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Discover the Triple Screen Trading System

The Triple Screen trading system was developed by Dr Alexander Elder and first appeared in a 1986 article in Futures Magazine. It utilises multiple indicators as a means to filter out contradictory trading signals. Elder maintained that no single indicator was up to the job of correctly and consistently analysing the complexity of the financial markets. As he pointed out, different indicators may give you opposite signals for the same market.

To try and solve this problem, the Triple Screen trading system subjects every potential trade to three tests. The trades that pass all the three tests should offer better chances for profit than those that fail one or more of the tests.

So how does this method work in detail? Let's have a look!

Indicators Used in Alexander Ray's Triple Screen Trading System

It's a generally-accepted piece of theory in the field of technical analysis that trend-following indicators don't work well when the market is range-bound, while oscillators don't perform well in trending markets. In a range-bound market, oscillators will perform well, though, and trend-following indicators are naturally-suited to trending markets.

The Triple Screen trading system combines trend-following indicators with oscillators in a way that is designed to take advantage of their strengths, while filtering out those occasions when they perform badly.

Dr Alexander Ray recommended using the Force Index and the Elder-ray as oscillators. He also suggested Stochastic and Williams %R as oscillators that would work well with the system.

Another challenge when it comes to conflicting signals is that a trend really depends on what time frame you are looking at. For example, if you are looking at a daily chart, the trend may be up, but when you look at a four-hour chart, it may be down. The Triple Screen trading system dictates that you consider three trend lengths, a concept that dates all the way back to the Dow theory.

These three trends are:

  1. the long-term trend — also referred to as the tide
  2. the intermediate trend — also called the wave
  3. the short-term trend — also known as the ripple.

The intermediate trend should be for the time frame you are looking to trade. The system was originally designed to use a daily chart for the intermediate time frame. The long-term trend can be seen on a chart of one-magnitude greater than the intermediate time frame. For example, if you are looking to trade on a daily chart, the long-term trend would be governed by a weekly chart. The short-term trend would be one order of magnitude shorter. In our example, this would be a four-hour chart. The concept of these different time frames play a part in the Triple Screen method, as we will discuss in the next section.

The Method Used for the Triple Screen Trading System

As the name of the system suggests, there are three screens applied to each trade.

These are:

  1. First screen – analyses a time frame one order of magnitude greater than the chart you plan to use to trade.This identifies the direction of the tide (the larger trend) with a trend indicator.
  2. Second screen – applies an oscillator to the chart you wish to trade in order to identify the wave, which is a market movement contrary to the direction of the tide. This is done with a view to achieving an optimal entry point.
  3. Third screen – analyses the ripple and looks for short-term breakouts in the direction of the tide using a trailing stop.

The Triple Screen trading system uses tight stop-losses on any opened position. Elder recommended for long positions that you use a stop one tick below the low of the current or previous bar (whichever is lower). For short positions, the stop would go one tick above the high of the current or previous bar (whichever is higher).

First Screen

The first screen looks at the bigger picture. As we noted above, this is done using a trend indicator on a chart that is one order of magnitude longer than the time frame on which you wish to trade. The original Triple Screen trading system used the MACD indicator for identifying the direction of the larger trend on a weekly chart. You can use whichever trend indicator you feel is best, however.

One of the best ways to determine which indicator is most suitable for your purposes is to experiment with a Demo Trading Account. The risk-free nature of demo trading allows you to discover what is effective via trial and error, while still using genuine live market prices.

Once the first screen identifies the direction of the tide, this is the only direction in which you will be allowed to trade when looking at your intermediate chart. So if your trend indicator says it is an uptrend, you can only buy. If it says the tide is flowing in the direction of a downtrend, you can only sell.

Second Screen

Once we know the direction of the tide, we are looking for a wave in the contrary direction on our intermediate chart that will give us a beneficial entry. Let's say you are looking at a daily chart as your intermediate time frame, and the weekly chart shows the larger trend is upward. You are now looking for a daily decline which would give you an advantageous chance to buy the market.

We would do this by looking for a buy signal from our oscillator of choice on the daily chart. Any sell signals in this case would be ignored because the uptrend from the first screen has already filtered those out.

Third Screen

We move to the third screen once we get agreement from the first and second screen: that is, when the larger trend is up and an intermediate decline has generated a buy signal from our oscillator or when the larger trend is down and an intermediate rally has generated a sell signal.

The third screen is a technique using a trailing stop to decide the specific entry point. If we are looking to go long in the market with a daily chart used in the second screen, we use a trailing buy-stop one tick above the high of the previous day. If we are looking to go short, we use a trailing sell-stop one tick below the low of the previous day.

Let's say the weekly trend is up, and a daily decline has issued an oversold signal from your oscillator (i.e., a buy signal). You place a buy stop one tick above the high of the previous day. If the market resumes its uptrend and hits your stop, you will go long the market. If the market continues to decline, your stop will be unactivated. You then trail your stop by dropping it to one tick above the high of the day just gone. You keep trailing until activated or until you see the weekly trend change direction.

Let's look at this using some actual chart examples from MetaTrader 4.

Using the Triple Screen Trading System in MT4

As the system was originally designed to use weekly charts for the tide and daily charts for the wave, those will be the time frames we'll use as an example. Below is a weekly EUR/USD Forex chart from MT4 with MACD applied with default settings:

EURUSDWeekly-Triple-MACD.png

Image source: MetaTrader 4 platform, price data from Admiral Markets, weekly EUR/USD chart, 12 July 2015 to 29 October 2017

The slope of the MACD histogram, which appears beneath the main price chart, tells us the trend of the tide. An upward slope suggests an uptrend, and a downward slope, a downtrend. A key buy signal is when the indicator turns upward from beneath the centreline. A key sell signal is when the indicator turns downward from above the centreline.

We can see in early May 2017 that the MACD crosses up above the centreline (specifically it crosses on 5 May 2017). We'll use this period for our example and proceed to apply our second screen. We are using a daily chart for our intermediate time frame. Below is a daily EUR/USD Forex chart with two oscillators applied:

Triple-trading-EURUSDDaily-oscillators.png

Image source: MetaTrader 4 platform, price data from Admiral Markets, daily EUR/USD chart, 23 March 2017 to 29 June 2017

The first oscillator is a two-day EMA Force Index. The second oscillator is the Stochastic oscillator, using default values. The Force Index shows buying opportunities when it falls below its centreline and selling opportunities when it rises above the centreline. The Stochastic oscillator shows buying opportunities in oversold areas (below 30) and selling opportunities in overbought areas (above 70).

As the weekly trend was up in May, we can only pay attention to buy signals during this period. At this time, we do have the Force Index below 0, meaning we could proceed to our third screen if this was the oscillator we were using. RSI, however, does not show an oversold condition at this time. If we were using RSI, we would take no action.

For our third screen, if we were following the buy signal from the Force Index, we would then place a stop to buy. As we got our signal on 5 May 2017, we would place the stop one tick above the high from 4 May 2017, which was 1.1529. So we would place a stop to buy at 1.1529. This level was not hit on 6 May 2017, so we would then trail it down to one tick above the high from 5 May 2017, which was 1.1493. We would keep trailing the stop lower until either we open a position or the weekly trend changes.

If we open a position, we use a tight stop-loss order to manage our risk. This would go one tick below the high of the trade day or the previous day — whichever is lower. Conversely, for short positions, you would place a stop-loss one tick above the high of the trade day or the previous day — whichever is higher. If the market moves in your favour, you should move the stop-loss to your break-even level. From there, trail the market to protect 50% of your running profits.

A good way to decide whether this system works for you is by backtesting. MetaTrader Supreme Edition is a free plug-in for MT4 that offers an easy-to-use Trading Simulator precisely for this purpose. MT4SE also greatly extends the selection of trading indicators for you to use.

Download MT4 Supreme Edition - Forex trading platform

Triple Screen Summary of Trading Action

As we have seen, the Triple Screen trading system uses multiple timeframes and a combination of indicators. It also uses a tight stop-loss to enforce money management discipline. The table below gives a summary of action to take depending on the combination of the larger and intermediate trend:

Larger Trend

Intermediate Trend

Trade Action

Method

None

-

Buy

Trailing buy-stop

None

-

Sell

Trailing sell-stop

We hope you enjoyed this introduction to the Triple Screen trading system. If you would like to read more about Dr Alexander Elder's indicators, try taking a look at our article on The Bulls And Bears Power Indicator!



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