Whether you already own bitcoin or plan to get some, sooner or later you'll want to know how much the cryptocoins are worth when converted to your currency of choice.
Later, you may want to know whether to hang onto your coins or to sell them – hopefully making a little profit in the process. However, analyzing price charts and understanding trading terms from the financial world can be rather daunting, especially for the beginner.
This guide serves as a useful primer of the basics.
What is bitcoin's current price?
The best place to find out the latest price of bitcoin (currency symbol: BTC or XBT) is the exchange you bought them from (Bitstamp, Bitfinex and BTC-e being the most popular exchanges at the moment), Bitcoin Price Index.
Knowing bitcoin's current price is one thing, but pretty soon you'll want to know where prices will go in the future.
Methods for predicting price trends
Forecasting price movements of anything traded at an exchange is a risky probabilities game – nobody is right all the time. Many traders have lost lots of money, if not their life savings, into such attempts.
The two main approaches to predicting price development are called fundamental analysis and technical analysis. While fundamental analysis examines the underlying forces of an economy, a company or a security, technical analysis attempts to forecast the direction of prices based on past market data, primarily historical prices and volumes found on price charts.
Trader's choice: the candlestick chart
The most widespread type of chart among traders is the candlestick price chart, as seen below:
Candlestick charts display more data than just the closing price: each 'candle' shows the opening price, the lowest and highest price of the given time-period as well as the closing price.
In addition, the color of the candle body indicates whether the closing price was higher than the opening price (usually a green bar, called an 'up-bar') or lower than the opening price (usually with a red body, called a 'down-bar').
The candlestick chart belongs to the family of OHLC (open high, low close) price charts, but there's a multitude of other chart types/styles to suit any advanced trader's preference.
Another type worth mentioning is the non-time based (NTB) range chart. Beginners may find them less intuitive and more difficult to grasp, however.
Candlestick price charts contain a lot of useful information for the skilled trader's eyes, such as whether a candle's spread is wide or narrow (illustrates the difference between high and low prices), where the closing price is relative to the high and low etc.
Together with the patterns that groups of candlesticks form, this is what traders base their trend biases on: either bullish (rising prices), bearish (falling prices) or ranging sideways.
Where to go from here
Now that you've had an introduction to reading (bitcoin) price charts, a good idea would be to start following bitcoin's price development on a daily basis. You will inevitably start noticing certain regularities on the charts – most probably the trending behavior of prices. Later on you might remember that this was the point in time where you were drawn into the art of technical price analysis.
This guide was contributed by Chris Cronimund