in the wrong direction - this will help protect you when you are not at your computer watching every trade.
- Don't risk your account on any one trade. No matter the size of your trading account, you should avoid risking your entire balance on a trade. If you do, you could potentially lose it all. A general rule is not to risk more than 2% of your account balance on any one trade.
- Consider increasing your account balance to diversify risk. While you might be able to open an account from as little as €200, it is better to start with a larger sum. This means you will have enough on your account to trade a variety of assets and diversify your risks. Swing trading is a longer-term style than day-trading or scalping, so you need more margin on your positions to cope with market volatility.
- Know your risk profile. One of the first things to do when you start trading is to understand your tolerance for risk and volatility. In other words, at what stage of the loss will we start to panic? Suppose you have an account balance of €20,000 and you lose €2,000, or 10% of your capital. Would your world collapse or would you consider that to be a tolerable setback? How you react to this loss will influence the risks you are willing to take in trading.
As you have now understood, swing trading is a medium and long-term trading strategy. It is a strategy very dependent on the management of risk and its capital, commonly called money management swing trading.
One way to manage your risk is to manage your money effectively.
If you wanted to keep to a total exposure of 6% of your account balance, for example, you could have six trades opened, each risking 1% of your capital. In the scenario where your account had €20,000, you could have six different trades, with a maximum of €200 in each trade.
Before taking any position, you should have these numbers at the front of your mind. Your stop-loss and neutralisation positions will be determined by your predetermined limits. And from there, perform as many actions as you can without exceeding your risk limits.
That limit will then influence your actions - you will close a position because it is approaching your loss limit, or when the asset goes up and reaches the target profit. Or, if a trade passes the breakeven point, at which point it becomes a 'neutral' trade, you can take on a new position, without risking your risk limit.
Top Tips for Forex Swing Trading
Now that you know the basics of swing trading, and some good Forex swing trading strategies, here are our top tips to help you succeed as a swing trader.
- Align your trades with the long-term trend. Although you may be looking at a shorter-term time chart (e.g. H1 or H4), it may also help to look at a longer-term chart (D1 or W1) to get an idea of the long-term trend. Then you can try to ensure you aren't trading against a larger trend. Swing trading is much easier when trading with the trend, rather than against the trend.
- Make the most of Moving Averages (MAs). The MA indicator can help your swing trading by identifying trends by smoothing shorter-term price fluctuations. And because the MA incorporates old prices, it is an easy way to see how the current price compares with recent history.
- Use a little leverage. Leverage allows you to access a larger position than your deposit would typically allow, amplifying your profits (and losses). When used wisely, leverage can help you make the most of winning trades.
- Trade a wide portfolio of Forex pairs. Watch as many currency pairs as you can to find the best opportunities. The Forex market will always offer you trading opportunities, you must look for the ones that best match your style, strategies and your risk-tolerance. Trading a range of pairs will help diversify your portfolio and avoid the risk of having all your eggs in one basket.
- Pay attention to swaps. Swaps are a cost of trading - an interest charge made for positions held overnight. The cost of these swaps must be taken into account to better manage your money.
- Maintain positive profit/loss ratios. Whether H4 or daily trading, swing trading allows you to tap into large market movements, allowing you to obtain larger profit ratios, especially when compared to scalping.
- Put aside your emotions. It's better not to trade with emotion, but to execute swing trades as a part of a well-established Forex trading plan and strategy.
Choosing a Broker
Before you can start trading, you need to choose a broker. A Forex broker will give you access to the markets you want to trade, along with a trading platform to carry out your trades. However, some brokers are better than others, so it's important to keep the following in mind when making your choice:
- Are they regulated by the local regulator in your area? Admiral Markets is a Forex and CFD broker that is regulated by the FCA, EFSA, CySEC and ASIC.
- Low trading costs. The costs of trading include the spread, the swap and commissions on trades, which can eat into your profits. So it's important to consider typical trading costs.
- Flexible trade sizes. A standard Forex lot, or trading contract, is worth 100,000 of the base currency of the pair, or the first currency listed (so one lot of the EUR/USD is worth EUR 100,000). For new traders, this might be bigger than you want, so check whether your broker offers mini (0.1) lots and micro (0.01) lots for trading.
- Real-time price data. To make informed trading decisions, you need the latest market information. Good Forex and CFD brokers will offer live price data in their trading platform.
- Available leverage. How much leverage does the broker offer? At Admiral Markets, we offer leverage of up to 1:1000
- Minimum deposit size. What is the minimum amount you need to start trading? At Admiral Markets, you can open your trading account with as little as €25. This allows you to start small without taking significant risk and add as you learn the market behaviour and psychology of independent trading.
- Risk management tools. Admiral Markets can help you reduce your trading risk with volatility protection and negative balance protection.
- Flexible trading styles. Will the broker allow you to not only swing trade, but day trade and scalp as well, if that's a part of your strategy?
Swing trading is a style suited to volatile markets, and it offers frequent trading opportunities.
While you will need to invest a fair amount of time into monitoring the market with swing trading, the requirements are not as burdensome as trading styles with shorter time frames. Moreover, even if you prefer intraday trading or scalping, swing trading strategies will provide you with some diversification in your results as well as offering potential additional profits!
Having said that, swing trading is not right for all traders, so it's best to practice with it risk-free first, on a demo trading account. Sign up for a demo account with Admiral Markets, and start testing your swing trading strategies on the markets risk-free. Click the banner below to open your FREE demo account today:
About Admiral Markets
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