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Understanding Pivot Points for New Investors

By Brian Nibley · April 27, 2021 · 4 minute read

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Understanding Pivot Points for New Investors

Pivot points are a tool that traders use to determine price levels of technical significance on intraday charts. A pivot point can help to identify a potential price reversal, which traders can then use (often in tandem with other technical indicators) as a cue to buy or sell.

When used alongside other common technical indicators, identifying pivot points can be part of an effective trading strategy. Pivot points are regarded as being important indicators for day traders.

What is a Pivot Point?

Pivot points are predictive indicators that average the high, low, and closing price from the previous period to define future support levels. These pivot points can help inform a decision to buy or sell.

The main pivot point is considered to be of the utmost importance. This point indicates the price at which bullish and bearish forces tend to flip to one side or the other (i.e., the price where sentiment tends to pivot from). When prices rise above the pivot point, this could be considered bullish, while prices falling beneath the pivot point could be considered bearish.

Brief History of Pivot Points

Pivot points got their start back when traders gathered on the floor of stock exchanges. Calculating a pivot point using yesterday’s data gave these traders a price level to watch for throughout the day. Pivot point calculations are considered leading indicators.

Today, pivot points are used by traders around the world, particularly in the forex and equity markets.

Different Types of Pivot Points

There are several different kinds of pivot points in addition to the standard ones. The variations make some changes or additions to the basic pivot point calculations to bring additional insight to the price action.

Standard Pivot Points

These are the most basic pivot points. They begin with a base pivot point, which is the average of the high, low, and closing prices from a previous trading period.

Fibonacci Pivot Points

Fibonacci projections, named after a mathematical sequence found in nature, connect any two points a trader might see as important. The percentage levels that follow are potential areas of a trend change. Most commonly, these percentage levels are 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, 61.8%, and 78.6%. It’s thought that when an asset falls to one of these levels, the price might stall or reverse.

Many traders love using Fibonacci projection levels in some form or another. These work well in conjunction with pivot points because both aim to identify levels of support and resistance.

Woodie’s Pivot Point

The Woodie’s pivot point places a greater emphasis on the closing price of a security. The calculation only varies slightly from the standard formula for pivot points.

Demark Pivot Points

Demark points create a different relationship between the open and close price points, using the number X to calculate support and resistance, and also emphasizes recent price action. This pivot point was introduced by a trader named Tom Demark.

How Do I Read Pivot Points?

A trader might read a pivot point as they would any other level of support or resistance. Traders generally believe that when prices break out beyond a support or resistance level, there’s a good chance that the trend will continue for some length of time.

•  When prices fall beneath support, this could indicate bearish sentiment, and the decline could continue.
•  When prices rise above resistance, this could indicate bullish sentiment, and the rise could continue.
•  Pivot points can also be used to draw trend lines in attempts to recognize bigger technical patterns.

What Are the Resistance and Support Levels in Pivot Points?

The numbers R1, R2, R3 and S1, S2, S3 refer to the resistance (R) and support (S) levels used to calculate pivot points. These six numbers combined with the basic pivot point level (PP) provide the seven metrics needed to determine pivot points.

Resistance 1 (R1): The first pivot level above the PP.
Resistance 2 (R2): The first pivot level above R1, or the second pivot level above the PP.
Resistance 3 (R3): The first pivot level above R2, or the third pivot level above the PP.
Support 1 (S1): The first pivot level below the PP.
Support 2 (S2): The first pivot level below the PP, or the second below S1.
Support 3 (S3): The first pivot level below the PP, or the third below S2.

Which Pivot Points Are Best for Intraday?

Because technical analysis has a large subjective component to it, traders will likely have their own interpretations of which pivot points are most important for intraday trading.

While some traders are fond of Fibonacci pivot points, others may prefer different points.

There are communities online, like TradingView, where traders gather to discuss ideas like these.

Pivot Points Calculations

The PP is vital for the pivot point formula as a whole. It’s important to exercise caution when calculating the PP level, because if this calculation is done incorrectly, the other levels will not be accurate.
The formula for calculating the PP is:

Pivot Point (PP) = (Daily high + daily low + close) divided by 3

To make the calculations for pivot points, a chart from the previous trading day will be needed. This is where the values for the daily low, daily high, and closing prices are obtained. The resulting calculations are only relevant for the current day.

All the formulas for R1-R3 and S1-S3 include the basic pivot level (PP) value. Once the PP has been calculated, you can move on to calculating R1, R2, S1 and S2:

R1 = (PP x 2) – daily low
R2 = PP + (daily high – daily low)
S1 = (PP x 2) – daily high
S2 = PP – (daily high – daily low)

At this point, there are only two more levels to calculate, those of R3 and S3.

R3 = Daily high + 2x (PP – daily low)
S3 = Daily low – 2x (daily high – PP)

How Are Weekly Pivot Points Calculated?

While pivot points are most commonly used for intraday charts, the same thing could be accomplished for a weekly time frame by instead using a weekly chart from the previous week as the basis for calculations that would apply to the current week.

The Takeaway

The pivot point indicator is best used with other indicators on short, intraday time frames. This indicator is thought to provide a good guess as to where prices could “pivot” in one direction or another.

Different types of pivot points are preferred by different traders, and they all can potentially be incorporated into a successful trading plan.

For hands-on investors, active investing with a SoFi Invest® online brokerage account lets members make trades and manage their account directly from the convenient mobile app.

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