The Use of Trend
One of the most important concepts in technical analysis is that of trend. The meaning in finance isn’t all that different from the general definition of the term. A trend is really nothing more than the general direction in which a security or market is headed. Take a look at the chart on the left below:
It isn’t hard to see that the trend on the chart on the left is up.
However, it’s not always this easy to see a trend, as you can see on the chart to the right of it. There are lots of ups and downs in this other chart, but there isn’t a clear indication of which direction this security is headed.
A More Formal Definition
Unfortunately, trends are not always easy to see. In other words, defining a trend goes well beyond the obvious. In any given chart, you will probably notice that prices do not tend to move in a straight line in any direction, but rather in a series of highs and lows.
In technical analysis, it is the movement of the highs and lows that constitutes a trend. For example, an uptrend is classified as a series of higher highs and higher lows, while a downtrend is one of lower lows and lower highs.
The figure on the right is an example of an uptrend. Point 2 in the chart is the first high, which is determined after the price falls from this point. Point 3 is the low that is established as the price falls from the high.
For this to remain an uptrend, each successive low must not fall below the previous lowest point or the trend is deemed a reversal.
Types Of Trends
Three types of trends exist: Uptrends, Downtrends, and Sideways/Horizontal Trends.
As the names imply, when each successive peak and trough is higher, it is referred to as an upward trend. If the peaks and troughs are getting lower, it’s a downtrend. When there is little movement up or down in the peaks and troughs, it’s a sideways or horizontal trend.
If you want to get really technical, you might even say that a sideways trend is actually not a trend on its own, but a lack of a well-defined trend in either direction. In any case, the market can really only trend in these three ways: up, down or nowhere.
Along with these three trend directions, there are three (3) trend classifications. A trend of any direction can be classified as a long-term trend, intermediate trend, or a short-term trend. See the figure on the right to see what these three trends may look like.
In terms of the stock market, a major trend is generally categorized as one lasting longer than a year. An intermediate trend is considered to last between one and three months and a near-term trend is anything less than a month.
A long-term trend is composed of several intermediate trends, which often move against the direction of the major trend. If the major trend is upward and there is a downward correction in price movement followed by a continuation of the uptrend, the correction is considered to be an intermediate trend. The short-term trends are components of both major and intermediate trends.
When analyzing trends, it is important that the chart is constructed to best reflect the type of trend being analyzed. To help identify long-term trends, weekly charts or daily charts spanning a five-year period are used by chartists to get a better idea of the long-term trend. Daily data charts are best used when analyzing both intermediate and short-term trends.
Lastly, remember that the longer the trend, the more important it is. A one-month trend is not as significant as a five-year trend.
A trendline is a simple charting technique that adds a line to a chart to represent the trend in the market or a stock. Drawing a trendline is as simple as drawing a straight line that follows a general trend. These lines are used to clearly show the trend and are also used in the identification of trend reversals.
As you can see in the figure on the left, an upward trendline is drawn at the lows of an upward trend. This line represents the support the stock has every time it moves from a high to a low. Notice how the price is propped up by this support. This type of trendline helps traders to anticipate the point at which a stock’s price will begin moving upwards again.
Similarly, a downward trendline is drawn at the highs of the downward trend. This line represents the resistance level that a stock faces every time the price moves from a low to a high.
A channel, or channel lines, is the addition of two parallel trendlines that act as strong areas of support and resistance. The upper trendline connects a series of highs, while the lower trendline connects a series of lows. See the figure on the right for an example of how a channel may look like on a chart.
A channel can slope upward, downward or sideways but, regardless of the direction, the interpretation remains the same. Traders will expect a given security to trade between the two levels of support and resistance until it breaks beyond one of the levels, in which case traders can expect a sharp move in the direction of the break.
Along with clearly displaying the trend, channels are mainly used to illustrate important areas of support and resistance.
The previous figure illustrates a descending channel on a stock chart; the upper trendline has been placed on the highs and the lower trendline is on the lows. The price has bounced off of these lines several times, and has remained range-bound for several months.
As long as the price does not fall below the lower line or move beyond the upper resistance, the range-bound downtrend is expected to continue.
The Importance Of Trend
It is important to be able to understand and identify trends so that you can trade with them rather than against them. Two important sayings in technical analysis are “the trend is your friend” and “don’t buck the trend,” illustrating how important trend analysis is for technical traders.
Support and Resistance
Once you understand the concept of a trend, the next major concept is that of support and resistance. You’ll often hear technical analysts talk about the ongoing battle between the bulls and the bears, or the struggle between buyers (demand) and sellers (supply). This is revealed by the prices a security seldom moves above (resistance) or below (support).
As you can see in the figure on the left, support is the price level through which a stock or market seldom falls(illustrated by the blue arrows). On the other hand, resistance is the price level that a stock or market seldom surpasses (illustrated by the red arrows).
Why Does It Happen?
These support and resistance levels are seen as important in terms of market psychology and supply and demand. Support and resistance levels are the levels at which a lot of traders are willing to buy the stock (in the case of a support) or sell it (in the case of resistance).
When these trendlines are broken, the supply and demand and the psychology behind the stock’s movements is thought to have shifted, in which case new levels of support and resistance will likely be established.
Round Numbers And Support And Resistance
One type of universal support and resistance that tends to be seen across a large number of securities is round numbers. Round numbers like 10, 20, 35, 50, 100 and 1,000 tend be important in support and resistance levels because they often represent the major psychological turning points at which many traders will make buy or sell decisions.
Buyers will often purchase large amounts of stock once the price starts to fall toward a major round number such as PHP 50, which makes it more difficult for shares to fall below the level. On the other hand, sellers start to sell off a stock as it moves toward a round number peak, making it difficult to move past this upper level as well.
It is the increased buying and selling pressure at these levels that makes them important points of support and resistance and, in many cases, major psychological points as well.
Once a resistance or support level is broken, its role is reversed. If the price falls below a support level, that level will become resistance. If the price rises above a resistance level, it will often become support.
As the price moves past a level of support or resistance, it is thought that supply and demand has shifted, causing the breached level to reverse its role. For a true reversal to occur, however, it is important that the price make a strong move through either the support or resistance.
For example, as you can see in the figure on the right, the dotted horizontal line is shown as a level of resistance that has prevented the price from heading higher on two previous occasions (Points 1 and 2). However, once the resistance is broken, it becomes a level of support (shown by Points 3 and 4) by propping up the price and preventing it from heading lower again.
Many traders who begin using technical analysis find this concept hard to believe and don’t realize that this phenomenon occurs rather frequently, even with some of the most well-known companies!
For example, as you can see in the figure on the left, this phenomenon is evident on the chart of US-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) between 2003 and 2006. Notice how the role of the $51 level changes from a strong level of support to a level of resistance.
In almost every case, a stock will have a level of both support and resistance and will trade in this range as it bounces between these levels. This is most often seen when a stock is trading in a generally sideways manner as the price moves through successive peaks and troughs, testing resistance and support.
The Importance Of Support And Resistance
Support and resistance analysis is an important part of trends because it can be used to make trading decisions and identify when a trend is reversing. For example, if a trader identifies an important level of resistance that has been tested several times but never broken, he or she may decide to take profits as the security moves toward this point because it is unlikely that it will move past this level.
Support and resistance levels both test and confirm trends and need to be monitored by anyone who uses technical analysis. As long as the price of the share remains between these levels of support and resistance, the trend is likely to continue.
It is important to note, however, that a break beyond a level of support or resistance does not always have to be a reversal. For example, if prices moved above the resistance levels of an upward trending channel, the trend has accelerated, not reversed. This means that the price appreciation is expected to be faster than it was in the channel.
Being aware of these important support and resistance points should affect the way that you trade a stock. Traders should avoid placing orders at these major points, as the area around them is usually marked by a lot of volatility.
If you feel confident about making a trade near a support or resistance level, it is important that you follow this simple rule: do not place orders directly at the support or resistance level. This is because in many cases, the price never actually reaches the whole number, but flirts with it instead. Instead, place trades a few points above a support level or below a resistance level.
The Importance of Volume
To this point, we’ve only discussed the price of a security. While price is the primary item of concern in technical analysis, volume is also extremely important.
What Is Volume?
Volume is simply the number of shares or contracts that trade over a given period of time, usually a day. The higher the volume, the more active the security.
To determine the movement of the volume (up or down), chartists look at the volume bars that can usually be found at the bottom of any chart.
See an example of this in the figure on the right. Volume bars illustrate how many shares have traded per period and show trends in the same way that prices do.
Why Volume Is Important
Volume is an important aspect of technical analysis because it is used to confirm trends and chart patterns. Any price movement up or down with relatively high volume is seen as a stronger, more relevant move than a similar move with weak volume. Therefore, if you are looking at a large price movement, you should also examine the volume to see whether it tells the same story.
Say, for example, that a stock jumps 5% in one trading day after being in a long downtrend. Is this a sign of a trend reversal? If volume is high during the day relative to the average daily volume, it is a sign that the reversal is probably for real. Conversely, if the volume is below average, there may not be enough conviction to support a true trend reversal.
Volume should move with the trend. If prices are moving in an upward trend, volume should increase (and vice versa). If the previous relationship between volume and price movements starts to deteriorate, it is usually a sign of weakness in the trend.
For example, if the stock is in an uptrend but the up trading days are marked with lower volume, it is a sign that the trend is starting to lose its legs and may soon end.
When volume tells a different story, it is a case of divergence, which refers to a contradiction between two different indicators. The simplest example of divergence is a clear upward trend on declining volume.
Volume And Chart Patterns
The other use of volume is to confirm chart patterns. Patterns such as head and shoulders, triangles, flags, and other price patterns can be confirmed with volume.
In most chart patterns, there are several pivotal points that are vital to what the chart is able to convey to chartists. Basically, if the volume is not there to confirm the pivotal moments of a chart pattern, the quality of the signal formed by the pattern is weakened.