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Candlestick Charting I: Basic Patterns

Learn the 11 Basic Candlestick Charting Patterns, and which ones produce highly reliable, trade-able indicators. You’ll also learn a few Japanese words along the way!

I absolutely love candlestick charting. Why? The main reasons why candlesticks outperform any other types of charts are because you are able to, 1) visually depict stock data easily, 2) establish strong price relationships and 3) catch possible reversals quickly. The third one has saved me many, many times.

There are 11 categories of basic and major candlestick patterns. These are the most common patterns you’ll be seeing as you practice going through your charts. I will give a description, a real-life example, and indicate “reliability” levels for each pattern: extremely high, high, medium, low, extremely low. Here are the categories:

Doji

Doji are days where the open and close are identical or nearly identical. The candle will look like a cross as a result. This is the primary signal for indecision and a potential reversal may be underway. What’s important to note is that doji in the middle of a trend mark continuations of that trend, while doji located at the bottom of a trend obviously mark reversals. Whenever you see a doji, pay special attention to its location within a chart.

There are three types of doji: gravestone, dragonfly, and long-legged. A gravestone doji simply means that a stock opened at the low of the day, reached a high, but fell back down to close at/near its open at the low of the day. The dragonfly doji is the opposite where a stock opened at the high of the day, reached a low, but bounced back up to close at/near its high of the day. A long-legged doji signals extreme indecision and volatility. Every doji has the potential to signal a sharp and sudden move.

Engulfing

Engulfing patterns, both bullish and bearish, are reversal patterns that may signal the end of a trend. Bullish engulfing patterns have the potential to end a downtrend and bearish engulfing patterns have the potential to end an up trend. Both patterns are highly reliable in signaling reversals.

Bullish engulfing patterns are formed when a green candle gaps down (opens lower) and closes much higher than the open of the previous day’s red candle. If you look at the pattern, you can see how the green candle completely “engulfs” the red candle. This shows that there was intense buying pressure sometime during the day to negate the selling pressure at the open.

Bearish engulfing patterns are just the opposite and they are formed when a red candle gaps up (opens higher) and closes much lower than the open of the previous day’s green candle. This shows an immediate sentiment change during the day and cancelled out the previous day’s gains.

Harami

Harami means “pregnant” in Japanese and the term is derived by observing a small candle “within” a larger candle. The long candle is the “mom” and the small candle is the “baby”. The second or smaller candle’s open and close must both be located within the open-close range of the first or long candle. This pattern is also known as an “inside day”. A harami can signal a slowdown in the current trend and a possible reversal. However, the reliability of the pattern is low and I recommend that you wait for the next day to “confirm” a reversal.

Kicker

Kickers are perhaps the most important and powerful reversal signals in candlestick charting. They represent the most dramatic and sudden shift in sentiment. Kicker candles are most commonly compared to breakaway gaps. The longer the candle, the more powerful the price reversal. These signals have the ability to completely end a trend and start a new one, all in a single day. This is why they are so powerful and of course, their reliability is extremely high.

A bullish kicker is formed when the first candle is red and the second candle is green but the open and close of the green candle exceeds the open-close range of the previous day’s red candle. This is because the gap up is forceful to the upside. The bearish kicker is just the opposite where a red candle gaps down so hard, that the open-close range are well below the open-close range of the previous day’s green candle.

Dark Cloud Cover

The dark cloud cover is a bearish reversal signal. It consists of a green and red candle and the red candle must gap up (open higher) above the green candle. What happens is that the bar turns into a red candle and must close at least 50% below the mid-point of the green candle. The dark cloud cover’s reliability is medium.

Piercing

The piercing pattern is the opposite of the dark cloud cover and it is a bullish reversal pattern. This pattern also consists of a green and red candle but the green candle must gap down (open lower) below the red candle. This green candle must close at least 50% above the mid-point of the red candle. The piercing pattern’s reliability is medium.

Shooting Star

The shooting star is a bearish reversal pattern. It consists of a green candle and during the day it was a long candle, but for some reason, there was a sell-off that “shaved down” the long candle by at least 2/3rds (this is flexible and can be less). This means that the candle opened up, reached a high, but closed near its open. The candle is still above the previous day’s candle. The shooting star is an extremely reliable pattern to determine high-probability tops.

Hammer & Hanging Man

Both patterns are reversal patterns. The Hammer occurs at the bottom of a downtrend and a hanging man occurs at the top of an up trend. What happens is that these candles open, sell off during the day but somehow manage to rally back close to their open. The shadow has to be at least 2/3rds larger than the body of the candle. The term “hanging man” is exactly what it is…a man hanging. Both patterns have high reliability.

Morning Star

The morning star is a bullish reversal pattern at the end of a downtrend. This is a three candle formation with the first candle being red, the second neutral, and the third, green. The second candle can be anything, but in most cases, it is a doji. What happens here is that the downtrend is exhausted and there is a lack of sellers pressuring the stock down. The second day, being an indecisive day, becomes “middle ground”. If the bulls win the next day, the green candle completes the morning star pattern. The third candle must close at least 50% above the mid-point of the red candle.

The morning star, and its counterpart, the evening star, are two of the most highly reliable reversal patterns in candlestick charting. From my own experience, the failure rates are extremely low and the morning star and evening star are two of my most sought-after patterns.

Evening Star

 

The evening star is the complete opposite of the morning star and it is a bearish reversal pattern. At the end of an up trend, the stock exhausts itself and may form a doji top, signaling a stalemate between the bulls and bears. This is an indication that the majority of traders have bought the stock if there is no price progress made. The third candle, a red one, indicates panic-driven selling as a result of a lack of buyers. The downtrend usually continues for quite some time. Opposite of the morning star, the third red candle must close at least 50% below the mid-point of the green candle.

 

So now you know the basic and common candlestick patterns that occur. You’ll be ready for the several dozen advanced candlestick patterns that will complete your understanding of the major continuation, reversal, secondary and tertiary signals. I won’t throw everything at you all at once, but they will be divided into separate articles and they will be spaced out. I first want you to learn and get acclimated to these 11 patterns before we move on. The best way to do this is to set aside some time for your trading education and look at several charts and identify some patterns. If you need help, you can always leave me a message on my Wall.

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