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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 Breakout Day Trading Setup (short)

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As of 04/20/2018
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691 -5.96 -0.9%
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2,750 or 2,600 by 05/01/2018

Written by and copyright © 2005-2018 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information.

My book, Swing and Day TradingSwing and Day Trading: Evolution of a Trader book., discusses other trading setups and offers trading tips. The book is the last in the "Evolution of a Trader" trilogy.

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This trading setup uses the 1- or 5-minute chart to take advantage of price staging a breakout from a congestion area. You short the stock on the breakout and then use a tight stop as price descends.

Breakout Day Trading Setup Background

The idea behind this trade is to find a horizontal region of price movement and wait for price to breakout from this region. You can use this setup on any time scale but you can narrow your potential loss if you use a short time period to exit, like the 1-minute scale.

Breakout Day Trading Setup Methodology

The ideal breakout setup

The figure shows an idealized breakout trade. Price moves horizontally from candle C to D and then pierces the bottom of the region at candle A.

To help locate these horizontal price movements, you may find that the 5-minute scale works better than the 1-minute scale. Look for price that moves horizontally, perhaps oscillating just below or just above a round number like 10, 15, 20, or other support or resistance zone. Determine how close underlying support is, so you can judge where price is likely to turn after it breaks out of the current trading range. In other words, look for a target price.

In this example, the breakout occurs at candle A, and price makes a strong move down. This straight-line downtrend does not occur every time, so your situation will vary. As price drops move your stop lower using the high price of the prior candle (a penny or two above the top of the candle wick. Do not place a stop at the high of the candle because that will stop you out when price makes a tweezers top). Lower the stop as each new candle appears. For choppy price movements, perhaps a stop above the higher of the two prior candles would work better. Try to give price room to move lower without you being stopped out. Another exit method is to use a 10 period exponential moving average. It tends to hug the price trend as the stock drops. When price pierces the EMA moving up, then close out your position.

Using a stop a penny above the prior candle high takes us out at candle E, as the figure shows.

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Breakout Day Trading Setup Checklist

  • Begin with the 5-minute chart to identify a horizontal consolidation region
  • Short the stock when price moves below the bottom (by 1 to 5 cents) of the consolidation region
  • When the order fills, place a stop a penny or two above the prior candle's high
  • If the stock is volatile, then place the stop using the higher of the prior two candle's wicks (a penny or two above the high). Alternatively, you can use a 10-period exponential moving average. When price crosses the EMA, close out the trade
  • Lower the stop as each new candle appears
  • Eventually, price will hit the stop and take you out

Breakout Day Trading Setup Example

An example of the breakout setup

The chart shows an example of a breakout from a consolidation region using the 5-minute chart. Price goes horizontal beginning at candle A and moving to B. Candle C drops below the bottom of the range so you would short the stock. That would get you into the trade at 119.75.

If you followed price down using a penny above the high of the prior candle as the stop price, then you would have been stopped out at candle D. Candle E tops out at 119 so a stop at 119.01 would have filled. You would have made 74 cents a share. If you used a 10-period EMA, you would have been stopped out at 15:25 at a price of about 119.10

-- Thomas Bulkowski

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Written by and copyright © 2005-2018 by Thomas N. Bulkowski. All rights reserved. Disclaimer: You alone are responsible for your investment decisions. See Privacy/Disclaimer for more information. Jesus loves you, but I'm his favorite.