When I started in the trading business (back in the olden days, as my grown children delight in reminding me) I was told that I would not be worth a pinned nickel until I spent 10,000 hours reading charts. Being an obedient youngster on Wall Street, I did what I was told and sketched charts with trend lines, regression channels that expanded and regression channels that were narrowing, support and resistance, and a dozen other suggested chart notations until I thought I was going to lose my one-cell brain. I learned to trade through reading and trading charts.
Chart reading is still an essential skill in learning to trade, yet it seems that, as time goes by, fewer and fewer traders value this skill. Very few of the struggling intermediate traders that I work with have even the most rudimentary chart reading skills and the suggestion that acquiring these skills for success is seldom met with much enthusiasm.
What has happened to chart reading?
I have never seen a study of this topic, so my answer is subjective in nature. My opinion is chart reading began to lose favor when J. Wells Wilder published his classic, “New Strategies in Technical Trading Systems” in 1978. With some of the tools that Mr. Wilder introduced chart reading could be reduced to a couple of studies at the bottom of the page. These price studies gave traders the illusion that entries and exits could be gleaned by reading these technical studies and trading could be mastered.
In subsequent years a whole crop of technical studies has come into existence and many of the struggling intermediate traders that come to me are often completely dependent on reading oscillators and indicators that reside below the main chart where the actual price action is printed. Therein lies the terminal trap that many traders find themselves; they don’t know chart reading.
I have claimed in many of my articles that it is my belief that the astonishing rate of failure of novice traders can be directly attributed to the trading methodology currently being taught as the “gold standard.” My thesis is as follows: Many of the popular trading education programs develop the “indicator of the day” and teach traders to trade off of these indicators. Further, they don’t emphasize chart reading as an essential skill. It is often passed over as something “you can do if you feel it will help you.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.
If you are an e-mini scalper, trading lagging indicators and oscillators (which all lag, despite what their authors may claim) is pernicious to successful e-mini scalping because they lag the actual price action by as many as 10 ticks, depending on which indicator or oscillator you choose to employ. This is akin to starting a 100-meter dash 10 meters behind the other competitors.
On the other hand, chart reading is done in real-time and decisions are made in real time. The function of indicators and oscillators in my trading world are as secondary confirming indicators. I seldom, if ever, initiate a trade based on on a study that I know lags the price action by a considerable number of bars. For example, if you have a target of 20 ticks and start 7-8 ticks behind the price action it is very difficult to scalp the e-minis’ because you are a day late and a dollar short.
In summary, I encourage your to put some real effort into simply reading charts. I often practice trading on Market Replay using only volume and price action and chart reading tools like trend lines and support/resistance. I don’t know that you have to spend 10,000 hours pouring over charts like the old timers believed, but I do know that if you can’t read a chart your chances of becoming a successful trader is greatly reduced.