There are multiple types of charts that traders use to analyze stock prices. Learning to read stock charts can help traders make better decisions about whether to buy or sell, and how to time their trades.
Candlestick charts are one popular tool for technical analysis of stocks. They are also called Japanese candlestick charts or patterns, because they were first invented in Japan in the 1700s to track the prices of rice. Today, candlestick patterns reveal patterns in stock prices.
What is a Candlestick Pattern?
A candlestick pattern is a sequence of price changes that can be identified as a formation on a chart. Each candlestick in a chart represents stock price increases or decreases within a specified time frame. By watching out for particular candlestick patterns in charts, traders try to predict whether a stock will go up or down in value, and make trades based on those predictions. Candlestick patterns are also useful for specifically timing entry and exit points for trades.
Based on how stock price movements have repeatedly occurred in the past following a pattern, traders can decide whether to put faith in them moving in a similar way again. The reason these patterns form is that human perceptions, actions, and reactions to stock price movements repeat.
Past events are not predictions of the future—no candlestick pattern is perfect. But they can be useful guidelines and one more piece of information for those looking to make informed trading decisions.
Reading Single Candlesticks
Even a single candlestick can provide valuable insight into where stock prices may head. Each candlestick is composed of four parts:
• The top ‘wick’ or shadow of a candlestick marks the highest price the stock traded within the specified time period.
• The bottom wick marks the lowest price the stock traded. If a candlestick wick is long, this means the highest or lowest trading price is significantly different from the opening or closing price. A shorter wick means the high or low trade was close to the opening or closing price. The difference between the top and bottom of the candlestick wicks is called the range.
• In a red candlestick, the top of the thicker body of the candlestick, called the ‘real body’, marks the opening price of the stock within the specified time period, and the bottom marks the closing price. Red candlesticks mean the price has decreased.
• In a green candlestick, the bottom marks the opening price, and the top marks the closing price. Green candlesticks show that the price has increased.
Candlesticks can represent different time frames. One popular time frame is a single day, so each candlestick on a chart will show the price change of one day. A one month chart would have approximately 30 candlesticks.
Trending Candles vs. Non-Trending Candles
If a candle continues an ongoing price trend, this is called a trending candle. Candles that go against the trend are non-trending candles.
Candles that don’t have an upper or lower wick can also show that there is a strong trend, support, or resistance in either direction. This means the opening or closing price was close to the high or low trade. And vice versa—a long wick can be an indicator that high or low prices aren’t holding.
When a candle’s opening and closing price are almost the same, this forms a doji candle, which looks like a black cross or plus sign. The wicks of doji candles can vary in length.
A doji can either be a sign of a reversal or a continuation. It shows equal forces from buyers and sellers, with no gain in either direction.
Long Shadow Candles
Candles with a long wick or shadow can be a strong indicator. A candle with a long upper shadow can indicate a continuation of a bullish trend or reversal towards one, while long lower shadows can indicate a bearish trend or reversal.
Types of Candlestick Patterns
Candlestick patterns are used to help predict stock price action. There are dozens of candlestick patterns that some traders use to help recognize trading opportunities and better time their entries and exits, but there are four distinct ways to define potential outcomes of candlestick patterns:
1. Bullish candlestick patterns show that a stock’s price is dominated by buyers and the price is likely to increase.
2. Bearish patterns show that the stock is dominated by sellers, and the price is likely to decrease.
3. Reversal candlestick patterns predict that the price trend of a stock is going to reverse.
4. Continuation patterns predict that the price will continue to head in the direction it’s currently going.
It’s important to remember that some patterns are a signal not to trade. Knowing when not to buy or sell is just as important as knowing when to take action.
Bullish Candlestick Patterns
A bullish candlestick pattern can either be an indication of a continued bullish trend, or it could be a reversal from a bearish trend. There are a number of popular bullish candlestick patterns, each of which can tell a trader something different.
Morning Star: The Morning Star is a three-candlestick pattern indicating a reversal towards a bullish trend, so named because it gives traders hope of a reversal during a bearish trend. The first candle is long bodied and red. The second candle opens lower and has a short body, it can be either red or green but its body doesn’t overlap with the body of the first candle. The third candle is green and closes at or above the center of the first candle body.
Morning Star Doji: This three-candlestick pattern tends to be a reversal from a bearish trend. The first candle has a long body showing a downtrend. The second candle opens at a lower price and trades within a narrow price range, then the third candle reverses in a bullish direction, closing at or above the center of the first candle body.
Bullish Engulfing: In this two-candle pattern, the first candle is bearish and the second is bullish. The body of the first candle fits completely within the body of the second candle, “engulfing” it. Although both candles are important, the higher the high of the second candle’s body, the stronger the indication of a reversal.
Three Line Strike: A four-candlestick bullish pattern that consists of three red candles followed by a long green candle. The red candles all fit inside the body of the green candle.
Hammer: This single-candle pattern can occur during or at the end of a bearish trend. The hammer candle looks like a hammer, with a short red candle body and a long lower shadow. This indicates that the low of the day is significantly lower than the close of the day, which can be a sign that the bearish trend is ending. However, it’s important for traders to wait and see if the reversal happens, because sometimes the hammer occurs during a continuing downtrend.
Bullish Harami: This reversal pattern happens during a downtrend and can indicate a switch toward upward price movement. It looks like a short green candlestick that follows several red candlesticks. The green candlestick body fits within the body of the previous red candlestick.
Abandoned Baby: This reversal pattern is made up of three candles. The middle candle is a doji which gaps up from the bottom of the previous red candle. The third candle is green and gaps up from the doji. The first and third candles have relatively long bodies. It’s so named because the gaps have space between the doji candle’s wick and both wicks of the first and third candle.
Dragonfly Doji: This is a strong indicator of a reversal. In this pattern, a doji candle opens and closes at or near the highest trade of the day. The lower shadow tends to be long, but it can vary in length.
Hanging Man: This is a single candlestick pattern which can indicate a coming bullish trend. The candle has a long lower wick and a short candle body.
Piercing Line: In this two-candle pattern, the first candle is long and red, followed by a green candle that opens at a new low but closes higher than the midpoint of the first candle. This can indicate a reversal away from a bearish trend.
Candlestick Sandwich: This is a three-candle pattern which consists of a long green candle sandwiched between two long red candles. The closing prices of the two red candles are similar, creating support that indicates a coming bullish trend.
Three Green Soldiers: A three-candle pattern that looks like a staircase towards higher prices. It consists of three green candles, each of which opens at a higher price than the previous day.
Bearish Candlestick Patterns
Bearish candlestick patterns may indicate an ongoing bearish trend, or they may indicate a reversal from a bullish trend. These are some common bearish candlestick patterns.
Evening Star: This three-candle pattern is the opposite of the Morning Star, indicating that a bullish trend is reversing into a bearish one. The first candle is long and green. The second candle opens higher and has a short body. The body can be either red or green but doesn’t overlap with the body of the previous candle. This shows that buying interest is coming to an end. The third candle is red and closes at or below the center of the first candle body.
Evening Star Doji: This three-candle pattern is the opposite of the Morning Star Doji. It indicates a possible reversal towards a bearish trend. The first candle is a long green candle. The second candle is a doji or very narrow and opens at a higher price. The third candle is red and closes at or below the center point of the first candle body.
Inverted Hammer: The inverse of the hammer pattern, this is a single-candle pattern which can indicate the end of a downtrend and reversal towards a bullish price movement. This candle has a short green body and a long upper shadow, making it look like an upside down hammer.
Shooting Star: This is a single-candle pattern in which there is a green candle with a short body, very little or no lower shadow, and a long upper shadow. The shooting star can mark the top of an upcycle and signal a reversal.
Dark Cloud Cover: A three-candlestick pattern that occurs when a red candle has an opening price that’s higher than the closing price of the previous day’s candle, and a closing price below the middle of the previous one. The first candle is green. To complete the pattern, the third candle is bearish.
Bearish Harami Cross: A trend-reversal pattern consisting of a series of green candlesticks followed by a doji, this pattern indicates that the uptrend may be losing momentum and preparing for a reversal.
Falling Tree: This is a five-candlestick pattern which signals a possible interruption of a bearish trend, with a continuing downtrend. The first is a long red candle, followed by three small green candles, which all stay within the range of the first candle. The last candle is another long red one. This pattern shows that bulls are unable to reverse a downtrend.
Two Black Gapping: This pattern happens when there is a new high in an uptrend, followed by two red candles that gap down. This can be a good indicator of a coming bearish trend.
Gravestone Doji: This is an inverted dragonfly pattern, in which the opening and closing price are at or near the low of the day. The upper candle shadow tends to be long, but can vary in length. It can indicate either a reversal towards a bearish trend, or an ongoing bearish trend.
Three Black Crows: In this pattern, a new high is followed by three long red candlesticks that each close with lower lows.
The Harami Cross can indicate a reversal in either a bullish or a bearish trend. It’s a two-candlestick pattern in which the first candle opens or closes at a new high or low. The second candle is a doji which is inside the range of the previous candle’s body.
These two patterns don’t fit into the bullish, bearish, reversal, or continuation categories.
Spinning Top: A short-bodied candlestick with equal top and bottom wicks that looks like a spinning top. This is an indication of indecision in the market. After the spinning top the market will likely move quickly one way or another, so if there’s a pattern prior to the top that may be an indicator of which way the spinning top will fall.
Supernova: If there’s a high volume stock with low float that experiences a price explosion, followed by a significant price drop, this is a supernova. There can be trading opportunities on the way up, and then opportunities to short sell on the way down as well.
Candlestick charts are just one more way for traders to gain trend insights and try to predict the future of the market when choosing a stock to buy—or not. Learning the basics of some common candlestick patterns can help inform a decision on when to buy a stock, when to sell a stock, and when to just hold off.
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