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Thomas Bulkowski’s successful investment activities allowed him to retire at age 36. He is an internationally known author and trader with 30+ years of stock market experience and widely regarded as a leading expert on chart patterns. He may be reached at

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Bulkowski's Candle Shadows

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This study answers the question of whether or not a tall shadow suggests the stock will turn. The answer is yes, but not in the way you expect. I found that candles with tall lower shadows experience price declines over the coming month. Those candles with short lower shadows saw price rise during the next month. Candles with short or tall upper shadows did not see any difference: price climbed regardless. If there is one thing you take away from this study it is that short lower shadows strongly suggest that price will rise.

 

Candle Shadows: Background

Candle wick or shadow If you do much candle prospecting in the library, you will find references to shadows and wicks in finance books. Those are the same thing, of course. The accompanying chart shows two candles, one white and one black, but both have the shadows drawn in red. The theory says that tall shadows mean price is going to turn in the direction opposite the spike. In other words, a tall upper shadow suggests a downturn is coming while a tall lower shadow means the stock is going to rise. I decided to test that theory.

A tall upper shadow forms when price moves up during the day but the bears knock it back down. Such abundant selling pressure suggests that the environment has turned bearish.

A tall lower shadow signifies enthusiastic buying demand. After the bears force price down, buying pushes it back up, leaving a long line on the chart. Again, the theory says that this is bullish because the bears could not hold price down in the face of such buying.

Candle Shadows: Methodology

I tested various stock durations, 2 years, 5 years, and all data (about 15 years). The most consistent results came from 5 years ending February 15, 2008. I used 547 stocks in the test but not all stocks had the full 5 years of data, so the average was 4.8 years.

For each stock, I calculated the average height of the upper and lower shadows (separately). Then I compared the average upper/lower shadow height to each candle's upper and lower shadows, respectively. Candles with wicks taller than two times the average shadow height were classified as tall. Those with wicks shorter than one half the average height were short shadows. I measured both, with the short shadows as the "control" group as a way to determine whether tall ones worked as expected.

In a separate test, I also used the average height instead of twice that, to determine short or tall. The results were similar to those reported here (as were the results from 2 years and 15 years worth of data).

Once I determined whether a shadow was short, tall, or in between, I measured the close-to-close change from the candle to each day into the future for ten trading days (two weeks), then after three weeks, and a month. I averaged the price change for those 12 periods, for each stock. By that I mean I averaged the results for all stocks for day one, then created a separate average for day 2 for all stocks, and so on to a month later.

The idea behind this approach is that if a tall shadow predicts a decline in price, you would see that over time while candles with short shadows would show price continuing to trend upward.

Once I had the data into a spreadsheet, I used a frequency distribution to count how often price climbed or fell over the 12 periods. I also used a sum of the price changes for the 12 periods to confirm the results, which they did.

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Candle Shadows: Results

The following table of results is discussed in detail below. Each row represents a count of how many candles closed higher ("Rising") or lower ("Falling") over time. Day+1 means the day after the candle with the tall/short shadow; 4 wks means a month after the main candle.

Day +1

Day +2

Day +3

Day +4

1 wk

Day +6

Day +7

Day +8

Day +9

2 wks

3 wks

4 wks

Tall Upper Shadow

Rising

360

333

300

308

322

319

309

315

303

294

278

286

Falling

181

211

245

236

222

227

238

229

244

253

269

261

 

Short Upper Shadow

Rising

281

344

385

399

404

414

423

423

440

442

462

470

Falling

258

196

157

144

138

132

124

122

106

102

85

76

 

Tall Lower Shadow

Rising

158

109

140

145

159

152

166

168

178

177

190

213

Falling

381

436

405

402

386

393

377

379

366

370

357

333

 

Short Lower Shadow

Rising

483

509

500

500

498

500

496

494

493

495

495

491

Falling

61

37

45

46

48

47

51

52

53

52

51

55

Tall Upper Shadows

For candles with long upper shadows (more than twice the average height), price climbed. This is counter to candle theory which says price should drop after a candle with a tall upper shadow.

For example, I found that a day after a tall upper shadow (Day+1 in the above table), 360 candles closed higher and 181 lower, a ratio of about 2 to 1. At the end of a week, the numbers were 322/222. In all 12 periods, more candles closed higher than lower but toward the end, the difference narrowed: at 1 month, 286 closed higher ("Rising") and 261 closed lower ("Falling").

Short Upper Shadows

How did the control group do, those shadows that were less than half the average height? Price also climbed in each of the 12 periods. The difference started out narrow and widened over time. For example, the next day saw 281 candles close higher and 258 lower. A month later, the numbers were 470/76, a ratio of over 6 to 1.

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Tall Lower Shadows

When the lower shadow was tall (more than twice the average height), price closed lower over time. Again, candle theory says that tall lower shadows should show a price rise, not a decline. The ratios started at 158/381, or over 1 to 2 and ended narrower, at 213 to 333.

Short Lower Shadows

The control group for lower shadows saw price rise and the ratios were huge. A day after a candle with a short lower shadow saw price closed higher 483 times and closed lower just 61 times. A month later, the difference remained the same: 491 to 55. Of the four variations of upper and lower shadows, short lower shadows show the most promise. In other words, if price has a short lower shadow, it strongly suggests price is going to rise.

Candle Shadows: Further Study

This study should be reworked to test the various combinations of tall/short upper and low shadows in combination. For example, if the upper and lower shadows are short, what does that mean? If both are long, what are the implications?

With the test as presented, a candle can have tall upper and lower shadows, but the test only looks at one wick and not both. It also ignores the height of the surrounding candle shadows. Thus, the study is flawed.

-- Thomas Bulkowski

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Written by and copyright © 2005-2017 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Q: Why does a man buy a $500 car? A: To put a $4,000 stereo in it.