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How to Set Up Your Trading Screens
Modern markets have evolved into vastly complicated organisms with thousands of data points competing for attention. It’s our job to transform this information flood into an efficient set of charts, tickers, indexes and indicators that support our profit objectives. Part of this task requires observation of broad market forces, while the balance demands a narrow focus on specific securities used to execute our strategies.
Most traders have real-life jobs and responsibilities away from home, forcing them to access the markets through pint-sized smartphones, gathering the information needed to assume new risk and manage open positions to a profitable or unprofitable conclusion. These folks will benefit with the screen saving tips I’ve outlined in Top Strategies Remote Traders Should Follow.
- If your’e an active trader, your trading platform is your workstation – and setting up your screen layout will help you take advantage of the information at your disposal.
- Whether it’s one, two, or three or more screens, make sure that you can find the tools and data you need with just a glance so that you can take action when a signal appears.
- Many platforms offer customizable and modular screen customization, as well as pre-set defaults geared toward particular types of users.
Trading from Screens
A fortunate minority sits at home or in a proprietary shop and trades full time. These folks need more detailed on-screen information because they’re assuming greater risk. The additional data cover the same territory as the remote participant but in far greater detail. In addition, these traders need to set aside space for incubation of future opportunities, with a focus on market groups not currently being traded.
How many monitors do at-home traders need to watch the markets efficiently? The answer has changed over the years because monitor prices have dropped substantially while graphics cards now routinely support multiple monitor setups. Given the low cost, it makes sense to add as many monitors as you can fit comfortably in the space set aside for the function, while not exceeding your budget or your ability to promptly analyze the information you put on them.
Building Effective Trading Screens
Generally speaking, traders do a poor job capturing the three types of information needed to support a comprehensive visual analysis: market observation, position management and incubator. Each square inch of screen space wasted with unnecessary charts or data contributes to an incomplete view that can be costly in an active trading style. Nearly all traders have made the most common mistake at some point in the careers, i.e. loading up screens with too many charts and not enough tickers.
Reserve charting for must-watch tickers, with a second group set to different time frames that link to a single symbol from the watch list. If space is limited, add a time frame toolbar to fewer charts and flip through different settings on that chart. Specific time frames utilized for this analysis should match your market approach. While not set in stone, the following settings offer a good starting point:
- Scalpers: 5-minute, 15-minute and hourly charts.
- Swing Traders: 15-minute, hourly and daily charts
- Market Timers: hourly, daily and weekly charts or daily, weekly and monthly charts
Must-have charts may include the following:
- S&P 500 futures or SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY) set to 15-minute time frame
- Nasdaq 100 Futures or Powershares QQQ Trust (QQQ) set to 15-minute time frame
- VIX – CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) set to 15-minute time frame
- 24-hour 15-minute charts of market-moving securities such as Apple Inc. (AAPL), SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) and the US Oil Fund (USO).
If possible, keep two sets of S&P 500 futures charts, one for the U.S.-only session, starting at 9:30 a.m. ET and ending at 4:15 p.m. ET, and a second 24-hour 60-minute futures chart that tracks overnight action in Asia and Europe. This second chart is enormously useful in getting up to speed when you open your workstation in the morning.
What about a real-time news ticker? This is a personal choice because some strategies rely on breaking news to execute positions while the majority works perfectly well with a stand-alone third-party service or a carefully curated Twitter stream. As a general rule, it is best to keep news off your charting and data programs, saving the precious space for charts and security tickers.
These images capture highlight methods to use screen space efficiently, regardless of the number of monitors used to watch the financial markets. The panels in these examples scale well when adding new screens, or when loading up a small laptop for travel. When pressed for space, reduce the number of charts and securities while keeping the entire set of indexes and indicators.
The top panel (1) highlights major benchmarks, showing detailed information on the Dow Industrial Average, S&P 500, Russell 2000 and Nasdaq indexes. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures contracts sit at eye level so traders can watch in real time during the market day. Open, high, low and last data columns reveal how current price is interacting with key levels, which also mark intraday support and resistance.
The center left panel (2) deconstructs the Level 2 market depth screen, eliminating extraneous columns in favor of a streamlined view that displays just price and size. Market center data are no longer useful because the vast majority of intraday transactions never make it to this screen, due to high-frequency trading algorithms (HFT). The time and sales ticker on the right side has been reduced to core elements as well, showing just time, price and size.
The center right panel (3) displays a simplified portfolio view for long-term positions. It isn’t required but is extremely useful when a position blows up and requires the trader’s attention. The lower panel (4) contains detailed information on open positions as well as securities being watched for entry. Price and percentage change measure intraday performance, while volume and average volume reveal activity level compared with prior sessions. Open, high, low and last columns replace charts in many cases, allowing easy visualization of the daily pattern.
Top left (1) and top right (2) panels display scaled-down data on secondary ticker lists. These are compiled over time through news, scans, homework, media play and all the other ways we find interesting trade setups. Volume and average volume columns are especially important on these lists because they identify active securities in just a glance. The chart (3) links to tickers on all the panels through the green symbol on the upper left. Traders can also flip through time frames, from 2-minute to monthly, by clicking on the top toolbar.
Top left (1) and center left (2) panels display market internals and key indexes not shown on the first screen. Learning to interpret this background information correctly takes time, but the effort is worthwhile because it builds significant tape reading skills. The top right (3) panel contains the same columns as other secondary lists but focuses on a specific market group … energy and commodities in this case. Finally, the bottom left (4) chart keeps a real-time VIX on display, while the bottom right chart (5) shows a core security you’ll watch for years or decades.
The Bottom Line
Well-organized trading screens sum up intraday market action, breaking it into digestible bites that can speed up complex trading decisions as well as exposing conditions that can blossom into full-blown rallies, sell-offs and reversals. When carefully constructed, these screens mark a definable trading edge that can last a lifetime.
[No matter what kind of trader you are, the ideal setup for your trading screens will depend on the specific indicators and oscillators you choose to analyze. To learn more about these tools, check out the Technical Analysis course on the Investopedia Academy, which includes on-demand videos and interactive content to help you improve your trading skills.]
Silver May ’20 (SIK20)
Stocks: 15 20 minute delay (Cboe BZX is real-time), ET. Volume reflects consolidated markets. Futures and Forex: 10 or 15 minute delay, CT.
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Interactive Charts provide the most advanced and flexible platform for analyzing historical data, with over 75 customizable studies, drawing tools, custom spreads and expressions, plus a wide range of visualization tools.
While logged into the site, you will see continuous streaming updates to the chart.
In addition, U.S. equity charts can be configured to show real-time Cboe BZX prices. You may toggle this setting on and off using the “Real-Time” check box at the top of the chart. All other non-U.S. equity charts will show delayed prices, per exchange rules.
Barchart Dashboard (included in your free Barchart membership) also provides all site members a streaming chart experience.
Default Chart Settings
If you are not logged into the site, or have not set up a default Chart Template (free site membership required), the default chart presented is a 6-Month Daily chart using OHLC bars. If you are logged in (recommended for the BEST viewing experience), we remember your chart settings for the next time you view a chart.
Charts are designed to indicate the high and low bars for the visible data range using a small “arc” on the two bars:
Interactive Charts were designed to remember and retain your personalized settings when you are logged into the site. Any tool added to a chart is always saved and will be displayed next time you access that specific chart.
There are three auto-saving mechanisms available, defined in your Site Preferences page in the My Barchart tab.
Use Last-Viewed Chart Settings: Any changes you make to a chart (aggregation, bar type, studies, etc.) are remembered and carried forward to the next chart you view. This is the recommended setting for a continuous chart viewing experience.
Use Chart Template: This option should be used when you want to rely on a specific template to define your preferred chart configuration. When chosen, you must identify a template to apply for every chart you view.
Save Every Chart: Every chart is saved, available for Barchart Premier Members. This option offers the highest level of chart customization, where every symbol can potentially have its own unique chart setup. You will always see the chart for a specific symbol as you did the last time you viewed it. For futures traders, however, this option is not recommended, as each time a futures contract expires the next futures contract chart must again be configured to your preferred settings.
Note: Regardless of the saving mechanism chosen, you can always apply a chart template to change the settings on any chart you view.
Changing the Chart Symbol
Change the symbol either by entering a new symbol in the chart form, or by entering a new symbol in the Search box at the top of the page.
Changing the Bar Type
The graph can be changed using the menu next to the Symbol box, by opening the Settings icon and selecting the Display tab, or by right-clicking on the chart, and selecting Display Options / Bar Type.
Links are provided at the top of the chart to allow you to quickly change the aggregation and time frame. The + to the right of the Quick Chart links allow you to further fine-tune the aggregation (Intraday, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly) along with the period you wish to display.
For Commodity Contracts: Aggregation selections for Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly charts allow you to specify whether to use Contract or Nearest Futures. Nearest will use whatever contract was the Nearest futures contract on the date of the given bar. The Price Box will show the contract that was used to build the bar.
To build a Continuation chart for a commodity (one that uses the same contract month – Z17, Z16, Z15 etc. – back in time to build the chart) open the Settings menu, and in the Adjustments tab check “Build Continuation Chart.” Then choose a Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Quarterly aggregation.
Custom Date Range
You may set a custom date range for a specific aggregation by clicking the Calendar icon. First, choose whether you want to see Intraday, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Quarterly, then choose “Date” from the period drop-down list. You can then enter a beginning and ending date range.
Zooming and Panning the Chart
Chart panning is used to drag the data shown on the chart backwards and forwards in time. Chart panning is used when you want to see older data than what is initially shown on the chart. To pan the chart, position your cursor on the main chart pane and drag and drop the data to the left or the right. To reset a chart that’s been panned, look for the double arrows at the very bottom right portion of the chart. Clicking these arrows will return the chart to the initial setting.
Chart zooming allows you to change the scale level on the chart (magnify the area shown). To zoom the chart, drag and drop either the time scale at the bottom, or the price scale at the right. To reset a chart that’s been zoomed, double-click on the time scale or the price scale (whichever needs to be reset).
Click the Settings icon to access different options for your chart.
Bar Type: For each Bar Type, you may customize the color and thickness of the bars.
OHLC Bars are drawn to show the open-high-low-close. A vertical line is drawn between the highest and lowest price. The horizontal dash extending to the left of the bar represents the open, and the horizontal dash extending to the right of the bar represents the closing price.
Colored OHLC Bars and HLC Bars show the price bars in either green or red, depending on the bar’s close price relates to the previous close. When green, the close is greater than the previous close; when red, the close is less than the previous close. Candlestick Hollow:
- If Close is greater than previous close, the bar is outlined in green.
- If Close is less than previous close, the bar is outlined in red.
- When close is above the open price, the candle is hollow.
- When close is below the open price, the candle is filled.
Candlestick Open-to-Close plot the difference between the close of the current bar and the open price of the current bar.
- If Close is greater than Open, the bar is colored green.
- If Close is less than Open, the bar is colored red.
Candlestick Close-to-Close plot the difference between the close of the current bar and the closing price of the previous bar (price change)
- If today’s close is greater than the previous close, the bar is colored green.
- If today’s close is less than the previous close, the bar is colored red.
Heikin-Ashi, which means average bar in Japanese, is a distinct type of Candlestick charts. They use average ranges to calculate the points of the Candle, which smooths out the chart and in turn provides a clearer view of the trend of the market. Heikin-Ashi are also different from traditional Candlestick charts, in that they take the prior session open and close into account for the open, which in turn removes any gaps between bars on the chart.
The Heikin-Ashi chart is plotted as a candlestick chart, where the down days are represented by filled bars, while the up days are represented by hollow bars.
- Open = (Open of previous bar+Close of previous bar)/2
- High = maximum of High, Open, or Close (whichever is highest)
- Low = minimum of Low, Open, or Close (whichever is lowest)
- Close = (Open+High+Low+Close)/4
- Hollow candles represent an uptrend, with larger hollow bars indicating a stronger uptrend.
- Filled candles represent a downtrend, with larger filled bars indicating a stronger downtrend.
The Impulse System is based on two indicators, a 13-day exponential moving average and the MACD-Histogram. The moving average identifies the trend, while the MACD-Histogram measures momentum. As a result, the Impulse System combines trend following and momentum to identify tradable impulses. This unique indicator combination is color coded into the price bars for easy reference.
Green price bars show that the bulls are in control of both trend and momentum as both the 13-day EMA and MACD-Histogram are rising. A red price bar indicates that the bears have taken control because the 13-day EMA and MACD-Histogram are falling. A blue price bar indicates mixed technical signals, with neither buying nor selling pressure predominating.
Read more here.
- Standard: the price/study information is displayed in a floating Price Box as you move your mouse over the chart
- Bubble: price/study information is displayed in a tooltip bubble as you move your mouse over the chart
- Headers: price/study information is displayed in small “cards” at the top of each pane
- None: no price/study information is shown, for a “clean” chart..
Use real-time Cboe BZX data when available (U.S. Equities only): For U.S. equities, the chart will use real-time prices from the Cboe BZX Exchange when markets are in session and when Cboe BZX prices are available for the symbol on the chart (requires you to be logged in to your free Barchart account.) When checked, and when using Cboe BZX prices, the symbol shown on the chart watermark will show as .BZ (IBM.BZ) to indicate that Cboe BZX prices are being used.
Scale Type: Choose from Linear or Logarithmic. Linear scaling will calculate the most intelligent scale using the high, the low and a series of acceptable divisors for possible scales. The Logarithmic Scale uses scaling that allows for a large range of prices to be displayed without the compression of data seen on the linear scaling.
Scale Values: Choose from Price or % Change. (Percent Change will also change your Bar Type to Line.)
Right Margin: This setting configures the empty space at the far right side of the chart, and is represented by the number of bars to “leave empty”. The default setting is 2 bars, but can be configured anywhere between 1 and 25 bars.
Grids: Three options. “Basic Grids” are larger grids, “Full Grids” are finer. You may also select “No Grids”.
- Exact Value (Allow Overlap): shows the price labels at their exact position on the price scale. However, sometimes this setting means you will not be able to read all the price labels for the symbol and studies that have values close to each other.
- Stack: This option will place price labels one on top of the other, so you can easily see them all on the price scale. The labels, however, may not align with the exact prices if multiple labels are close to one another.
- Hide: will always hide price labels on the price scale. When using the “Hide” option, you will have to rely on the Floating Price Box or data cards that show in the chart to read symbol/study values as you mouse over the chart.
Events: When checked, the chart will show any Dividends, Earnings or Splits on the applicable date.
Dividends Back Adjust: When checked, price history is adjusted for dividends.
Futures contracts: These settings determine how Futures Contracts roll for Nearby and Continuation charts.
Contract Roll: You may either roll the contract based on number of days to expiration, or based on Volume / Open Interest.
Back Adjust History: When checked, price history is adjusted when switching contract months.
Adding & Deleting Studies
You may add an unlimited number of studies to an Interactive Chart. When charting a U.S. or Canadian equity, the Studies menu also displays Fundamentals which can be plotted as either quarterly or annual data.
Click the +Study button to view available studies. Also use this menu to remove studies that have already been applied to the chart.
When adding a study, you are prompted for the study parameters, and can change the color and thickness of the line before adding it to the chart. You may also identify the pane in which the study should be added (on the main chart or in a new pane).
Once a study is on the chart, you can remove it by opening the Studies menu and clicking the red “Delete” icon next to the study name. You may also delete a study by clicking the X that appears next to the study name shown on the chart or by opening the study parameters and clicking Delete..
Note: When logged in, Barchart remembers the settings you last used on each study. For example, if you add a Simple Moving Average, change the period to 50 and change the color to red, the next time you add a Simple Moving Average it will default to the same settings.
Once a study is on your chart, you can quickly clone it (make an exact duplicate), then modify the clone’s parameters. This is helpful if you want to quickly add a number of Moving Averages to your chart, using different period parameters and colors for each.
- Add a study to the chart.
- Click the + Study button, then click on the study as if you were going to Edit it.
- Click CLONE STUDY. A new set of parameters appears for the clone, where you can adjust the parameters, colors, plot thickness. When done, click ADD.
Click the Tools button to view available annotations that can be added to your chart, or open the chart menu (the three horizontal bars at the top right) and select “Add Drawing Tool“. Once you select a tool, click on the chart to start its placement. (For mobile devices, add the tool by placing your finger on your device and drag to draw.) Any tools or annotations you add are always saved (if you are logged in) and will show the next time you view the chart.
To change the color or parameters of a tool, right-click on the tool after its been placed on the chart. (For mobile devices, double-tap on the tool to open its parameters.) To delete a tool, click on the tool to select it, then press your delete key. Or, right-click on the tool to open the parameters, then select DELETE. (For mobile devices, double-tap on the tool to open its parameters, then select DELETE.)
Note: When logged in, Barchart remembers the settings you last used on each tool. For example, if you add a trend-line and change the color to a red dotted line, the next time you add a trend-line it will default to a red dotted line unless changed again or Reset.
Studies, Fundamentals, and Expressions are either added as an “Overlay” (the study is plotted in the main chart window over the underlying chart’s price data) or as an “Indicator” (study is added as a new pane at the bottom of the chart).
When a chart has 2 or more panes, you can change their order by clicking the up/down arrows (found at the top left corner of each pane).
You can plot an expression or common futures spread by clicking on the “f(x)” button, or by opening the Chart Menu (the three horizontal bars top right of the chart) and selecting “Expressions & Spreads“. You may also right-click on the chart to select the same command.
The Expressions dialog allows you to choose from a number of popular commodity spreads. When you select a popular spread from the drop-down list, the expression is built automatically for you. You may also create your own custom spread chart by entering the mathematical calculation.
The calculated results are displayed using the bar type you choose for the expression. Additionally, an expression can be added to the main chart window, or as a new pane on the chart (you’ll choose the placement when you create the expression).
If you want to create your own custom expression, you can enter the calculation directly into the expression field. Expressions consist of:
- symbols – must be enclosed in “curly brackets”. Examples:
- constants: any floating point number like 2.35; note that we don’t support “scientific” notation (for example 1.72E5)
- unary operator – (negation) so you may enter -2 + 1 and are not forced to type 1 – 2
- binary operators:
These are listed in order from lowest to highest precedence (multiplication and division will always happen before addition and subtraction, unless grouped by parentheses).
- to make sure precedence is correct, parentheses ( and ) can be used; for example 2 ^ 2 + 3 = 7 but 2 ^ (2 + 3) = 32
An example, showcasing all variables:
Note for Futures Contracts: Barchart’s charting application commonly uses the * symbol on futures contracts as a shortcut to specify the month. For example, ZC*1 will return the front month, ZC*2 returns the second month out, ZC*3 returns the third month out, etc. Using shortcut symbols when building an expression is allowable:
You can add up to five other symbols for price comparison directly on the chart. To create a Comparison chart, click the “Compare” button, or open the Chart Menu and select “Comparison Chart“. You may also right-click on the chart to select the same command, or open the Chart Menu (the three horizontal bars top right of the chart) and select Comparison Chart.. We provide a list of major market indices that you can select for comparison, or add your own symbols.
Each comparison symbol uses its own color and bar type (chosen when you create the Comparison chart.)
When a symbol’s price scale differs from the underlying chart, you may want to check the “Left Scale” option so the price data can be displayed in an easier-to-read format.
Barchart Premier Members can view the same symbol using different time periods, using a 2 or 4-chart grid. Click the “Grid View” button and select the desired layout. Once the grid is displayed, select a time period for each chart on the grid.
You may change the bar type for all the charts, and add up to three custom studies to apply to each chart. Your grid preference is remembered for the next time you use it on the Interactive Chart page, on a popout chart, or in Dashboard.
If you are a registered site user and are logged in, you may apply a template you’ve created, or save a chart’s setup as a new template. These actions are found in the “Templates” button.
A template is used to display a chart with pre-defined settings, such as aggregation, bar type, studies, and more. Site members may further identify a default chart template to always apply to a new chart in the Site Preferences page found in the My Barchart tab.
Create your own default chart template and identify this in your Site Preferences. For example, if you always want to see Candlesticks on a 30 minute Intraday chart with 2 moving averages, create a template with those parameters, and add it to your Site Preferences. This way, your charts will always start out with your desired configuration.
Templates are either created in the My Barchart tab, OR you may customize a chart to your preferences, click the Templates button, and select Save as Template. A free site membership allows you to create up to 20 templates, while Barchart Premier Members may create unlimited templates.
The Clear button (top right of the chart) clears all changes you’ve made and resets the chart to either the site default (6-Month Daily chart using OHLC bars), or to the default template identified in your Site Preferences.
The Pop-out icon opens the chart in a new browser window. You can pop out as many charts as you wish, and continue to use the Barchart.com website in a different browser window. Changes made to a pop-out chart are saved, depending on your Chart Saving Preference.
The Chart Menu is located at the top right of the chart and contains additional commands:
- Comparison Chart – opens the menu to add comparison symbols
- Expressions & Spreads – opens the menu to add an expression or spread
- Add Drawing Tools – opens the Tools menu
- Set Alert – opens the dialog to set a price alert for this symbol
- Add to Watchlist – opens the dialog to add or remove the symbol to a Watchlist
- Save to My Charts – for Premier Members, you can save a customized chart to your own “My Charts” portfolio
- More Data – Opens a series of informational windows about the symbol you are viewing. This lets you view other data, such as technicals, fundamentals, and Opinion, without leaving the chart.
- Social Share – allows you to share an image and link to the chart to different social media platforms
- Download Chart Data – for Premier Members, this option downloads all the chart data, including any studies on the chart, to a .csv file
- Print – opens the Print dialog so you can print a copy of the chart on your printer. NOTE: depending on your printer settings and the chart size, you may have to print in landscape vs. portrait mode, change the magnification level, and/or adjust the margins of the page to print the complete chart on one page.
- Save Chart as Image (.png) – Depending on your browser’s configuration, you may be asked where you want to save the image, or it may automatically get downloaded to an area on your computer previously identified by your browser as the download destination.
Many of the actions you can apply to a chart are also accessible when you right-click on the chart.
The Chart Set Up I Use For Futures
Hello all, I’m going to be blogging about intraday futures trades & traditional option positions.
To start I’ll describe the chart set-up I use for futures & then quickly go over a trade from just after the Chicago open today (7/22).
Below is a standard (9,26) Kumo & three nested boxes – A, B&C. The boxes are there to explain what the Kumo is. In each box I’ve marked it’s price midpoint with a black line. The purple arrow points to Span B at the current bar and the yellow one points to Span A. The value of span B at the current bar is equal to the price midpoint of Box A. The value of Span A at the current bar is equal to the average of the midpoints of Boxes B & C.
Each point on the Kumo edge is generated in the same way. The rightmost span A and B are generated from non-shifted boxes A, B&C. It’s all midpoints – that’s important because price tends to move towards midpoints from the edges of ranges in flat markets (think market profile) and away from midpoints in moving markets (think 50% retracement). I think of the Kumo as equilibrium, support/resistance & trend – depending on it’s shape and on price action relative to it.
The box on the left is the first 5 minutes of the Chicago session for the NQ this morning, 7/22. The Kumo is set at (18,52). The faster moving cloud is made of an 8 period EMA and a moving midpoint line just like the Spans that define the Kumo except that it isn’t projected forward and it considers 21 candles. Along the bottom is a DMI, simplified to show only crossovers of the D- and D+.
The important level for this trade is highlighted by the flat bottom of the Kumo on the right hand side. Remember the Kumo extends 52 periods in front of price, the right edge in the picture is actual for the trade entry. The flat bottom is essentially reflecting the 1/2 way point of the move just prior to Chicago open. Notice also that price tested that level during the first 5 minute action.
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When price comes back into the Kumo it has some impulse, evidenced by the red candles. It pauses respecting the flat bottom & then breaks through with impulse. At this point I’m looking to get in. The non-impulsive move back to the fast cloud is my entry – at the yellow arrow.
My exit is at the second yellow arrow. The band was getting thin, price had moved a decent amount from the Kumo and it looked as though a double bottom was forming. Simple trade good for 4 points.
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