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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

Scanning Tips and Techniques

We spend too much time looking for stocks to trade. Surprisingly, stock picking is one of the easiest skills a new trader can learn (while actually taking a position is one of the hardest).

The trick to finding good setups is scanning dozens of charts in seconds, instead of hours. And this isn't as hard as it looks.

First, let's talk about stock scanning. Chart database programs (such as Worden's TC2000) feature advanced market scanning tools. With them, you can write Boolean statements that will search quickly for your needle in the market haystack.

Many folks think the purpose of scanning is to find perfect trades that can be mindlessly executed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best scans just take you to the next step, where you discover the opportunity for yourself.

Your two eyes are better tools for locating good trades than the most carefully written market scans. The most effective formula will uncover a lot of useless garbage but also let you find the real gems. So keep your search sloppy, and don't try to optimize. Instead, put your resources into a fast computer that lets you flip through your output at the speed of light.

Let's examine five visual aids to speed up your stock scanning. Train your eyes to look at charts in this way the next time you sit down to do your market homework.

You don't want to ski on the Bunny Slopes. There's little profit for traders when price rises or falls in a very gentle pattern. Real opportunity comes when strong tension between conflicting forces gets released in a big move. Bunny slopes never build that tension and should be avoided if you're looking for short-term gains. The good news is it takes only a second to see this flaw on a price chart.

Border Disputes happen between price bars and intermediate moving averages. These conflict levels define important setups because so many players react to these zones. Keep your eye on the interplay between price, the 50-day and 200-day moving averages as you flip through your charts. No single pattern defines these disputes, so stop and investigate when you see something interesting.

Davy and Goliath traps many traders. This trend-relativity error happens when you see a great pattern, but miss the support or resistance that's going to screw it up. Avoiding this error is simple. Look above and below the breakout price for the setup that's catching your eye. Then do the math. How far will it travel before it runs into the mean ogre?

Trend Mirrors tell you to look to your left before taking a trade. Mirrors show all the past stuff that's going to affect price movement right now. One of the great trading secrets is that price reacts a lot more than it acts. In other words, old debris in the charting landscape generates most price swings. So look for all the past highs/lows, gaps, volume spikes and candle shadows when you see an interesting setup in the present.

If you have to look, it isn't there. The Bad Hair Day refers to a price chart that makes absolutely no sense when you first look at it. So what do you do when an oddball pattern catches your eye? You waste more time and try to figure it out. When a chart doesn't slap you across the face at first glance, move on and find one that does.

 


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