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How to read Candlestick Charts

by Corey Faulkerson

Posted on 2017-07-08 13:44:09



Introduction to Candlesticks

History

The Japanese began using technical analysis to trade rice in the 17th century. While this early version of technical analysis was different from the US version initiated by Charles Dow around 1900, many of the guiding principles were very similar:

  • The “what” (price action) is more important than the “why” (news, earnings, and so on).
  • All known information is reflected in the price.
  • Buyers and sellers move markets based on expectations and emotions (fear and greed).
  • Markets fluctuate.
  • The actual price may not reflect the underlying value.

According to Steve Nison, candlestick charting first appeared sometime after 1850. Much of the credit for candlestick development and charting goes to a legendary rice trader named Homma from the town of Sakata. It is likely that his original ideas were modified and refined over many years of trading eventually resulting in the system of candlestick charting that we use today.

Formation

In order to create a candlestick chart, you must have a data set that contains open, high, low and close values for each time period you want to display. The hollow or filled portion of the candlestick is called “the body” (also referred to as “the real body”). The long thin lines above and below the body represent the high/low range and are called “shadows” (also referred to as “wicks” and “tails”). The high is marked by the top of the upper shadow and the low by the bottom of the lower shadow. If the stock closes higher than its opening price, a hollow candlestick is drawn with the bottom of the body representing the opening price and the top of the body representing the closing price. If the stock closes lower than its opening price, a filled candlestick is drawn with the top of the body representing the opening price and the bottom of the body representing the closing price.

Candlestick Formation examples from StockCharts.com

Compared to traditional bar charts, many traders consider candlestick charts more visually appealing and easier to interpret. Each candlestick provides an easy-to-decipher picture of price action. Immediately a trader can compare the relationship between the open and close as well as the high and low. The relationship between the open and close is considered vital information and forms the essence of candlesticks. Hollow candlesticks, where the close is greater than the open, indicate buying pressure. Filled candlesticks, where the close is less than the open, indicate selling pressure.

Candlestick vs. Bar example charts from StockCharts.com

Long Versus Short Bodies

Generally speaking, the longer the body is, the more intense the buying or selling pressure. Conversely, short candlesticks indicate little price movement and represent consolidation.

Long versus Short Candlestick example from StockCharts.com

Long white candlesticks show strong buying pressure. The longer the white candlestick is, the further the close is above the open. This indicates that prices advanced significantly from open to close and buyers were aggressive. While long white candlesticks are generally bullish, much depends on their position within the broader technical picture. After extended declines, long white candlesticks can mark a potential turning point or support level. If buying gets too aggressive after a long advance, it can lead to excessive bullishness.

Long black candlesticks show strong selling pressure. The longer the black candlestick is, the further the close is below the open. This indicates that prices declined significantly from the open and sellers were aggressive. After a long advance, a long black candlestick can foreshadow a turning point or mark a future resistance level. After a long decline a long black candlestick can indicate panic or capitulation.

Marubozu Candlestick example from StockCharts.com

Even more potent long candlesticks are the Marubozu brothers, Black and White. Marubozu do not have upper or lower shadows and the high and low are represented by the open or close. A White Marubozu forms when the open equals the low and the close equals the high. This indicates that buyers controlled the price action from the first trade to the last trade. Black Marubozu form when the open equals the high and the close equals the low. This indicates that sellers controlled the price action from the first trade to the last trade.

Long Versus Short Shadows

The upper and lower shadows on candlesticks can provide valuable information about the trading session. Upper shadows represent the session high and lower shadows the session low. Candlesticks with short shadows indicate that most of the trading action was confined near the open and close. Candlesticks with long shadows show that prices extended well past the open and close.

Long Shadows Candlestick example from StockCharts.com

Candlesticks with a long upper shadow and short lower shadow indicate that buyers dominated during the session, and bid prices higher. However, sellers later forced prices down from their highs, and the weak close created a long upper shadow. Conversely, candlesticks with long lower shadows and short upper shadows indicate that sellers dominated during the session and drove prices lower. However, buyers later resurfaced to bid prices higher by the end of the session and the strong close created a long lower shadow.

Spnning Tops Candlestick example from StockCharts.com

Candlesticks with a long upper shadow, long lower shadow and small real body are called spinning tops. One long shadow represents a reversal of sorts; spinning tops represent indecision. The small real body (whether hollow or filled) shows little movement from open to close, and the shadows indicate that both bulls and bears were active during the session. Even though the session opened and closed with little change, prices moved significantly higher and lower in the meantime. Neither buyers nor sellers could gain the upper hand and the result was a standoff. After a long advance or long white candlestick, a spinning top indicates weakness among the bulls and a potential change or interruption in trend. After a long decline or long black candlestick, a spinning top indicates weakness among the bears and a potential change or interruption in trend.

Doji

Doji are important candlesticks that provide information on their own and as components of in a number of important patterns. Doji form when a security's open and close are virtually equal. The length of the upper and lower shadows can vary and the resulting candlestick looks like a cross, inverted cross or plus sign. Alone, doji are neutral patterns. Any bullish or bearish bias is based on preceding price action and future confirmation. The word “Doji” refers to both the singular and plural form.

Doji Candlestick example from StockCharts.com

Ideally, but not necessarily, the open and close should be equal. While a doji with an equal open and close would be considered more robust, it is more important to Back



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