I’ve been using charts for a long time. Bar charts, Point and Figure, Market Profile, and of course Candlestick charts. In fact, I build a platform that provides charts. Well, time series charts, where time is measured in equal increments along the X (Bottom) Axis. And that comprises most of the universe of chart technicians, or technical analysts. It makes sense. Everything we do is time based. Going to school or work in the morning, coming home in the afternoon or evening. We do that, generally, five days each week. I get paid twice every month. And every year I celebrate the same holidays. They mark the passage of another year, most notably acknowledged at the transition from December 31st to January 1st, aka New Year’s.
Traditionally, trading markets easily facilitated the use of time series charts. There was an opening time and a closing time each day. There was a break for the weekend. Many markets have come close to 24/7, but not quite, and therefore the traditional time series charts still work. But I work in crypto now, and something I’ve realized is that this is a pretty random thing to do now, create a time series chart. Why do I say that? Well, the crypto markets truly never sleep.
Earlier in my crypto involvement, prior to landing my current role, I interviewed with a company trying to create their own crypto exchange. They let me know that their plan was to close for up to 15 minutes a day, with up to a one hour break each weekend to reset, reboot, or re-something that seemed to me to be not very well thought out. If you are the only exchange, or the largest exchange it’s relatively routine to impose your own rules on a trading community. This company was a startup. This was in 2017 when crypto was at the early stage of going ballistic, both with a parabolic price move and previously unexperienced volume.
And they were going to close regularly. I explained that as someone being brought in to build a product and know the audience, one thing I was sure about with the trading community was that if you were the only exchange closed at the busiest moment of a busy day, you were closed at the wrong time. No matter the time, based on the situation, it would be the wrong time. And customers would go elsewhere. And once gone to another exchange, they would need an excuse to leave and come back. It was a bad plan. They didn’t understand the business they wanted to get into. I didn’t go work there.
Back to the charts themselves. If we decide that we really can’t close, then how do I build a bar or a candle? So we use midnight UTC time for open and close. But it really isn’t. It’s just 12:00 a.m. in a small segment of the earth. And weekly charts? When I got where I am now, our weeks started on Thursday at 12:00 a.m. because that was the time that computer clocks rolled their weeks according to Unix time. Why? Because someone decided that the beginning of time should be January 1, 1970.
And how was this decision reached? I’ve read it was the birth of Unix; I’ve also read it was convenient since Unix had been around for a while already. Kind of arbitrary, huh? Crazy to imagine there was no reason to ‘count time’ (that’s what Unix time does) prior to 1970. A lot of cool and important stuff happened prior to 1970. Someone put in an arbitrary cut-off.
We still do that with our charts. We changed the weekly open on the charts we produce to Monday morning. What this means is that the week ends on Sunday. We could have changed it so the week ended on Friday, since both Monday morning and Friday afternoon represent a data point in a weekly chart from traditional markets. Heck, why not start at the turn of the day Sunday morning. After all, most of us think of the week as running from Sunday to Saturday. Yet no platform sets their crypto charts that way by default. It’s usually Monday to Sunday in these markets with other chart platforms. So we decided to follow what seems to have become industry standard.
I decided to write this blog after writing one for work by request; Why Charts? Actually Wy Charts, because in crypto we say Wen Lambo, but you get the idea. It got me thinking about these time series charts. Maybe this crazy advanced audience needs to slow down and even back up. I think the chart I’ve used that may actually provide the most value is the good old Point & Figure chart.
There’s actually very little creativity in the crypto world, to be honest. Fundamentally, it’s mostly sentiment driven. Bitcoin goes up or down on sentiment. Everything else goes up or down with Bitcoin. So it’s sentiment. And when it comes to charts, it’s pretty much all candlesticks all the time. Funny thing to me is there isn’t a lot of discussion of candle patterns on candle charts. It’s mostly limited to a couple of momentum indicators, MACD and RSI, Bollinger Bands for volatility, and the always quoted, rarely understood Elliot Wave patterns. Oh, and Fibonacci retracements. There, I think I’ve covered most of it. Add in a trendline or two, and we’re looking at a crypto chart. But if we’ve simply put these artificial rollover points in there, is there truly value beyond a self-fulfilling prophecy?
A Point and Figure chart doesn’t care about time. It doesn’t care about Monday or Thursday or New Year’s. It cares about price. In the end, price rules. Indicators are merely derivatives of price; with volume mixed in occasionally. But if price rules, then what we should be focused on is just that, price. How the market moves and reacts. Time be damned. Because while I’m sleeping someone on the other side of the planet is trading. And vice-versa. And of course the bots never sleep. So I think we need to stop trying to be so smart and focus on K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. Let some guru draw Elliot Waves and pontificate about the way they’ve quantified the market’s moves and its future. And another person can draw pretty trendlines. That’s fine.
I just want to make money. That’s what being right is all about in the trading biz. We’ve certainly covered that before. So when looking for an edge, don’t depend on someone else. Don’t even depend on time if it doesn’t matter. Find a way to picture price and act on that. And the simplest way to picture price without a watch or a calendar is with a Point and Figure chart. They’re out there. Learn about them. Then try it out. Get back to me with an opinion. I’m guessing that the best new thing you’ll find is one of the oldest tools available.