Support and Resistance Basics:
The concepts of support and resistance are undoubtedly two of the most highly discussed attributes of technical analysis. Part of analyzing chart patterns, these terms are used by traders to refer to price levels on charts that tend to act as barriers, preventing the price of an asset from getting pushed in a certain direction. At first, the explanation and idea behind identifying these levels seem easy, but as you'll find out, support and resistance can come in various forms, and the concept is more difficult to master than it first appears.
Trading With Support And Resistance
Defining Support, Resistance
Support is a price level where a downtrend can be expected to pause due to a concentration of demand. As the price of assets or securities drops, demand for the shares increases, thus forming the support line. Meanwhile, resistance zones arise due to a sell-off when prices increase.
Once an area or "zone" of support or resistance has been identified, it provides valuable potential trade entry or exit points. This is because, as a price reaches a point of support or resistance, it will do one of two things – bounce back away from the support or resistance level, or violate the price level and continue in its direction – until it hits the next support or resistance level.
Most forms of trades are based on the belief that support and resistance zones will not be broken. Whether the price is halted by the support or resistance level, or it breaks through, traders can "bet" on the direction and can quickly determine if they are correct. If the price moves in the wrong direction, the position can be closed at a small loss. If the price moves in the right direction, however, the move may be substantial.
The examples above show a constant level prevents an asset's price from moving higher or lower. This static barrier is one of the most popular forms of support/resistance, but the price of financial assets generally trends upward or downward, so it is not uncommon to see these price barriers change over time. This is why understanding the concepts of trending and trendlines is important when learning about support and resistance.
When the market is trending to the upside, resistance levels are formed as the price action slows and starts to pull back toward the trendline. This occurs as a result of profit taking or near-term uncertainty for a particular issue or sector. The resulting price action undergoes a "plateau" effect, or a slight drop-off in stock price, creating a short-term top.
Many traders will pay close attention to the price of a security as it falls toward the broader support of the trendline because historically this has been an area that has prevented the price of the asset from moving substantially lower. For example, as you can see from the Newmont Mining Corp (NEM) chart below, a trendline can provide support for an asset for several years. In this case, notice how the trendline propped up the price of Newmont's shares for an extended period of time.
On the other hand, when the market is trending to the downside, traders will watch for a series of declining peaks and will attempt to connect these peaks together with a trendline. When the price approaches the trendline, most traders will watch for the asset to encounter selling pressure and may consider entering a short position because this is an area that has pushed the price downward in the past.
The support/resistance of an identified level, whether discovered with a trendline or through any other method, is deemed to be stronger the more times that the price has historically been unable to move beyond it. Many technical traders will use their identified support and resistance levels to choose strategic entry/exit points because these areas often represent the prices that are the most influential to an asset's direction. Most traders are confident at these levels in the underlying value of the asset, so the volume generally increases more than usual, making it much more difficult for traders to continue driving the price higher or lower.
Unlike the rational economic actors portrayed by financial models, real human traders and investors are emotional, make cognitive errors, and fall back on heuristics or shortcuts. If people were rational, support and resistance levels wouldn't work in practice!
Another common characteristic of support/resistance is that an asset's price may have a difficult time moving beyond a round-figure price level such as $50. Most inexperienced traders tend to buy or sell assets when the price is at a whole number because they are more likely to feel that a stock is fairly valued at such levels. Most target prices or stop orders set by either retail investors or large investment banks are placed at round price levels rather than at prices such as $50.06. Because so many orders are placed at the same level, these round numbers tend to act as strong price barriers. If all the clients of an investment bank put in sell orders at a suggested target of, for example, $55, it would take an extreme number of purchases to absorb these sales and, therefore, a level of resistance would be created.