How to Read a Candlestick Chart

Man showing how to read candlestick chart
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Candlestick charts have enjoyed continued use among traders because of the wide range of trading information they offer, along with a design that makes them easy to read and interpret.

The chart received its name because its markers, or indicators, have a body shaped like a candle, with a line on top that resembles a wick but is usually called a shadow or tail. These candlesticks also have a shadow or tail on the bottom end.

On the chart, each candlestick indicates the open, high, low, and close price for the time frame the trader has chosen. For example, if the trader set the time frame to five minutes, a new candlestick will be created every five minutes. For an intraday chart like this one, the open and close prices are those for the beginning and end of the five-minute period, not the trading session.

Candlesticks also show the current price as they're forming, whether the price moved up or down over the time frame, and the price range the asset covered in that time.

Open Price

The top or bottom of the candle body will indicate the open price, depending on whether the asset moves higher or lower during the five-minute period. If the price trends up, the candlestick is often either green or white and the open price is at the bottom. If the price trends down, the candlestick is often either red or black and the open price is at the top.

High Price

The high price during the candlestick period is indicated by the top of the shadow or tail above the body. If the open or close was the highest price, then there will be no upper shadow.

Low Price

The low is indicated by the bottom of the shadow or tail below the body. If the open or close was the lowest price, then there will be no lower shadow.

Close Price

The close is the last price traded during the candlestick, indicated by either the top (for a green or white candle) or bottom (for a red or black candle) of the body.

As a candle forms, it constantly changes as the price moves. The open stays the same, but until the candle is completed, the high and low prices are changing. The color may also change as a candlestick forms. It may go from green to red, for example, if the current price was above the open price but then drops below it.

When the time period for the candle ends, the last price is the close price, the candle is completed, and a new candle begins forming.

Price Direction

You can see the direction the price moved during the time frame of the candle by the color and positioning of the candlestick. If the candlestick is green, the price closed above where it opened and this candle will be located above and to the right of the previous one, unless it's shorter and of a different color than the previous candle. If the candlestick is red, the price closed below where it opened and this candle will be located below and to the right of the previous one, again unless it's shorter and of a different color than the previous candle.

Price Range

The distance between the top of the upper shadow and the bottom of the lower shadow is the range the price moved through during the time frame of the candlestick. The range is calculated by subtracting the low price from the high price.

Interpreting Patterns

You can practice reading candlestick charts by opening a demo trading account or playing around with candlesticks on free web-based charting platforms. Set the chart type to candlestick and select a one-minute time frame so you'll have lots of candles to look at.

Once you understand what each candle is indicating, you can start looking for trading opportunities based on candlestick patterns, such as the three black crows and the abandoned baby.