Pivot Point: What It Is and How to Use It in Trading

By Brian Nibley · May 14, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Pivot Point: What It Is and How to Use It in Trading

Pivot points are technical indicators that average the intraday high, low, and closing price from the previous trading period. Based on the price movements the following day, traders can use the pivot point to identify support and resistance levels.

If the price moves above the primary pivot point, it may signal a bullish trend; if it moves below the pivot point, it may indicate a bearish trend. Thus, pivot points can help inform a decision to buy or sell stocks.

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 got their start during the time 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.

While other technical indicators, such as oscillators or moving averages, fluctuate constantly throughout the day, the pivot point remains static.

Analysts consider the main or primary pivot point to be the most important. This point indicates the price at which bullish and bearish forces tend to break one way or the other — that is, the price where sentiment tends to pivot from.

Pivot point calculations are considered leading indicators, and are often used in tandem with other common technical indicators. Today, traders around the world use pivot points, particularly in the forex and equity markets.

Two Ways to Use Pivot Points

But there are different ways to use pivot points. One way is to use the pivot point to help identify the trend. Again, when prices move above the pivot point, this could be considered bullish; prices falling below the pivot point could be considered bearish.

Traders can also use pivot points to set entry and exit points for trades. All things being equal, a trader might want to set a stop loss order around the support level, the price at which a downtrend generally turns around, or a limit order to buy shares if the price goes above a resistance level, generally the upper limit of the price range.

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How to Calculate Pivot Points

The PP is vital for the pivot point formula as a whole. It’s essential for traders to exercise caution when calculating the pivot-point 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, it’s necessary to have a chart from the previous trading day. This is where you can get the values for the daily low, daily high, and closing prices. The resulting calculations are only relevant for the current day.

Recommended: How to Know When to Buy Stocks

What Are Resistance and Support Levels in Pivot Points?

Traders track price patterns in order to decide when to enter and exit trades. This may require using more than one support or resistance level in order to ascertain a trend. Support refers to the lower end of the price, where the price generally stops falling and turns around. Resistance is the upper end, where the price generally stops rising and begins to dip.

The numerals 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 primary pivot-point (PP) level form the seven metrics needed to determine pivot points.

•   Resistance 1 (R1): First pivot level above the PP

•   Resistance 2 (R2): First pivot level above R1, or second pivot level above PP

•   Resistance 3 (R3): First pivot level above R2, or third pivot level above the PP

•   Support 1 (S1): First pivot level below the PP

•   Support 2 (S2): First pivot level below the S1, or the second below the PP

•   Support 3 (S3): First pivot level below the S2, or the third below the PP

Pivot Point Formulas

All the formulas for R1-R3 and S1-S3 include the basic PP level 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: R3 and S3:

R3 = Daily High + 2 x (PP – Daily Low)
S3 = Daily Low – 2 x (Daily High – PP)

How Are Weekly Pivot Points Calculated?

Pivot points are most commonly used for intraday charting. But you can chart the same data for a week, if you needed to. You just use the values from the prior week, instead of day, as the basis for calculations that would apply to the current week.

Types of Pivot Points

There are at least four types of pivot points, including the standard ones. Their 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. Standard pivot points begin with the primary pivot point, which is the average of the high, low, and closing prices from a previous trading period. The support and resistance levels can be calculated from there, as noted above.

Fibonacci Pivot Points

Fibonacci projections — named after a well-known mathematical sequence — help identify support and resistance levels. The percentage levels that follow represent potential areas of a trend change. Most commonly, these percentage levels are 23.6%, 38.2%, 50.0%, 61.8%, and 78.6%.

Technical analysts believe that when an asset falls to one of these levels, the price might stall or reverse. Fibonacci projections work well in conjunction with pivot points because both aim to identify levels of support and resistance in an asset’s price.

Woodie’s Pivot Point

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

Demark Pivot Points

Demark pivot points create a different relationship between the open and close price points, using the numeral X to calculate support and resistance, and to emphasize recent price action.

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How Might Traders Interpret 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 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.

The Takeaway

The pivot-point indicator is a key tool in technical stock analysis. This pricing technique is best used along with other indicators on short, intraday trading time frames. This indicator is thought to render a good estimate as to where prices could “pivot” in one direction or another.

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How are weekly pivot points calculated?

Pivot points can be applied to any time frame, simply by adjusting the period. To calculate a weekly pivot point you can use the values from the prior week, instead of day, as the basis for calculations that would apply to the current week.

How accurate are pivot points?

While no technical analysis tool is guaranteed, pivot points are generally considered among the more accurate in terms of helping traders gauge support and resistance levels, and market trends overall.

Do professional traders use pivot points?

Professional traders do use pivot points, but usually in combination with other types of technical analysis — depending on the trade they want to make.

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