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*I've been on summer vacation for about 6 weeks so been a bit since I've written but back in the saddle again, so you will see contributions from me regularly now. Here is my latest article on breakouts, particularly identifying pre-breakout conditions so you can trade and find high probability breakout scenarios. Breakouts are some of the more difficult environments for traders to engage in, and understandably so because they represent a lot of potential, and have high energy behind them, but often fail. We have to separate breakouts into two scenarios: Pre-Breakout and Post-Breakout The main question for trading breakouts is to find the right opportunities. But the question then comes; How do you identify them and what are the key elements that precede strong breakouts? This is the main point of this article - to give you three important tips or components often found behind strong healthy breakouts. By doing this, you'll avoid getting caught in many false breakouts, while capturing the lion's share of a healthy breakout along with optimizing your entry. I will go over the three main components often preceding a healthy breakout. Then I will briefly highlight what is behind them from an order flow perspective. By learning to spot these three components or variables, you can position yourself to trade higher probability breakouts. 1) A Well Defined Support/Resistance Level The first pre-requisite to identifying a healthy pre-breakout situation is having a clearly defined barrier in the form of a support or resistance level. The classic case is when you have a trend in place (lets say uptrend) and then the price action runs into resistance at a key level. Ideally, you want there to be at least two touches on this level before defining it. The more horizontal and neater this level is - the better. But it should be noted, this is just a pre-requisite and generally by itself not enough to identify a healthy breakout setup. The reason for the two touches is to identify a sticking point where players are parked and what level they are defending that the (bulls in this case) are unable to penetrate. By finding both parties present, we have the environmental potential from an order flow perspective to create a healthy breakout. In this example, the sellers are clearly holding a price they want to defend and have stops just above it. By them staking their defense in a clear location, it communicates where their orders and stops are likely parked. It is tripping those stops, along with bringing in new buyers that is the goal of the bulls. Below is an example of a clearly defined resistance level after a downtrend and consolidation period, communicating there are bears clearly defending a level. Image 1.1 2) Pre-Breakout Pressure or Tension (Price Action Squeeze) The second ingredient you want prior to a breakout is a type of pre-breakout pressure or tension that manifests as a squeeze. This pre-breakout tension is highly important because it creates a friction and pressure upon the defenders (in this case the bears). As the bears realize their rejections off a key level are getting smaller, while the bulls continue to gain more upside and territory, it causes a friction in their minds that forces them to make a critical decision (either stay in and defend, or exit the market). As the room gets smaller and smaller for them to work with as the bulls squeeze the bears out, sellers defending a level will often exit early, leaving the defense to those who are not realizing the game is up. This further weakens the defenses at these levels until very few are left to carry the burden. You can easily identify a price action squeeze and this pre-breakout pressure, or tension, by the price action forming higher lows in attacking a resistance level, or lower highs when attacking a support level. This is a combination of the current bulls willing to buy up the instrument at a worse price, along with new bulls wanting to get long before the breakout. A good example is presented in the same chart which I will zoom in on to highlight. Image 1.2 3) The 20EMA Carry Another key ingredient often preceding healthy breakouts is how the 20ema begins to carry price, leading up to the key resistance or support level that is being defended. This is not so much that traders are placing orders there prior to the breakout (although many will), but also a visual representation of how the squeeze is taking place. Just looking at the chart above, we can see in the beginning, after the first rejection off the key resistance level, price penetrated nicely below the 20ema. But as we get closer and closer towards the right where the squeeze is taking place, you see the market barely go below it for more than a single candle before resurfacing. Also, you will notice how the first few times the rejection approaches the 20ema, it breaks through after one candle. But towards the end many candles start to float above it where some traders are entering in anticipation of the breakout. Another really good example was one I traded and blogged about ahead of time with the AUD/USD on the 1hr time frame. The pair had been trending up for 110 pips over two days, but ran into a key resistance level that it got stuck on at 1.0081 (image below). Image 1.3 In the image above, notice how the 20ema in the middle of the chart is penetrated about 20pips, but then as we get closer and closer to the resistance level and the squeeze begins to happen, notice how the 20ema begins to carry the price action, and the penetrations get smaller and smaller? This is a combination of very few sellers defending the level, while the bulls in anticipation of a breakout (realizing they have control) are likely entering new positions to get in ahead of the upcoming breakout (I was one such trader and am still long since $1633). Eventually the pre-breakout pressure and tension became too intense and the bears gave up when the bulls made their push, tripping stops and creating a large breakout bar with a strong close. In Summary Breakouts can offer highly profitable opportunities when you can position yourself well. But to do this, you must be able to identify highly probable breakouts with these 3 key elements which are; 1) Well Defined Support/Resistance Level 2) Pre-Breakout Pressure/Tension (Squeeze) 3) 20EMA Carry If you can learn to spot these key elements prior to a breakout, regardless of the time frame you are working with, along with reading various other price action clues, you will find yourself entering in higher probability breakouts, increasing your success and profitability. You will also find yourself not getting trapped by false breakouts which can wreak havoc on your account and confidence in trading them. Thus it is critical to read and identify the key elements prior to a breakout. You can see various other videos and articles I have on price action. I look forward to your comments. Kind Regards, Chris
Now that I have written on the basic components for my working theory of price action, I will build upon this by talking about impulsive and corrective price action moves. If I had to look at price action as a structure, it would be a pyramid, with the base being how price action is a reflection of order flow (particularly executed transactions). The next part (or level above) from that base would be understanding price action through the lens of impulsive vs. corrective moves. I will briefly describe what impulsive and corrective moves are, giving the key characteristics of each type of move. Then I will discuss what they generally communicate from an order flow perspective. After this I will talk about what is the general pattern they will form, and how you can use this for your trading. What Is An Impulsive Move? An impulsive move is one whereby the market moves quite strongly or heavily in on direction, covering a great distance in a short period of time. These moves tell you when the imbalance between the buyers and sellers is really strong and there is heavy participation from the institutional side. Logically, more money can be made during these impulsive moves, as they cover more points or pips in less time. They are generally more volatile, and thus provide us with great opportunities to get more R (reward) with less risk since the market will stretch more easily in one direction. But no matter what, we want to be trading with these moves as much as possible, not against them. Three Characteristics Impulsive moves tend to have three characteristics common amongst all of them. These three can help clue you in to when an impulsive move is starting, or in play. They are; 1) Large Candles (bodies) 2) Mostly of one color (blue/bullish, or red/bearish) 3) Closes towards highs/lows of the move Let’s examine all three points. 1) Large Candles communicate to us there is strong participation and order flow behind this particular candle. Strong imbalances during a candle will translate into larger candles than the norm. When you see large candles forming consistently in one direction, they indicate strong order flow behind them from the institutional side. Since the larger players are behind them, they give us a clue of the direction we want to take, essentially surfing the waves they (institutional) are creating. Take a look at an example below. Image 1.1 – EURUSD 1hr Chart *SEE ATTACHMENT BELOW Notice how in this chart, the candles that stand out the most are the red ones, particularly the ones towards the top left? They are the largest in this entire series, communicating strong order flow behind them. In fact, if you look at candles 1-8, all but the blue doji in the middle are solid in size. Yet candles 9-17 are all contained within the highs and the lows of last 2-3 candles in this down leg, communicating weak order flow and participation behind them. As a whole, impulsive moves tend to have large candles (bodies and wicks) behind them. 2) Mostly of One Color – this ingredient is also common amongst impulsive moves as it communicates something critical to us – time. More specifically, how the bulls or bears were able to maintain control of the price action over time. In the chart above from image 1.1, you will notice in the down leg, there is only 1 blue candle, meaning for 8 out of 9hrs, the bears had complete control of the market (almost one full trading session). By maintaining control over time, the market is communicating who is the more dominant side because they are not allowing the other to take control of a candle for that time period. The greater the imbalance is between the bulls and bears over time, the greater the dominance is from either the bull or bear side of the market. It is important to look at price action not just based on structure of the candles, which is one dimensional. Price doesn’t just move in a vacuum, it moves in time, and HOW price moves over time can communicate a lot of information to us as traders. 3) Closes Towards the Highs/Lows of the Move – If you think about it, when the market is in a strong trending move, let’s say using a 4hr chart, and the candle that closed in the direction of the trend (in this case uptrend) has a very small wick, thus a strong close towards the highs, what does that communicate? It should communicate that there is very little profit taking from the players behind that candle. If they were worried going into the close of that candle about an upcoming resistance level holding, or perhaps the bears may take control of the market, they would likely close their position, or take profits right before the candle closed. But when you have a strong close with a very small wick, this usually indicates very little profit taking, thus a confidence the move will likely continue. This is highly useful to us as traders, and will be common amongst impulsive moves like in the chart below. Image 1.2 GBPUSD 4hr Chart SEE ATTACHMENT BELOW Starting with the top left of the chart using candles 1-4, the price action moves in a sideways corrective fashion until candle 5, which if you notice, increases in size tremendously (rule #1 of impulsive moves). From here, price continues on selling for the next 9 candles, 10 total in a row, or 40hrs of selling (rule #2 of impulsive moves). But looking at the candle closes, you can see most of them are towards the lows, showing very little profit taking along the way, thus suggesting likely continuation. Only until candle 11 do we get a strong rejection, and from here price then moves sideways in a corrective fashion until candle 16. But what happens at candle 17? The candle expands (rule #1) telling us the trend will likely continue. So these are three examples of the common characteristics of impulsive price action moves. What About Corrective Moves? The good thing about corrective moves is they are easy to spot, since they have the inverse characteristics of impulsive moves. Meaning, they tend to have; 1) Smaller Candles 2) Greater mix between red/blue or bull/bear candles 3) Closes more towards the middle with larger wicks Thus, if you apply the logic of impulsive moves, you can easily understand and identify corrective moves. How Do They Relate to Each Other? Generally, impulsive and corrective moves tend to have a common pattern or dance with each other. The general pattern that tends to play out between them is the following; 1) Impulsive moves about 75% of the time are followed by corrective moves. These corrective moves can either be horizontal, slightly against the impulsive move, or even slightly in the same direction, but they denote a change in the order flow and participation. 2) 75% of the time, these corrective moves are followed by impulsive moves in the same direction as the original impulsive move. Why? Because those who are in control, rarely give up control unless encountering a strong counter-trend force. Even then, they usually make a second attempt to take out a recent swing high or low before giving up. Only when they fail a second time will they usually exit the market, either waiting for a new chance to get in on a pullback, or reset completely. This is why V-Bottoms are quite rare and only form about 10% of the time. Usually there is a 2nd bottom, which is could be a LL (lower low), HL (higher low) or a similar low. 3) This series between the impulsive vs. corrective moves will generally continue until the market encounters a counter-trend impulsive move, which usually translates to an equal or greater force on the opposing side of the market. Very similar to Newton’s Laws of Motion about an object in motion will stay in motion until acted upon another object with equal or greater force. Let’s look at an example below. Image 1.3 AUDUSD 4hr Chart SEE ATTACHMENT BELOW Glancing at the chart above starting with the bottom left at move A, you can see how it was an impulsive move, followed by a corrective move (B). This series continued until…it hit a counter-trend impulsive move in G. It was only until here did the bulls finally relent control as the opposing bears took control of the price action with the bulls likely taking profit or exiting all together, especially after the low point from move D was taken out. Ironically, what followed move G, was a corrective move after, followed by the bears continuing the down-leg. In Summary This is just an introduction to how I approach price action, but it is highly effective for many things, such as; -finding the right direction -staying in the trend -spotting great pullback opportunities to get back in with trend -knowing when the market will continue and when the market is likely to reverse -how to find some of the more profitable moves in the market (impulsive) -knowing who is in control of the market and more… There are many other facets and subtleties to trading impulsive and corrective price action, but this is a good introduction to my base theory and model for trading price action. If you can learn to spot the impulsive and corrective moves in the market, they can greatly enhance the odds of your trades along with helping you spot key characteristics in the markets. To learn more about trading impulsive and corrective price action, visit my website at 2ndSkiesForex