The trend represents the directional movement of prices and plays an essential role in most technical trading systems. Technical analysis differentiates between trending and non-trending markets, also called flat trending markets. Trending markets can be either moving upwards or downwards. The upward-moving market is called the bull market, while the downward-moving market is called the bear market. Normally, a market is considered to be in an uptrend when the price reaches higher peaks and higher troughs. On the contrary, the market is regarded to be in a downtrend when the price reaches lower troughs and lower peaks. The non-trending market occurs when there is no significant uptrend or downtrend, and the price moves within a certain range. Thus, the flat trending market is notorious for its sideways-moving price action.


Key takeaways:

  • Trends can vary in length and are classified into four main categories: primary, secondary, minor, and intraday.
  • The primary trend is the most significant trend, lasting for months or years. It's characterized by the overall direction of the market.
  • The secondary trend opposes the primary trend and usually lasts for weeks or months.
  • Identifying trends is crucial for technical traders. Methods range from simple tracking of recent lows and highs to more complex mathematical formulas.


Trend classification

Trends tend to be of different lengths. According to these lengths, trends fall into four main categories: primary trend, secondary trend, minor trend, and intraday trend. The primary trend is the only inviolable trend and lasts for a long period, usually months or years. The secondary trend runs counter to the primary trend and is often measured in weeks or months. Further, the minor trend is measured in days, and the intraday trend is represented merely by daily fluctuations in price.


The primary trend

The primary trend can be subdivided into three distinctive phases. The first phase of the primary uptrend begins with the revival of investors' confidence from the prior primary downtrend. That is followed by the second phase, in which asset prices increase in response to growing corporate earnings. In the third stage, speculation becomes the dominant force driving markets higher. This environment, when asset prices are rising on the hopes, dreams, and expectations of individual investors, tends to foreshadow the beginning of the primary downtrend. Its first phase commences with the abandonment of hopes and dreams upon which investments were made. That is followed by selling pressure due to falling corporate earnings in the second phase, which later escalates into panic selling in the third stage.


The illustration displays the weekly chart of Nasdaq continuous futures (NQ1!) for the period between late 2001 and 2008. The primary bull market began after the bottom of the “dotcom” bubble and lasted until the peak of the real estate and credit crisis in 2007.



The image above presents the daily chart of gold (XAUUSD) during the 2008 bear market when it dropped 34%.



The secondary trend

The secondary trend is the intermediate-term trend. Its direction is opposite to the primary trend, and it represents any significant price drop in the primary bull market or price rise in the primary bear market. The secondary trend usually lasts for weeks or months. Its measure in percentage terms tends to range between 33% and 66% of the range of the primary trend. This trend is considered to be prone to market manipulation as opposed to the primary trend.


The picture shows Bayerische Motoren Werke's (BMW) daily chart throughout 2020 and 2021. The white dashed-line box indicates the primary uptrend, and the grey dashed-line boxes indicate the secondary trends, counter to the primary one. 



The minor and intraday trend

The minor trend lasts for a few days or weeks, yet always less than the secondary trend. It is more difficult to identify than previous types of trends since its amplitude in percentage terms is significantly less when compared to the primary and secondary trends. The same applies to the intraday trend that lasts for a few seconds up to several hours; it represents daily changes in the price and is regarded to have little predictive value.


Trend identification

Identifying a trend is crucial for a trend-based technical trader, and there are plenty of methods how to identify it correctly. These methods can be simple or very complex. The simplest method of identifying trends can be done by tracking recent lows and recent highs in the price of an asset. Other simple methods involve using lines, trendlines, and curves; more complex methods usually involve the use of mathematical formulas in order to generate a set of valuable data.