The 5 Most Powerful Candlestick Patterns:
Candlestick charts are a technical tool that pack data for multiple time frames into single price bars. This makes them more useful than traditional open-high, low-close bars (OHLC) or simple lines that connect the dots of closing prices. Candlesticks build patterns that predict price direction once completed. Proper color coding adds depth to this colorful technical tool, which dates back to 18th century Japanese rice traders.
Steve Nison brought candlestick patterns to the Western world in his popular 1991 book, "Japanese Candlestick Charting Techniques." Many traders can now identify dozens of these formations, which have colorful names like bearish dark cloud cover, evening star and three black crows. In addition, single bar patterns including the doji and hammer have been incorporated into dozens of long- and short-side trading strategies.
Candlestick Pattern Reliability
Not all candlestick patterns work equally well. Their huge popularity has lowered reliability because they've been deconstructed by hedge funds and their algorithms. These well-funded players rely on lightning-speed execution to trade against retail investors and traditional fund managers who execute technical analysis strategies found in popular texts. In other words, hedge fund managers use software to trap participants looking for high-odds bullish or bearish outcomes. However, reliable patterns continue to appear, allowing for short- and long-term profit opportunities.
Here are five candlestick patterns that perform exceptionally well as precursors of price direction and momentum. Each works within the context of surrounding price bars in predicting higher or lower prices. They are also time sensitive in two ways. First, they only work within the limitations of the chart being reviewed, whether intraday, daily, weekly or monthly. Second, their potency decreases rapidly three to five bars after the pattern has completed.
Top 5 Candlestick Patterns
This analysis relies on the work of Thomas Bulkowski, who built performance rankings for candlestick patterns in his 2008 book, "Encyclopedia of Candlestick Charts." He offers statistics for two kinds of expected pattern outcomes: reversal and continuation. Candlestick reversal patterns predict a change in price direction, while continuation patterns predict an extension in the current price direction.
In the following examples, the hollow white candlestick denotes a closing print higher than the opening print, while the black candlestick denotes a closing print lower than the opening print.
The Bottom Line
Candlestick patterns capture the attention of market players, but many reversal and continuation signals emitted by these patterns don't work reliably in the modern electronic environment. Fortunately, statistics by Thomas Bulkowski show unusual accuracy for a narrow selection of these patterns, offering traders actionable buy and sell signals.
Putting the insights gained from looking at candlestick patterns to use and investing in an asset based on them would require a brokerage account. To save some research time, Investopedia has put together a list of the best online brokers so you can find the right broker for your investment needs.