Chart Patterns: Flags and Pennants

By Steve Hill

Founder, WinWayCharts

Stephen Hill is Founder of WinWayCharts. For the past 12 years he has been involved in all aspects of WinWayCharts, from support and sales to programming and education. Steve is a frequent speaker at events in the U.S. and Europe, talking on subjects as diverse as Portfolio Simulation TechniquesAdvanced Chart Pattern Analysis and Trading System Design.

Chart pattern analysis, often thought of as part science part art is a key element in many traders decision process. Common patterns like double tops and bottoms are somewhat self-fulfilling, given that most of us can see these patterns occurring. Measures of what constitutes a double top or bottom in good analytical terms we’ll save for another article. In this this article we are focussing on two of my favorite chart patterns; Flags and Pennants

Flags and Pennants are Consolidation or Continuation Patterns

These patterns break out in the direction of the previous trend, confirming the existing trend, suggesting that investors are considering whether the market is overbought or oversold but ultimately deciding to confirm the existing trend. Flags and pennants are of two types, bullish or bearish

Flags and pennants are generally considered continuation patterns as they breakout in the prevailing trend direction. They represent a brief pause especially after a steep run up in an active ticker. They are a fairly common and useful for short term trading.

Bullish Flags – formation

Lower tops and lower bottoms bounded by two parallel trendlines with pattern slanting against the prevailing trend are considered bull flags (figure 1).

Figure 1Bullish flag pattern

Bearish Flags – formation

Higher tops and higher bottoms bounded by two parallel trendlines with pattern slanting against the prevailing trend are considered bear flags. (figure 2).

Figure 2Bearish flag pattern

Elements of bullish flags

  • A rapid and steep price rise of around 20% from bottom of the pole to top.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the flag.
  • Breakout occurs to the upside with resumption of increase volume levels
  • Flags length excluding the pole classic should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.
Figure 3. Whole Foods Market, Inc (WFMI) bullish flag

Bulkowski noted that the high and tight flag performed best. (source Encyclodpedia of Chart Patterns by Thomas Bulkowski).
Some 25% of the patterns are horizontal notes Markos Katsanos. (source Measuring Flags & Pennants: Technical Analysis of Stocks and Commodities vol 23 no 4) bullish flag breakout on increased volume note the pole length is 20% + of the price action and the diminishing volume on the flag.
Elements of bearish flags

  • A rapid and steep price decline of around 20% from top of the pole to bottom.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the flag.
  • Breakout occurs to the downside with resumption of increase volume levels.
  • Flag length excluding the pole should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.
Figure 4 shows MNST classic bearish flag breakout on increased volume note the pole length is 20% + of the price action and the diminishing volume on the flag.

Bullish Pennants – formation

Pennants look very much like symmetrical triangles, on the end of a pole, typically they are smaller in size and duration (figure 5).

Bearish Pennants – formation

An upside down bullish pennant, the triangle is at the bottom of the pole. (figure 6).

Elements of bullish pennants

  • A rapid and steep price rise of around 20% from bottom of the pole to top.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the pennant.
  • Pennants look like symmetrical triangles on a pole, price action is converging.
  • Diminishing volume as pennant forms.
  • Breakout to the upside with re- sumption of volume levels.
  • Pennant length excluding the pole should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.Figure 7 shows CDW classic bullish pennant breakout on increased volume
Figure 7CDW Computer Centers (CDW) bullish pennant

Elements of bearish pennants

  • A rapid and steep price drop of around 20% from top of the pole to bottom.
  • Decreasing volume during the formation of the pennant.
  • Pennants look like symmetrical triangles on a pole, price action is converging.
  • Diminishing volume as pennant forms.
  • Breakout to the downside with resumption of volume levels.
  • Pennant length excluding the pole should be around 10 days, can be less but not more than 20 days.

How do you trade flags and pennants?

Katsanos study of Flags and pennants revealed that the average breakout was 45% over an average period of 11 days. Bulkowski noted a 63% average gain. to trade these breakouts, set tight stops at low of day before breakout and use trailing stops once breakout occurs.

Target prices are more difficult to predict as these are continuation patterns, but after 11 days you are beyond the average move in days.

AIQ tip

Once a breakout occurs, use AIQ space on right of the chart (rtalerts only) and advance 11 days into the future. Draw a trendline parallel to the pole trend from the breakout point.

Our market AI down signal 4/18/19

WinWay Charts AI issued a market down signal of 99 on April 18, 2019. Price Phase, our custom indicator that we use to confirm ratings turned down 4 days after the rating. Usually we like to see this indicator turn down closer to the rating, but the AI Expert system is often a little early.

 

The two significant rules rules that fired on this 99 down are below

“Intraday high prices of the market have increased to a 21 day high. Never the less, the advance/decline oscillator is negative. This unusual event is read as a very strong bearish signal that is often followed by an downward price movement. “

“Intraday high prices of the market have increased to a 21 day high. But the up/down volume oscillator if negative. In this uptrending market, this is taken as a very strong bearish signal that is often followed by downward price movements. “

The prior AI rating on the market was a 100 up on March 11, 2019 the market moved up over 850 points to the April down signal. Here are the AI rules that fired for this rating

“The market closing average has exceeded the 21 day exponentially smoothed average price. At the same time, accumulation is increasing in a strong down market. This is taken as a bullish signal that could be followed by a reverse in trend direction. “
“The Money Flow Indicator has reversed and is now advancing. In this downtrending market, this is taken as a weak bullish signal that could indicate an upward movement in the market averages. “
“Analysis of the rate of change of the exponentially smoothed average price suggests that in this strongly downtrending market an uptrend is starting to form. This is taken as a strong bullish signal that is usually followed by an upward movement in prices. “
“The new high/new low indicator has reversed to the upside. This is a reliable bullish signal that is often followed by an upward movement in prices. In this strong downtrending market a reverse in trend could start shortly. “

Ultimately any AI down signal is a note of caution in this market.

Trend-Following in One Minute a Month (A Quick Update)

This article is intended to be a quick update to this article.  The original idea is based on the theory propounded by Ken Fischer that suggests that one should not worry about a “top” in the stock market until after the market goes at least 3 months without making a new high.

Three things to note:

*Like all trend-following methods the one detailed in the linked article will experience an occasional whipsaw, i.e., a sell signal at one price followed some time later by a new buy signal with the market at a higher price.

*Like any good trend-following method the real purpose is to help you avoid some significant portion of any major longer-term bear market, i.e., 1973-74, 2000-2002, 2007-2009).

*The secondary purpose is to relieve an investor of that constant “Is this the top, wait, what about this this, this looks like the top, OK never mind, but this, this time it definitely has to be the top” syndrome.

The Rules

For a full explanation of the rules please read the linked article.  In general, though:

*A “Sell alert” occurs when the market makes a 6-month high, then goes 3 full calendar months without piercing that high

*The “trigger” price is the lowest low for the 3 months following the previous high

*A “Sell signal” occurs at the end of the month IF the “trigger” price is pierced to the downside during the current month

*The “trigger” is no longer valid if the S&P 500 makes a high above the high for the previous 6 months prior to an actual “Sell signal”

*If a “Sell signal” occurs then a new “Buy signal” occurs when the S&P 500 makes a high above the high for the previous 6 months

Sounds complicated, but its’s not.  Figure 1 displays the signals and alerts and trigger prices since 2005.

Green Arrows = Buy Signal

Red Arrows = Sell Signal

Red horizontal lines = Sell trigger price

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Figure 1 – One Minute a Month Trend-Following Alerts, Trigger prices and Signals (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

Note that actual sell signals occurred in 2008, 2011 and 2015.  The signal in 2008 was a life-saver, while the signals in 2011 and 2015 resulted in small whipsaws.  Sorry folks, that’s just the nature of the beast.

Interestingly, there have been two “Sell alerts” in the last year.  The first occurred at the end of April 2018, however, that alert was invalidated at the end of August 2018 when the S&P 500 pierced the previous 6-month high.  Another alert occurred at the end of December 2018.  The “Trigger price” is the December 2018 low of 2346.58.  That trigger is still active but could be invalidated if the month of May 2019 makes a high above whatever the high for April 2019 turns out to be.

The key point here is that despite the volatility and painful sell-offs in October and December of 2018, the “system” has remained on a buy signal.

Where to from here?  We’ll just have to wait and see.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.

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Utilities at the Crossroads

A lot of eyes are firmly fixed on Utilities at the moment.  And for good reason.  As you can see in Figure 1, the Dow Jones Utilities Average is presently facing a key resistance level.  If it breaks out above the likelihood of a good seasonal rally (more in a moment) increases significantly.

 

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Figure 1 – Utilities and resistance (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

One concern may be the fact that a 5-wave Elliott Wave advance appears to possibly have about run its course (according to the algorithmically drawn wave count from ProfitSource by HUBB which I use).  See Figure 2.

 

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Figure 2 – Utilities and Elliott Wave (Courtesy ProfitSource by HUBB)

For what it is worth, the March through July timeframe is “typically” favorable for utilities.  Figure 3 displays the growth of $1,000 invested in the Fidelity Select Sector Utilities fund (ticker FSUTX) ONLY during the months of March through July each year starting in 1982.

 

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Figure 3 – Growth of $1,000 invested in ticker FSUTX Mar-Jul every year (1982-2018)

For the record:

*# times UP = 29 (78%)

*# times DOWN = 8 (22%)

*Average UP = +9.3%

*Average DOWN = (-5.8%)

*Largest UP = +21.1% (1989)

*Largest DOWN = (-25.8%) (2002)

*Solid performance but obviously by no means nowhere close to “a sure thing”.

*It should be noted that several of the “Down” years occurred when the S&P 500 was already in a pretty clearly established downtrend (2001, 2002 and 2008), i.e., below its 10-month moving average.  See Figure 4.

 

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Figure 4 – S&P 500 Index w/10-month moving average (Courtesy WinWayCharts TradingExpert)

Summary

Utilities are flirting with new all-time highs and March through July is a “seasonally bullish” period for utilities.  Does that mean “happy days are here again, and we should all be piling into utilities?  Yeah, isn’t that always the thing about the markets?  There is rarely a 100% clear indication for anything.

As always, my “prediction” about what will happen next in utilities is irrelevant and I am NOT pounding the table urging you to pile in.  But I can tell you what I am watching closely at the moment:

*The S&P 500 Index is flirting right around its 10-month moving average (roughly 2,752 on the S&P 500 Index).  If it starts to break down from there then perhaps 2019 may not pan out so well for utilities.

*The Dow Jones Utility Average is facing a serious test of resistance and may run out of steam (according to Elliott Wave).

*But a breakout to the upside could well clear the decks for utilities to be a market leader for the next several months

Focus people, focus.

Jay Kaeppel

Disclaimer:  The data presented herein were obtained from various third-party sources.  While I believe the data to be reliable, no representation is made as to, and no responsibility, warranty or liability is accepted for the accuracy or completeness of such information.  The information, opinions and ideas expressed herein are for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute and should not be construed as investment advice, an advertisement or offering of investment advisory services, or an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy any security.