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Heikin Ashi: Trading Strategies, Calculation, Pros and Cons

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 5/16/2024 15 min read

Heikin Ashi, a refined method of candlestick charting, offers traders and investors a clearer picture of market trends by smoothing out price data. Originating from Japan, this technique modifies traditional candlestick charts to help traders follow trends without the interference of minor price fluctuations. Understanding Heikin Ashi is vital for those looking to enhance their technical analysis skills and refine their trading decisions.

Read this article because it provides you with effective strategies using Heikin Ashi candles, offering a smoother, clearer view of market trends.

I’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is Heikin Ashi and how does it differ from traditional candlesticks?
  • How do you calculate Heikin Ashi?
  • What are the advantages of using Heikin Ashi in trading?
  • How can Heikin Ashi be used in swing trading?
  • What types of strategies are best suited to the Heikin Ashi technique?
  • How does Heikin Ashi improve chart readability and signal visibility?
  • Can Heikin Ashi be used alone for making trading decisions?
  • How do different timeframes affect the use of Heikin Ashi?

Let’s get to the content!

What Is Heikin Ashi?

Heikin Ashi, which means “average bar” in Japanese, transforms all the chaos of traditional candlesticks into more comprehensible and visually appealing charts. Unlike standard candlesticks, Heikin Ashi takes a formulaic approach to depict price movements, smoothing out the usual erratic fluctuations of the market.

This technique is particularly useful when compared to traditional candlestick charts. Here are some of its advantages:

  • Visual Clarity: Heikin Ashi charts are cleaner, making trends easier to identify.
  • Reduction in Market Noise: Filters out insignificant price movements.
  • Enhanced Trend Identification: Simplifies the process of distinguishing between trending and non-trending states.

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What Is the Difference Between Heikin Ashi vs Traditional Candlesticks?

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Heikin Ashi modifies the way candles are calculated and plotted on the chart, providing a differentiated perspective from traditional candlesticks.

  • Candle Construction: Traditional candles use actual open, high, low, and close data. Heikin Ashi candles use average prices to create each candle.
  • Trend Indication: Smoother appearance helps in identifying and confirming trends.
  • Reaction to Price Gaps and Reversals: Heikin Ashi typically shows fewer gaps and reversals due to averaging.

These differences affect trading decisions by providing a smoother chart that emphasizes longer-term trends, potentially leading to more sustained trade positions and reduced trigger-happy trading actions.

What Is the Heikin Ashi Formula?

At the core of Heikin Ashi charts is a formula that recalculates traditional candlestick values to produce a cleaner and more consistent trend visual.

How Do You Calculate the Heikin Ashi?

Understanding the calculation behind Heikin Ashi is crucial for its application in trading scenarios. Here’s how each candlestick is derived from traditional candlestick data:

  1. Heikin Ashi Close: Average of the open, high, low, and close (OHLC) of the current period.
  2. Heikin Ashi Open: Average of the open and close of the previous Heikin Ashi candle.
  3. Heikin Ashi High: Maximum of the current high, current Heikin Ashi open, or Heikin Ashi close.
  4. Heikin Ashi Low: Minimum of the current low, current Heikin Ashi open, or Heikin Ashi close.

These steps create candles that tie more closely together, reducing gaps and providing a cleaner view of the market trend.

How to Read Heikin-Ashi Candlestick Charts

Interpreting Heikin Ashi charts involves understanding the implications of the modified candlesticks:

  • White/Green Candles with No Lower Shadows: Indicate strong uptrends.
  • Red/Black Candles with No Upper Shadows: Suggest strong downtrends.
  • Small Bodies with Shadows on Both Sides: Point to a trend reversal or market consolidation.

Integrating the Aroon Indicator with Heikin-Ashi charts can significantly refine trend identification. The Aroon Indicator is designed to measure the strength of a trend and the likelihood that it will continue. This combination allows traders to validate the trends seen on Heikin-Ashi charts, providing a dual-layer confirmation that can enhance trading decisions. Understanding how to pair these tools effectively is key to developing advanced technical analysis skills — you can do that by checking out my guide to the Aroon Indicator.

The Best Heikin Ashi Strategies

Applying specific Heikin Ashi strategies can significantly enhance trading effectiveness by aligning entry and exit points with clear trend signals.

For traders using Heikin Ashi, fine-tuning your MACD settings can be a game-changer. The MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence) is an oscillator type indicator that works well with Heikin Ashi by signaling trend reversals and momentum. Properly calibrated settings on the MACD can align perfectly with the smoothed data from Heikin Ashi charts, providing clearer entry and exit signals. This synergy can particularly benefit those looking to enhance their trend-following techniques. To optimize your MACD settings for Heikin Ashi, check out my article on Optimizing MACD Settings.

1. Traditional Candlestick Patterns

While traditional patterns like Doji or Hammer can still appear on Heikin Ashi charts, their interpretations require adjustments due to the averaging of price data.

  • Doji Patterns: May indicate a pause or potential reversal in the trend.

  • Modified Hammers: Often validate continuation patterns in the context of Heikin Ashi.

2. Breakouts

Heikin Ashi charts are particularly effective in identifying breakout opportunities due to their smooth nature.

They’re money for:

  • Identifying Breakouts: Focus on sequences of candles with diminishing shadows.
  • Entry Points: Initiate trades following a clear breakout confirmed by a successive green or red candle.

3. Bearish Flag

The bearish flag pattern on a Heikin Ashi chart can signify potential downtrend continuations.

  • Pattern Recognition: Look for a small rise in price within a downtrend that resembles a flag.
  • Trading the Pattern: Enter a short position when the price breaks below the flag pattern.

How to Apply Heikin Ashi in Various Trading Scenarios

Heikin Ashi’s adaptability makes it suitable for various trading styles, enhancing its utility across different market conditions.

Heikin Ashi in Swing Trading

Swing traders benefit from Heikin Ashi’s ability to highlight sustained price movements, minimizing the likelihood of reacting to false trends. Moving averages can be used with Heikin Ashi candles to determine optimal swing trade entries and exits.

Scalping With Heikin Ashi

For scalpers, Heikin Ashi can streamline the trading process by filtering out insignificant price movements and highlighting only substantive trends. Scalpers need to focus on high-liquidity markets where Heikin Ashi signals are more reliable due to reduced price discrepancies.

Heikin Ashi for Trend Following and Reversals

Heikin Ashi excels in identifying and confirming both trend continuations and potential reversals.

  • Strategies for Trend Following: Combine Heikin Ashi with volume indicators to reinforce trend strength signals.
  • Reversal Identification: Watch for changing candle patterns, such as the development of opposing shadows, as early signs of potential reversals.

Advantages of the Heikin Ashi

Using the Heikin Ashi technique in technical analysis brings several distinct benefits that enhance trading strategies. Firstly, it simplifies the visualization of price trends, smoothing out the price action to present a cleaner and more coherent view of the market’s movements. This method helps traders avoid the pitfalls of overreacting to minor fluctuations, focusing instead on significant trends.

By distilling the price data in this way, Heikin Ashi allows for a clearer assessment of the market’s direction, aiding in more strategic decision-making. These advantages make it a favored tool among traders looking to streamline their analysis and refine their approach to the markets.

Filters Out Market Noise

One of the primary benefits of the Heikin Ashi system is its ability to filter out market noise. This technique modifies the traditional candlestick chart to create a series of “average” bars that smooth out short-term fluctuations and highlight longer-term trends.

By averaging the open, close, high, and low prices, Heikin Ashi effectively removes the insignificant price wicks and reduces the impact of minor price changes that might mislead a trader’s judgment. This clarity not only helps in following the true trend but also in maintaining positions during minor market corrections, reducing the risk of premature exits.

A Better Indication of the Trend

Heikin Ashi charts improve trend indication by consolidating the market data into a format that emphasizes sustained movements rather than transient changes. This characteristic allows traders to see bullish and bearish trends more clearly and to identify trend changes with greater confidence.

The body of Heikin Ashi candles, which is derived from the average values, tends to be larger during strong trends, providing visual confirmation and supporting the continuation of trade strategies aligned with the trend. This enhanced indication helps in planning entry and exit points and in setting up support and resistance levels more accurately.

Improves the Chart’s Readability and Highlights Signals

Heikin Ashi enhances chart readability and the visibility of trading signals by presenting a smoothed representation of price movements. This method helps in identifying key patterns and trends without the distraction of the typical fluctuations seen in standard candlestick charts.

For traders, this means signals are easier to spot and interpret, enabling quicker and more informed trading decisions related to trendlines, price patterns, and potential reversals. The cleaner look of Heikin Ashi charts is especially useful for those integrating technical analysis into their trading sessions, offering a more intuitive grasp of market dynamics.

Disadvantages of the Heikin Ashi

While Heikin Ashi charts offer many benefits, they also come with certain limitations that can affect their utility in some trading scenarios.

Doesn’t Reveal the Full Price Information

Heikin Ashi’s smoothing process, while useful for identifying broader market trends, can obscure some of the finer details of price action that are visible in traditional candlestick charts. This includes the exact opening and closing prices of each session, which can be critical for short-term decision-making.

By averaging the price levels, Heikin Ashi may delay the representation of rapid price shifts, potentially causing traders to miss short-lived but significant market opportunities.

Not Suitable for Active Traders (Day Traders or Scalpers)

The Heikin Ashi technique, with its inherent delay in showing market movements due to averaging, might not be the best fit for active traders such as day traders or scalpers. These traders rely on real-time data to make quick decisions — the lag introduced by Heikin Ashi could lead to opportunities being missed or a misinterpretation of market sentiment.

For traders who depend on the immediacy of price action and quick reflexes in fast-paced trading environments, traditional candlestick charts might provide a more effective system.

Lack of Price Gaps

Price gaps can be significant indicators in trading, often used to identify potential breakouts or market sentiment shifts. However, due to its averaging technique, Heikin Ashi tends to smooth over these gaps, presenting a continuous flow that may overlook the volatility and trading opportunities signaled by these gaps. While beneficial for identifying sustained trends, this smoothing may reduce the effectiveness of strategies that rely on gap analysis for quick profits or risk management.

Key Takeaways

  • Streamlined Trend Identification: Heikin Ashi simplifies trend analysis, making it easier to follow and react to market movements.
  • Enhanced Visual Clarity: Reduces the cognitive load on traders, allowing for quicker and more confident decision-making.
  • Needs Complementary Tools: Best used in conjunction with other indicators for a comprehensive market analysis.
  • Specific Scenario Suitability: Especially effective in swing trading and trend following, less so for high-frequency day trading scenarios.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Heikin-Ashi Suitable for Swing Trading?

Heikin-Ashi is particularly effective for swing trading, providing a clear visual representation of the trend’s strength and direction, which helps in maintaining positions through minor fluctuations.

How Does Heikin Ashi Differ from Renko Charts?

While both Heikin Ashi and Renko aim to filter out market noise, Heikin Ashi uses average price data for its calculations, whereas Renko charts are purely based on price movement, disregarding time and volume in their construction.

Can Heikin Ashi Be Used Alone for Making Trading Decisions?

Heikin Ashi should not be used in isolation. For robust trading decisions, it is best combined with other analytical tools like volume indicators and traditional candlestick patterns to validate the trends and signals it suggests.

What Type of Strategy Is Best Suited to the Heikin-Ashi Technique?

The Heikin-Ashi technique is particularly effective for strategies focused on trend following due to its ability to smooth out minor fluctuations and highlight the underlying movement. These characteristics make it suitable for traders looking to minimize loss from false signals during volatile market sessions.

How Do Different Timeframes Affect the Use of Heikin-Ashi?

The effectiveness of Heikin-Ashi varies across different timeframes; it tends to perform best in longer timeframes where its smoothing characteristic can help traders better identify and follow significant trends. Shorter timeframes may not benefit as much due to the lag in displaying price movements, which can be crucial for market participants who rely on quick, precise entry and exit points.

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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”