Financial markets behave astonishingly time scale invariant. Chart patterns occur in minute charts, daily charts and weekly charts. Without the time scale printed to the x axes it might be impossible to tell what you are looking at. Trends are the purest and best chart patterns and so this phenomenon holds also true for them.
Still, there is a difference between trend and trend. There are trends that become only clear as such in hindsight and others may give indications for being a real trend in an early phase of their lifetime.
There are two types of indicators for a trend being real. For one, it is information outside of the technical analysis paradigm like fundamental or news information. Then the indication for a true trend – that is one that will likely go ahead after you put your position on – could be technically in itself.
Let us briefly discuss the latter first, because technical analysis of chart patterns is not sensitive to time frames and thus not relevant here. A trend makes a good impression on a technical basis if it is either smooth or at least behaves in its pullback phases relatively strong compared to peers or the whole market. For example, a stock trend building a base while the index crashes is surely noteworthy.
The fundamental information is an additional one. It can reassure chartists in their assessment greatly. Not that real chartists want to hear that. Many of them are of the opinion that the price includes all information. That may be right, but it doesn’t mean that all of it is still extractable.
See the example 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. The six includes every summand of the equation, but, having only the six, it is absolutely unclear how the calculation that resulted in six looked like. The same is true for price history. Many different reasons, partly overlapping, caused this history, but the price alone won’t tell you a single one of them.
So, back to the additional information, hints from outside the box. For day trading the biggest price driver producing the finest trends is simply news. If you are a day trader betting on trends, you could consider to become a news trader. Instead of waiting with the help of trading software for a strong day trend to show up, watch the news ticker and act anticipatorily. There are many day trading systems, but banking on intraday trends is surely one of the better ones.
In the long run we are all dead, but a little earlier we all may become rich. The real money maker for the true riches has always been the sitting as Jesse Livermore noted once. Riding a growth trend of a company can be the single outlier in your personal trading history that is able to elevate you and your wallet to the next level.
What about the middle? Typical swing trading time frames are lasting from some days to some weeks. The swing trader has the severe disadvantage that he often gets trapped and locked into random movements. You can’t make money off random swings!
If an upswing occurs after a minor downtrend has established and caused a small oversold situation, then there is swing potential. The self fullfilling prophecy that comes with every trend caused an exaggerated downmove that in turn can discharge its energy into a following uptrend. That is the swing traders life blood. But all too often the difference to pure random oscillations is hardly discernable. And that is the swing traders morass.
The much better swing trading style is practiced in long running trends, preferably growth trends. Look for companies with products of the future having already a fulminant price history and try to get on the move for the next leg up. That is swing trading the trend trader’s way.
As a conclusion, what is the best time frame for trading trends? It depends. If you do it right, all three trading systems and time frames are working great. The deeper reason for that is of course that you are trading trends.
Which time frame to choose? That is mostly a matter of taste. Investors who want to become traders will probably be most interested in finding the right growth stock and developing skills for entering the trend in a safe manner. Forex chaos lovers or penny pinching day trading scalpers may fall in love with the much more powerful day trend trading strategy.