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Trading strategy

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In finance, a trading strategy (see also trading system) is a predefined set of rules for making trading decisions.

Traders, investment firms and fund managers use a trading strategy to help make wiser investment decisions and help eliminate the emotional aspect of trading. A trading strategy is governed by a set of rules that do not deviate. Emotional bias is eliminated because the systems operate within the parameters known by the trader. The parameters can be trusted based on historical analysis (backtesting) and real world market studies (forward testing), so that the trader can have confidence in the strategy and its operating characteristics.
[edit] Development

When developing a trading strategy, many things must be considered: return, risk, volatility, timeframe, style, correlation with the markets, methods, etc. After developing a strategy, it can be backtested using computer programs. Although backtesting is no guarantee of future performance, it gives the trader confidence that the strategy has worked in the past. If the strategy is not over-optimized, data-mined, or based on random coincidences, it might have a good chance of working in the future.
[edit] Executing strategies

A trading strategy can be executed by a trader (manually) or automated (by computer). Manual trading requires a great deal of skill and discipline. It is tempting for the trader to deviate from the strategy, which usually reduces its performance.

An automated trading strategy wraps trading formulas into automated order and execution systems. Advanced computer modeling techniques, combined with electronic access to world market data and information, enable traders using a trading strategy to have a unique market vantage point. A trading strategy can automate all or part of your investment portfolio. Computer trading models can be adjusted for either conservative or aggressive trading styles.

The publication of Trading Strategy Indices as investable indices that implement a range of trading strategies has become a growing business for many of the major Investment banks.
[edit] Styles

Technical analysis
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In finance, technical analysis is security analysis discipline for forecasting the direction of prices through the study of past market data, primarily price and volume.[1] Behavioral economics and quantitative analysis build on and incorporate many of the same tools of technical analysis [2] [3][4] [5], which, being an aspect of active management, stands in contradiction to much of modern portfolio theory. The efficacy of both technical and fundamental analysis is disputed by efficient-market hypothesis which states that stock market prices are essentially unpredictable.[6]
[edit] History

The principles of technical analysis are derived from hundreds of years of financial markets data.[7] Some aspects of technical analysis began to appear in Joseph de la Vega's accounts of the Dutch markets in the 17th century. In Asia, technical analysis is said to be a method developed by Homma Munehisa during early 18th century which evolved into the use of candlestick techniques, and is today a technical analysis charting tool.[8][9] In the 1920s and 1930s Richard W. Schabacker published several books which continued the work of Charles Dow and William Peter Hamilton in their books Stock Market Theory and Practice and Technical Market Analysis. In 1948 Robert D. Edwards and John Magee published Technical Analysis of Stock Trends which is widely considered to be one of the seminal works of the discipline. It is exclusively concerned with trend analysis and chart patterns and remains in use to the present. As is obvious, early technical analysis was almost exclusively the analysis of charts, because the processing power of computers was not available for statistical analysis. Charles Dow reportedly originated a form of point and figure chart analysis.

Dow Theory is based on the collected writings of Dow Jones co-founder and editor Charles Dow, and inspired the use and development of modern technical analysis at the end of the 19th century. Other pioneers of analysis techniques include Ralph Nelson Elliott, William Delbert Gann and Richard Wyckoff who developed their respective techniques in the early 20th century. More technical tools and theories have been developed and enhanced in recent decades, with an increasing emphasis on computer-assisted techniques using specially designed computer software.
[edit] General description
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While fundamental analysts examine earnings, dividends, new products, research and the like, technical analysts examine what investors fear or think about those developments and whether or not investors have the wherewithal to back up their opinions; these two concepts are called psych (psychology) and supply/demand. Technicians employ many techniques, one of which is the use of charts. Using charts, technical analysts seek to identify price patterns and market trends in financial markets and attempt to exploit those patterns.[10] Technicians use various methods and tools, the study of price charts is but one.

Technicians using charts search for archetypal price chart patterns, such as the well-known head and shoulders or double top/bottom reversal patterns, study technical indicators, moving averages, and look for forms such as lines of support, resistance, channels, and more obscure formations such as flags, pennants, balance days and cup and handle patterns.

Technical analysts also widely use market indicators of many sorts, some of which are mathematical transformations of price, often including up and down volume, advance/decline data and other inputs. These indicators are used to help assess whether an asset is trending, and if it is, the probability of its direction and of continuation. Technicians also look for relationships between price/volume indices and market indicators. Examples include the relative strength index, and MACD. Other avenues of study include correlations between changes in options (implied volatility) and put/call ratios with price. Also important are sentiment indicators such as Put/Call ratios, bull/bear ratios, short interest, Implied Volatility, etc.

There are many techniques in technical analysis. Adherents of different techniques (for example, candlestick charting, Dow Theory, and Elliott wave theory) may ignore the other approaches, yet many traders combine elements from more than one technique. Some technical analysts use subjective judgment to decide which pattern(s) a particular instrument reflects at a given time and what the interpretation of that pattern should be. Others employ a strictly mechanical or systematic approach to pattern identification and interpretation.

Technical analysis is frequently contrasted with fundamental analysis, the study of economic factors that influence the way investors price financial markets. Technical analysis holds that prices already reflect all such trends before investors are aware of them. Uncovering those trends is what technical indicators are designed to do, imperfect as they may be. Fundamental indicators are subject to the same limitations, naturally. Some traders use technical or fundamental analysis exclusively, while others use both types to make trading decisions.
[edit] Characteristics

Technical analysis employs models and trading rules based on price and volume transformations, such as the relative strength index, moving averages, regressions, inter-market and intra-market price correlations, business cycles, stock market cycles or, classically, through recognition of chart patterns.

Technical analysis stands in contrast to the fundamental analysis approach to security and stock analysis. Technical analysis analyzes price, volume and other market information, whereas fundamental analysis looks at the facts of the company, market, currency or commodity. Most large brokerage, trading group, or financial institutions will typically have both a technical analysis and fundamental analysis team.

Technical analysis is widely used among traders and financial professionals and is very often used by active day traders, market makers and pit traders. In the 1960s and 1970s it was widely dismissed by academics. In a recent review, Irwin and Park[11] reported that 56 of 95 modern studies found that it produces positive results but noted that many of the positive results were rendered dubious by issues such as data snooping, so that the evidence in support of technical analysis was inconclusive; it is still considered by many academics to be pseudoscience.[12] Academics such as Eugene Fama say the evidence for technical analysis is sparse and is inconsistent with the weak form of the efficient-market hypothesis.[13][14] Users hold that even if technical analysis cannot predict the future, it helps to identify trading opportunities.[15]

In the foreign exchange markets, its use may be more widespread than fundamental analysis.[16][17] This does not mean technical analysis is more applicable to foreign markets, but that technical analysis is more recognized as to its efficacy there than elsewhere. While some isolated studies have indicated that technical trading rules might lead to consistent returns in the period prior to 1987,[18][19][20][21] most academic work has focused on the nature of the anomalous position of the foreign exchange market.[22] It is speculated that this anomaly is due to central bank intervention, which obviously technical analysis is not designed to predict.[23] Recent research suggests that combining various trading signals into a Combined Signal Approach may be able to increase profitability and reduce dependence on any single rule.[24]
[edit] Principles
Stock chart showing levels of support (4,5,6, 7, and 8) and resistance (1, 2, and 3); levels of resistance tend to become levels of support and vice versa.

A fundamental principle of technical analysis is that a market's price reflects all relevant information, so their analysis looks at the history of a security's trading pattern rather than external drivers such as economic, fundamental and news events. Price action also tends to repeat itself because investors collectively tend toward patterned behavior – hence technicians' focus on identifiable trends and conditions.[citation needed]
[edit] Market action discounts everything

Based on the premise that all relevant information is already reflected by prices, technical analysts believe it is important to understand what investors think of that information, known and perceived.
[edit] Prices move in trends
See also: Market trend

Technical analysts believe that prices trend directionally, i.e., up, down, or sideways (flat) or some combination. The basic definition of a price trend was originally put forward by Dow Theory.[10]

An example of a security that had an apparent trend is AOL from November 2001 through August 2002. A technical analyst or trend follower recognizing this trend would look for opportunities to sell this security. AOL consistently moves downward in price. Each time the stock rose, sellers would enter the market and sell the stock; hence the "zig-zag" movement in the price. The series of "lower highs" and "lower lows" is a tell tale sign of a stock in a down trend.[25] In other words, each time the stock moved lower, it fell below its previous relative low price. Each time the stock moved higher, it could not reach the level of its previous relative high price.

Note that the sequence of lower lows and lower highs did not begin until August. Then AOL makes a low price that does not pierce the relative low set earlier in the month. Later in the same month, the stock makes a relative high equal to the most recent relative high. In this a technician sees strong indications that the down trend is at least pausing and possibly ending, and would likely stop actively selling the stock at that point.
[edit] History tends to repeat itself

Technical analysts believe that investors collectively repeat the behavior of the investors that preceded them. To a technician, the emotions in the market may be irrational, but they exist. Because investor behavior repeats itself so often, technicians believe that recognizable (and predictable) price patterns will develop on a chart.[10]

Technical analysis is not limited to charting, but it always considers price trends.[1] For example, many technicians monitor surveys of investor sentiment. These surveys gauge the attitude of market participants, specifically whether they are bearish or bullish. Technicians use these surveys to help determine whether a trend will continue or if a reversal could develop; they are most likely to anticipate a change when the surveys report extreme investor sentiment[26] Surveys that show overwhelming bullishness, for example, are evidence that an uptrend may reverse; the premise being that if most investors are bullish they have already bought the market (anticipating higher prices). And because most investors are bullish and invested, one assumes that few buyers remain. This leaves more potential sellers than buyers, despite the bullish sentiment. This suggests that prices will trend down, and is an example of contrarian trading.[27]

Recently, Kim Man Lui, Lun Hu, and Keith C.C. Chan have suggested that there is statistical evidence of association relationships between some of the index composite stocks whereas there is no evidence for such a relationship between some index composite others. They show that the price behavior of these Hang Seng index composite stocks is easier to understand than that of the index.[28]
[edit] Industry

The industry is globally represented by the International Federation of Technical Analysts (IFTA), which is a Federation of regional and national organizations. In the United States, the industry is represented by both the Market Technicians Association (MTA) and the American Association of Professional Technical Analysts (AAPTA). The United States is also represented by the Technical Security Analysts Association of San Francisco (TSAASF). In the United Kingdom, the industry is represented by the Society of Technical Analysts (STA). In Canada the industry is represented by the Canadian Society of Technical Analysts.[29] In Australia, the industry is represented by the Australian Professional Technical Analysts (APTA) Inc [30] and the Australian Technical Analysts Association (ATAA).

Professional technical analysis societies have worked on creating a body of knowledge that describes the field of Technical Analysis. A body of knowledge is central to the field as a way of defining how and why technical analysis may work. It can then be used by academia, as well as regulatory bodies, in developing proper research and standards for the field.[31] The Market Technicians Association (MTA) has published a body of knowledge, which is the structure for the MTA's Chartered Market Technician (CMT) exam.[32]
[edit] Systematic trading
[edit] Neural networks

Since the early 1990s when the first practically usable types emerged, artificial neural networks (ANNs) have rapidly grown in popularity. They are artificial intelligence adaptive software systems that have been inspired by how biological neural networks work. They are used because they can learn to detect complex patterns in data. In mathematical terms, they are universal function approximators,[33][34] meaning that given the right data and configured correctly, they can capture and model any input-output relationships. This not only removes the need for human interpretation of charts or the series of rules for generating entry/exit signals, but also provides a bridge to fundamental analysis, as the variables used in fundamental analysis can be used as input.

As ANNs are essentially non-linear statistical models, their accuracy and prediction capabilities can be both mathematically and empirically tested. In various studies, authors have claimed that neural networks used for generating trading signals given various technical and fundamental inputs have significantly outperformed buy-hold strategies as well as traditional linear technical analysis methods when combined with rule-based expert systems.[35][36][37]

While the advanced mathematical nature of such adaptive systems has kept neural networks for financial analysis mostly within academic research circles, in recent years more user friendly neural network software has made the technology more accessible to traders. However, large-scale application is problematic because of the problem of matching the correct neural topology to the market being studied.
[edit] Combination with other market forecast methods

John Murphy states that the principal sources of information available to technicians are price, volume and open interest.[10] Other data, such as indicators and sentiment analysis, are considered secondary.

However, many technical analysts reach outside pure technical analysis, combining other market forecast methods with their technical work. One advocate for this approach is John Bollinger, who coined the term rational analysis in the middle 1980s for the intersection of technical analysis and fundamental analysis.[38] Another such approach, fusion analysis,[39] overlays fundamental analysis with technical, in an attempt to improve portfolio manager performance.

Technical analysis is also often combined with quantitative analysis and economics. For example, neural networks may be used to help identify intermarket relationships.[40] A few market forecasters combine financial astrology with technical analysis. Chris Carolan's article "Autumn Panics and Calendar Phenomenon", which won the Market Technicians Association Dow Award for best technical analysis paper in 1998, demonstrates how technical analysis and lunar cycles can be combined.[41] Calendar phenomena, such as the January effect in the stock market, are generally believed to be caused by tax and accounting related transactions, and are not related to the subject of financial astrology.

Investor and newsletter polls, and magazine cover sentiment indicators, are also used by technical analysts.[42]
[edit] Empirical evidence

Whether technical analysis actually works is a matter of controversy. Methods vary greatly, and different technical analysts can sometimes make contradictory predictions from the same data. Many investors claim that they experience positive returns, but academic appraisals often find that it has little predictive power.[43] Of 95 modern studies, 56 concluded that technical analysis had positive results, although data-snooping bias and other problems make the analysis difficult.[11] Nonlinear prediction using neural networks occasionally produces statistically significant prediction results.[44] A Federal Reserve working paper[19] regarding support and resistance levels in short-term foreign exchange rates "offers strong evidence that the levels help to predict intraday trend interruptions," although the "predictive power" of those levels was "found to vary across the exchange rates and firms examined".

Technical trading strategies were found to be effective in the Chinese marketplace by a recent study that states, "Finally, we find significant positive returns on buy trades generated by the contrarian version of the moving-average crossover rule, the channel breakout rule, and the Bollinger band trading rule, after accounting for transaction costs of 0.50 percent."[45]

An influential 1992 study by Brock et al. which appeared to find support for technical trading rules was tested for data snooping and other problems in 1999;[46] the sample covered by Brock et al. was robust to data snooping.

Subsequently, a comprehensive study of the question by Amsterdam economist Gerwin Griffioen concludes that: "for the U.S., Japanese and most Western European stock market indices the recursive out-of-sample forecasting procedure does not show to be profitable, after implementing little transaction costs. Moreover, for sufficiently high transaction costs it is found, by estimating CAPMs, that technical trading shows no statistically significant risk-corrected out-of-sample forecasting power for almost all of the stock market indices."[14] Transaction costs are particularly applicable to "momentum strategies"; a comprehensive 1996 review of the data and studies concluded that even small transaction costs would lead to an inability to capture any excess from such strategies.[47]

In a paper published in the Journal of Finance, Dr. Andrew W. Lo, director MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering, working with Harry Mamaysky and Jiang Wang found that "

Technical analysis, also known as "charting," has been a part of financial practice for many decades, but this discipline has not received the same level of academic scrutiny and acceptance as more traditional approaches such as fundamental analysis. One of the main obstacles is the highly subjective nature of technical analysis—the presence of geometric shapes in historical price charts is often in the eyes of the beholder. In this paper, we propose a systematic and automatic approach to technical pattern recognition using nonparametric kernel regression, and apply this method to a large number of U.S. stocks from 1962 to 1996 to evaluate the effectiveness of technical analysis. By comparing the unconditional empirical distribution of daily stock returns to the conditional distribution—conditioned on specific technical indicators such as head-and-shoulders or double-bottoms—we find that over the 31-year sample period, several technical indicators do provide incremental information and may have some practical value.[48]

In that same paper Dr. Lo wrote that "several academic studies suggest that ... technical analysis may well be an effective means for extracting useful information from market prices."[49] Some techniques such as Drummond Geometry attempt to overcome the past data bias by projecting support and resistance levels from differing time frames into the near-term future and combining that with reversion to the mean techniques.[50]
[edit] Efficient market hypothesis

The efficient-market hypothesis (EMH) contradicts the basic tenets of technical analysis by stating that past prices cannot be used to profitably predict future prices. Thus it holds that technical analysis cannot be effective. Economist Eugene Fama published the seminal paper on the EMH in the Journal of Finance in 1970, and said "In short, the evidence in support of the efficient markets model is extensive, and (somewhat uniquely in economics) contradictory evidence is sparse."[51]

Technicians say[who?] that EMH ignores the way markets work, in that many investors base their expectations on past earnings or track record, for example. Because future stock prices can be strongly influenced by investor expectations, technicians claim it only follows that past prices influence future prices.[52] They also point to research in the field of behavioral finance, specifically that people are not the rational participants EMH makes them out to be. Technicians have long said that irrational human behavior influences stock prices, and that this behavior leads to predictable outcomes.[53] Author David Aronson says that the theory of behavioral finance blends with the practice of technical analysis:

By considering the impact of emotions, cognitive errors, irrational preferences, and the dynamics of group behavior, behavioral finance offers succinct explanations of excess market volatility as well as the excess returns earned by stale information strategies.... cognitive errors may also explain the existence of market inefficiencies that spawn the systematic price movements that allow objective TA [technical analysis] methods to work.[52]

EMH advocates reply that while individual market participants do not always act rationally (or have complete information), their aggregate decisions balance each other, resulting in a rational outcome (optimists who buy stock and bid the price higher are countered by pessimists who sell their stock, which keeps the price in equilibrium).[54] Likewise, complete information is reflected in the price because all market participants bring their own individual, but incomplete, knowledge together in the market.[54]
[edit] Random walk hypothesis

The random walk hypothesis may be derived from the weak-form efficient markets hypothesis, which is based on the assumption that market participants take full account of any information contained in past price movements (but not necessarily other public information). In his book A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Princeton economist Burton Malkiel said that technical forecasting tools such as pattern analysis must ultimately be self-defeating: "The problem is that once such a regularity is known to market participants, people will act in such a way that prevents it from happening in the future."[55] Malkiel has stated that while momentum may explain some stock price movements, there is not enough momentum to make excess profits. Malkiel has compared technical analysis to "astrology".[56]

In the late 1980s, professors Andrew Lo and Craig McKinlay published a paper which cast doubt on the random walk hypothesis. In a 1999 response to Malkiel, Lo and McKinlay collected empirical papers that questioned the hypothesis' applicability[57] that suggested a non-random and possibly predictive component to stock price movement, though they were careful to point out that rejecting random walk does not necessarily invalidate EMH, which is an entirely separate concept from RWH. In a 2000 paper, Andrew Lo back-analyzed data from U.S. from 1962 to 1996 and found that "several technical indicators do provide incremental information and may have some practical value".[49] Burton Malkiel dismissed the irregularities mentioned by Lo and McKinlay as being too small to profit from.[56]

Technicians say[who?] that the EMH and random walk theories both ignore the realities of markets, in that participants are not completely rational and that current price moves are not independent of previous moves.[25][58] Some signal processing researchers negate the random walk hypothesis that stock market prices resemble Wiener processes, because the statistical moments of such processes and real stock data vary significantly with respect window size and similarity measure. [59] They argue that feature transformations used for the description of audio and biosignals can also be used to predict stock market prices successfully which would contradict the random walk hypothesis.

The random walk index (RWI) is a technical indicator that attempts to determine if a stock’s price movement is random or nature or a result of a statistically significant trend. The random walk index attempts to determine when the market is in a strong uptrend or downtrend by measuring price ranges over N and how it differs from what would be expected by a random walk (randomly going up or down). The greater the range suggests a stronger trend.[60]
[edit] Charting terms and indicators
[edit] Concepts

Resistance — a price level that may prompt a net increase of selling activity
Support — a price level that may prompt a net increase of buying activity
Breakout — the concept whereby prices forcefully penetrate an area of prior support or resistance, usually, but not always, accompanied by an increase in volume.
Trending — the phenomenon by which price movement tends to persist in one direction for an extended period of time
Average true range — averaged daily trading range, adjusted for price gaps
Chart pattern — distinctive pattern created by the movement of security prices on a chart
Dead cat bounce — the phenomenon whereby a spectacular decline in the price of a stock is immediately followed by a moderate and temporary rise before resuming its downward movement
Elliott wave principle and the golden ratio to calculate successive price movements and retracements
Fibonacci ratios — used as a guide to determine support and resistance
Momentum — the rate of price change
Point and figure analysis — A priced-based analytical approach employing numerical filters which may incorporate time references, though ignores time entirely in its construction.
Cycles — time targets for potential change in price action (price only moves up, down, or sideways)
Market Condition — the state of price movement as being in a state of range expansion or a range contraction.

[edit] Types of charts

Open-high-low-close chart — OHLC charts, also known as bar charts, plot the span between the high and low prices of a trading period as a vertical line segment at the trading time, and the open and close prices with horizontal tick marks on the range line, usually a tick to the left for the open price and a tick to the right for the closing price.
Candlestick chart — Of Japanese origin and similar to OHLC, candlesticks widen and fill the interval between the open and close prices to emphasize the open/close relationship. In the West, often black or red candle bodies represent a close lower than the open, while white, green or blue candles represent a close higher than the open price.
Line chart — Connects the closing price values with line segments.
Point and figure chart — a chart type employing numerical filters with only passing references to time, and which ignores time entirely in its construction.

[edit] Overlays

Overlays are generally superimposed over the main price chart.

Resistance — a price level that may act as a ceiling above price
Support — a price level that may act as a floor below price
Trend line — a sloping line described by at least two peaks or two troughs
Channel — a pair of parallel trend lines
Moving average — the last n-bars of price divided by "n" -- where "n" is the number of bars specified by the length of the average. A moving average can be thought of as a kind of dynamic trend-line.
Bollinger bands — a range of price volatility
Parabolic SAR — Wilder's trailing stop based on prices tending to stay within a parabolic curve during a strong trend
Pivot point — derived by calculating the numerical average of a particular currency's or stock's high, low and closing prices
Ichimoku kinko hyo — a moving average-based system that factors in time and the average point between a candle's high and low

[edit] Price-based indicators

These indicators are generally shown below or above the main price chart.

Average Directional Index — a widely used indicator of trend strength
Commodity Channel Index — identifies cyclical trends
MACD — moving average convergence/divergence
Momentum — the rate of price change
Relative Strength Index (RSI) — oscillator showing price strength
Stochastic oscillator — close position within recent trading range
Trix — an oscillator showing the slope of a triple-smoothed exponential moving average
%C — denotes current market environment as range expansion or contraction plus highlights ta extremes when the condition should be changing.

[edit] Breadth Indicators

These indicators are based on statistics derived from the broad market

Advance Decline Line — a popular indicator of market breadth
McClellan Oscillator - a popular closed-form indicator of breadth
McClellan Summation Index - a popular open-form indicator of breadth

[edit] Volume-based indicators

Accumulation/distribution index — based on the close within the day's range
Money Flow — the amount of stock traded on days the price went up
On-balance volume — the momentum of buying and selling stocks
Trend following
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Trend following is an investment strategy that tries to take advantage of long-term moves that seem to play out in various markets. The strategy aims to work on the market trend mechanism and take benefit from both sides of the market, enjoying the profits from the ups and downs of the stock or futures markets. Traders who use this approach can use current market price calculation, moving averages and channel breakouts to determine the general direction of the market and to generate trade signals. Traders who employ a trend following strategy do not aim to forecast or predict specific price levels; they simply jump on the trend and ride it.

Trend following is most commonly associated with Commodity Trading Advisors as the predominant strategy of technical traders. Dr. Galen Burghardt, an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, researched the relative impact of trend following funds in the CTA business. By tracking a subset of trend following CTAs and comparing that subset them with a broader CTA index (from the period 2000-2009), Dr. Burghardt measured a correlation of .97 between the two groups, showing how large the impact of trend following is in the CTA business.
[edit] Definition

Trend following is a betting strategy that tries to take advantage of long-term moves that seem to play out in various markets. Traders who employ a trend following strategy do not aim to forecast or predict specific price levels; they simply jump on the trend (when they perceived that a trend has established with their own peculiar reasons or rules) and ride it. These traders normally enter in the market after the trend "properly" establishes itself, betting that the trend will persist for a long time,and, for this reason, they ignore the initial turning point profit. A market "trend" is a tendency of a financial market price to move in a particular direction over time. If there is a turn contrary to the trend, they exit and wait until the turn establishes itself as a trend in the opposite direction. In case their rules signals an exit, the trader exits but re-enters when the trend re-establishes.

Cutting Loss. Exit market when market turn against them to minimize losses, and "let the profits run", when the market trend goes as expected until the market exhausted and reverses to book profit.

This trading or "betting with positive edge" method involves a risk management component that uses three elements: number of shares held, the current market price, and current market volatility. An initial risk rule determines position size at time of entry. Exactly how much to buy or sell is based on the size of the trading account and the volatility of the issue. Changes in price may lead to a gradual reduction or an increase of the initial trade. On the other hand, adverse price movements may lead to an exit for the entire trade.

These traders normally enter in the market after the trend properly establishes itself, and, for this reason, they ignore the initial turning point profit.

If there is a turn contrary to the trend, these systems signal a pre-programmed exit or wait until the turn establishes itself as a trend in the opposite direction. In case the system signals an exit, the trader re-enters when the trend re-establishes.

In the words of Tom Basso, in the book Trade Your Way to Financial Freedom[1]
“ Let's break down the term Trend Following into its components. The first part is "trend". Every trader needs a trend to make money. If you think about it, no matter what the technique, if there is not a trend after you buy, then you will not be able to sell at higher prices..."Following" is the next part of the term. We use this word because trend followers always wait for the trend to shift first, then "follow" it. ”

[edit] Considerations

Price: One of the first rules of trend following is that price is the main concern. Traders may use other indicators showing where price may go next or what it should be but as a general rule these should be disregarded. A trader need only be worried about what the market is doing, not what the market might do. The current price and only the price tells you what the market is doing.

Money management: Another decisive factor of trend following is not the timing of the trade or the indicator, but rather the decision of how much to trade over the course of the trend.

Risk control: Cut losses is the rule. This means that during periods of higher market volatility, the trading size is reduced. During losing periods, positions are reduced and trade size is cut back. The main objective is to preserve capital until more positive price trends reappear.

Rules: Trend following should be systematic. Price and time are pivotal at all times. This technique is not based on an analysis of fundamental supply and demand factors.

[edit] Q&As

Trend following strategy answers the questions:

What Market Do You Buy or Sell at Any Time?
How Much of a Market Do You Buy or Sell at Any Time?
When Do You Buy or Sell a Market?
When Do You Get Out of a Losing Position?
When Do You Get Out of a Winning Position?[2]

[edit] Example

A trader would identify a security to trade (currencies/commodities/financials) and would come up with a preliminary strategy, such as[3]:

Commodity: soybean oil
Trading approach: long and short alternatively.
Entrance: When the 50 period simple moving average (SMA) crosses over the 100 period SMA, go long when the market opens. The crossover suggests that the trend has recently turned up.
Exit: Exit long and go short the next day when 100 period SMA crosses over 50 period SMA. The crossover suggests that the trend has turned down.
Stop loss: Set a stop loss based on maximum loss acceptable. For example if the recent, say 10 day, Average True Range is 0.5% of current market price, stop loss could be set at 4x0.5% = 2%.

The trader would then backtest the strategy, using actual data and would evaluate the strategy. The simulator would generate estimated number of trades, the fraction of winning/losing trades, average profit/loss, average holding time, maximum drawdown, and the overall profit/loss. The trader can then experiment and refine the strategy. Care must be taken, however, to avoid over-optimization.

It is possible that a majority of the trades may be unprofitable, but by "cutting the losses" and "letting profits run", the overall strategy may be profitable. Trend trading is most effective for a market that is quiet (relative low volatility) and trending. For this reason, trend traders often focus on commodities, which show a stronger tendency to trend than on stocks, which are more likely to be mean reverting (which favors swing traders).
Price action trading
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The concept of price action trading embodies the analysis of basic price movement as a methodology for financial speculation, as used by many retail traders and often institutionally where algorithmic trading is not employed, and at its most simplistic, it attempts to describe the human thought processes invoked by experienced, non-disciplinary traders as they observe and trade their markets.[1][2][3][4] Price action is simply how prices change - the action of price. It is readily observed in markets where liquidity and price volatility are highest, but anything that is bought or sold freely in a market will per se demonstrate price action. Price action trading can be included under the umbrella of technical analysis but is covered here in a separate article because it incorporates the behavioural analysis of market participants as a crowd from evidence displayed in price action - a type of analysis whose academic coverage isn't focused in any one area, rather is widely described and commented on in the literature on trading, speculation, gambling and competition generally. It includes a large part of the methodology employed by floor traders[5] and tape readers.[6] It can also optionally include analysis of volume and level 2 quotes.

The trader observes the relative size, shape, position, growth (when watching the current real-time price) and volume (optionally) of the bars on an OHLC bar or candlestick chart, starting as simple as a single bar, most often combined with chart formations found in broader technical analysis such as moving averages, trend lines or trading ranges.[7][8] The use of price action analysis for financial speculation doesn't exclude the simultaneous use of other techniques of analysis, and on the other hand, a minimalist price action trader can rely completely on the behavioural interpretation of price action to build a trading strategy.

The various authors who write about price action, e.g. Brooks,[8] Duddella,[9] give names to the price action chart formations and behavioural patterns they observe, which may or may not be unique to that author and known under other names by other authors (more investigation into other authors to be done here). These patterns can often only be described subjectively and the idealized formation or pattern can in reality appear with great variation.

This article attempts to outline most major candlestick bars, patterns, chart formations, behavioural observations and trade setups that are used in price action trading. It covers the way that they are interpreted by price action traders, whether they signal likely future market direction, and how the trader would place orders correspondingly to profit from that (and where protective exit orders would be placed to minimise losses when wrong). Since price action traders combine bars, patterns, formations, behaviours and setups together with other bars, patterns, formations etc. to create further setups, many of the descriptions here will refer to other descriptions in the article. The layout of descriptions here is linear, but there is no one perfect sequence - they appear here loosely in the sequence: behavioural observations, trends, reversals and trading ranges. This editing approach reflects the nature of price action, sub-optimal as it might appear.
[edit] Credibility

There is no evidence that these explanations are correct even if the price action trader who makes such statements is profitable and appears to be correct. Since the disappearance of most pit-based financial exchanges, the financial markets have become anonymous, buyers do not meet sellers, and so the feasibility of verifying any proposed explanation for the other market participants' actions during the occurrence of a particular price action pattern is tiny. Hence the explanations should only be viewed as subjective rationalisations and may quite possibly be wrong, but at any point in time they offer the only available logical analysis with which the price action trader can work.

The implementation of price action analysis is difficult, requiring the gaining of experience under live market conditions. There is every reason to assume that the percentage of price action speculators who fail, give up or lose their trading capital will be similar to the percentage failure rate across all fields of speculation. According to widespread folklore / urban myth, this is 90%, although analysis of data from US forex brokers' regulatory disclosures since 2010 puts the figure for failed accounts at around 75% and suggests this is typical.[10]

Some sceptical authors[11] dismiss the financial success of individuals using technical analysis such as price action and state that the occurrence of individuals who appear to be able to profit in the markets can be attributed solely to the Survivorship bias.
[edit] Analytical Process

A price action trader's analysis may start with classical technical analysis, e.g. Edwards and Magee patterns including trend lines, break-outs, and pull-backs,[12] which are broken down further and supplemented with extra bar-by-bar analysis, sometimes including volume. This observed price action gives the trader clues about the current and likely future behaviour of other market participants. The trader can explain why a particular pattern is predictive, in terms of bulls (buyers in the market), bears (sellers), the crowd mentality of other traders, change in volume and other factors. A good knowledge of the market's make-up is required. The resulting picture that a trader builds up will not only seek to predict market direction, but also speed of movement, duration and intensity, all of which is based on the trader's assessment and prediction of the actions and reactions of other market participants.

Price action patterns occur with every bar and the trader watches for multiple patterns to coincide or occur in a particular order, creating a 'set-up'/'setup' which results in a signal to buy or sell. Individual traders can have widely varying preferences for the type of setup that they concentrate on in their trading.
An candlestick chart of the Euro against the USD, marked up by a price action trader.

This annotated chart shows the typical frequency, syntax and terminology for price action patterns implemented by a trader.

One published price action trader[8] is capable of giving a name and a rational explanation for the observed market movement for every single bar on a bar chart, regularly publishing such charts with descriptions and explanations covering 50 or 100 bars. This trader freely admits that his explanations may be wrong, however the explanations serve a purpose, allowing the trader to build a mental scenario around the current 'price action' as it unfolds, and for experienced traders, this is often attributed as the reason for their profitable trading.
[edit] Implementation of trades

The price action trader will use setups to determine entries and exits for positions. Each setup has its optimal entry point. Some traders also use price action signals to exit, simply entering at one setup and then exiting the whole position on the appearance of a negative setup. Alternatively, the trader might simply exit instead at a profit target of a specific cash amount or at a predetermined level of loss. A more experienced trader will have their own well-defined entry and exit criteria, built from experience.[8]

An experienced price action trader will be well trained at spotting multiple bars, patterns, formations and setups during real-time market observation. The trader will have a subjective opinion on the strength of each of these and how strong a setup they can build them into. A simple setup on its own is rarely enough to signal a trade. There should be several favourable bars, patterns, formations and setups in combination, along with a clear absence of opposing signals.

At that point when the trader is satisfied that the price action signals are strong enough, the trader will still wait for the appropriate entry point or exit point at which the signal is considered 'triggered'. During real-time trading, signals can be observed frequently while still building, and they are not considered triggered until the bar on the chart closes at the end of the chart's given period.

Entering a trade based on signals that have not triggered is known as entering early and is considered to be higher risk since the possibility still exists that the market will not behave as predicted and will act so as to not trigger any signal.

After entering the trade, the trader needs to place a protective stop order to close the position with minimal loss if the trade goes wrong. The protective stop order will also serve to prevent losses in the event of a disastrously timed internet connection loss for online traders.

After the style of Brooks,[8] the price action trader will place the initial stop order 1 tick below the bar that gave the entry signal (if going long - or 1 tick above if going short) and if the market moves as expected, moves the stop order up to one tick below the entry bar, once the entry bar has closed and with further favourable movement, will seek to move the stop order up further to the same level as the entry, i.e. break-even.

Brooks also warns against using a signal from the previous trading session when there is a gap past the position where the trader would have had the entry stop order on the opening of the new session. The worse entry point would alter the risk/reward relationship for the trade, so is not worth pursuing.[13]
[edit] Behavioural observation
[icon] This section requires expansion.

A price action trader generally sets great store in human fallibility and the tendency for traders in the market to behave as a crowd.[1] For instance, a trader who is bullish about a certain stock might observe that this stock is moving in a range from $20 to $30, but the traders expects the stock to rise to at least $50. Many traders would simply buy the stock, but then every time that it fell to the low of its trading range, would become disheartened and lose faith in their prediction and sell. A price action trader would wait until the stock hit $31.

That is a simple example from Livermore from the 1920s.[1] In a modern day market, the price action trader would first be alerted to the stock once is broke out to $31, but knowing the counter-intuitiveness of the market and having picked up other signals from the price action, would expect the stock to pull-back from there and would only buy when the pull-back finished and the stock moved up again.[13]
[edit] Two attempts rule

One key observation of price action traders is that the market often revisits price levels where it reversed or consolidated. If the market reverses at a certain level, then on returning to that level, the trader expects the market to either carry on past the reversal point or to reverse again. The trader takes no action until the market has done one or the other.

It is considered to bring higher probability trade entries, once this point has passed and the market is either continuing or reversing again. The traders do not take the first opportunity but rather wait for a second entry to make their trade. For instance the second attempt by bears to force the market down to new lows represents, if it fails, a double bottom and the point at which many bears will abandon their bearish opinions and start buying, joining the bulls and generating a strong move upwards.[14]

Also as an example, after a break-out of a trading range or a trend line, the market may return to the level of the break-out and then instead of rejoining the trading range or the trend, will reverse and continue the break-out. This is also known as 'confirmation'.
[edit] Trapped traders

"Trapped traders" is a common price action term referring to traders who have entered the market on weak signals, or before signals were triggered, or without waiting for confirmation and who find themselves in losing positions because the market turns against them. Any price action pattern that the traders used for a signal to enter the market is considered 'failed' and that failure becomes a signal in itself to price action traders, e.g. failed breakout, failed trend line break, failed reversal. It is assumed that the trapped traders will be forced to exit the market and if in sufficient numbers, this will cause the market to accelerate away from them, thus providing an opportunity for the more patient traders to benefit from their duress.[14]

Since many traders place protective stop orders to exit from positions that go wrong, all the stop orders placed by trapped traders will provide the orders that boost the market in the direction that the more patient traders bet on. The phrase "the stops were run" refers to the execution of these stop orders.
[edit] Trend and range definition
A 'bear' trend where the market is continually falling, interrupted by only weak rises.

The concept of a trend is one of the primary concepts in technical analysis. A trend is either up or down and for the complete neophyte observing a market, an upwards trend can be described simply as a period of time over which the price has moved up. An upwards trend is also known as a bull trend, or a rally. A bear trend or downwards trend or sell-off (or crash) is where the market moves downwards. The definition is as simple as the analysis is varied and complex. The assumption is of serial correlation, i.e. once in a trend, the market is likely to continue in that direction.[15]

On any particular time frame, whether it's a yearly chart or a 1 minute chart, the price action trader will almost without exception first check to see whether the market is trending up or down or whether it's confined to a trading range.
A trading range where the market turns around at the ceiling and the floor to stay within an explicit price band.

A range is not so easily defined, but is in most cases what exists when there is no discernable trend. It is defined by its floor and its ceiling, which are always subject to debate. A range can also be referred to as a horizontal channel.
[edit] OHLC bar or candlestick

Bar and candlestick terminology is briefly:

Open: first price of a bar (which covers the period of time of the chosen time frame)
Close: the last price of the bar
High: the highest price
Low: the lowest price
Body: the part of the candlestick between the open and the close
Tail (upper or lower): the parts of the candlestick not between the open and the close

[edit] Range bar

A range bar is a bar with no body, i.e. the open and the close are at the same price and therefore there has been no net change over the time period. This is also known in Japanese Candlestick terminology as a Doji. Japanese Candlesticks show demand more precision and only a Doji is a Doji, whereas a price action trader might consider a bar with a small body to be a range bar. It is termed 'range bar' because the price during the period of the bar moved between a floor (the low) and a ceiling (the high) and ended more or less where it began. If one expanded the time frame and looked at the price movement during that bar, it would appear as a range.
[edit] Trend bar

There are bull trend bars and bear trend bars - bars with bodies - where the market has actually ended the bar with a net change from the beginning of the bar.
[edit] Bull trend bar

In a bull trend bar, the price has trended from the open up to the close. To be pedantic, it is possible that the price moved up and down several times between the high and the low during the course of the bar, before finishing 'up' for the bar, in which case the assumption would be wrong, but this is a very seldom occurrence.
[edit] Bear trend bar

The bear trend bar is the opposite.

Trend bars are often referred to for short as bull bars or bear bars.
[edit] With-trend bar

A trend bar with movement in the same direction as the chart's trend is known as 'with trend', i.e. a bull trend bar in a bull market is a "with trend bull" bar. In a downwards market, a bear trend bar is a "with trend bear" bar.[14]
[edit] Countertrend bar

A trend bar in the opposite direction to the prevailing trend is a "countertrend" bull or bear bar.
[edit] BAB

There are also what are known as BAB - big a**** bars - which are bars that are more than two standard deviations larger than the average.
[edit] Climactic exhaustion bar

This is a with-trend BAB whose unusually large body signals that in a bull trend the last buyers have entered the market and therefore if there are now only sellers, the market will reverse. The opposite holds for a bear trend.
[edit] Shaved bar

A shaved bar is a trend bar that is all body and has no tails. A partially shaved bar has a shaved top (no upper tail) or a shaved bottom (no lower tail).
[edit] Inside bar

An "inside bar" is a bar which is smaller and within the high to low range of the prior bar, i.e. the high is lower than the previous bar's high, and the low is higher than the previous bar's low. Its relative position can be at the top, the middle or the bottom of the prior bar.

There is no universal definition imposing a rule that the highs of the inside bar and the prior bar cannot be the same, equally for the lows. If both the highs and the lows are the same, it is harder to define it as an inside bar, yet reasons exist why it might be interpreted so.[14] This imprecision is typical when trying to describe the ever-fluctuating character of market prices.
[edit] Outside bar

An outside bar is larger than the prior bar and totally overlaps it. Its high is higher than the previous high, and its low is lower than the previous low. The same imprecision in its definition as for inside bars (above) is often seen in interpretations of this type of bar.

An outside bar's interpretation is based on the concept that market participants were undecided or inactive on the prior bar but subsequently during the course of the outside bar demonstrated new commitment, driving the price up or down as seen. Again the explanation may seem simple but in combination with other price action, it builds up into a story that gives experienced traders an 'edge' (a better than even chance of correctly predicting market direction).

The context in which they appear is all-important in their interpretation.[14]

If the outside bar's close is close to the centre, this makes it similar to a trading range bar, because neither the bulls nor the bears despite their aggression were able to dominate.
The outside bar after the maximum price (marked with an arrow) is a failure to restart the trend and a signal for a sizable retrace.

Primarily price action traders will avoid or ignore outside bars, especially in the middle of trading ranges in which position they are considered meaningless.

When an outside bar appears in a retrace of a strong trend, rather than acting as a range bar, it does show strong trending tendencies. For instance, a bear outside bar in the retrace of a bull trend is a good signal that the retrace will continue further. This is explained by the way the outside bar forms, since it begins building in real time as a potential bull bar that is extending above the previous bar, which would encourage many traders to enter a bullish trade to profit from a continuation of the old bull trend. When the market reverses and the potential for a bull bar disappears, it leaves the bullish traders trapped in a bad trade.

If the price action traders have other reasons to be bearish in addition to this action, they will be waiting for this situation and will take the opportunity to make money going short where the trapped bulls have their protective stops positioned. If the reversal in the outside bar was quick, then many bearish traders will be as surprised as the bulls and the result will provide extra impetus to the market as they all seek to sell after the outside bar has closed. The same sort of situation also holds true in reverse for retracements of bear trends.[14]
[edit] ioi pattern

The inside - outside - inside pattern when occurring at a higher high or lower low is a setup for countertrend breakouts.[14] It is closely related to the ii pattern, and contrastingly, it is also similar to barb wire if the inside bars have a relatively large body size, thus making it one of the more difficult price action patterns to practice.
[edit] Small bar

As with all price action formations, small bars must be viewed in context. A quiet trading period, e.g. on a US holiday, may have many small bars appearing but they will be meaningless, however small bars that build after a period of large bars are much more open to interpretation. In general, small bars are a display of the lack of enthusiasm from either side of the market. A small bar can also just represent a pause in buying or selling activity as either side waits to see if the opposing market forces come back into play. Alternatively small bars may represent a lack of conviction on the part of those driving the market in one direction, therefore signalling a reversal.

As such, small bars can be interpreted to mean opposite things to opposing traders, but small bars are taken less as signals on their own, rather as a part of a larger setup involving any number of other price action observations. For instance in some situations a small bar can be interpreted as a pause, an opportunity to enter with the market direction, and in other situations a pause can be seen as a sign of weakness and so a clue that a reversal is likely.

One instance where small bars are taken as signals is in a trend where they appear in a pull-back. They signal the end of the pull-back and hence an opportunity to enter a trade with the trend.[14]
[edit] ii and iii patterns

An 'ii' is an inside - inside pattern - 2 consecutive inside bars. An 'iii' is 3 in a row. Most often these are small bars.
An iii formation - 3 consecutive inside bars.

Price action traders who are unsure of market direction but sure of further movement - an opinion gleaned from other price action - would place an entry to buy above an ii or an iii and simultaneously an entry to sell below it, and would look for the market to break out of the price range of the pattern. Whichever order is executed, the other order then becomes the protective stop order that would get the trader out of the trade with a small loss if the market doesn't act as predicted.

A typical setup using the ii pattern is outlined by Brooks.[14] An ii after a sustained trend that has suffered a trend line break is likely to signal a strong reversal if the market breaks out against the trend. The small inside bars are attributed to the buying and the selling pressure equalling out. The entry stop order would be placed one tick on the countertrend side of the first bar of the ii and the protective stop would be placed one tick beyond the first bar on the opposite side.
[edit] Trend

Classically a trend is defined visually by plotting a trend line on the opposite side of the market from the trend's direction, or by a pair of trend channel lines - a trend line plus a parallel return line on the other side - on the chart.[15] These sloping lines reflect the direction of the trend and connect the highest highs or the lowest lows of the trend. In its idealised form, a trend will consist of trending higher highs or lower lows and in a rally, the higher highs alternate with higher lows as the market moves up, and in a sell-off the sequence of lower highs (forming the trendline) alternating with lower lows forms as the market falls. A swing in a rally is a period of gain ending at a higher high (aka swing high), followed by a pull-back ending at a higher low (higher than the start of the swing). The opposite applies in sell-offs, each swing having a swing low at the lowest point.

When the market breaks the trend line, the trend from the end of the last swing until the break is known as an 'intermediate trend line'[15] or a 'leg'.[16] A leg up in a trend is followed by a leg down, which completes a swing. Frequently price action traders will look for two or three swings in a standard trend.

With-trend legs contain 'pushes', a large with-trend bar or series of large with-trend bars. A trend need not have any pushes but it is usual.[16]

A trend is established once the market has formed three or four consecutive legs, e.g. for a bull trend, higher highs and higher lows. The higher highs, higher lows, lower highs and lower lows can only be identified after the next bar has closed. Identifying it before the close of the bar risks that the market will act contrary to expectations, move beyond the price of the potential higher/lower bar and leave the trader aware only that the supposed turning point was an illusion.

A more risk-seeking trader would view the trend as established even after only one swing high or swing low.

At the start of what a trader is hoping is a bull trend, after the first higher low, a trend line can be drawn from the low at the start of the trend to the higher low and then extended. When the market moves across this trend line, it has generated a trend line break for the trader, who is given several considerations from this point on. If the market moved with a particular rhythm to and fro from the trend line with regularity, the trader will give the trend line added weight. Any significant trend line that sees a significant trend line break represents a shift in the balance of the market and is interpreted as the first sign that the countertrend traders are able to assert some control.

If the trend line break fails and the trend resumes, then the bars causing the trend line break now form a new point on a new trend line, one that will have a lower gradient, indicating a slowdown in the rally / sell-off. The alternative scenario on resumption of the trend is that it picks up strength and requires a new trend line, in this instance with a steeper gradient, which is worth mentioning for sake of completeness and to note that it is not a situation that presents new opportunities, just higher rewards on existing ones for the with-trend trader.

In the case that the trend line break actually appears to be the end of this trend, it's expected that the market will revisit this break-out level and the strength of the break will give the trader a good guess at the likelihood of the market turning around again when it returns to this level. If the trend line was broken by a strong move, it is considered likely that it killed the trend and the retrace to this level is a second opportunity to enter a countertrend position.

However in trending markets, trend line breaks fail more often than not and set up with-trend entries. The psychology of the average trader tends to inhibit with-trend entries because the trader must "buy high", which is counter to the clichee for profitable trading "buy high, sell low".[16] The allure of counter-trend trading and the impulse of human nature to want to fade the market in a good trend is very discernible to the price action trader, who would seek to take advantage by entering on failures, or at least when trying to enter counter-trend, would wait for that second entry opportunity at confirmation of the break-out once the market revisits this point, fails to get back into the trend and heads counter-trend again.

In-between trend line break-outs or swing highs and swing lows, price action traders watch for signs of strength in potential trends that are developing, which in the stock market index futures are with-trend gaps, discernible swings, large counter-trend bars (counter-intuitively), an absence of significant trend channel line overshoots, a lack of climax bars, few profitable counter-trend trades, small pull-backs, sideways corrections after trend line breaks, no consecutive sequence of closes on the wrong side of the moving average, shaved with-trend bars.

In the stock market indices, large trend days tend to display few signs of emotional trading with an absence of large bars and overshoots and this is put down to the effect of large institutions putting considerable quantities of their orders onto algorithm programs.
[icon] This section requires expansion with:
signs of strength in general; signs of strength in forex markets.

Many of the strongest trends start in the middle of the day after a reversal or a break-out from a trading range.[16] The pull-backs are weak and offer little chance for price action traders to enter with-trend. Price action traders or in fact any traders can enter the market in what appears to be a run-away rally or sell-off, but price action trading involves waiting for an entry point with reduced risk - pull-backs, or better, pull-backs that turn into failed trend line break-outs. The risk is that the 'run-away' trend doesn't continue, but becomes a blow-off climactic reversal where the last traders to enter in desperation end up in losing positions on the market's reversal. As stated the market often only offers seemingly weak-looking entries during strong phases but price action traders will take these rather than make indiscriminate entries. Without practice and experience enough to recognise the weaker signals, traders will wait, even if it turns out that they miss a large move.
[edit] Trend Channel

A trend or price channel can be created by plotting a pair of trend channel lines on either side of the market - the first trend channel line is the trend line, plus a parallel return line on the other side.[15] Edwards and Magee's return line is also known as the trend channel line (singular), confusingly, when only one is mentioned.[17][18]

Trend channels are traded by waiting for break-out failures, i.e. banking on the trend channel continuing, in which case at that bar's close, the entry stop is placed one tick away towards the centre of the channel above/below the break-out bar. Trading with the break-out only has a good probability of profit when the break-out bar is above average size, and an entry is taken only on confirmation of the break-out. The confirmation would be given when a pull-back from the break-out is over without the pull-back having retraced to the return line, so invalidating the plotted channel lines.[18]
[edit] Shaved bar entry

When a shaved bar appears in a strong trend, it demonstrates that the buying or the selling pressure was constant throughout with no let-up and it can be taken as a strong signal that the trend will continue.

A Brooks-style entry using a stop order one tick above or below the bar will require swift action from the trader[18] and any delay will result in slippage especially on short time-frames.
[edit] Microtrend line

If a trend line is plotted on the lower lows or the higher highs of a trend over a longer trend, a microtrend line is plotted when all or almost all of the highs or lows line up in a short multi-bar period. Just as break-outs from a normal trend are prone to fail as noted above, microtrend lines drawn on a chart are frequently broken by subsequent price action and these break-outs frequently fail too.[18] Such a failure is traded by placing an entry stop order 1 tick above or below the previous bar, which would result in a with-trend position if hit, providing a low risk scalp with a target on the opposite side of the trend channel.

Microtrend lines are often used on retraces in the main trend or pull-backs and provide an obvious signal point where the market can break through to signal the end of the microtrend. The bar that breaks out of a bearish microtrend line in a main bull trend for example is the signal bar and the entry buy stop order should be placed 1 tick above the bar. If the market works its way above that break-out bar, it is a good sign that the break-out of the microtrend line has not failed and that the main bull trend has resumed.

Continuing this example, a more aggressive bullish trader would place a buy stop entry above the high of the current bar in the microtrend line and move it down to the high of each consecutive new bar, in the assumption that any microtrend line break-out will not fail.
[edit] Spike and channel

This is a type of trend characterised as difficult to identify and more difficult to trade by Brooks.[16] The spike is the beginning of the trend where the market moves strongly in the direction of the new trend, often at the open of the day on an intraday chart, and then slows down forming a tight trend channel that moves slowly but surely in the same direction.

After the trend channel is broken, it is common to see the market return to the level of the start of the channel and then to remain in a trading range between that level and the end of the channel.

A "gap spike and channel" is the term for a spike and channel trend that begins with a gap in the chart (a vertical gap with between one bar's close and the next bar's open).

The spike and channel is seen in stock charts and stock indices,[18] and is rarely reported in forex markets.
[edit] Pull-back

A pull-back is a move where the market interrupts the prevailing trend,[19] or retraces from a breakout, but does not retrace beyond the start of the trend or the beginning of the breakout. A pull-back which does carry on further to the beginning of the trend or the breakout would instead become a reversal[13] or a breakout failure.

In a long trend, a pull-back oftens last for long enough to form legs like a normal trend and to behave in other ways like a trend too. Like a normal trend, a long pull-back often has 2 legs.[13] Price action traders expect the market to adhere to the two attempts rule and will be waiting for the market to try to make a second swing in the pull-back, with the hope that it fails and therefore turns around to try the opposite - i.e. the trend resumes.

One price action technique for following a pull-back with the aim of entering with-trend at the end of the pull-back is to count the new higher highs in the pull-back of a bull trend, or the new lower lows in the pull-back of a bear, i.e. in a bull trend, the pull-back will be composed of bars where the highs are successively lower and lower until the pattern is broken by a bar that puts in a high higher than the previous bar's high, termed an H1 (High 1). L1s (Low 1) are the mirror image in bear trend pull-backs.

If the H1 doesn't result in the end of the pull-back and a resumption of the bull trend, then the market creates a further sequence of bars going lower, with lower highs each time until another bar occurs with a high that's higher than the previous high. This is the H2. And so on until the trend resumes, or until the pull-back has become a reversal or trading range.

H1s and L1s are considered reliable entry signals when the pull-back is a microtrend line break, and the H1 or L1 represents the break-out's failure.

Otherwise if the market adheres to the two attempts rule, then the safest entry back into the trend will be the H2 or L2. The two-legged pull-back has formed and that is the most common pull-back, at least in the stock market indices.[13]
[icon] This section requires expansion with:
requires bar chart example.

In a sideways market trading range, both highs and lows can be counted but this is reported to be an error-prone approach except for the most practiced traders.

On the other hand, in a strong trend, the pull-backs are liable to be weak and consequently the count of Hs and Ls will be difficult. In a bull trend pull-back, two swings down may appear but the H1s and H2s cannot be identified. The price action trader looks instead for a bear trend bar to form in the trend, and when followed by a bar with a lower high but a bullish close, takes this as the first leg of a pull-back and is thus already looking for the appearance of the H2 signal bar. The fact that it is technically neither an H1 nor an H2 is ignored in the light of the trend strength. This price action reflects what is occurring in the shorter time-frame and is sub-optimal but pragmatic when entry signals into the strong trend are otherwise not appearing. The same in reverse applies in bear trends.

Counting the Hs and Ls is straightforward price action trading of pull-backs, relying for further signs of strength or weakness from the occurrence of all or any price action signals, e.g. the action around the moving average, double tops or bottoms, ii or iii patterns, outside bars, reversal bars, microtrend line breaks, or at its simplest, the size of bull or bear trend bars in amongst the other action. The price action trader picks and chooses which signals to specialise in and how to combine them.

The simple entry technique involves placing the entry order 1 tick above the H or 1 tick below the L and waiting for it to be executed as the next bar develops. If so, this is the entry bar, and the H or L was the signal bar, and the protective stop is placed 1 tick under an H or 1 tick above an L.
[edit] Breakout

A breakout is a bar in which the market moves beyond a predefined significant price - predefined by the price action trader, either physically or only mentally, according to their own price action methodology, e.g. if the trader believes a bull trend exists, then a line connecting the lowest lows of the bars on the chart during this trend would be the line that the trader watches, waiting to see if the market breaks out beyond it.[15]

The real plot or the mental line on the chart is generally comes from one of the classic chart patterns. A breakout often leads to a setup and a resulting trade signal.

The breakout is supposed to herald the end of the preceding chart pattern, e.g. a bull breakout in a bear trend could signal the end of the bear trend.
[edit] Breakout pull-back

After a breakout extends further in the breakout direction for a bar or two or three, the market will often retrace in the opposite direction in a pull-back, i.e. the market pulls back against the direction of the breakout.
[edit] Breakout failure

A breakout might not lead to the end of the preceding market behaviour, and what starts as a pull-back can develop into a breakout failure, i.e. the market could return back into its old pattern.

Brooks[14] observes that a breakout is likely to fail on quiet range days on the very next bar, when the breakout bar is unusually big.

"Five tick failed breakouts" are a phenomenon that is a great example of price action trading. Five tick failed breakouts are characteristic of the stock index futures markets. Many speculators trade for a profit of just four ticks, a trade which requires the market to move 6 ticks in the trader's direction for the entry and exit orders to be filled. These traders will place protective stop orders to exit on failure at the opposite end of the breakout bar. So if the market breaks out by five ticks and does not hit their profit targets, then the price action trader will see this as a five tick failed breakout and will enter in the opposite direction at the opposite end of the breakout bar to take advantage of the stop orders from the losing traders' exit orders.[20]
[edit] Failed breakout failure

In the particular situation where a price action trader has observed a breakout, watched it fail and then decided to trade in the hope of profiting from the failure, there is the danger for the trader that the market will turn again and carry on in the direction of the breakout, leading to losses for the trader. This is known as a failed failure and is traded by taking the loss and reversing the position.[14] It is not just breakouts where failures fail, other failed setups can at the last moment come good and be 'failed failures'.
[edit] Reversal bar
A bear trend reverses at a bull reversal bar.

A reversal bar signals a reversal of the current trend. On seeing a signal bar, a trader would take it as a sign that the market direction is about to turn.

An ideal bullish reversal bar should close considerably above its open, with a relatively large lower tail (30% to 50% of the bar height) and a small or absent upper tail, and having only average or below average overlap with the prior bar, and having a lower low than the prior bars in the trend.

A bearish reversal bar would be the opposite.

Reversals are considered to be stronger signals if their extreme point is even further up or down than the current trend would have achieved if it continued as before, e.g. a bullish reversal would have a low that is below the approximate line formed by the lows of the preceding bear trend. This is an 'overshoot'. See the section #Trend channel line overshoot.

Reversal bars as a signal are also considered to be stronger when they occur at the same price level as previous trend reversals.

The price action interpretation of a bull reversal bar is so: it indicates that the selling pressure in the market has passed its climax and that now the buyers have come into the market strongly and taken over, dictating price which rises up steeply from the low as the sudden relative paucity of sellers causes the buyers' bids to spring upwards. This movement is exacerbated by the short term traders / scalpers who sold at the bottom and now have to buy back if they want to cover their losses.
[edit] Trend line break

When a market has been trending significantly, a trader can usually draw a trend line on the opposite side of the market where the retraces reach, and any retrace back across the existing trend line is a 'trend line break' and is a sign of weakness, a clue that the market might soon reverse its trend or at least halt the trend's progress for a period.
[edit] Trend channel line overshoot

A trend channel line overshoot refers to the price shooting clear out of the observable trend channel further in the direction of the trend.[21] An overshoot does not have to be a reversal bar, since it can occur during a with-trend bar. On occasion it may not result in a reversal at all, it will just force the price action trader to adjust the trend channel definition.

In the stock indices, the common retrace of the market after a trend channel line overshoot is put down to profit taking and traders reversing their positions. More traders will wait for some reversal price action. The extra surge that causes an overshoot is the action of the last traders panicking to enter the trend along with increased activity from institutional players who are driving the market and want to see an overshoot as a clear signal that all the previously non-participating players have been dragged in. This is identified by the overshoot bar being a climactic exhaustion bar on high volume. It leaves nobody left to carry on the trend and sets up the price action for a reversal.[18]
[edit] Climactic exhaustion reversal

A strong trend characterised by multiple with-trend bars and almost continuous higher highs or lower lows over a double-digit number of bars is often ended abruptly by a climactic exhaustion bar. It is likely that a two-legged retrace occurs after this, extending for the same length of time or more as the final leg of the climactic rally or sell-off.[18]
[edit] Double top and double bottom

When the market reaches an extreme price in the trader's view, it often pulls back from the price only to return to that price level again. In the situation where that price level holds and the market retreats again, the two reversals at that level are known as a double top bear flag or a double bottom bull flag, or simply double top / double bottom and indicate that the retrace will continue.[22]

Brooks[18] also reports that a pull-back is common after a double top or bottom, returning 50% to 95% back to the level of the double top / bottom. This is similar to the classic head and shoulders pattern.

A price action trader will trade this pattern, e.g. a double bottom, by placing a buy stop order 1 tick above the bar that created the second 'bottom'. If the order is filled, then the trader sets a protective stop order 1 tick below the same bar.
[edit] Double top twin and double bottom twin

Consecutive bars with relatively large bodies, small tails and the same high price formed at the highest point of a chart are interpreted as double top twins. The opposite is so for double bottom twins. These patterns appear on as shorter time scale as a double top or a double bottom. Since signals on shorter time scales are per se quicker and therefore on average weaker, price action traders will take a position against the signal when it is seen to fail.[14]

In other words, double top twins and double bottom twins are with-trend signals, when the underlying short time frame double tops or double bottoms (reversal signals) fail. The price action trader predicts that other traders trading on the shorter time scale will trade the simple double top or double bottom, and if the market moves against them, the price action trader will take a position against them, placing an entry stop order 1 tick above the top or below the bottom, with the aim of benefitting from the exacerbated market movement caused by those trapped traders bailing out.
[edit] Opposite twin (down-up or up-down twin)
An Up-Down Pattern.

This is two consecutive trend bars in opposite directions with similar sized bodies and similar sized tails. It is a reversal signal[14] when it appears in a trend. It is equivalent to a single reversal bar if viewed on a time scale twice as long.

For the strongest signal, the bars would be shaved at the point of reversal, e.g. a down-up in a bear trend with two trend bars with shaved bottoms would be considered stronger than bars with tails.
[edit] Wedge

A wedge pattern is like a trend, but the trend channel lines that the trader plots are converging and predict a breakout.[23] A wedge pattern after a trend is commonly considered to be a good reversal signal.
[edit] Trading range

Once a trader has identified a trading range, i.e. the lack of a trend and a ceiling to the market's upward movement and a floor to any downward move,[24] then the trader will use the ceiling and floor levels as barriers that the market can break through, with the expectation that the break-outs will fail and the market will reverse.

One break-out above the previous highest high or ceiling of a trading range is termed a higher high. Since trading ranges are difficult to trade, the price action trader will often wait after seeing the first higher high and on the appearance of a second break-out followed by its failure, this will be taken as a high probability bearish trade,[18] with the middle of the range as the profit target. This is favoured firstly because the middle of the trading range will tend to act as a magnet for price action, secondly because the higher high is a few points higher and therefore offers a few points more profit if successful, and thirdly due to the supposition that two consecutive failures of the market to head in one direction will result in a tradable move in the opposite.[14]
[edit] Chop aka churn and barb wire

When the market is restricted within a tight trading range and the bar size as a percentage of the trading range is large, price action signals may still appear with the same frequency as under normal market conditions but their reliability or predictive powers are severely diminished. Brooks identifies one particular pattern that betrays chop, called "barb wire".[25] It consists of a series of bars that overlap heavily containing trading range bars.

Barb wire and other forms of chop demonstrate that neither the buyers nor the sellers are in control or able to exert greater pressure. A price action trader would place orders to sell at the top of the trading range, or to buy at the bottom.

Especially after the appearance of barb wire, breakout bars are expected to fail and traders will place entry orders just above or below the opposite end of the breakout bar from the direction in which it broke out.
[edit] More chart patterns favoured by price action traders

Broadening top
Flag and pennant patterns
Island reversal
Price channels
Support and resistance
Triple top and triple bottom
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