Flag Pattern: a rest before the battle

Understandably, there is no trend without corrections, and therefore the Flag is almost the most frequent pattern in graphic analysis. The model is considered reliable for the continuation of the trend, but the problem is that its simple outer form is very deceptive.

The ability to “see” and correctly evaluate the range of the Flag pattern development on time gives a trader an additional tool in the struggle for profit, thus, — let's get started.


The fundamental Flag pattern conditions

The appearance of the Flag corresponds to a short-term correction of the main trend, during which the weakest players are knocked out of the market, and then the trend continues with new volumes. There are several periods of activity in the process of pattern formation:

  • speculators provide a sharp rise (or fall) of prices in combination with high trading volume (a “Flagstaff” appears);
  • as the Flag’s “cloth” is being built, the volumes gradually decrease, because there is a process of correction and the working out of the remaining orders that work against the main trend;
  • if you have the opportunity to observe a multidirectional trading volume, you can see the accumulation of deferred interest from both pattern borders with recon on a breakdown in the direction of the main trend, or (which happens quite rarely!) confident trend reversal;
  • at the moment of breakdown of the figure’s boundaries, the volume indicators sharply increase, and then the market develops the figure according to the main trend.
Standard Flag pattern trading situations

Classic Flag pattern signals


Technical parameters of the Flag pattern

Graphically, the Flag looks like a parallelogram directed against the main trend: the Bear Flag in the downtrend looks upwards, and the Bull Flag has a downward slope.

The upper trend line appears as a resistance, the lower border — as a support, and there are no clearly defined extreme points on the Flag’s “cloth”. It is assumed that all activity occurs in the area between the borders (see Using Graphic Tools).

Parameters and general view of the Flag pattern

Standard version of the Flag pattern

The pattern is considered “short” – usually, 5-10 candles after the Flagstaff are enough, but the smaller the timeframe, the more bars are needed for its reliable identification.

Flagstaff sections can include price gaps and often appear in the zone of strong price levels (options, round prices, closing periods) — this is where pending orders are accumulated.

The length of the Flagstaff is used for an approximate calculation of the expected growth (fall) — from the point of the border breakdown in the direction of the trend.

A mandatory trading moment is the breakdown of the border. Usual trading recommendations are the following: we buy on a regular (“Bullish”) Flag after the breakdown point of the resistance line and sell on an inverted model below the breakdown point of the support line.

Everything seems to be simple, but not always. Let's take a closer look.


Flag pattern implementation examples

According to the theory, the price should test the key border at least twice in the Flag area, after which the breakdown can be considered a trading signal.

We remind you: you need speculative throws of prices, for example, during the news publications, and the parts of Flagstaff are completely different situations. In the first case, the reverse rollback occurs almost on the next bar and at least by 50-70%, and in the second — the price rolls back gradually, in waves no more than by 20-30%.

When forming a horizontal Flag (“Rectangle”), the signal strength during breakdown will be average, and you need to work with such a pattern using the usual flat breakdown technique.

For the correct formation of the Flag figure, the distance covered by the price during the formation of the Flagstaff should be at least twice the width of the base, otherwise, the Flag can be mistaken for the usual three-wave (ABC) correction, which can turn out to be a reversal.

There are two methods that are used for trading solely on graphical analysis without additional indicators.


First method

A fully formed Flag pattern is needed; it is assumed that 4-5 waves pass until the breakdown in the area of the “cloth”.

After the third (approximately!) wave, we place a pending order (Buy Stop or Sell Stop) at the level of the previous local min/max in the direction of the breakdown, or enter manually after fixing the key candle outside the figure.

We coordinate the goal choice with the general situation in the market. The maximum goal is the size of the Flagstaff; the more probable is the difference between the height of the Flagstaff and the width of the Flag’s base (see Using indicators).

Flag pattern trading situations

Flag: trend continuation model

Statistics show that the Flag breakdown, as a rule, is worked out by 60-70%. It means that after 50% of the potential range we pull the Stop to breakeven and then continue pulling by trailing in increments of 10-15 points.


Second method

Drag the usual Fib grid on the length of the Flagstaff and then proceed according to the standard scheme:

  • either enter from the level of the lower border crossing (38.2), Stop Loss is behind the key level;
  • or put a pending order at the price of the upper boundary and the Fib level crossing (23.6), Stop Loss is at the next key level.
Trading situations of the Flag + Fib pattern

Flag + Fib: a trend continuation model

The first Take Profit is the difference between the Flagstaff + Stop Loss and the width of the Flag, the second — is the entire height of the Flagstaff from the entry point and further — as the market allows. We use Stop Loss and trailing according to the scheme above, adjusted for the volatility of a trading asset.


A few practical remarks

  • The older the period in which the Flag is formed, the more reliable it is.
  • The angle of the “cloth” inclination indicates the strength of a possible breakdown.
  • Even if the pattern is visually correctly formed, but the price does not break through (any!) border for a long time, the standard scenario is canceled and we do not enter the market.
  • If the Flag is wide enough, it may be profitably to enter on the rebound from the opposite border.
  • The true Flag always goes against the current trend, but if a slope is formed in the direction of the main movement, then this is no longer the Flag, and the pattern may turn out to be a reversal.
  • The first breakdown may be false, so the most reliable entry is after the first rollback.

The Flag is a great chance to earn on the trend continuation, and the cancellation of this model (a reversal) is extremely rare. However, like any other graphic pattern, the Flag is not immune to false signals; besides, any speculative movement can break it (and build a new one!). Therefore, the use of protective Stop Loss above/below the figure’s boundaries is mandatory!


Try It Yourself

As you can see, backtesting is quite simple activity in case if you have the right backtesting tools.

To check this (or any other) graphical analysis you can download Forex Tester for free.

In addition, you will receive 19 years of free historical data (easily downloadable straight from the software).



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