The [REAL] Head and Shoulders Pattern In 7 Steps

How to Recognize a Real Head & Shoulders Pattern?

The importance of the Head and Shoulders pattern should not be under-estimated.

One of the most reliable patterns in technical analysis yet one of the most misunderstood.

Every amateur pundit believes they know what it means and think they understand it, but they do not.

Here we discuss the famous Head and Shoulders price pattern it has some unique characteristics.  However, you do need to know what you are looking for.

What does the Head & Shoulder Pattern Look Like?

  1. The price movement has two shoulders.
  2. it has a high point, the head, in between the shoulders.
  3. the volume should confirm the pattern (explained below).
The importance of the Head and Shoulders pattern
A Perfect Head & Shoulders Example

TeleChart2000 chart courtesy of Worden Brothers, Inc.

For a True Head & Shoulder Formation, You Need to Confirm the Following 7 Steps.

In the chart:

  • Step 1 – this is the left shoulder, it has to be formed on increasing volume, this means you have heavy bullish buying into the stock price move.
  • Step 2 – this is the head.  The head is formed but on decreasing volume.  This is important because is the head of the head and shoulders was formed on increasing volume it would simply be a rally continuation.
  • Step 3 – this is the right shoulder. The right shoulder represents a failed rally initially on increasing volume.  This means the stock is trying to rally but fails, dispite the increased volume.  then the stock price starts to slide downwards.
  • Step 4 – this is the neckline, using a trend-line connect the low from both sides of the head through the outer price lines.  There you see the distinct pattern above the neckline.
  • Step 5 – the left shoulder was formed on increasing volume. This is to be expected.
  • Step 6 – in the forming of the head, we see a significant decrease in volume.
  • Step 7 – in the right shoulder, we see also decreasing volume.

How to understand the Head & Shoulders Pattern

What does this all mean, well it is a representation of supply and demand.  In the left shoulder, we see a surge upwards on increased trading volume, which indicated a bullish bias, meaning more buyers and fewer seller at this price.

At the head, we see another surge upwards on decreased volume, this means there are fewer market participants interested in selling the stock, but more interested in buying it at this price.

As the price declines, it is time for a new rally, however, there are now more sellers than buyers the seller sell, and the because there are fewer buyers the seller sell at a cheaper price.  So, less volume and lower price.

This indicates that the market, for now, has seen the high and we should expect a trend reversal from uptrend to downtrend.

All of the above conditions of the Head & Shoulders pattern here are consistent with textbook descriptions. See the classic book Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets by John J Murphy as a reference.

The Head and Shoulders pattern is said to be confirmed on a break of the neckline, this is about to occur in the chart above.

Therefore once the neckline is broken the price declines.

How Far Will the Price Fall – Measure the Distance

In technical analysis, the theory is, if you want to understand how far the price will fall after the stock price reversal is confirmed by the break of the neckline, then you need to measure the distance.  The length of the neckline should be roughly proportional to the amount of the drop.

For me this theory is dubious.  It completely depends on the price scale you are using.

Inverse Head & Shoulders Pattern

You can exactly use this methodology to define the inverse Head and Shoulders Pattern which helps to predict a stock price bottom rather than a top. This reversal formation means you should see a price decrease on lower volume (left shoulder).

Followed by a price decrease on lower volume (head). Then finally after a short drop in price a bottom at higher volume, suggesting the downturn is over, the seller have all sold and there are only buyers left in the market to drive up prices.

Summary.

Use these 7 steps to confirm a head and shoulders top and a head and shoulder bottom – it is the key reversal pattern.  Becuase if it is a real market turning point and the market is going to head downwards, you will want to protect your assets from the crash.

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