"Darkness Lies One Inch Ahead"

Technicians watch for price clues that can alert them to a shift in market psychology and trend. Reversal patterns are these technical clues. Western reversal indicators include double tops and bottoms, reversal days, head and shoulders, and island tops and bottoms. Yet the term "reversal pattern" is somewhat of a misnomer. Hearing that term may lead you to think of an old trend ending abruptly and then reversing to a new trend. This rarely happens. Trend reversals usually occur slowly, in stages, as the underlying psychology shifts gears. A trend reversal signal implies that the prior trend is likely to change, but not necessarily reverse. This is very important to understand.

Compare an uptrend to a car traveling forward at 30 m.p.h. The car's red brake lights go on and the car stops. The brake light was the reversal indicator showing that the prior trend (that is, the car moving forward) was about to end. But now that the car is stationary will the driver then decide to put the car in reverse? Will he remained stopped? Will he decide to go forward again? Without more clues we do not know. Exhibits 4.1 through 4.3 are some examples of what can happen after a top reversal signal appears. The prior uptrend, for instance, could convert into a period of sideways price action. Then a new and opposite trend lower could start. (See Exhibit 4.1.) Exhibit 4.2 shows how an old uptrend can resume. Exhibit 4.3 illustrates how an uptrend can abruptly reverse into a downtrend.

 It is prudent to think of reversal patterns as trend change patterns. I was tempted to use the term "trend change patterns" instead of "reversal patterns" in this book. However, to keep consistent with other technical analysis literature, I decided to use the term reversal patterns. Remember that when I say "reversal pattern" it means only that the prior trend should change but not necessarily reverse.

 An important principle is to place a new position (based on a reversal signal) only if that signal is in the direction of the major trend. Let us say, for example, that in a bull market, a top reversal pattern appears. This bearish signal would not warrant a short sale. This is because the major trend is still up. It would, however, signal a liquidation of longs. If there was a prevailing downtrend, this same top reversal formation could be used to place short sales.

I have gone into detail about the subject of reversal patterns because most of the candlestick indicators are reversals. Now, let us turn our attention to the first group of these candlestick reversal indicators, the hammer and hanging-man lines. 

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