The Reflexive Theory Of Support And Resistance

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Applying Reflexive Support And Resistance

The Reflexive Theory Of Support And Resistance

Support and resistance are very important factors of techinical analysis. In practice these levels produce areas where signals, reversals, pauses and other technical indications are likely to happen. On a chart a support or resistance line is a line,usually horizontal, that marks an area of previous reversal, congestion or break out. What they are really marking are areas, price levels, where the people in the market, those buying and selling stocks, view the market as either buyable or sellable. As mentioned previously, these levels can be previous bottoms or tops, the tops or bottoms of trading ranges, congestion bands or consolidations, break out’s from recognized chart patterns or break through’s of current support or resistance. Choosing the right places to draw your lines can be tricky, it definitely involves an element of art as there are NUMEROUS places on any chart where S/R could kick in. To learn more about how to draw S/R check out my article on How To Draw The Best Support And Resistance Lines. This article is more about how to use S/R in your analysis and specifically what I call the Reflexive Theory Of Support And Resistance.

The Reflexive Theory Of Support And Resistance

The theory is simple and fairly well know amongst technical analyst although you may not find it under this name. However, when support is broken it can become new resistance; when resistance is broken it can become new support and this is something I learned in the very earliest days of my trading. How is it possible you may ask? First, this is not 100% correct all the time which is why I say “it can become new support”. To understand lets start with what support and resistance really are. I know I have said they are areas on a chart where buying or selling is taking place but what spot on a chart is that not happening? To be more to the point these areas are where significant buying or selling is taking place or has taken place in the past. These levels are usually a price level indicated to be important by multiple types of analysis including but not limited to fundamental, valuation, momentum, sentiment, fear and greed. For one reason or another a significantly large portion of the active market participants in a stock want in or out.

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From a buy side perspective these areas become support. As prices reach the indicated price level buyers step into the market ranging from long term all the way down to the very nearest term day traders and scalpers, depending on the price level. As more and more buyers buy, the market balance swings into their favor, they overpower the sellers and begin to move price up. From the sell side these areas become resistance. As prices reach the indicated level profit taking, short selling or loss recovering takes place, bringing sellers into the market. As more and more sellers sell the market balance shifts into their favor and prices go down. Needless to say there are a lot of emotions involved with this as well. When support holds, euphoria builds in the market and greed helps push it higher. When resistance holds people get cranky as their positions lose money which causes some to escape the market in fear.

This is how it works. First, keep in mind the two sides of the story, support and resistance. When prices reach a potential area of support and resistance a battle ensues between the bulls and the bears. Bulls buy, providing support, bears sell, providing resistance. In the case of resistance, if there are enough buyers that they eventually overcome the sellers then it is possible for prices to break through. This is because the market balance shifted into the favor of the bulls. At this time the bears will stop out or cover their positions, adding their weight to the move which can sometimes result in very sharp market movements. Now, this is where the reflexive theory really comes into play. After the break through the market balance is 1) in the favor of the bulls 2) accelerated by the bears getting out and 3) now an attractive place for the market to get in. Bears may change their opinion and become bulls, traders sitting on the sidelines may decide to get into the market and where day traders and momentum seekers may find ample opportunity. The point is, the previous area or price level that provided resistance is now an attractive to place to enter the market because it is where the Bulls overpowered the Bears.

The 7 Types of Support and Resistance You Need to Know

Markets ebb and flow; they go up, they come down and they move sideways. The primary ways we make sense of these movements are analyzing the price action as well as the levels in the market where price bounced higher or rotated lower, we call these levels support and resistance.

Support and resistance levels form the foundation of technical analysis and they help us build a framework from which we can understand the market. For price action traders, support and resistance levels help us plan our stop loss placements and profit targets, but perhaps more importantly, these levels give us a way to make sense of the market in terms of what it has done, what it is doing and what it might do next.

As I teach in many of my lessons, my overall trading approach can be summed up by the acronym T.L.S or Trend – Level – Signal. This lesson is primarily about the L (levels), I discuss the Trend and Signal portion of T.L.S. in other lessons, here are a couple:

In this lesson, we will not just be showing you how to draw support and resistance levels, but we will delve deeper and discuss how to use these levels to find high-probability trades in range-bound markets, determine trends, define risk & targets and more. I hope you enjoy this lesson and refer back to it often, as it is jam-packed with helpful explanations and examples…

The 7 Most Important Types of Support and Resistance & How to Use Them…

  • Traditional swing highs and lows

Perhaps the most important support and resistance levels are traditional swing highs and lows. These are levels that we find by zooming out to a longer time frame, typically the weekly chart or possibly even monthly. This is where we get a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the market and the major turning points within it. What we want to do is simply identify the obvious levels that price either reversed higher or lower at and draw horizontal lines at them. These levels do not have to be ‘exact’, they may intersect price bars or they may be zones rather than exact levels. You can consider this the first step in regards to support and resistance levels and it’s the first thing you should do when analyzing any chart.

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Notice the ‘bird’s eye view’ we get by zooming out to the weekly time frame. Here we can identify major support and resistance levels, trends and trading ranges…

Next, we want to zoom down a time frame, to the daily chart, to ‘fine tune’ our levels some more. The daily chart is the primary time frame for finding trade setups, so it’s important we understand the broader picture on the weekly chart but also that we have identified the shorter-term levels on the daily. I have a good video on this topic of mapping the market from higher time frames to lower, be sure to check it out. One key point to remember is that when you zoom into the daily or even the 4 hour or 1 hour, you always leave the higher time frame levels on your chart as they are very important.

Notice, by zooming into the daily chart from the weekly example above, some of the same weekly levels are still in play as well as some new shorter-term daily chart levels we couldn’t really see on the weekly…

  • Stepping swing point levels in trends

Have you heard the saying “Old support becomes new resistance and old resistance becomes new support”? This is referring to the phenomenon of a market making higher highs and higher lows or lower highs and lower lows, in an up or downtrend. We should mark these ‘stepping’ levels as they form, then when the market breaks down or up through them we can look to trade on retracements back to those levels, also known as trading pull backs. This also gives us a way to map the trend of a market – when you see this stepping phenomenon you know you have a solid trend in place.

These levels are good entry points as well as points to define risk or stop loss points. You can place your stop loss on other side of these levels.

For example, in the chart image below, we see a clear downtrend in place. As price broke down past the previous support level, that level ‘flipped’ to resistance levels that act as high-probability entry levels if price retraces back up to them.

  • Swing point levels as containment and risk management

We can look to sell or buy at swing points even if they are not part of a trend. Markets spend much of their time consolidating and in trading ranges, so we should be able to find trades within those market conditions, not only in trends.

We can simply use the most recent swing high or low as a risk point to define our next trade, which you can see in the chart example below.

In the image below, notice that price broke lower, down through support, then it stayed contained under that level, which was then acting as resistance. We could look to sell at that level or just below if price stayed contained below it. In this way, that level is defining where we will look to take our next trade and we know if price moves beyond that level our trade idea is invalid, so placing our stop loss just beyond that level is obvious. We can also use recent swing points as profit targets. In the example below, notice how we could use the recent swing lows as profit targets.

  • Dynamic support and resistance levels

Next, let’s talking about dynamic support and resistance levels. What I mean by dynamic is moving levels, in other words, moving averages. A moving average moves up or down according to what price is doing, and you can set it to consider a certain number of bars or time periods.

My personal favorites are the 21 and 50 period EMA or exponential moving averages. I like to use them on the daily chart time frame mostly, but they can also be useful on the weekly charts. These ema’s are good for quickly identifying the trend of the market and for joining that trend. We can watch for price to test the moving average after breaking above or below it, and then look to enter at or near that moving average. Ideally, the market will have proven itself by testing the level and bouncing previously, then you can look to enter on that second retrace.

Here is an example of the 50 period EMA being used to identify a downtrend as well as find entry points within it. Ideally, we will look for a 1 hour, 4 hour or daily chart price action sell signal as price nears or hits that level on a retrace back up to it in a downtrend like this…

The 21 period EMA can be used in a similar manner as we see below. Keep in mind, the shorter the EMA period the more frequently price will interact with the EMA. So, in a less volatile market you may wish to use a shorter period ema like the 21 rather than a longer one like the 50.

  • 50% Retracement levels

Whilst I don’t use traditional Fibonacci retracements and all their many extension levels, there is a proven phenomenon that over time, markets often hold the halfway point of a swing (circa 50 to 55% area), where market makes giant moves, retraces, then bounces in original direction. This is partly a self-fulfilling event and partly just a result of normal market dynamics. To learn more, checkout this lesson on How I Trade 50% Retracements.

Look at this example chart showing a large up move that retraced approximately to the 50% level on two different occasions, providing a very high-probability entry scenario, especially on the second bounce…

  • Trading range support and resistance levels

Trading range support and resistance levels can provide many high-probability entry opportunities for the savvy price action trader. The main idea is to first identify a trading range, which is basically just price bouncing between two parallel levels in the market, and then look for price action signals at those levels or look to fade the level on a blind entry. By fade the level, I mean if the market is moving up and at the key resistance of the range, look trade the opposite way, i.e. sell. Or, you look to buy the support of the range. You can literally do this until price clearly breaks and closes outside of the range. This is a MUCH better approach than the one most traders take in trading ranges – trying to predict the breakout before it happens and constantly getting whipsawed as price reverses back into the range.

Note, in the example image below, we had a large trading range as price was clearly oscillating between resistance and support. We could have entered on the second test of resistance (short) or on the second test of support (long) either blindly or on a price action signal like the pin bar signals we see at the support below.

  • Event area support and resistance

The final type of support or resistance we are going to discuss today is event areas. Event areas are a proprietary form of support and resistance that I expand on in detail in my price action trading course, but, for now, let’s make sure you have a good basic understanding of them.

Event areas are key levels in the market where a major price action event occurred. This can be a big reversal or clear price action signal either of which led to a strong directional move.

In the example chart below, you can see a clear event level that was formed after a strong bearish reversal bar on the weekly chart (there was also a large daily chart bearish pin bar there). As price approached that level on a retrace some months later, we would have wanted to be sure to have that level on our charts as it was a strong level to look to sell at either on a blind entry or on a 1 hour, 4 hour or daily chart sell signal.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this support and resistance tutorial. We have gone over the major types of support and resistance and how I use them as indications of market condition (trending or range bound), levels to look to buy or sell from, levels to define risk and as a framework to understand what the market has done, what it is doing and what it might do next. When you combine a solid understanding of support and resistance levels with price action and market trends, you have the triumvirate of trading: T.L.S, which you can learn much more about in my Price Action Trading Course.

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Support and Resistance Basics

The concepts of support and resistance are undoubtedly two of the most highly discussed attributes of technical analysis. Part of analyzing chart patterns, these terms are used by traders to refer to price levels on charts that tend to act as barriers, preventing the price of an asset from getting pushed in a certain direction. At first, the explanation and idea behind identifying these levels seem easy, but as you’ll find out, support and resistance can come in various forms, and the concept is more difficult to master than it first appears.

Trading With Support And Resistance

Key Takeaways

  • Technical analysts use support and resistance levels to identify price points on a chart where the probabilities favor a pause or reversal of a prevailing trend.
  • Support occurs where a downtrend is expected to pause due to a concentration of demand.
  • Resistance occurs where an uptrend is expected to pause temporarily, due to a concentration of supply.
  • Market psychology plays a major role as traders and investors remember the past and react to changing conditions to anticipate future market movement.
  • Support and resistance areas can be identified on charts using trendlines and moving averages.

Support and Resistance Defined

Support is a price level where a downtrend can be expected to pause due to a concentration of demand or buying interest. As the price of assets or securities drops, demand for the shares increases, thus forming the support line.   Meanwhile, resistance zones arise due to selling interest when prices have increased.

Once an area or “zone” of support or resistance has been identified, those price levels can serve as potential entry or exit points because, as a price reaches a point of support or resistance, it will do one of two things—bounce back away from the support or resistance level, or violate the price level and continue in its direction—until it hits the next support or resistance level.

The timing of some trades is based on the belief that support and resistance zones will not be broken. Whether the price is halted by the support or resistance level, or it breaks through, traders can “bet” on the direction and can quickly determine if they are correct. If the price moves in the wrong direction, the position can be closed at a small loss. If the price moves in the right direction, however, the move may be substantial.

The Basics

Most experienced traders can share stories about how certain price levels tend to prevent traders from pushing the price of an underlying asset in a certain direction. For example, assume that Jim was holding a position in stock between March and November and that he was expecting the value of the shares to increase.

Let’s imagine that Jim notices that the price fails to get above $39 several times over several months, even though it has gotten very close to moving above that level. In this case, traders would call the price level near $39 a level of resistance. As you can see from the chart below, resistance levels are also regarded as a ceiling because these price levels represent areas where a rally runs out of gas.

Support levels are on the other side of the coin. Support refers to prices on a chart that tend to act as a floor by preventing the price of an asset from being pushed downward. As you can see from the chart below, the ability to identify a level of support can also coincide with a buying opportunity because this is generally the area where market participants see value and start to push prices higher again.

Trendlines

The examples above show a constant level prevents an asset’s price from moving higher or lower. This static barrier is one of the most popular forms of support/resistance, but the price of financial assets generally trends upward or downward, so it is not uncommon to see these price barriers change over time. This is why the concepts of trending and trendlines are important when learning about support and resistance.

When the market is trending to the upside, resistance levels are formed as the price action slows and starts to move back toward the trendline. This occurs as a result of profit-taking or near-term uncertainty for a particular issue or sector. The resulting price action undergoes a “plateau” effect, or a slight drop-off in stock price, creating a short-term top.

Many traders will pay close attention to the price of a security as it falls toward the broader support of the trendline because, historically, this has been an area that has prevented the price of the asset from moving substantially lower. For example, as you can see from the Newmont Mining Corp (NEM) chart below, a trendline can provide support for an asset for several years. In this case, notice how the trendline propped up the price of Newmont’s shares for an extended period of time.

On the other hand, when the market is trending to the downside, traders will watch for a series of declining peaks and will attempt to connect these peaks together with a trendline. When the price approaches the trendline, most traders will watch for the asset to encounter selling pressure and may consider entering a short position because this is an area that has pushed the price downward in the past.

The support/resistance of an identified level, whether discovered with a trendline or through any other method, is deemed to be stronger the more times that the price has historically been unable to move beyond it. Many technical traders will use their identified support and resistance levels to choose strategic entry/exit points because these areas often represent the prices that are the most influential to an asset’s direction. Most traders are confident at these levels in the underlying value of the asset, so the volume generally increases more than usual, making it much more difficult for traders to continue driving the price higher or lower.

Unlike the rational economic actors portrayed by financial models, real human traders and investors are emotional, make cognitive errors, and fall back on heuristics or shortcuts. If people were rational, support and resistance levels wouldn’t work in practice!

Round Numbers

Another common characteristic of support/resistance is that an asset’s price may have a difficult time moving beyond a round number, such as $50 or $100 per share. Most inexperienced traders tend to buy or sell assets when the price is at a whole number because they are more likely to feel that a stock is fairly valued at such levels. Most target prices or stop orders set by either retail investors or large investment banks are placed at round price levels rather than at prices such as $50.06. Because so many orders are placed at the same level, these round numbers tend to act as strong price barriers. If all the clients of an investment bank put in sell orders at a suggested target of, for example, $55, it would take an extreme number of purchases to absorb these sales and, therefore, a level of resistance would be created.

Moving Averages

Most technical traders incorporate the power of various technical indicators, such as moving averages, to aid in predicting future short-term momentum, but these traders never fully realize the ability these tools have for identifying levels of support and resistance. As you can see from the chart below, a moving average is a constantly changing line that smooths out past price data while also allowing the trader to identify support and resistance. Notice how the price of the asset finds support at the moving average when the trend is up, and how it acts as resistance when the trend is down.

Traders can use moving averages in a variety of ways, such as to anticipate moves to the upside when price lines cross above a key moving average, or to exit trades when the price drops below a moving average. Regardless of how the moving average is used, it often creates “automatic” support and resistance levels. Most traders will experiment with different time periods in their moving averages so that they can find the one that works best for this specific task.

Other Indicators

In technical analysis, many indicators have been developed to identify barriers to future price action. These indicators seem complicated at first, and it often takes practice and experience to use them effectively. Regardless of an indicator’s complexity, however, the interpretation of the identified barrier should be consistent to those achieved through simpler methods.

The “golden ratio” used in the Fibonacci sequence, and also observed repeatedly in nature and social structure.

For example, the Fibonacci retracement tool is a favorite among many short-term traders because it clearly identifies levels of potential support/resistance. The reasoning behind how this indicator calculates the various levels of support and resistance is beyond the scope of this article, but notice in Figure 5 how the identified levels (dotted lines) are barriers to the short-term direction of the price.

Measuring the Significance of Zones

Remember how we used the terms “floor” for support and “ceiling” for resistance? Continuing the house analogy, the security can be viewed as a rubber ball that bounces in a room will hit the floor (support) and then rebound off the ceiling (resistance). A ball that continues to bounce between the floor and the ceiling is similar to a trading instrument that is experiencing price consolidation between support and resistance zones.

Now imagine that the ball, in mid-flight, changes to a bowling ball. This extra force, if applied on the way up, will push the ball through the resistance level; on the way down, it will push the ball through the support level. Either way, extra force, or enthusiasm from either the bulls or bears, is needed to break through the support or resistance.

A previous support level will sometimes become a resistance level when the price attempts to move back up, and conversely, a resistance level will become a support level as the price temporarily falls back.

Price charts allow traders and investors to visually identify areas of support and resistance, and they give clues regarding the significance of these price levels. More specifically, they look at:

Number of Touches

The more times the price tests a support or resistance area, the more significant the level becomes. When prices keep bouncing off a support or resistance level, more buyers and sellers notice and will base trading decisions on these levels.

Preceding Price Move

Support and resistance zones are likely to be more significant when they are preceded by steep advances or declines. For example, a fast, steep advance or uptrend will be met with more competition and enthusiasm and may be halted by a more significant resistance level than a slow, steady advance. A slow advance may not attract as much attention. This is a good example of how market psychology drives technical indicators.

Volume at Certain Price Levels

The more buying and selling that has occurred at a particular price level, the stronger the support or resistance level is likely to be. This is because traders and investors remember these price levels and are apt to use them again. When strong activity occurs on high volume and the price drops, a lot of selling will likely occur when price returns to that level, since people are far more comfortable closing out a trade at the breakeven point rather than at a loss.

Support and resistance zones become more significant if the levels have been tested regularly over an extended period of time.

The Bottom Line

Support and resistance levels are one of the key concepts used by technical analysts and form the basis of a wide variety of technical analysis tools. The basics of support and resistance consist of a support level, which can be thought of as the floor under trading prices, and a resistance level, which can be thought of as the ceiling. Prices fall and test the support level, which will either “hold,” and the price will bounce back up, or the support level will be violated, and the price will drop through the support and likely continue lower to the next support level.

While spotting support and resistance levels on a chart is relatively straightforward, some investors dismiss them entirely because the levels are based on past price moves, offering no real information about what will happen in the future.

Determining future levels of support can drastically improve the returns of a short-term investing strategy because it gives traders an accurate picture of what price levels should prop up the price of a given security in the event of a correction. Conversely, foreseeing a level of resistance can be advantageous because this is a price level that could potentially harm a long position, signifying an area where investors have a high willingness to sell the security. As mentioned above, there are several different methods to choose when looking to identify support/resistance, but regardless of the method, the interpretation remains the same—it prevents the price of an underlying asset from moving in a certain direction.

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