Forex Basic Strategies

Filtering The Most Profitable Trading Signals Using The ‘Zig-Zag’ Forex Trading Strategy


In today’s article, we discuss a strategy that is based on the unfamous zig-zag indicator. The zig-zag indicator serves to shows changes and continuation in trends that occur in price movements. Usually, this indicator is used by traders to look for reversal points in the market. But in today’s strategy, we will use the zig-zag indicator to trade the continuation of a trend. However, if we think a little deep, this type of trading is also a form of ‘reversal trading’ where we will be finding the reversal points in a smaller trend within the larger trend.

At first glance, the indicator appears very simple but is not easy to understand by novice traders. The trading strategy that uses this indicator is not special because it uses this indicator, but since we are imparting various other concepts of technical analysis such as chart patterns, trend lines, and price action. But using this indicator alone too can generate good trading signals provided the trader is having good skill of this indicator properly.

Time Frame

The ‘zig-zag’ strategy can only be applied to the ‘Daily’ time frame. Hence, this strategy is not for intraday and short-term traders. We need to have a longer time horizon to trade using this strategy.


We use two technical indicators in this strategy

  • Simple Moving Average (20-period)
  • Zig-Zag (default setting)

Currency Pairs

We can apply the following strategy on both minor and major currency pairs. Liquidity and volatility will not be a major issue here as we are trading on higher time frames.

Strategy Concept

We are basically using the zig-zag indicator to identify classic chart patterns of technical analysis and trade them. The indicator is very effective in reducing the noise by helping the technical trader in viewing the larger picture and general market direction. Here, we look for appropriate chart patterns and associated price action indications within the context of a trend.

When these patterns are formed just anywhere on the chart, they do not hold much value as there is no logic to that. Once we identify a trend using the simple moving average (SMA), we wait for trend continuation signs provided to us by the zig-zag indicator and the chart pattern. The formation of the chart pattern is the first sign of trend continuation. Once price action develops and the market moves in the direction of the major trend, we look for ‘entry’ signals and then only enter into a trade.

One of the astounding features of this strategy is it’s risk-to-reward (RR) ratio. Trades executed this strategy have high risk-to-reward (RR) because we are trading with the major trend and the need for a smaller stop-loss. Not only is ‘RR’ of trades high, but also the probability of winning is much higher in this strategy due to stricter rules and time given for a trade setup to be formed. Now that we got a gist of the strategy, let us find out the actions required to execute the strategy.

Trade Setup

In order to execute the strategy, we have considered the ‘Daily’ chart of the USD/JPY currency pair, where we will be illustrating a ‘short’ trade. Here are the steps to execute the strategy.

Step 1: Firstly, we have to identify the trend of the market on the ‘Daily’ chart. This can easily be done with the help of the simple moving average (SMA) indicator. If the price stays below the SMA for a long period of time, we say that the market is in a downtrend. And if it remains above the SMA for a sufficient period of time, we say that the market is in an uptrend. It is worthwhile to note that zig-zag is not being used for establishing the trend.

The below image shows that the market is in a strong downtrend in the case of USD/JPY.

Step 2: After identifying the trend of the market, we wait for the market to form a ‘head and shoulders’ pattern in a down-trending market and an ‘inverse head and shoulders’ pattern in an up-trending market. Here’s where the application of the zig-zag indicator comes into the picture. The chart pattern should essentially be indicated by the zig-zag pattern—the lines of indicator show the ‘real’ formation of the pattern in the market. In addition to this, we plot a trendline that connects the ‘lows’ (head and shoulders) or ‘highs’ (inverse head and shoulders) of the pattern as indicated by the indicator. This completes the execution of 80% of the strategy’s rules.

Step 3: We enter the market for a ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ after the price breaks the trendline and ‘tests’ it on the other side. In simple words, in a ‘head and shoulders’ pattern, we enter for a ‘sell’ when price breaks the ‘support’ trendline and re-tests after making a ‘lower low.’ While in an ‘inverse head and shoulders pattern,’ we enter for a ‘buy’ when price breaks the ‘resistance’ trendline and re-tests after making a ‘higher high.’

The below image shows how a ‘short’ entry is taken.

Step 4: Now, let us determine the stop-loss and take-profit levels for the strategy. When ‘short,’ we place a stop-loss above the right shoulder of the ‘head-and-shoulder’ pattern. Similarly, when ‘long, stop-loss is placed below the right shoulder of the ‘inverse head-and-shoulder’ pattern. Take-profit will be set at the ‘lower low ‘of the major downtrend and at the ‘higher high’ of the major uptrend. The risk-to-reward (RR) of trades executed using this strategy will be at least 1:1.5.

The below image shows the result of sample trade executed using the zig-zag strategy.

Strategy Roundup

Even though the above strategy takes a lot of time to present a potential trade, the risk-to-reward and probability of winning of these trades are worth waiting for. There are many applications of the zig-zag indicators. Traders make use of other technical indicators like the Stochastic Oscillator and Relative Strength Index (RSI) together with the zig-zag indicator to locate the overbought and oversold conditions of the market.