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TradingDay.com > Technical Analysis Tutorial

T e c h n i c a l   A n a l y s i s   T u t o r i a l
by Alan Farley

Pattern Cycles: Tops

No trend lasts forever. Inevitably, crowd enthusiasm outpaces a stock's fundamentals and rallies stall. But topping formations do not end uptrends all by themselves. These stopping points may only signal short pauses that lead to higher prices. Then again, they could be long-term highs just before a major breakdown.

What hidden patterns can you use to identify and trade reversals before your competition sees them? Successful short-term traders get in the reversal door early and allow the herd to trigger sharp price movement. Familiar trend-change formations, such as the Head & Shoulders and Double Tops, take so long to develop that many profitable entries pass before they finally signal an impending break to the waiting crowd.

First Rise/First Failure offers traders an early method to identify reversals following new highs or lows in any time frame. FR/FF identifies the first 100% retracement of a dynamic trend move within the time frame of interest. In order for any trend to continue, price movement should find support near a 62% retracement, measured from the starting point of the last thrust that pushed price to the new high or low. From this pullback, trend must base and test its extension before it can break out to further continuation highs or lows.

Cross-verification rings a loud bell. Note how the uptrend line broke on the same bar as the violation of the 62% fib retracement following this late 1998 AMZN explosion. The familiar triangular shape of First Rise-First Failure makes identification easy when flipping through many price charts.

100% retracement violates the major price direction and terminates the trend it corrects. Completion also provides significant support/resistance, where bounce trades can be initiated with low risk. From this point, continuation trends may reawaken in the next larger time frame by a new break through the 38% (prior 62%) S/R and continued push past the 62% retracement, toward a test of the high/low extension.

Bounce reversals represent superb entry points when the 100% violation coincides with a 38% or 62% retracement of the next higher dynamic time frame. However risk: reward requires careful measurement, as the trade may develop more slowly than expected. In other words, a successful position must be held through expected congestion at the 38%-62% zone before it can access a profitable retest of the double top/double bottom extreme.

Allow minor testing violations for all major Fibonacci retracements before taking positions. Specialists and Market Makers know these hidden turning points and conduct stop-gunning exercises to take out volume just beyond the breaks. And watch out for trend relativity errors. Bull and bear markets exist simultaneously through different time frames. Limit FR/FF trades to the time frame for which the retracement occurs unless cross-verification supports other setups.

Every popular topping formation has its own unique pattern features. But all tell a common tale of crowd disillusionment. Whether printed in the manic highs and lows of the Head & Shoulders or the slow capitulation of the Rising Wedge, the final result remains the same. Price breaks sharply to lower levels while unhappy shareholders unload positions as quickly as they can.

Early in a rally, value and improving fundamentals attract knowledgeable holders. But as an uptrend develops, the motivation for new participants becomes vastly different. News of a stock's rise generates excitement and attracts a greedier crowd. These momentum players slowly outnumber the value investors and stock movement becomes more volatile. The issue continues upward as this frantic buying crowd feeds on itself well beyond most reasonable price targets.

Both fire and ice will kill uptrends. As long as the greater fool mechanism holds, each new long allows the previous one to turn a profit. Eventually changing conditions force a final end to the upside action. A shock event can suddenly kill the buying enthusiasm, forcing a sharp and immediate reversal. Or the trend's fuel just runs out as the last interested buyer enters one last position.

Many traders mistakenly assume bulls turn into bears immediately following a dramatic, high volume reversal. They enter short sales well before the physics of topping and decline rob the crowd of its momentum. In fact, these early shorts provide fuel for the sharp covering rallies seen in most topping formations.

Skilled traders wait and measure the process of crowd disillusionment before they enter large short sales. Decline characteristics can be predicted with great accuracy using pattern analysis. While they wait, the repeating character of the topping event provides a natural playground for swing positions.

 


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