MTFA: Multiple Time Frame Analysis in Forex Trading

Alexandros Theophanopoulos
14 Min read

There are several types of Forex analysis. Most traders will know about fundamental analysis, market sentiment, and technical analysis. There is another type of analysis which can be overlooked at times but is something that most, if not all, traders will have come across at some point - particularly, those interested in forex technical analysis, and that is Forex Multiple Time Frame Analysis (MTFA). This type of analysis is easily forgotten by traders as they pursue more specific markets.

When specialising as a momentum trader, a day trader, an event risk trader, or a breakout trader, many participants of the market lose sight of the larger trend and may miss clear levels of support and resistance, and may also fail to notice high probability entry-stop levels. The overall purpose of this article is to explore what multiple time-frame FX analysis stands for and how to understand it.

Multiple Time Frame Analysis: An Introduction

Multiple time frame analysis (or MTF) in Forex trading involves monitoring the same currency pair across various frequencies, also known as time compressions. MTF trading is a process of looking into different time frames and aligning both trend, momentum, and direction. Since there is no real maximum as to how many of the frequencies can be monitored, or which particular ones to choose, there are instead general guidelines that the majority of traders follow.

Utilising three different periods is usually enough to provide a wide enough reading on the market. Applying fewer than this can end in a substantial loss of data, whilst using more typically provides irrelevant analysis. When choosing the three-time frequencies, an uncomplicated strategy is to follow the rule of four.

This implies that a medium-term period must be first identified, and it should illustrate a standard as to how long the average trade is held. From there, a shorter frame of time should be selected, and it must be at least a quarter of the intermediate period. For instance, a 15-minute chart for the brief-term time frame, and a 60-minute chart for the medium time frame.

Using an identical calculation, according to multiple time frame trading, the long-term time frame must be at least four times greater than the medium one. Thereby keeping with the preceding example, the 240-minute or 4-hour chart would round out the three-time frequencies.

It is critical to choose the right time frame when selecting the range of the three periods. A long-term Forex trader who holds certain positions for months will find little use for 60-minute, 15-minute, and 240-minute combinations. Conversely, a day FX trader who holds positions for hours and seldom longer than a day would gain little advantage in daily, weekly, or monthly arrangements.

Source: Admirals MetaTrader - An example of multiple time frame analysis - EURUSD weekly, daily and 4-hour chart, 19 August 2022

Multiple Time Frame Analysis: Using Long-term Time Frames

We've covered the basics of multiple time frame analysis in Forex, so now we'll look at how to apply it to the FX market directly. With this approach to studying charts, it is usually a good idea, to begin with, a long-term time frame, and then work down to the other frequencies. By observing a long-term time frame, the prevailing trend can be established.

It is important to remember the most excessively used aphorism in trading for this frequency - the trend is your friend. Arrangements should not be executed on this broad-angled chart, yet the trades that are taken should be in the same direction as the trend.

This doesn't actually mean that trades cannot be taken against the larger trend, however, those that are will most likely have a considerably lower probability of success, and the profit target will be smaller than if it was moving forward in the direction of the general trend. Make sure to take that into account when trading multiple time frames.

In the currency markets - when the long-term frame of time has different periods such as daily, weekly, or monthly - fundamentals tend to have a substantial impact on direction. Therefore, an FX trader has the task of monitoring the main economic trends when following the overall trend on this frame of time.

Whether the key economic concern is current account shortages, consumer spending, business investment, or any other list of influences, those developments should be tracked to better understand the direction of price action. This is one of the primary multiple time frame analysis techniques.

Another contemplation for a higher frame of time in this range is in fact interest rates. Often used as a reflection of an economy's health, the interest rate is an essential element in pricing exchange rates. Under most circumstances, the capital will flow toward the currency with the higher rate in a pair, as this relates to much greater returns on investments.

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Frame Analysis: Using Medium & Short-Term Time Frames

Now we will move on to the next step of our guide for multiple time frame analysis in the Forex market. We'll look at the medium time frame with smaller movements within the broader trend becoming more recognisable. That is the most flexible of the three frequencies, due to the fact that the sense of both the longer-term and the short-term frames can be acquired from this level. As we have previously mentioned, the anticipated holding period for an average trade should determine this anchor for the time frame range. As a matter of fact, this level is the most often followed chart when planning a trade.

There are certain trades that should be performed in the medium and short-term time frame. When smaller fluctuations in price action become clearer, a Forex trader is better able to select an attractive entry for a position, whose direction has already been identified by the charts of higher frequency.

Perhaps another important consideration for this period is that fundamentals once again substantially affect price action in these charts, though in a very different way than they do for the higher time frames. Fundamental trends are no longer visible when charts are under a four-hour frequency.

Consider the following when applying multiple time frame analysis - the short-term frame will reply with enlarged volatility to those FX indicators that are dubbed market moving. The more granulated this lower time frame is, the greater the reaction to economic indicators will actually seem.

Most of the time, those sharp movements last for a short time and as such, are occasionally described as noise. Nevertheless, an FX trader will frequently avoid making poor trades on these interim imbalances, as they keep an eye on the progression of the other time frames.

Source: Admirals MetaTrader - An example of multiple time frame analysis - GBPUSD daily and 4-hour chart, 19 August 2022

Frame Analysis: Result of Putting All Time Frames Together

When all three-time frames are combined to assess a currency pair, a Forex trader can easily enhance the odds of success for a trade. Executing the top-down analysis encourages trading with relatively larger trends. In fact, this alone lowers risk because there is a higher possibility that price action will, in the end, continue on the longer trend.

By utilising this theory, the level of confidence in a trade should be evaluated by how the multiple time frames align. For instance, if the larger trend is to the upside but the intermediate-term and short-term trends are moving lower, cautious shorts have to be taken, with rational profit targets, as well as stops. As an alternative, an FX trader may wait until a bearish wave runs its direction on the lower frequency charts, and may then aim to go long at a satisfying level when the three-time frames align once more.

Another benefit of integrating Forex multiple time frames into analysing trades is the capability to determine support and resistance readings, as well as strong entry-exit levels. The chance of success for a trade is enhanced when it is followed exactly on a short-term chart, owing to the ability of a trader to keep away from poor entry prices, senseless targets, and ill-placed stops.

Filtering Out Bad Setups

When trading on lower time frames (e.g.15-minute charts) it is not always clear which triggers and setups have a better chance of success. Sometimes, setups look pretty much identical, but why do some work out well, while others fail? It is interesting that the result tends to be the same regardless of the tool or indicator used or tested.

Luckily, there is good news. Multiple time frame (MTF) analysis helps professional traders to filter out weaker setups. For instance, in the following example, the trader was contemplating taking a EUR/USD short setup on a 15-minute chart. The downtrend seemed well-established, and a continuation after the bearish break was a setup worth considering, as is evident in the chart provided below:

Source: Admirals MetaTrader - An example of multiple time frame analysis - EURUSD 1-hour and 15-minute chart, 19 August 2022

In the charts above, the trader can have confidence the downtrend on the 15-minute chart (right side) will continue as the higher timeframe is also suggesting the 1-hour chart traders are bearish. Having multiple timeframe analyses like this can often lead to continued trends (but of course they all end at some point). 

Having two charts side by side can give the trader a quick view of what is happening in the big picture and the smaller picture at the same time.

Multiple Time Frame Analysis on Lower Time Frames

You might have the impression that higher time frames will always provide more information than lower time frames. This is not necessarily true, because the financial charts are fractal in nature, which means that price patterns repeat on all scales, from low to high, in a similar way. That is exactly why lower time frames can also help out when analysing higher time frames.

For instance, you might be considering a long setup based on a daily candle, but will the price continue immediately? or will there be a retracement first? Traders can gain more information about the chance of a break or a pullback by zooming into the lower time frames and then checking whether the price was able to push through the local support levels or not. For example:

  • A breakout on that time scale is likely to continue
  • A bounce could indicate a potential retracement

Best Time Frames for Multiple Time Frame Analysis

Here are time frame combinations for you to consider using in your trading setups:

  • Swing trading: weekly, daily, 4h charts
  • Intra-day/week trading: daily, 4h, 1 hour charts
  • Intra-day trading: daily, 1h, 15 min charts

Long-term traders could use a monthly, weekly, and daily (or 4h) chart combination. Scalpers could perhaps go with a 1-hour, a 15-minute, and a 5-minute chart combination.

The good news is there are several methods available to professional traders that enable them to quickly perform MTF analysis, by using special indicators such as the Mini Charts that are available in the MetaTrader Supreme Edition plugin.

Best MTFA Time Frame Combination

Although all time frames have their own individual benefits, some traders think that each time frame is particularly useful for these three key aspects of trading:

  • Spotting Support & Resistance - Support & Resistance is key for the higher time frames. Reviewing the weekly chart, for instance, is useful when you are a swing trader.
  • Identifying the trend and patterns - The middle time frames are the best for viewing trends, momentum, corrections, and patterns in general. For swing traders, this would be a daily chart, whereas, for intra-day or intra-week traders, a 1-hour or 4-hour chart would be appropriate.

The trader's main purpose is to measure whether there is a trend, whether there is impulsive or corrective price action, if there are signs of exhaustion like divergence or reversal patterns, and if there are signs of continuation patterns.

  • Searching for entries - The lowest time frames are the best trigger chart and are useful for trading purposes. It is the best for finding the entry, and also for taking a trade setup.

In most cases, traders use candlestick patterns to confirm entry points. For instance, with bounce setups, traders might wait for a wick or an exhaustion candle. With breakout setups, traders might wait for strong candle closes. As you can see, time frames are especially relative. The best time frame for you will depend on your preferred type of trading, and other important factors of course.

But one aspect remains true when trading with a demo trading account or a live account, and using multiple time frame analysis – a useful concept for most traders. Please note that there is nothing wrong with a single time frame analysis, but professional traders might see clearer benefits in performing multiple time frame analyses, specifically when using three charts with three different roles.

Multiple Time Frame Analysis: Conclusion

The utilisation of MTFA can significantly enhance the odds of making a successful trade. Unfortunately, a lot of traders overlook the usefulness of this technique once they start to find a particular niche. However, it is a great starting point for newbies and is certainly one worth revisiting for experienced traders.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Multiple Time Frame Analysis (MTFA)?

Multiple Time Frame Analysis (MTFA) is a trading technique that involves examining the same financial instrument or market using different time frames simultaneously. Traders use this approach to gain a comprehensive view of price movements and trends, which can help in making more informed trading decisions.


Why is MTFA important for traders?

MTFA is important for traders because it provides a broader perspective on price action. By analyzing multiple time frames, traders can identify both short-term and long-term trends, which can help them make better entry and exit decisions. It also assists in confirming or filtering out signals from a single time frame, increasing the probability of successful trades.


How can I implement MTFA in my trading strategy?

To implement MTFA in your trading strategy:

  1. Choose two or more time frames that suit your trading style (e.g., daily, 4-hour, and 1-hour charts).
  2. Identify the primary trend on the longer time frame (higher timeframe) to determine the overall direction of the market.
  3. Use the shorter time frame (lower timeframe) to fine-tune entry and exit points based on the primary trend.
  4. Look for confluence or agreement between time frames, such as aligning moving averages or chart patterns, to increase confidence in your trades.

Remember that MTFA requires practice and experience to master, but it can be a valuable tool for traders looking to improve their decision-making process and overall trading success.



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