Ichimoku Charts in Forex Trading

The Ichimoku Kinko Hyo chart isolates higher probability trades in the forex market. Also called the equilibrium chart, it is new to the mainstream but has risen in popularity among novice and experienced traders. Known for its applications in futures and equities, the Ichimoku shows more data points, which provide a more reliable price action.

The application offers multiple tests and combines three indicators into one chart. This allows a trader to make the most informed decisions about their investments. Learn how the Ichimoku works and how it can be applied to a trading strategy.

Key Takeaways

  • The Ichimoku chart isolates higher probability trades in the forex market.
  • Applying the Ichimoku offers multiple tests and combines three indicators into one chart.
  • The Tenkan and Kijun Sens lines are used as a moving average crossover signaling a change in trend and a trade entry point.
  • The Ichimoku cloud represents current and historical price action.
  • The Chikou Span represents the market's sentiment by showing the prevailing trend as it relates to the current price momentum.

Getting to Know the Ichimoku Chart

A basic understanding of the components that make up the Ichimoku chart needs to be established before a trader can execute effectively on the chart.

The Ichimoku was created and revealed in 1968 in a manner unlike most other technical indicators and chart applications. While applications were usually formulated by statisticians or mathematicians in the industry, the indicator was constructed by a Tokyo newspaper writer named Goichi Hosoda and a handful of assistants running multiple calculations.

This indicator is now used by many Japanese trading floors because it offers multiple tests on the price action, creating higher probability trades. Although many traders are intimidated by the abundance of lines drawn when the chart is actually applied, the components can be easily translated into more commonly accepted indicators.

The application is made up of four major components and offers the trader key insights into forex (FX) market price action.

Components of the Ichimoku Cloud

First, we'll take a look at the Tenkan and Kijun Sens lines. The lines are used as a moving average crossover and can be applied as simple translations of the 20- and 50-day moving averages, although with slightly different timeframes.

  • The Tenkan Sen: Calculated as the sum of the highest high and the lowest low divided by two. The Tenkan is calculated over the previous nine time periods.
  • The Kijun Sen: Calculated as the sum of the highest high and the lowest low divided by two. Although the calculation is similar, the Kijun takes the past 26 time periods into account.

What the trader will want to do here is use the crossover to initiate the position–similar to a moving average crossover. Looking at our example in Figure 1, we see a clear crossover of the Tenkan Sen (yellow line) and the Kijun Sen (orange line). This decline simply means that near-term prices are dipping below the longer-term price trend, signaling a downtrend or a move lower.

Figure 1: A crossover in similar Western branded fashion.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

Now let's take a look at the most important component, the Ichimoku cloud, which represents current and historical price action. It behaves in much the same way as simple support and resistance by creating formative barriers.

The last two components of the Ichimoku application are:

  • Senkou Span A: The sum of the Tenkan Sen and the Kijun Sen divided by two. The calculation is then plotted 26 time periods ahead of the current price action.
  • Senkou Span B: The sum of the highest high and the lowest low divided by two. This calculation is taken over the past 52 time periods and is plotted 26 periods ahead.

Once plotted on the chart, the area between the two lines is referred to as the Kumo or cloud. Comparatively thicker than typical support and resistance lines, the cloud offers the trader a thorough filter. The thicker cloud tends to take the volatility of the currency markets into account instead of giving the trader a visually thin price level for support and resistance. A break through the cloud and a subsequent move above or below it will suggest a better and more probable trade. Let's take a look at the comparison in Figure 2.

Taking our US. dollar/Canadian dollar (USD/CAD) example, we see a comparable difference between the two currencies. Although we see clear support at 1.1522 in our standard chart (Figure 2), we subsequently see a retest of the level. At this point, some trades probably will be stopped out as the price action comes back against the level, which is somewhat concerning for even the most advanced trader.

Figure 2: Classic support and resistance break.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

But in our Ichimoku example (Figure 3), the cloud serves as an excellent filter. The cloud suggests a better trade opportunity on a break of the 1.1450 figure by taking the volatility and apparent take back into account. Here, the price action does not trade back, keeping the trade in the overall downtrend momentum.

Figure 3: Ichimoku creates a better break opportunity.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

The last piece of the Ichimoku is the Chikou Span. Seen as simply market sentiment, the Chikou is calculated using the most recent closing price and is plotted 26 periods behind the price action. This feature suggests the market's sentiment by showing the prevailing trend as it relates to current price momentum. The interpretation is simple: as sellers dominate the market, the Chikou span will hover below the price trend while the opposite occurs on the buy-side. When a pair remains attractive in the market or is bought up, the span will rise and hover above the price action.

Figure 4: Chikou helps to sort out market sentiment.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

Putting the Ichimoku Chart All Together

There's no better substitute for learning how to trade the Ichimoku chart than application. Let's break down the best method of trading the Ichimoku cloud technique.

Figure 5: Lines that tell a complete story.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

Trading the Ichimoku Cloud

Taking our U.S. dollar/Japanese yen (USD/JPY) example in Figure 4, the scenario in Figure 5 will focus on the currency pair fluctuating in a range between 116 and 119 figures. Here, the cloud is a product of the range-bound scenario over the first four months and stands as a significant support and resistance barrier. With that established, we look to the Tenkan and Kijun Sen.

As mentioned above, these two indicators act as a moving average crossover, with the Tenkan representing a short-term moving average and the Kijun acting as the baseline. As a result, the Tenkan dips below the Kijun, signaling a decline in price action. However, with the crossover occurring within the cloud in Figure 5, the signal remains unclear and will need to be clear of the cloud before an entry can be considered.

We can also confirm the bearish sentiment through the Chikou Span, which at this point remains below the price action. If the Chikou was above the price action, it would confirm bullish sentiment. Putting it all together, we are now looking for a short position in our USD/JPY currency pair.

Figure 6: Place the entry ever so slightly in the cloud barrier.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

We will want to see a close of the session below the cloud before initiating any type of short sell position because we are equating the cloud to a support/resistance barrier. Here, we have a confirmed break of the cloud as the price action stalls on a support level at 114.56. The trader can now either opt to place the entry at the support figure of 114.56 or place the order one point below the low of the session. Placing the order one point below would act as confirmation that the momentum is still in place for another move lower.

Subsequently, we place the stop just above the high of the candle within the cloud formation. In this example, it would be at 116.65. The price action should not trade above this price if the momentum remains. Therefore, we have an entry at 114.22 and a corresponding stop at 116.65, leaving our risk out at 243 pips.

In keeping with sound money management, the trade will require a minimum of a 1:1 risk/reward ratio with a preferable 2:1 risk/reward for legitimate opportunities. In our example, we will maintain a 2:1 risk/reward ratio as the price moves lower to hit a low of 108.96 before pulling back. This equates to roughly 500 pips and a 2:1 risk to reward–a profitable opportunity.

One key note to remember: Notice how the Ichimoku is applied to longer timeframes, as this instance shows daily figures. The application will not work as well with many technical indicators since the volatility is in shorter timeframes.

Reviewing the Ichimoku Chart

  1. Refer to the Kijun/Tenkan cross. The potential crossover in both lines will act in a similar fashion to the moving average crossover. This technical occurrence is great for isolating moves in the price action.
  2. Confirm down/uptrend with Chikou. The probability of the trade will increase by confirming that the market sentiment is in line with the crossover, as it acts in a similar fashion with a momentum oscillator. Oscillators are technical indicators that track price action with upper and lower bands.
  3. Price action should break through the cloud. The impending down or uptrend should make a clear breakthrough of the cloud of resistance or support. This decision will increase the probability of the trade working in the trader's favor.
  4. Follow sound money management when placing entries. The trader will be able to balance risk/reward ratios and control the position by adhering to strict money management rules.

What Time Frame Is Best for the Ichimoku Chart?

The Ichimoku chart is a tool primarily used by technical traders. It uses historical data and provides multiple data points plotted along the chat. The application provides traders with multiple tests and combines three indicators into one chart. The best timeframe depends on the type of trader who uses it. For instance, day traders are better off using it for shorter time periods of up to six hours while those with a long-term trading perspective could use it for daily or weekly trades.

What Are the Drawbacks of Ichimoku?

The Ichimoku chart is a technical indicator. Like other tools in technical analysis, it is based on historical performance and data. As such, it should be taken with a grain of salt because it isn't a sure-fire predictor of future results.

How Reliable is Ichimoku?

The Ichimoku chart is well-known among technical analysts for its use in equities, futures, and forex trading. As such, it can be used in any market and during any time period. This chart is often considered fairly reliable (in terms of price action) because it provides more plotted data points. Traders are better able to make their investment decisions as the application of the chart provides multiple tests and pulls together three indicators into a single chart.

The Bottom Line

The Ichimoku chart indicator is intimidating at first, but once broken down; every trader will find the application helpful. The chart meshes three indicators into one and offers a filtered approach to the price action for the currency trader. Additionally, this approach will not only increase the probability of the trade in the FX markets but assist in isolating the true momentum plays. The Ichimoku provides an alternative to riskier trades, where the position has a chance of trading back former profits.

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  1. Karen Peloille. "Trading with Ichimoku: A Practical Guide to Low Risk Ichimoku Strategies," Page 13. Harriman House Ltd., 2017.

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