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Simple Forex Trading Strategies for Beginners

Reading time: 11 minutes

This article will look at Forex trading for beginners, and will introduce some simple Forex trading strategies. In particular, this article will guide you through three key Forex trading strategies that beginners can use, namely, the Breakout strategy, the Moving Average Crossover strategy, and the Carry Trade strategy.

Simple Forex Trading Strategies for Beginners

The Forex market (Foreign Exchange Market or FX) is hugely liquid, with a vast number of participants. It is also a well-established market. As you might expect, the combination of popularity and time has resulted in professional FX traders devising countless trading strategies. As a day trading beginner who might simply be searching for beginner's trading guides on how to learn to trade Forex, or even a intermediate FX trader seeking some useful trading strategy guides to improve their knowledge and skills, the sheer volume of trading techniques available can be daunting and confusing.

Some day trading strategies are very complicated, with a steep learning curve. So Forex beginners may find it better to start with a simple and easy Forex strategy. After all, the simpler the strategy, the easier it is to understand the underlying concepts. There will be plenty of time to add complex actions after you have mastered the basics. Regardless of whether you adopt a simple or complex strategy, remember that your overarching mantra should always be to use what works. New traders are generally unable to devote large amounts of time to monitoring developments. For these newcomers to Forex, simple strategies offer an effective but low-maintenance approach.

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Three Beginner Forex Trading Strategies

The first two strategies we will show you are fairly similar because they attempt to follow trends. The third strategy attempts to profit from interest rate differentials, rather than market direction.

But first things first – what is a trend?

To put it simply, a trend is the tendency for a market to continue moving in a given overall direction. A trend-following system attempts to produce buy and sell signals that align with the formation of new trends. There are many methods designed to identify when a trend starts and ends. Many of the simple Forex trading strategies that work have similar methods. Trend following can produce large profits. In fact, there are traders who have produced outstanding track records using such systems.

But there are also some drawbacks to these strategies:

  • They are difficult to stick with
  • Large trends can be infrequent
  • The conditions that signify the potential beginning of a trend, are not frequent.

This means that the strategy tends to generate numerous losing trades. The theory is that these losses will be offset by more infrequent but larger winning trades. That is a hard pill to swallow in practice. Also, once the trend breaks down, you tend to give back a healthy amount of your profit. You may have heard the phrase, "the trend is your friend", but you may not be so familiar with the full expression, which adds "until the end". The end comes when the trend fails, and this can be very trying on a trader's psychology.

One big issue with a trend-following system is that you need deep pockets to properly use it. This is because possession of a large amount of capital reduces your chances of going bust during an extended drawdown. So trend following is useful as a Forex strategy for beginners to understand, but it may not be ideal for less wealthy beginners. Now, let's break down our strategies. The first strategy attempts to identify when a trend might be forming. It looks for price breakouts.

Breakout

GBPUSD Daily range

Source: GBPUSD - Admiral Markets MetaTrader 4 Supreme Edition (MT4SE) - Data range: 30 Dec 2015 - 16 June 2016 - Accessed: 16 June 2016

Markets sometimes range between bands of support and resistance. This is known as consolidation. A breakout is when the market market moves beyond the boundaries of its consolidation, to new highs or lows. When a new trend occurs, a breakout must occur first. Breakouts are, therefore, seen as potential signals that a new trend has begun. But the trouble is, not all breakouts result in new trends.

In Forex, even such simple strategies must be used with risk management. By doing so, you seek to minimise your losses during the trend break-down. A new high indicates the possibility that an upward trend is beginning, and a new low indicates that a downward trend is beginning.

So how can we get a feel for the type of trend we are entering?

The length of the period can help determine the highest high or the lowest low. A breakout beyond the highest high or the lowest low for a longer period suggests a longer trend. A breakout for a short period suggests a short-term trend. In other words, you can tune a breakout strategy to react more quickly or more slowly to the formation of a trend. Reacting quicker allows you to ride a trend earlier in the curve, but may result in following more shorter-term trends.

Let's take a look at a reasonably long-term breakout strategy:

The buy signal is when the price breaks out above the 20-day high, and the sell signal is when the price breaks out below the 20-day low. This is very simple, but there is still a major drawback. Namely, new highs may not result in a new uptrend, and new lows may not result in a new downtrend. So we are going to experience our fair share of false signals.

Using a stop-loss can help to alleviate this problem. To keep things really simple, here's an extremely basic rule for exiting trades: We are going to take a time-based approach. You simply close your position after a certain number of days have elapsed. This time-based exit side-steps the issue of things becoming tricky when the trend begins to break down. Once you enter a trade, hold it for 80 days and then exit.

Remember, this is a long-term strategy. If you find these parameters do not yield enough frequent signals, they can be adjusted to whatever suits you best. For example, you can try using hours instead of days for a shorter strategy. Backtesting your results will give you a feel for the effectiveness of your choices. MT4SE offers backtesting, along with a large selection of other useful tools.

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Moving Average Crossover

Our second Forex strategy for beginners uses a simple moving average (SMA). SMA is a lagging indicator that uses older price data than most strategies, and moves more slowly than the current market price. The longer the period over which the SMA is averaged, the slower it moves. Often, we use a longer SMA in conjunction with a shorter SMA. For this simple Forex strategy, we are going to use a 25-day moving average as our shorter SMA, and a 200-day moving average for the longer one.

EURUSD H4 MA crosses

Source: EURUSD - Admiral Markets MetaTrader 4 Supreme Edition (MT4SE) - Data range: 23 Feb 2016 - 14 June 2016 - Accessed: 14 June 2016

In the chart above, the 25-day moving average is the dotted red line. You can see that it follows the actual price quite closely. The 200-day moving average is the dotted green line. Notice how it smooths out the price movement? When the shorter, faster SMA crosses the longer one, it indicates a change in the trend. When the short SMA moves above the longer SMA, it means newer prices are higher than older ones.

This suggests a bullish trend, and this is our buy signal. When the short SMA moves below the longer SMA it suggests a bearish trend, and this is our sell signal. Rather than solely being used to generate trading signals, moving averages are often used as confirmations of overall trends. This means that we can combine these two strategies by using the confirmatory aspect of our SMA to make our breakout signals more effective.

With this combined strategy, we discard breakout signals that don't match the overall trend indicated by our moving averages. Here's an example: If we get a buy signal from our breakout, we should look to see if the short SMA is above the long SMA. If it is, we should place our trade. Otherwise, perhaps it's better to wait.

Carry Trade

Our final strategy is essential to know. It's a type of trade that is widely used by professionals too, so it is not purely a beginner Forex strategy. Best of all, it is easy to implement and understand. The essence of the carry trade is to profit from the difference in yield between two currencies. To understand the principles involved, let's first consider someone who physically converts currency.

Imagine a trader borrows a sum of Japanese Yen. Because the benchmark Japanese interest rate is extremely low (effectively zero at the time of writing), the cost of holding this debt is negligible. The trader then exchanges the yen into Canadian dollars and invests the proceeds into a government bond, which yields 0.6%. The interest received on the bond should exceed the cost of financing the Yen debt.

But there is a drawback:

Obviously a currency risk is baked into the trade. If the Yen appreciated enough against the Canadian dollar, the trader would end up losing money. The same principles apply when trading FX, but you have the convenience of it all being in one trade. If you buy a currency pair where the first-named ''base currency'' has a sufficiently high interest rate, in relation to the second-named ''quote currency'', then your account will receive funds from the positive swap rate.

The amount yielded is correlated to the amount of currency commanded, so leverage is an aid if the strategy pays off. As noted earlier though, there is an inherent risk that you could end up on the wrong side of a move in the currency pair. It is therefore important to carefully select the right currencies. Inertia is your friend with this strategy, and ideally you are looking for a low volatility FX pair. It's also important to note that leverage will end up magnifying losses if you get it wrong.

The Japanese Yen has long been popular as the funding currency, because Japanese rates have been low for so long, and the currency is perceived as stable. The strategy works well at a time of buoyant risk appetite, because people tend to seek out higher-yielding assets. The action of traders implementing the strategy can itself support the strategy, because the more people using the strategy, the greater the selling pressure on the funding currency.

But, there's a current problem. The global low interest environment, has narrowed interest rate differentials. When risk appetite collapsed during the credit crunch, many fingers got burned as funds flowed into the safe haven of the Japanese Yen. With the Fed signalling its intention to tighten monetary policy in the future, we may yet find the carry trade coming back into favour.

If you're interested in trading on popular currency pairs such as CADJPY and EURUSD or perhaps more exotic currency pairs such as GBPPLN and USDRON, you can do so by opening a Forex & CFD trading account with Admiral Markets!

Final Thoughts

We hope that you have found this introductory guide to Forex trading strategies for beginners useful. Bear in mind that the examples we have shared primarily aim to get you thinking about the principles involved. Don't follow a strategy without testing it first. Feel free to put your strategies to the test with our risk-free Demo trading account, where you can trade using virtual currency, with a starting amount of $10,000.

And don't forget to regularly check our education section for more free insights, articles and tutorials. Additionally, if you are feeling confident, and would like to test out some more advanced trading strategies, why not read our guide on the best forex trading strategies? And find out what the best trading strategy is for you.

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This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.

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