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Understanding Pivot Points: The Optimal Buy Point for Breakout Stock Trading

Unlock the secrets of pivot points in breakout stock trading. Learn how to identify and leverage these optimal buy points for maximum profit.

Pivot points are a crucial concept in breakout stock trading. They represent the optimal buy points where demand overwhelms supply, leading to a significant directional move. This blog post will delve into the concept of pivot points, their history, and how to identify and use them effectively in your trading strategy.

What is a Pivot Point?

A pivot point is a specific price level where a decision is made, and a large directional move is anticipated. This often aligns with a prior resistance level. For instance, a stock might have resistance at a certain point, which also aligns with the high of the prior week. The optimal buy point is as it pushes through that specific area on high volume. This can trigger a significant move, as seen in the example of PLTR, which initiated a 200% move in about 18 days.

pltr pivot points example

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The Evolution of Pivot Points: A Historical Perspective

The concept of pivot points has been a part of trading strategies for over a century. One of the earliest concepts was Jesse Livermore, a renowned trader in the early 20th century. Livermore's strategy revolved around what he termed the “pivotal point.” He observed that stocks often exhibited significant price movements when they reached certain critical levels. By identifying these pivotal points, Livermore was able to time his trades to capitalize on these large directional moves. His success in using this strategy underscored the potential of such price levels in trading.

Following in Livermore's footsteps, Nicholas Darvis, a dancer turned trader, developed his own unique approach to trading in the 1950s and 60s. His methodology, known as the Darvis Box theory, also hinged on the concept of key price levels. Darvis observed that stock prices often moved in a series of “boxes.” When a stock broke out of its current box, or price range, it often signaled the start of a significant price move. This breakout point was similar to the pivot point concept, serving as an optimal buy point.

In more recent times, the concept of pivot points has been further refined and popularized by traders like William O'Neil and Mark Minervini. O'Neil, the founder of Investor's Business Daily, developed the CANSLIM trading system, which uses pivot points as a key component. His approach focuses on buying stocks as they break out of price consolidation areas, or pivot points, on high volume.

Mark Minervini, a stock market veteran, and author, also utilizes pivot points in his trading strategy. Minervini emphasizes buying stocks as they emerge from sound base patterns, with the pivot point serving as the trigger for entry. His success in using this strategy has further cemented the importance of pivot points in modern trading.

Identifying Pivot Points

The process of identifying pivot points is a blend of art and science, requiring a keen eye for detail, a solid understanding of market trends, and a thorough analysis of stock charts.

Pivot points are often found within proper basing structures, which are periods where a stock's price moves sideways or slightly downward, forming a pattern that looks like a flat base or a downward sloping trendline on a chart. These basing structures are crucial as they often precede significant price moves.

One key characteristic to look for within these basing structures is price contraction. This refers to a decrease in the stock's price volatility, often illustrated by the stock's price range getting tighter from left to right on the chart. This tightening of the price range is a sign that the stock's supply and demand are reaching a state of equilibrium, and a breakout could be on the horizon.

Another important factor to consider is the volume. As the price range tightens, the volume often decreases significantly. This decrease in volume is a crucial signal as it suggests that selling pressure is diminishing. When the volume decreases as the price gets really tight, it indicates that there are no sellers left to drive the price down. This lack of selling pressure can create a conducive environment for a price breakout.

However, it's important to note that identifying pivot points is not a one-size-fits-all process. Different stocks and market conditions may present different chart patterns and trends. Therefore, traders need to be adaptable and consider various factors when identifying potential pivot points.

Guidelines for Trading Pivot Points

Trading pivot points can be a powerful strategy when done correctly. Here are some expanded guidelines to help you navigate this process effectively:

  • Look for Volatility Contraction Patterns Within a Base: Volatility contraction patterns (VCPs) are a key sign that a stock may be preparing for a significant move. These patterns occur when a stock's price range narrows over time, indicating a decrease in volatility. This contraction often happens within a base, which is a period of consolidation before a stock's price moves. Spotting VCPs can help you identify potential pivot points and anticipate breakouts.
  • Identify Pocket Pivots Within the Base: Pocket pivots are unique volume signatures that can signal the start of a significant price move. They occur when a stock's volume is higher than any volume on a down day in the previous ten days, even if the stock's price doesn't exceed the previous day's high. Pocket pivots within a base can suggest accumulation by institutional investors, making them a valuable indicator of potential pivot points.
  • Time Frame Alignment: Time frame alignment happens when pivot points on different time frames—such as daily, weekly, and monthly charts—trigger at the same price level. This alignment can create a powerful confluence of support or resistance, making the pivot point more significant. When multiple time frames align at a single price level, it can lead to more substantial price moves, offering greater profit potential.
  • Watch for a Volume Decrease with Tight price action Right Before the Pivot Point: As a potential pivot point approaches, watch for a decrease in volume accompanied by tight price action. This combination can indicate that selling pressure is diminishing, setting the stage for a possible price breakout. If the stock's price is consolidating and the volume is low, it suggests that sellers are exhausted, and the stock may be ready to move higher.
  • On the Breakout, Look for a Volume Explosion as the Stock Pushes Through the Level: When a stock breaks out from a pivot point, it's essential to see a surge in volume. This volume explosion can confirm the breakout and indicate strong buying interest. A high-volume breakout can be a powerful sign that the stock has the momentum to continue its upward move.

Putting it all together

Pivot points are a powerful tool for traders, representing price levels where demand overwhelms supply. By analyzing charts and market trends, traders can identify these points and use them to time their entry and exit points. However, like all trading strategies, pivot points are not foolproof, and traders must always be prepared to manage their risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

A pivot point is a specific price level where a decision is made, and a large directional move is anticipated. This often aligns with a prior resistance level. The optimal buy point is as the stock pushes through that specific area on high volume, which can trigger a significant move.

Modern traders like William O’Neil and Mark Minervini have refined and popularized the concept of pivot points. They use pivot points as a key component in their trading strategies, focusing on buying stocks as they break out of price consolidation areas on high volume.

A Volatility Contraction Pattern (VCP) is a key sign that a stock may be preparing for a significant move. These patterns occur when a stock’s price range narrows over time, indicating a decrease in volatility. This contraction often happens within a base, which is a period of consolidation before a stock’s price moves.

A pocket pivot is a unique volume signature that can signal the start of a significant price move. It occurs when a stock’s volume is higher than any volume on a down day in the previous ten days, even if the stock’s price doesn’t exceed the previous day’s high. Pocket pivots within a base can suggest accumulation by institutional investors.

Volume is important in pivot point trading because it can confirm the breakout and indicate strong buying interest. A decrease in volume accompanied by tight price action right before the pivot point can indicate that selling pressure is diminishing, setting the stage for a possible price breakout. On the breakout, a surge in volume can confirm the breakout and indicate strong buying interest.

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