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How to Spot and Time Stock Market Tops: A Primer for Daredevils


Trying to pick a market top is risky business, so you better be sure the charts and odds are leaning in your favor before starting to build a position.


Stocks Trading Above 150-Day Moving Average

This chart, because it's based on a very long term moving average (150 simple moving average) is a slow mover and does not work well for timing trades. However it does clearly warn you when stocks are getting a little overpriced and sellers could start at any time.

The general rule is not to invest money on the long side when this chart is above the 75% level. Instead, wait for a pullback below it.

Stocks Trading Above 20-Day Moving Average

This chart is based on the 20-day moving average, which moves quickly. Because it reacts quickly to recent price action, it can be a great help in timing an entry point for a market top or bottom. It does not pinpoint the day/top, but it does give you a one- or two-week window for when price should start to correct.


As we all know (or will soon find out), trading is one of the toughest businesses or hobbies one could attempt master. Hence the 95-99% failure rate of individuals who try to understand position management, how the market functions, how to control their own emotions, and how to create/follow a winning strategy.

With exchange traded funds, options, bonds, commodities, futures, forex, currencies, and over 8,000 publicly traded companies, to pick from this is to easily get overwhelmed and just start doing more or less random trades without a proven, documented, rule-based strategy. This type of trading results in frustration, money loss, and the eventual closure of a trading account. During this process most individuals will also lose friends, family, and in many cases, self-confidence.

So the next time you think about betting against the trend to pick a top or a bottom, you better make darn sure you have waited well beyond the first day you feel like the market is topping out. Stocks trading over the 150- and 20-day moving averages should be in the upper reversal zones and money should be flowing out of bonds and other safe haven/defensive stocks to fuel the last rally/surge higher in the broad market.

Additionally, I would like to note that I do follow the index futures and volume very closely on both the intraday and daily charts. This is where the big money does a lot of trading. Knowing when futures contracts are being sold or bought with heavy volume is very important for timing tops and bottoms more accurately. And trading experience plays a large part in your success in trading tops and bottoms.

Editor's Note: Chris Vermeulen offers more content at his sites, and Traders Video Playbook.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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