How to Read Stock Charts (Beginners Guide)

Are you looking to gain an edge in your stock market trading? Learning to read stock charts can hel

Updated: May 21, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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Are you looking to gain an edge in your stock market trading? Learning to read stock charts can help you quickly and easily make better decisions in the stock market. Reading stock charts is a powerful tool that can help you to identify trends and predict the movement of stock prices.

In this article, we will guide you through the basics of reading stock charts and explain some of the most critical technical analysis concepts. With a little bit of practice and some patience, you'll soon be on your way to mastering the art of reading stock charts!

Breaking Down the Basics of Stock Charts Analysis

What Are Stock Charts?

If you're new to the world of investing, you may wonder what a stock chart is and why they're important. While stock charts may look complicated at first glance, they're quite simple and can give you invaluable insight into the stock market.

A stock chart is a graphical representation of a company's stock price over a specific period of time.

This can range from a single day up to several years. By looking at the chart, you can quickly determine how a stock's price has been performing in relation to the overall stock market or even just to the particular market sector it's in.

Each type of chart has its own unique characteristics, but they all provide a visual representation of the seller's stock price over time. By studying the chart, you can determine whether the price is trending up or down and whether it's showing any patterns or unusual activity.

The best way to learn how to read stock charts is to practice. Start by finding a chart for a stock in which you're interested and take some time to study it. With some practice, you'll be able to quickly identify trends and other vital signals in a stock chart.

What Information Do Stock Charts Show?

Stock charts are an invaluable tool for all investors, providing a visual look at a stock's performance and price movements. Charts can give investors the confidence they need to make informed decisions as long as they understand exactly what the charts tell them.

On a basic level, stock charts display a stock's price movements over a given period, typically ranging from minutes to months or even years. Typically, four lines represent the data: the opening price, the closing price, and the high and low of the session.

Knowing this information alone can help investors identify the trend of a stock and make educated decisions about the stock’s future performance.

Advanced stock charts have additional pieces of data that provide more detailed information. This can include:

  • Volume. The amount of stock traded during the session.
  • Support and Resistance. The lowest and highest prices that the stock has ever reached.
  • Moving Averages. The average price of the stock from a specific period.
  • Technical Indicators. Different tools to measure momentum and volatility.

Stock charts help investors make sense of their investments and make decisions that could help them maximise their returns. While it may seem intimidating at first, understanding the basics of stock charts can help an investor become a more successful trader.

So, if you’re a beginner investor, don't be afraid to pour over a chart and study its components — the more you know, the better equipped you'll be to make informed decisions and maximise your returns.

Knowing the Different Types of Stock Charts

While there are many different chart types, understanding the main four stock charts can help you identify trends and gain an edge over the competition.

Line Charts

Line charts are the simplest chart type, measuring the stock’s price movements over time. They provide a snapshot of price action in the past, which can help investors identify trends and possible buying opportunities.

Bar Charts

Bar charts are similar to line charts but provide more information. The bars represent the stock's open, high, low and close prices for a given period. The width of the bars can also be adjusted to suit the investor's desired time frame, providing investors with a more detailed view of the stock's movement over time.

Candlestick Charts

Candlestick charts are the most popular stock chart type, providing investors an easy way to visualise the stock's price movement. The candlestick body shows the change between the open and close price. In contrast, the wick illustrates the highest and lowest prices traded during the period. Candlestick charts are often used to identify support and resistance levels.

Point and Figure Chart

Point and figure charts are seldom used, but they can still help identify long-term trends. These charts map out the changes in the price of the stock but ignore the time component. They plot patterns such as triangles, channels, support, and resistance levels.

No matter which type of stock chart you use, understanding the essential features can help you make better investment decisions. Take the time to learn the different stock charts, and you'll be ready to take on the markets.

Understanding Stock Price Movements

What Causes Price Movements?

At the most basic level, stock prices are driven by supply and demand. The price will often rise when more people want to buy a stock. Conversely, the price may drop when fewer people are interested in purchasing the stock. This basic understanding of a stock price movement is key to understanding the stock market.

In addition to supply and demand, macroeconomic factors such as economic growth, inflation and interest rates can influence stock prices. When economic conditions are favourable, investors may be more willing to buy stocks, causing prices to increase. Similarly, when economic conditions are weak, investors may be more cautious, and prices may decline.

Another factor that can influence stock prices is market sentiment.

If investors are optimistic about a given stock, the price may increase. Alternatively, if investors are pessimistic, the price may drop. Market sentiment can be influenced by company news, economic data releases, and even political and social events.

Finally, the actions of large investors, such as mutual funds and hedge funds, can have an impact on stock prices. When these investors buy or sell large amounts of a given stock, it can cause the price to move significantly. Therefore, paying attention to these large investors and their transactions is important.

Recognising Price Patterns

The first step to recognising price patterns is becoming familiar with the chart itself. Stock charts feature various information, including the stock's symbol, the timespan the chart covers, the opening and closing prices of the stock, and the high and low prices for the day.

Once you understand the basics of the chart, you can begin to look for trends. Let's take a look at some of the more common trends to look for in a stock chart:

Head and Shoulders. This pattern is characterised by a peak followed by two smaller valleys (or troughs), with a more prominent peak in the middle. It typically indicates that the stock is approaching a trough and could be a good time to buy.

Cup and Handle. This is a U-shaped pattern that indicates a potential breakout point. It is formed by a cup of consolidation followed by a handle that signals a breakout. Ideally, the stock price should break out above the handle and signal an increase in price.

Double Bottom. This pattern is formed when the stock price falls to the same price level twice before bouncing back up. This could indicate a potential turnaround in the stock's price, as it demonstrates the strength in the stock's support level.

While these are among some of the simpler chart analysis trends, it's paramount for beginners to receive a glimpse into how the market reacts to fundamental chart patterns.

How to Access Stock Charts

First, you need to find a reliable stock chart provider. Many investors use leading providers such as Yahoo! Finance, Google Finance and Bloomberg. However, these providers may not provide you with the right stock charts for your individual needs.

To do that, you will need an account with an online broker. These sites provide access to various charts and data, allowing you to find the best charts to monitor your investments.

Once you have chosen a broker, you can select a chart type. There are various types of stock charts that can be useful depending on your particular needs.

These include candlesticks, bar and line charts, and more complex charts if you need them.

You can also use tools such as indicators and overlays to better visualise trends and performance levels and customise the chart to your liking with options such as moving averages and Bollinger Bands.

Finally, you will need to set up the parameters for your chart. This includes setting the time frame, which can range from a few minutes up to a year or more. You will also need to specify what chart you want to view, such as a daily or weekly view.

Analysing Stock Charts

Identifying Support and Resistance Levels

Support and resistance levels are essential when trading stocks and other financial instruments. Identifying and understanding how to use these levels can help traders refine their strategies and potentially increase profits.

Support levels

These are areas on the chart where the price of an asset has historically found support. In other words, it's where demand is thought to be robust enough to prevent the price from falling further.

It is also referred to as a “floor” as it appears to be the lowest price an asset has reached before bouncing back up. When an asset’s price is approaching a support level, traders may decide to buy as there is a good chance the price will rebound.

Resistance levels

These are the opposite of support levels. It is an area on a chart that has historically found resistance. It is the point of the range where the sell bids are thought to be dominant enough to prevent an increase in price.

It's often called a “top” or “ceiling” as it's the highest price reached before dropping back down the range. When a resistance level is being approached, traders may decide to sell as past performance will tell us the price will fall.

Now that we understand the basic principles let's look at how to identify support and resistance levels. The easiest way is to look at historical price charts and identify these levels. Look for areas on the chart where the price has bounced multiple times. These are typically the areas where traders will watch for support and resistance.

Assessing Volatility

Volatility is a crucial concept in the stock market and one of the most important metrics for beginner investors to understand. Whether an investor is trading stocks or simply evaluating a financial position, they must assess the level of volatility. Fortunately, this assessment process is relatively straightforward with the right tools and knowledge.

The first step to understanding volatility is to understand what it is. In essence, volatility measures how much a stock's price fluctuates. It is calculated by taking the average daily change — both up and down — of a stock's price over a given period of time.

The next step is to read stock charts to better understand the stock's volatility. As a general rule of thumb, stocks with higher average daily volume tend to be more volatile.

Stocks with lower trading volumes tend to be less volatile.

Investors can also use various technical indicators to assess volatility. Bollinger Bands are a frequently used indicator, which consist of three lines that measure a stock's highest and lowest volatility. When the lines come close together, it indicates low volatility, and when the lines are spread out, it shows higher volatility.

Finally, investors can use implied volatility to assess a stock's potential risk. Implied volatility estimates the future volatility of a stock and is calculated by looking at the stock's options pricing. If the implied volatility exceeds the realised volatility, it might indicate that the stock is at risk of a short-term price drop.

By following these steps, investors can get a better sense of the level of volatility for a stock. This insight can help them make informed decisions about their investments and help them understand the risks and rewards associated with a particular stock.

The Process of Price Targeting

Price targeting is a stock market strategy that attempts to predict a stock's price trajectory. This information is usually obtained through technical analysis, which involves looking at various stock chart patterns and indicators. Combined, these patterns and indicators can give investors an idea of what price the stock will most likely reach in the future.

The first step in applying price targeting to stock charts is identifying a specific trend. This could be an uptrend, downtrend, or sideways movement. Once the trend is identified, investors can begin to use technical analysis to determine what price the stock could hit.

This involves analysing support and resistance levels, chart patterns, and various indicators.

When analysing the charts, investors should be aware of what is known as the “trend line”. This is simply a line that connects two or more points on the chart and can be either a support line or a resistance line. The idea is that the stock will eventually try to move towards either of these points, giving investors a picture of the price the stock could reach in the future.

Making Trading Decisions with Chart Reading

How to Determine Entry Points

First, let's start with what an entry point is. An entry point is the current stock price when you purchase a security, such as a stock, ETF, or mutual fund. Entry points are important because they provide an indication of when you should buy or sell shares of a security.

Now that you know what an entry point is, let's look at some factors to consider when looking at entry points on stock charts.

1. Trendlines

Trendlines are lines that are drawn connecting at least two or more points on a stock chart. Trendlines show you the direction of the security's movement. Typically, if a security is trending up, you want to look for entry points when the stock price is below the trendline. This will give you a better price point for entry.

2. Volume

Volume is the total amount of shares that are traded daily. When the volume is high, it indicates that the security is in demand. In this case, you should look for entry points when the stock price is below the average volume.

3. Support and Resistance

As covered earlier, support and resistance are levels at which a stock tends to bounce back and forth. When a security is at a support level, it generally means it's a good time to buy unless it's looking like a weak support level. When it is at a resistance level, it is often an excellent time to sell.

4. Price Action

Price action is a representation of a stock's price movement over time. You want to pay close attention to any significant breaks in the price action, as this could indicate that the stock is about to move in a particular direction. Look for entry points that take advantage of these breaks.

Choosing an Appropriate Stop-Loss Level

One of the most critical decisions a stock trader can make is deciding what stop-loss level to use for trading. A stop-loss is a predetermined level at which the trader exits a stock, thereby limiting the downside risk. Choosing the appropriate stop-loss level is an important skill for traders to develop, as it can help protect their profits and prevent losses.

Before choosing a stop-loss, it's essential to determine the entry point of the trade.

The entry point will be used to decide the stop-loss level. Generally, the entry point should be lower than the desired price at which the trader would like to exit the trade.

A simple way to identify the entry point is to use a trend line. If a trader buys a stock and the trend line starts to go downward, it is likely time to exit the trade or set a stop-loss level at or near the downward trend line.

Aside from using a trend line to determine the entry point, a trader can also use technical analysis tools like support and resistance levels. Traders generally set the stop-loss level at or near the support and resistance levels to limit their exposure to losses while also giving them a chance to take profits.

Once the trader has identified their entry point, they can determine an appropriate stop-loss level. A general rule of thumb is to set the stop-loss level no more than 5% below the entry point, although this entirely depends on your risk management strategy and how much you are willing to lose.

Setting an Appropriate Profit Target

When it comes to the stock market, profit targets are paramount. If your profit target is too low, you will not make the returns you expect, whereas if it is too high, you may get careless and overtrade. With that in mind, knowing how to properly set a profit target when reading stock charts is vital.

A good starting point is determining the kind of stock you want. If you are buying an aggressive growth stock, you should set a higher target as these stocks are susceptible to higher volatility and greater potential gains.

On the other hand, if you buy more conservative stocks that usually have slower, more consistent, and more steady returns, you should set a lower target. This will help you limit your downside risk by limiting the potential losses if the stock does not perform as expected.

Once you have determined the kind of stock you will buy, the next step is to assess your risk profile. Are you a more conservative investor looking for steady returns, or are you a more aggressive investor looking for higher gains? When setting your profit target, it is crucial to consider your risk profile and ensure that your return expectations are realistic.

If you are just getting started in reading stock charts and exploring the stock market, remember that risk management should be your priority. With the right mix of information and analytical skills, you can become an astute investor and achieve success. Happy investing!

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