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Understanding Resistance and Support in Technical Analysis

Updated: Feb 7


Technical analysis is a popular method employed by traders and investors to predict future price movements of securities based on past market data, primarily price and volume. Two key concepts in technical analysis that every trader should understand are 'support' and 'resistance'. These concepts help traders determine optimal entry and exit points for their trades, assisting them in making informed trading decisions.



Defining Support and Resistance


Support and resistance are price levels or zones that appear to halt or reverse the prevailing trend of a security's price.


  • Support is a price level at which a downward trend tends to pause or rebound due to concentrated buying pressure. Essentially, it's the price level where the demand for a security is strong enough to stop the price from falling further.

  • Resistance is the opposite of support. It is a price level at which an upward trend tends to pause or reverse due to a rise in selling pressure. In other words, it's the price level where the supply of the security overcomes the demand, preventing the price from rising further.


Importance of Support and Resistance


Support and resistance levels are foundational elements of virtually all technical trading strategies. They provide useful insights into the psychological dynamics of the market, representing price points where the attitudes of buyers and sellers collide. Recognizing these levels helps traders identify potential price reversal points and forecast the security's future price movements.


Examples of Support and Resistance


Let's illustrate the concepts of support and resistance with an example.


Example 1: Consider a hypothetical stock, Stock A, that over a period has fluctuated between $10 (support) and $20 (resistance). Each time the price reaches $20, selling pressure pushes the price back down. Conversely, when the price reaches $10, buying pressure increases, pushing the price back up. Here, $10 serves as the support level, and $20 is the resistance level. The point at which these levels are broken is significant. If the price falls below $10, that former support level could become the new resistance level. Similarly, if the price breaks above $20, the previous resistance level could become the new support level. This phenomenon is known as 'role reversal'.


Example 2: Let's consider a real-life example, the Bitcoin chart from 2017 to 2018. In December 2017, Bitcoin's price reached nearly $20,000 but then fell. In 2018, the price failed to break through the $20,000 mark several times, indicating a strong resistance level. Conversely, the $6,000 price level proved to be a strong support level throughout 2018 as the price bounced back each time it approached this level.


Application in Trading Strategy


Understanding support and resistance levels can significantly influence your trading strategy. Here are some ways you can apply these concepts:


  • Identify potential trade entries and exits: A trader could buy a security near support and sell near resistance to capitalize on the price oscillation between these two levels.

  • Set stop-loss orders: Traders could set stop-loss orders just below support or above resistance to limit potential losses if the price breaks through these levels.

  • Spot trend reversals: If the price breaks through a long-standing support or resistance level with significant volume, it could signal a potential trend reversal.


Recognizing and understanding the concepts of support and resistance are crucial for any trader or investor using technical analysis. Although these concepts do not provide a guarantee of future price movements, they offer a framework for understanding market psychology and predicting potential price reversal points. As with any tool in technical analysis, they should be used in conjunction with other indicators to confirm signals and make more accurate and effective trading decisions. Support and resistance levels are not infallible predictors of future price movements. They provide a lens through which we can understand the behavior of market participants and anticipate potential areas of price congestion.


Role Reversal in Trading


Role reversal, a critical aspect of support and resistance, can also add substantial depth to your trading strategy. When the price of a security breaks out from a long-standing resistance or falls below a historical support level, it often triggers a role reversal. That is, the old resistance becomes the new support, and the former support becomes the new resistance. For example, if a stock price has been fluctuating between $30 (support) and $40 (resistance) and then breaks out to reach $45, the old resistance level at $40 might now act as the new support level. This concept often holds because market participants tend to remember these historical levels, attributing significant psychological importance to them.


Advanced Techniques: Trendlines, Channels, and More


Trendlines, which connect successive highs or lows, can serve as diagonal lines of support and resistance. These are especially useful in identifying and trading within trending markets. Similarly, 'channels' are formed when parallel trendlines can be drawn, providing both support and resistance levels as the price moves within the channel. Additionally, various technical indicators and chart patterns—such as moving averages, Fibonacci retracement levels, pivot points, Bollinger Bands, and more—can help identify dynamic support and resistance levels.


Example 3: Consider Apple's stock (AAPL) as an example. In 2020, the $150 price level served as a significant resistance level, as the stock price couldn't break through this level for several months. However, once it did break through in late 2020, the price began to use the $150 level as a support, bouncing off this price point multiple times throughout 2021. When the price eventually fell below $150, this level became a resistance point again, and the price struggled to move above it for several weeks. Traders who recognized this shift could have made strategic decisions based on these key support and resistance levels.


The more often a support or resistance level is tested (i.e., the price reaches but does not surpass the level), the stronger that level is considered. The principles of supply and demand largely drive these levels. However, they also represent the collective psychological mindset of the market participants. It's crucial to note that while these levels can provide valuable insights and contribute to a robust trading strategy, they do not provide a complete picture on their own. They should always be used in conjunction with other forms of technical analysis to validate your insights and make more well-informed trading decisions.


Finally, remember that support and resistance levels are not exact numbers but rather areas or ranges on the chart. Traders and investors should account for this in their analysis and expect some price volatility around these levels. Mastering the use of support and resistance can take time and practice, but these concepts are undeniably instrumental in the realm of technical analysis.


 

An interesting fact about support and resistance levels is that they aren't just applied to individual securities or commodities. These principles can also be used when analyzing entire indices or sectors. For example, traders often watch the support and resistance levels of the S&P 500, a leading indicator of U.S. equities, to predict broader market trends. If the index price breaks through a long-standing support level, it could signal a bearish outlook for the general market. Conversely, if the index breaks through a resistance level, it might suggest an overall bullish market sentiment. This kind of macro-level technical analysis can be crucial for traders and investors not just in managing their individual positions, but also in getting an overall sense of where the market might be heading. It's a fascinating demonstration of how these fundamental concepts can scale from individual stocks all the way up to the entire market.

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