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Introduction to Technical Analysis Price Patterns
In technical analysis, transitions between rising and falling trends are often signaled by price patterns. By definition, a price pattern is a recognizable configuration of price movement that is identified using a series of trendlines and/or curves. When a price pattern signals a change in trend direction, it is known as a reversal pattern; a continuation pattern occurs when the trend continues in its existing direction following a brief pause. Technical analysts have long used price patterns to examine current movements and forecast future market movements.
- Patterns are the distinctive formations created by the movements of security prices on a chart and are the foundation of technical analysis.
- A pattern is identified by a line that connects common price points, such as closing prices or highs or lows, during a specific period of time.
- Technical analysts and chartists seek to identify patterns as a way to anticipate the future direction of a security’s price.
- These patterns can be as simple as trendlines and as complex as double head-and-shoulders formations.
Trendlines in Technical Analysis
Since price patterns are identified using a series of lines and/or curves, it is helpful to understand trendlines and know how to draw them. Trendlines help technical analysts spot areas of support and resistance on a price chart. Trendlines are straight lines drawn on a chart by connecting a series of descending peaks (highs) or ascending troughs (lows). A trendline that is angled up, or an up trendline, occurs where prices are experiencing higher highs and higher lows. The up trendline is drawn by connecting the ascending lows. Conversely, a trendline that is angled down, called a down trendline, occurs where prices are experiencing lower highs and lower lows.
Trendlines will vary in appearance depending on what part of the price bar is used to “connect the dots.” While there are different schools of thought regarding which part of the price bar should be used, the body of the candle bar—and not the thin wicks above and below the candle body—often represents where the majority of price action has occurred and therefore may provide a more accurate point on which to draw the trendline, especially on intraday charts where “outliers” (data points that fall well outside the “normal” range) may exist. On daily charts, chartists often use closing prices, rather than highs or lows, to draw trendlines since the closing prices represent the traders and investors willing to hold a position overnight or over a weekend or market holiday. Trendlines with three or more points are generally more valid than those based on only two points.
- Uptrends occur where prices are making higher highs and higher lows. Up trendlines connect at least two of the lows and show support levels below price.
- Downtrends occur where prices are making lower highs and lower lows. Down trendlines connect at least two of the highs and indicate resistance levels above the price.
- Consolidation, or a sideways market, occurs where price is oscillating between an upper and lower range, between two parallel and often horizontal trendlines.
A price pattern that denotes a temporary interruption of an existing trend is known as a continuation pattern. A continuation pattern can be thought of as a pause during a prevailing trend—a time during which the bulls catch their breath during an uptrend, or when the bears relax for a moment during a downtrend. While a price pattern is forming, there is no way to tell if the trend will continue or reverse. As such, careful attention must be placed on the trendlines used to draw the price pattern and whether price breaks above or below the continuation zone. Technical analysts typically recommend assuming a trend will continue until it is confirmed that it has reversed. In general, the longer the price pattern takes to develop, and the larger the price movement within the pattern, the more significant the move once price breaks above or below the area of continuation.
If price continues on its trend, the price pattern is known as a continuation pattern. Common continuation patterns include:
- Pennants, constructed using two converging trendlines
- Flags, drawn with two parallel trendlines
- Wedges, constructed with two converging trendlines, where both are angled either up or down
Pennants are drawn with two trendlines that eventually converge. A key characteristic of pennants is that the trendlines move in two directions—that is, one will be a down trendline and the other an up trendline. Figure 1 shows an example of a pennant. Often, volume will decrease during the formation of the pennant, followed by an increase when price eventually breaks out.
Flags are constructed using two parallel trendlines that can slope up, down or sideways (horizontal). In general, a flag that has an upward slope appears as a pause in a down trending market; a flag with a downward bias shows a break during an up trending market. Typically, the formation of the flag is accompanied by a period of declining volume, which recovers as price breaks out of the flag formation.
Wedges are similar to pennants in that they are drawn using two converging trendlines; however, a wedge is characterized by the fact that both trendlines are moving in the same direction, either up or down. A wedge that is angled down represents a pause during a uptrend; a wedge that is angled up shows a temporary interruption during a falling market. As with pennants and flags, volume typically tapers off during the formation of the pattern, only to increase once price breaks above or below the wedge pattern.
Triangles are among the most popular chart patterns used in technical analysis since they occur frequently compared to other patterns. The three most common types of triangles are symmetrical triangles, ascending triangles, and descending triangles. These chart patterns can last anywhere from a couple weeks to several months.
Symmetrical triangles occur when two trend lines converge toward each other and signal only that a breakout is likely to occur—not the direction. Ascending triangles are characterized by a flat upper trend line and a rising lower trend line and suggest a breakout higher is likely, while descending triangles have a flat lower trend line and a descending upper trend line that suggests a breakdown is likely to occur. The magnitude of the breakouts or breakdowns is typically the same as the height of the left vertical side of the triangle, as shown in the figure below.
Cup and Handles
The cup and handle is a bullish continuation pattern where an upward trend has paused, but will continue when the pattern is confirmed. The “cup” portion of the pattern should be a “U” shape that resembles the rounding of a bowl rather than a “V” shape with equal highs on both sides of the cup. The “handle” forms on the right side of the cup in the form of a short pullback that resembles a flag or pennant chart pattern. Once the handle is complete, the stock may breakout to new highs and resume its trend higher. A cup and handle is depicted in the figure below.
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A price pattern that signals a change in the prevailing trend is known as a reversal pattern. These patterns signify periods where either the bulls or the bears have run out of steam. The established trend will pause and then head in a new direction as new energy emerges from the other side (bull or bear). For example, an uptrend supported by enthusiasm from the bulls can pause, signifying even pressure from both the bulls and bears, then eventually giving way to the bears. This results in a change in trend to the downside. Reversals that occur at market tops are known as distribution patterns, where the trading instrument becomes more enthusiastically sold than bought. Conversely, reversals that occur at market bottoms are known as accumulation patterns, where the trading instrument becomes more actively bought than sold. As with continuation patterns, the longer the pattern takes to develop and the larger the price movement within the pattern, the larger the expected move once price breaks out.
When price reverses after a pause, the price pattern is known as a reversal pattern. Examples of common reversal patterns include:
- Head and Shoulders, signaling two smaller price movements surrounding one larger movement
- Double Tops, representing a short-term swing high, followed by a subsequent failed attempt to break above the same resistance level
- Double Bottoms, showing a short-term swing low, followed by another failed attempt to break below the same support level
Head and Shoulders
Head and shoulders patterns can appear at market tops or bottoms as a series of three pushes: an initial peak or trough, followed by a second and larger one and then a third push that mimics the first. An uptrend that is interrupted by a head and shoulders top pattern may experience a trend reversal, resulting in a downtrend. Conversely, a downtrend that results in a head and shoulders bottom (or an inverse head and shoulders) will likely experience a trend reversal to the upside. Horizontal or slightly sloped trendlines can be drawn connecting the peaks and troughs that appear between the head and shoulders, as shown in the figure below. Volume may decline as the pattern develops and spring back once price breaks above (in the case of a head and shoulders bottom) or below (in the case of a head and shoulders top) the trendline.
Double tops and bottoms signal areas where the market has made two unsuccessful attempts to break through a support or resistance level. In the case of a double top, which often looks like the letter M, an initial push up to a resistance level is followed by a second failed attempt, resulting in a trend reversal. A double bottom, on the other hand, looks like the letter W and occurs when price tries to push through a support level, is denied, and makes a second unsuccessful attempt to breach the support level. This often results in a trend reversal, as shown in the figure below.
Triple tops and bottoms are reversal patterns that aren’t as prevalent as head and shoulders or double tops or double bottoms. But, they act in a similar fashion and can be a powerful trading signal for a trend reversal. The patterns are formed when a price tests the same support or resistance level three times and is unable to break through.
Gaps occur when there is empty space between two trading periods that’s caused by a significant increase or decrease in price. For example, a stock might close at $5.00 and open at $7.00 after positive earnings or other news. There are three main types of gaps: Breakaway gaps, runaway gaps, and exhaustion gaps. Breakaway gaps form at the start of a trend, runaway gaps form during the middle of a trend, and exhaustion gaps for near the end of the trend.
The Bottom Line
Price patterns are often found when price “takes a break,” signifying areas of consolidation that can result in a continuation or reversal of the prevailing trend. Trendlines are important in identifying these price patterns that can appear in formations such as flags, pennants and double tops. Volume plays a role in these patterns, often declining during the pattern’s formation, and increasing as price breaks out of the pattern. Technical analysts look for price patterns to forecast future price behavior, including trend continuations and reversals.
Market Reversals and How to Spot Them
Capturing trending movements in a stock or other type of asset can be lucrative. However, getting caught in a reversal is what most traders who pursue trendings stock fear. A reversal is anytime the trend direction of a stock or other type of asset changes. Being able to spot the potential of a reversal signals to a trader that they should consider exiting their trade when conditions no longer look favorable. Reversal signals can also be used to trigger new trades, since the reversal may cause a new trend to start.
In his book “The Logical Trader,” Mark Fisher discusses techniques for identifying potential market tops and bottoms. While Fisher’s techniques serve the same purpose as the head and shoulders or double top/bottom chart patterns discussed in Thomas Bulkowski’s seminal work “Encyclopedia of Chart Patterns,” Fisher’s methods provide signals sooner, giving investors an early warning of possible changes in the direction of the current trend.
One technique that Fisher discusses is called the “sushi roll.” While it has nothing to do with food, it was conceived over lunch where a number of traders were discussing market setups.
- The “sushi roll” is a technical pattern that can be used as an early warning system to identify potential changes in the market direction of a stock.
- When the sushi roll pattern emerges in a downtrend, it alerts traders to a potential opportunity to buy a short position, or get out of a short position.
- When the sushi roll pattern emerges in an uptrend, it alerts traders to a potential opportunity to sell a long position, or buy a short position.
- A test was conducted using the sushi roll reversal method versus a traditional buy-and-hold strategy in executing trades on the Nasdaq Composite during a 14-year period; sushi roll reversal method returns were 29.31%, while buy-and-hold only returned 10.66%.
Sushi Roll Reversal Pattern
Fisher defines the sushi roll reversal pattern as a period of 10 bars where the first five (inside bars) are confined within a narrow range of highs and lows and the second five (outside bars) engulf the first five with both a higher high and lower low. The pattern is similar to a bearish or bullish engulfing pattern, except that instead of a pattern of two single bars, it is composed of multiple bars.
When the sushi roll pattern appears in a downtrend, it warns of a possible trend reversal, showing a potential opportunity to buy or exit a short position. If the sushi roll pattern occurs during an uptrend, the trader could sell a long position or possibly enter a short position.
While Fisher discusses five- or 10-bar patterns, neither the number or the duration of bars is set in stone. The trick is to identify a pattern consisting of the number of both inside and outside bars that are the best fit, given the chosen stock or commodity, and using a time frame that matches the overall desired time in the trade.
The second trend reversal pattern that Fisher explains is recommended for the longer-term trader and is called the outside reversal week. It is similar to a sushi roll except that it uses daily data starting on a Monday and ending on a Friday. The pattern takes a total of 10 days and occurs when a five-day trading inside week is immediately followed by an outside or engulfing week with a higher high and lower low.
Testing the Sushi Roll Reversal
A test was conducted on the NASDAQ Composite Index to see if the sushi roll pattern could have helped identify turning points over a 14-year period between 1990 and 2004. In the doubling of the period of the outside reversal week to two 10-daily bar sequences, signals were less frequent but proved more reliable. Constructing the chart consisted of using two trading weeks back-to-back, so that the pattern started on a Monday and took an average of four weeks to complete. This pattern was deemed the rolling inside/outside reversal (RIOR).
Every two week section of the pattern (two bars on a weekly chart, which is equivalent to 10 trading days) is outlined by a rectangle. The magenta trendlines show the dominant trend. The pattern often acts as a good confirmation that the trend has changed and will be followed shortly after by a trend line break.
Once the pattern forms, a stop loss can be placed above the pattern for short trades, or below the pattern for long trades.
The test was conducted based on how the rolling inside/outside reversal (RIOR) to enter and exit long positions would have performed, compared to an investor using a buy-and-hold strategy. Even though the NASDAQ composite topped out at 5132 in March 2000 (due to the nearly 80% correction that followed), buying on January 2, 1990 and holding until the end of the test period on January 30, 2004 would still have earned the buy-and-hold investor 1585 points over 3,567 trading days (14.1 years). The investor would have earned an average annual return of 10.66%.
The trader who entered a long position on the open of the day following a RIOR buy signal (day 21 of the pattern) and who sold at the open on the day following a sell signal, would have entered their first trade on January 29, 1991, and exited the last trade on January 30, 2004 (with the termination of the test). This trader would have made a total of 11 trades and been in the market for 1,977 trading days (7.9 years) or 55.4% of the time. However, this trader would have done substantially better, capturing a total of 3,531.94 points or 225% of the buy-and-hold strategy. When time in the market is considered, the RIOR trader’s annual return would have been 29.31%, not including the cost of commissions.
Using Weekly Data
The same test was conducted on the NASDAQ Composite Index using weekly data: using 10 weeks of data instead of the 10 days (or two weeks) used above. This time, the first or inside rectangle was set to 10 weeks, and the second or outside rectangle to eight weeks, because this combination was found to be better at generating sell signals than two five-week rectangles or two 10-week rectangles.
In total, five signals were generated and the profit was 2,923.77 points. The trader would have been in the market for 381 (7.3 years) of the total 713.4 weeks (14.1 years), or 53% of the time. This works out to an annual return of 21.46%. The weekly RIOR system is a good primary trading system but is perhaps most valuable as a tool for providing back up signals to the daily system discussed prior to this example.
Trend Reversal Confirmation
Regardless of whether a 10-minute bar or weekly bars were used, the trend reversal trading system worked well in the tests, at least over the test period, which included both a substantial uptrend and downtrend.
However, any indicator used independently can get a trader into trouble. One pillar of technical analysis is the importance of confirmation. A trading technique is far more reliable when there is a secondary indicator used to confirm signals.
Given the risk in trying to pick a top or bottom of the market, it is essential that at a minimum, the trader uses a trendline break to confirm a signal and always employ a stop loss in case they are wrong. In our tests, the relative strength index (RSI) also gave good confirmation at many of the reversal points in the way of negative divergence.
Reversals are caused by moves to new highs or lows. Therefore, these patterns will continue to play out in the market going forward. An investor can watch for these types of patterns, along with confirmation from other indicators, on current price charts.
The Bottom Line
Timing trades to enter at market bottoms and exit at tops will always involve risk. Techniques such as the sushi roll, outside reversal week, or rolling inside/outside reversal–when used in conjunction with a confirmation indicator–can be very useful trading strategies to help the trader maximize and protect their hard-earned money.
Know the 3 Main Groups of Chart Patterns
That’s a whole lot of chart patterns we just taught you right there. We’re pretty tired so it’s time for us to take off and leave it to you from here…
Just playin’! We ain’t leaving you till you’re ready!
It’s not enough to just know how the tools work, we’ve got to learn how to use them. And with all these new weapons in your arsenal, we’d better get those profits fired up!
Let’s summarize the chart patterns we just learned and categorize them according to the signals they give.
Reversal Chart Patterns
Reversal patterns are those chart formations that signal that the ongoing trend is about to change course.
Conversely, if a reversal chart pattern is seen during a downtrend, it suggests that the price will move up later on.
In this lesson, we covered six chart patterns that give reversal signals. Can you name all six of them?
- Double Top
- Double Bottom
- Head and Shoulders
- Inverse Head and Shoulders
- Rising Wedge
- Falling Wedge
If you got all six right, brownie points for you!
To trade these chart patterns, simply place an order beyond the neckline and in the direction of the new trend. Then go for a target that’s almost the same as the height of the formation.
For instance, if you see a double bottom, place a long order at the top of the formation’s neckline and go for a target that’s just as high as the distance from the bottoms to the neckline.
In the interest of proper risk management, don’t forget to place your stops! A reasonable stop loss can be set around the middle of the chart formation.
For example, you can measure the distance of the double bottoms from the neckline, divide that by two, and use that as the size of your stop.
Continuation Chart Patterns
Continuation chart patterns are those chart formations that signal that the ongoing trend will resume.
Usually, these are also known as consolidation patterns because they show how buyers or sellers take a quick break before moving further in the same direction as the prior trend.
We’ve covered several continuation chart patterns, namely the wedges, rectangles, and pennants. Note that wedges can be considered either reversal or continuation patterns depending on the trend on which they form.
To trade these patterns, simply place an order above or below the formation (following the direction of the ongoing trend, of course).
For pennants, you can aim higher and target the height of the pennant’s mast.
For continuation patterns, stops are usually placed above or below the actual chart formation.
For example, when trading a bearish rectangle, place your stop a few pips above the top or resistance of the rectangle.
Bilateral Chart Patterns
Bilateral chart patterns are a bit more tricky because these signal that the price can move either way.
Huh, what kind of a signal is that?!
This is where triangle formations fall in. Remember when we discussed that the price could break either to the topside or downside with triangles?
To play these chart patterns, you should consider both scenarios (upside or downside breakout) and place one order on top of the formation and another at the bottom of the formation.
Double the possibilities, double the fun!
The only problem is that you could catch a false break if you set your entry orders too close to the top or bottom of the formation.
So be careful and don’t forget to place your stops too!
Forex Training Group
Knowing when to enter the market is one of the most important skills in Forex trading. We should aim to hop into emerging trends as early as possible in order to catch the maximum price swing. One of the best ways to do this is by predicting potential reversals on the chart. In this lesson, we will discuss some of the top Forex reversal patterns that every trader should know.
What are Forex Reversal Patterns
Chart patterns can represent a specific attitude of the market participants towards a currency pair. For example, if major market players believe a level will hold and act to protect that level, we are likely to see a price reversal at that level.
Forex reversal patterns are on chart formations which help in forecasting high probability reversal zones. These could be in the form of a single candle, or a group of candles lined up in a specific shape, or they could be a large structural classical chart pattern.
Each of these chart formations has a specific reversal potential, which is used by experienced traders to gain an early edge by entering into the new emerging market direction.
Types of Reversal Chart Patterns
There are basic two types of trend reversal patterns; the bearish reversal pattern and the bullish reversal pattern.
The Bullish reversal pattern forecasts that the current bearish move will be reversed into a bullish direction.
The bearish reversal pattern forecasts that the current bullish move will be reversed into a bearish direction.
Top Candlestick Reversal Patterns
We will start with four of the most popular and effective candlestick reversal patterns that every trader should know.
Doji Candlestick Pattern
The Doji candle is one of the most popular candlestick reversal patterns and it’s structure is very easy to recognize. First, the Doji is a single candle pattern. The Doji candle is created when the opening and the closing price during a period are the same. In this manner, the Doji candle has no body and it looks like a cross. The Doji can appear after a prolonged price move, or in some cases when the market is very quiet and there is no volatility. In either case, the Doji candle will close wherever it has opened or very close to it.
The Doji candlestick is typically associated with indecision or exhaustion in the market. When it forms after a prolonged trend move, it can also provide a strong reversal potential. The candle represents the inability of the trend riders to keep pressuring the price in the same direction. The forces between the bears and the bulls begin to equalize and eventually reverse direction.
In the case above, you see the Doji candle acting as a bearish reversal signal. Notice that the price action leading to the Doji candle is bullish but the upside pressure begins to stall as evidenced by the Doji candle and the two candles just prior to the Doji candle. After the appearance of the Doji, the trend reverses and the price action starts a bearish decent.
Hammer / Shooting Star Candlestick Patterns
The Hammer candlestick pattern is another single candle which has a reversal function. This candle is known to have a very small body, a small or non-existent upper shadow, and a very long lower shadow. The Hammer pattern is only considered a valid reversal signal if the candle has appeared during a bearish trend:
This sketch shows you the condition you should have in order to confirm a Hammer reversal. It should be noted that the hammer candle itself could be bullish or bearish and this wouldn’t change its function. There are four similar variations of the Hammer candle, depending on the trend and the candle’s structure:
In the first two cases, you have a bearish trend, which reverses to a bullish price move. The difference between the two candles is that in the second case the long wick it positioned in the opposite direction and this formation is called an Inverted Hammer.
In the second two cases we have a bullish trend which turns into a bearish trend. If the long shadow is at the lower end, you have a Hanging Man.
If the long shadow is at the upper end, you have a Shooting Star. In all four cases it doesn’t matter whether the reversal candle is bullish or bearish. This doesn’t change its function.
Now let’s approach a Shooting Star example:
The chart above shows you a Shooting Star candle, which is part of the Hammer reversal family described earlier. The shooting star candle comes after a bullish trend and the long shadow is located at the upper end. The shooting star pattern would signal the reversal of an existing bullish trend.
Engulfing Candlestick Pattern
The next pattern we will discuss is the Engulfing pattern. Note that this is a double candle pattern. This means that the formation contains two candlesticks. The engulfing formation consists of an initial candle, which gets fully engulfed by the next immediate candle. This means that the body of the second candle should go above and below the body of the first candle.
There are two types of Engulfing patterns – bullish and bearish. The bullish Engulfing appears at the end of a bearish trend and it signals that the trend might get reversed to the upside. The first candle of the bullish Engulfing should be bearish. The second candle, the engulfing candle, should be bullish and it should fully contain the body of the first candle.
The characteristic of the bearish Engulfing pattern is exactly the opposite. It is located at the end of a bullish trend and it starts with a bullish candle, whose body gets fully engulfed by the next immediate bigger bearish candle.
Take a moment to check out this Engulfing reversal example below:
This chart shows you how the bullish Engulfing reversal pattern works. See that in our case the two shadows of the first candle are almost fully contained by the body of the second candle. This makes the pattern even stronger. We see on this chart that the price reverses and shoots up after the Bullish Engulfing setup.
Trading Rules for Reversal Candle Formations
To trade reversing candles, you should remember a few simple rules regarding trade entry, stop loss placement, and take profit. We will go this in the following section:
The confirmation of every reversal candle pattern we have discussed comes from the candle which appears next, after the formation. It should be in the direction we forecast. After this candle is finished, you can enter a trade.
In the Bullish Engulfing example above, the confirmation comes with the smaller bullish candle, which appears after the pattern. You can enter a long trade at the moment this candle is finished. This would be the more conservative approach and provide the best confirmation. Aggressive traders may consider entering a trade when the high of the prior bar is taken out (in case of a bullish reversal pattern) or when the low of the prior bar is taken out (in case of a bearish reversal pattern).
Never enter a candlestick reversal trade without a stop loss order. You should place a stop order just beyond the recent swing level of the candle pattern you are trading. So, if you trade long, your stop should be below the lowest point of your pattern. If you are going short, then the stop should be above the highest point of the pattern. Remember, this rule takes into consideration the shadows of the candles as well.
The minimum price move you should aim for when trading a candle reversal formation is equal to the size of the actual pattern itself. Take the low and the high of the pattern (including the shadows) and apply this distance starting from the end of the pattern. This would be the minimum target that you should forecast. If after you reach that level, you may decide to stay in the trade for further profit and manage the trade using price action rules.
Top Reversal Chart Patterns
Now let’s switch gears and talk a bit about some classical chart patterns that have a reversal potential. Two of the most popular and effective among this class would include the Double Top / Double Bottom formation and the Head and Shoulder pattern.
Double Top and Double Bottom
We will start with the Double Top reversal chart pattern. The pattern consists of two tops on the price chart. These tops are either located on the same resistance level, or the second top is a bit lower. The double top pattern typically looks like the letter “M”.
The Double Top has its opposite, called the Double Bottom. This pattern consists of two bottoms, which are either located on the same support level, or the second bottom is a bit higher. The double bottom pattern typically looks like the letter “W”.
These patterns are known to reverse the price action in many cases. Let’s see the Double Top formation on a price chart:
Notice we have a double top formation and that the second top is a bit lower than the fist top. This is a usual occurrence with a valid Double Top Pattern.
The confirmation of the Double Top reversal pattern comes at the moment when the price breaks the low between the two tops. This level is marked with the blue line on the chart and it is called a trigger or a signal line.
The stop loss order on a Double Top trade should be located right above the second top.
The Double Top minimum target equals the distance between the neck and the central line, which connects the two tops.
The Double Bottom looks and works absolutely the same way, but everything is upside down. Thus, the Double Bottom reverses bearish trends and should be traded in a bullish direction.
Head and Shoulders
The Head and Shoulders pattern is a very interesting and unique reversal figure. The shape of the pattern is aptly named because it actually resembles a head with two shoulders.
The pattern forms during a bullish trend and creates a top – the first shoulder. After a correction, the price action creates a higher top – the head. After another correction, the price creates a third top, which is lower than the head – the second shoulder. So we have two shoulders and a head in the middle.
Of course, the Head and Shoulders reversal pattern has its upside down equivalent, which turns bearish trends into bullish. This pattern is referred to as an Inverted Head and Shoulders pattern.
Now let me show you what the Head and Shoulders formation looks like on an actual chart:
In the chart above we see price increasing just prior to the head and shoulders formation. This is an important characteristic of a valid head and shoulders pattern. The confirmation of the pattern comes when the price breaks the line, which goes through the two bottoms on either side of the head. This line is called a Neck Line and it is marked in blue on our chart. When the price breaks the Neck Line, you get a reversal trading signal. This is when you would want to initiate a trade to the short side.
You should put your stop loss order above the last shoulder of the pattern – the right shoulder. Then you would trade for a minimum price move equal to the distance between the top of the head and the Neck Line.
The Inverted Head and Shoulders pattern is the upside down version of the Head and Shoulders. The pattern comes after a bearish trend, creates the three bottoms as with a Head and Shoulders and reverses the trend. It should be traded in the bullish direction.
Forex Reversal Strategy
When using a reversal trading system, it is always a good idea to wait for the pattern to be confirmed. I will present some confirmation ideas for you to apply when trading trend reversals in Forex. In the following chart example, I will illustrate five reversal trades for you.
The image above is the H4 chart of the USD/JPY Forex pair for Sep, 2020. The chart shows 5 potential trades based on a reversal trading strategy using candlestick and chart patterns. Each of the trades is marked with a black number at the opening of the trade.
The first trade comes when we get a small Hammer candle, which gets confirmed by a bullish candle afterwards. Note that after the confirmation candle, price quickly completes the minimum target of the pattern.
Then we see a big Hanging Man candle (because it comes after an increase), but the following candle is bullish, which provides no reversal confirmation. Therefore, this pattern should be ignored.
Soon the price action creates a Head and Shoulders pattern. At the top of the last shoulder we see another Hanging Man pattern, which this time gets confirmed and completed. This is another nice trading opportunity. The stop loss order should be located above the top of the upper shadow of the Hanging Man.
This trade could actually be extended by the confirmation of the big Head and Shoulders pattern. Simply hold the Hanging Man trade with the same stop loss order until the price action moves to a distance equal to the size of the Head and Shoulders structure as calculated by the measured move. You can close the trade after the target is completed at the end of the big magenta arrow.
The price then consolidates and creates a Double Bottom pattern – another wonderful trading opportunity. You can buy the USD/JPY when the price breaks the magenta horizontal trigger line. Your stop should be located below the second bottom of the pattern as shown on the image. You hold the trade until the size of the pattern is completed.
The price action reverses afterwards and starts a bearish move. On the way down we see a Hammer candle in the gray rectangle. However, the next candle after the Hammer is bearish, which does not confirm the validity of the pattern. For this reason, this Hammer candle should be ignored.
The next trading opportunity comes after an upward price swing. In the last blue rectangle you see a Shooting Star candle pattern with a very big upper shadow. This increases the reliability of the pattern. You could open a short trade when the next bearish candle completes to confirm the shooting star pattern, or if you want a more aggressive entry, you could have entered short when the low of the shooting star candle was taken out. The stop loss order should be placed above the upper shadow of the candle. Then you would want to hold the trade for at least the minimum price move equal to the size of the Shooting Star.
- Forex reversal patterns are on chart candlestick formations of one or more candles or bigger chart patterns which forecast price reversals.
- Every chart pattern has a mass sentiment component that can help a trader in gauging potential price swings.
- There are two types of reversal chart patterns:
- Bullish Reversal Chart Patterns – reverse the bearish move and starts a bullish move
- Bearish Reversal Chart Patterns – reverse the bullish move and starts a bearish move
- The top candlestick reversal patterns are:
- Doji – The price closes wherever it has opened and creates a candle with no body.
- Hammer – It has a small body, one big shadow and another small shadow. There are four variations of the Hammer candle depending on the previous trend and the position of the candle.
- Engulfing – It consists of two candles – a small candle and another candle, whose body fully engulfs the body of the first candle. There is a bullish and a bearish Engulfing.
- The top reversal chart patterns are:
- Double Top – The price creates two tops on approximately the same resistance level. The price is likely to start a bearish move afterwards. The opposite equivalent of this pattern is the Double Bottom.
- Head and Shoulders – The price creates a top, a higher top, and a lower top afterwards. The price is likely to start a bearish move afterwards. The opposite equivalent of this pattern is the Inverted Head and Shoulders.
- When using a Forex reversal strategy you would want to open a trade when you get a pattern confirmation and to hold for at least the minimum price projection based on the structure of the pattern.
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10 chart patterns every trader needs to know
Chart patterns are an integral aspect of technical analysis, but they require some getting used to before they can be used effectively. To help you get to grips with them, here are 10 chart patterns every trader needs to know.
A chart pattern is a shape within a price chart that helps to suggest what prices might do next, based on what they have done in the past. Chart patterns are the basis of technical analysis and require a trader to know exactly what they are looking at, as well as what they are looking for.
Best chart patterns
There is no one ‘best’ chart pattern, because they are all used to highlight different trends in a huge variety of markets. Often, chart patterns are used in candlestick trading, which makes it slightly easier to see the previous opens and closes of the market.
Some patterns are more suited to a volatile market, while others are less so. Some patterns are best used in a bullish market, and others are best used when a market is bearish.
That being said, it is important to know the ‘best’ chart pattern for your particular market, as using the wrong one or not knowing which one to use may cause you to miss out on an opportunity to profit.
Before getting into the intricacies of different chart patterns, it is important that we briefly explain support and resistance levels. Support refers to the level at which an asset’s price stops falling and bounces back up. Resistance is where the price usually stops rising and dips back down.
The reason levels of support and resistance appear is because of the balance between buyers and sellers – or demand and supply. When there are more buyers than sellers in a market (or more demand than supply), the price tends to rise. When there are more sellers than buyers (more supply than demand), the price usually falls.
As an example, an asset’s price might be rising because demand is outstripping supply. However, the price will eventually reach the maximum that buyers are willing to pay, and demand will decrease at that price level. At this point, buyers might decide to close their positions.
This creates resistance, and the price starts to fall toward a level of support as supply begins to outstrip demand as more and more buyers close their positions. Once an asset’s price falls enough, buyers might buy back into the market because the price is now more acceptable – creating a level of support where supply and demand begin to equal out.
If the increased buying continues, it will drive the price back up towards a level of resistance as demand begins to increase relative to supply. Once a price breaks through a level of resistance, it may become a level of support.
Types of chart patterns
Chart patterns fall broadly into three categories: continuation patterns, reversal patterns and bilateral patterns.
- A continuation signals that an ongoing trend will continue
- Reversal chart patterns indicate that a trend may be about to change direction
- Bilateral chart patterns let traders know that the price could move either way – meaning the market is highly volatile
For all of these patterns, you can take a position with CFDs. This is because CFDs enable you to go short as well as long – meaning you can speculate on markets falling as well as rising. You may wish to go short during a bearish reversal or continuation, or long during a bullish reversal or continuation – whether you do so depends on the pattern and the market analysis that you have carried out.
The most important thing to remember when using chart patterns as part of your technical analysis, is that they are not a guarantee that a market will move in that predicted direction – they are merely an indication of what might happen to an asset’s price.
Head and shoulders
Head and shoulders is a chart pattern in which a large peak has a slightly smaller peak on either side of it. Traders look at head and shoulders patterns to predict a bullish-to-bearish reversal.
Typically, the first and third peak will be smaller than the second, but they will all fall back to the same level of support, otherwise known as the ‘neckline’. Once the third peak has fallen back to the level of support, it is likely that it will breakout into a bearish downtrend.
A double top is another pattern that traders use to highlight trend reversals. Typically, an asset’s price will experience a peak, before retracing back to a level of support. It will then climb up once more before reversing back more permanently against the prevailing trend.
A double bottom chart pattern indicates a period of selling, causing an asset’s price to drop below a level of support. It will then rise to a level of resistance, before dropping again. Finally, the trend will reverse and begin an upward motion as the market becomes more bullish.
A double bottom is a bullish reversal pattern, because it signifies the end of a downtrend and a shift towards an uptrend.
A rounding bottom chart pattern can signify a continuation or a reversal. For instance, during an uptrend an asset’s price may fall back slightly before rising once more. This would be a bullish continuation.
An example of a bullish reversal rounding bottom – shown below – would be if an asset’s price was in a downward trend and a rounding bottom formed before the trend reversed and entered a bullish uptrend.
Traders will seek to capitalise on this pattern by buying halfway around the bottom, at the low point, and capitalising on the continuation once it breaks above a level of resistance.
Cup and handle
The cup and handle pattern is a bullish continuation pattern that is used to show a period of bearish market sentiment before the overall trend finally continues in a bullish motion. The cup appears similar to a rounding bottom chart pattern, and the handle is similar to a wedge pattern – which is explained in the next section.
Following the rounding bottom, the price of an asset will likely enter a temporary retracement, which is known as the handle because this retracement is confined to two parallel lines on the price graph. The asset will eventually reverse out of the handle and continue with the overall bullish trend.
Wedges form as an asset’s price movements tighten between two sloping trend lines. There are two types of wedge: rising and falling.
A rising wedge is represented by a trend line caught between two upwardly slanted lines of support and resistance. In this case the line of support is steeper than the resistance line. This pattern generally signals that an asset’s price will eventually decline more permanently – which is demonstrated when it breaks through the support level.
A falling wedge occurs between two downwardly sloping levels. In this case the line of resistance is steeper than the support. A falling wedge is usually indicative that an asset’s price will rise and break through the level of resistance, as shown in the example below.
Both rising and falling wedges are reversal patterns, with rising wedges representing a bearish market and falling wedges being more typical of a bullish market.
Pennant or flags
Pennant patterns, or flags, are created after an asset experiences a period of upward movement, followed by a consolidation. Generally, there will be a significant increase during the early stages of the trend, before it enters into a series of smaller upward and downward movements.
Pennants can be either bullish or bearish, and they can represent a continuation or a reversal. The above chart is an example of a bullish continuation. In this respect, pennants can be a form of bilateral pattern because they show either continuations or reversals.
While a pennant may seem similar to a wedge pattern or a triangle pattern – explained in the next sections – it is important to note that wedges are narrower than pennants or triangles. Also, wedges differ from pennants because a wedge is always ascending or descending, while a pennant is always horizontal.
The ascending triangle is a bullish continuation pattern which signifies the continuation of an uptrend. Ascending triangles can be drawn onto charts by placing a horizontal line along the swing highs – the resistance – and then drawing an ascending trend line along the swing lows – the support.
Ascending triangles often have two or more identical peak highs which allow for the horizontal line to be drawn. The trend line signifies the overall uptrend of the pattern, while the horizontal line indicates the historic level of resistance for that particular asset.
In contrast, a descending triangle signifies a bearish continuation of a downtrend. Typically, a trader will enter a short position during a descending triangle – possibly with CFDs – in an attempt to profit from a falling market.
Descending triangles generally shift lower and break through the support because they are indicative of a market dominated by sellers, meaning that successively lower peaks are likely to be prevalent and unlikely to reverse.
Descending triangles can be identified from a horizontal line of support and a downward-sloping line of resistance. Eventually, the trend will break through the support and the downtrend will continue.
The symmetrical triangle pattern can be either bullish or bearish, depending on the market. In either case, it is normally a continuation pattern, which means the market will usually continue in the same direction as the overall trend once the pattern has formed.
Symmetrical triangles form when the price converges with a series of lower peaks and higher troughs. In the example below, the overall trend is bearish, but the symmetrical triangle shows us that there has been a brief period of upward reversals.
However, if there is no clear trend before the triangle pattern forms, the market could break out in either direction. This makes symmetrical triangles a bilateral pattern – meaning they are best used in volatile markets where there is no clear indication of which way an asset’s price might move. An example of a bilateral symmetrical triangle can be seen below.
Chart patterns summed up
All of the patterns explained in this article are useful technical indicators which can help you to understand how or why an asset’s price moved in a certain way – and which way it might move in the future. This is because chart patterns are capable of highlighting areas of support and resistance, which can help a trader decide whether they should open a long or short position; or whether they should close out their open positions in the event of a possible trend reversal.
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