Fibonacci, Reading The Retracements

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Strategies for Trading Fibonacci Retracements

Leonardo Pisano, nicknamed Fibonacci, was an Italian mathematician born in Pisa in the year 1170. His father Guglielmo Bonaccio worked at a trading post in Bugia, now called Béjaïa, a Mediterranean port in northeastern Algeria. As a young man, Fibonacci studied mathematics in Bugia, and during his extensive travels, he learned about the advantages of the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. 

In 1202, after returning to Italy, Fibonacci documented what he had learned in the “Liber Abaci” (“Book of Abacus). In the “Liber Abaci,” Fibonacci described the numerical series that is now named after him. In the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, after 0 and 1, each number is the sum of the two prior numbers. Hence, the sequence is as follows: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610 and so on, extending to infinity. Each number is approximately 1.618 times greater than the preceding number. 

Key Takeaways

  • In the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, after 0 and 1, each number is the sum of the two prior numbers.
  • In the context of trading, the numbers used in Fibonacci retracements are not numbers in Fibonacci’s sequence; instead, they are derived from mathematical relationships between numbers in the sequence.
  • Fibonacci retracement levels are depicted by taking high and low points on a chart and marking the key Fibonacci ratios horizontally to produce a grid; these horizontal lines are used to identify possible price reversal points.

This value–1.618–is called Phi or the Golden Ratio. The inverse of 1.618 is 0.618. The Golden Ratio mysteriously appears frequently in the natural world, architecture, fine art, and biology. For example, the ratio has been observed in the Parthenon, in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting the Mona Lisa, sunflowers, rose petals, mollusk shells, tree branches, human faces, ancient Greek vases, and even the spiral galaxies of outer space.

Fibonacci Levels Used in the Financial Markets

In the context of trading, the numbers used in Fibonacci retracements are not numbers in Fibonacci’s sequence; instead, they are derived from mathematical relationships between numbers in the sequence. The basis of the “golden” Fibonacci ratio of 61.8% comes from dividing a number in the Fibonacci series by the number that follows it.

For example, 89/144 = 0.6180. The 38.2% ratio is derived from dividing a number in the Fibonacci series by the number two places to the right. For example: 89/233 = 0.3819. The 23.6% ratio is derived from dividing a number in the Fibonacci series by the number three places to the right. For example: 89/377 = 0.2360.

Fibonacci retracement levels are depicted by taking high and low points on a chart and marking the key Fibonacci ratios of 23.6%, 38.2%, and 61.8% horizontally to produce a grid. These horizontal lines are used to identify possible price reversal points. 

The 50% retracement level is normally included in the grid of Fibonacci levels that can be drawn using charting software. While the 50% retracement level is not based on a Fibonacci number, it is widely viewed as an important potential reversal level, notably recognized in Dow Theory and also in the work of W.D. Gann. 

Fibonacci Retracement Levels as Trading Strategy

Fibonacci retracements are often used as part of a trend-trading strategy. In this scenario, traders observe a retracement taking place within a trend and try to make low-risk entries in the direction of the initial trend using Fibonacci levels. Traders using this strategy anticipate that a price has a high probability of bouncing from the Fibonacci levels back in the direction of the initial trend.

For example, on the EUR/USD daily chart below, we can see that a major downtrend began in May 2020 (point A). The price then bottomed in June (point B) and retraced upward to approximately the 38.2% Fibonacci retracement level of the down move (point C).

Figure 1: EUR/USD Daily Chart Fibonacci retracement. Chart Courtesy of TradingView.

In this case, the 38.2% level would have been an excellent place to enter a short position in order to capitalize on the continuation of the downtrend that started in May. There is no doubt that many traders were also watching the 50% retracement level and the 61.8% retracement level, but in this case, the market was not bullish enough to reach those points. Instead, EUR/USD turned lower, resuming the downtrend movement and taking out the prior low in a fairly fluid movement.

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The likelihood of a reversal increases if there is a confluence of technical signals when the price reaches a Fibonacci level. Other popular technical indicators that are used in conjunction with Fibonacci levels include candlestick patterns, trendlines, volume, momentum oscillators, and moving averages. A greater number of confirming indicators in play equates to a more robust reversal signal.

Fibonacci retracements are used on a variety of financial instruments, including stocks, commodities, and foreign currency exchanges. They are also used on multiple timeframes. However, as with other technical indicators, the predictive value is proportional to the time frame used, with greater weight given to longer timeframes. For example, a 38.2% retracement on a weekly chart is a far more important technical level than a 38.2% retracement on a five-minute chart.

Using Fibonacci Extensions

While Fibonacci retracement levels can be used to forecast potential areas of support or resistance where traders can enter the market in hopes of catching the resumption of an initial trend, Fibonacci extensions can complement this strategy by giving traders Fibonacci-based profit targets. Fibonacci extensions consist of levels drawn beyond the standard 100% level and can be used by traders to project areas that make good potential exits for their trades in the direction of the trend. The major Fibonacci extension levels are 161.8%, 261.8% and 423.6%.

Let’s take a look at an example here, using the same EUR/USD daily chart:

Fibonacci Retracements

Table of Contents

Fibonacci Retracements

Introduction

Fibonacci Retracements are ratios used to identify potential reversal levels. These ratios are found in the Fibonacci sequence. The most popular Fibonacci Retracements are 61.8% and 38.2%. Note that 38.2% is often rounded to 38% and 61.8 is rounded to 62%. After an advance, chartists apply Fibonacci ratios to define retracement levels and forecast the extent of a correction or pullback. Fibonacci Retracements can also be applied after a decline to forecast the length of a counter-trend bounce. These retracements can be combined with other indicators and price patterns to create an overall strategy.

The Sequence and Ratios

This article is not designed to delve too deep into the mathematical properties behind the Fibonacci sequence and Golden Ratio. There are plenty of other sources for this detail. A few basics, however, will provide the necessary background for the most popular numbers. Leonardo Pisano Bogollo (1170-1250), an Italian mathematician from Pisa, is credited with introducing the Fibonacci sequence to the West. It is as follows:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610……

The sequence extends to infinity and contains many unique mathematical properties.

1.618 refers to the Golden Ratio or Golden Mean, also called Phi. The inverse of 1.618 is .618. These ratios can be found throughout nature, architecture, art, and biology. In his book, Elliott Wave Principle, Robert Prechter quotes William Hoffer from the December 1975 issue of Smithsonian Magazine:

….the proportion of .618034 to 1 is the mathematical basis for the shape of playing cards and the Parthenon, sunflowers and snail shells, Greek vases and the spiral galaxies of outer space. The Greeks based much of their art and architecture upon this proportion. They called it the golden mean.

Alert Zones

Retracement levels alert traders or investors of a potential trend reversal, resistance area or support area. Retracements are based on the prior move. A bounce is expected to retrace a portion of the prior decline, while a correction is expected to retrace a portion of the prior advance. Once a pullback starts, chartists can identify specific Fibonacci retracement levels for monitoring. As the correction approaches these retracements, chartists should become more alert for a potential bullish reversal. Chart 1 shows Home Depot retracing around 50% of its prior advance.

The inverse applies to a bounce or corrective advance after a decline. Once a bounce begins, chartists can identify specific Fibonacci retracement levels for monitoring. As the correction approaches these retracements, chartists should become more alert for a potential bearish reversal. Chart 2 shows 3M (MMM) retracing around 50% of its prior decline.

Keep in mind that these retracement levels are not hard reversal points. Instead, they serve as alert zones for a potential reversal. It is at this point that traders should employ other aspects of technical analysis to identify or confirm a reversal. These may include candlesticks, price patterns, momentum oscillators or moving averages.

Common Retracements

The Fibonacci Retracements Tool at StockCharts shows four common retracements: 23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, and 61.8%. From the Fibonacci section above, it is clear that 23.6%, 38.2%, and 61.8% stem from ratios found within the Fibonacci sequence. The 50% retracement is not based on a Fibonacci number. Instead, this number stems from Dow Theory’s assertion that the Averages often retrace half their prior move.

Based on depth, we can consider a 23.6% retracement to be relatively shallow. Such retracements would be appropriate for flags or short pullbacks. Retracements in the 38.2%-50% range would be considered moderate. Even though deeper, the 61.8% retracement can be referred to as the golden retracement. It is, after all, based on the Golden Ratio.

Shallow retracements occur, but catching these requires a closer watch and quicker trigger finger. The examples below use daily charts covering 3-9 months. Focus will be on moderate retracements (38.2-50%) and golden retracements (61.8%). In addition, these examples will show how to combine retracements with other indicators to confirm a reversal.

Moderate Retracements

Chart 3 shows Target (TGT) with a correction that retraced 38% of the prior advance. This decline also formed a falling wedge, which is typical for corrective moves. The combination raised the reversal alert. Chaikin Money Flow turned positive as the stock surged in late June, but this first reversal attempt failed. Yes, there will be failures. The second reversal in mid-July was successful. Notice that TGT gapped up, broke the wedge trend line and Chaikin Money Flow turned positive (green line).

Chart 4 shows Petsmart (PETM) with a moderate 38% retracement and other signals coming together. After declining in September-October, the stock bounced back to around 28 in November. In addition to the 38% retracement, notice that broken support turned into resistance in this area. The combination served as an alert for a potential reversal. Williams %R was trading above -20% and overbought as well. Subsequent signals affirmed the reversal. First, Williams %R moved back below -20%. Second, PETM formed a rising flag and broke flag support with a sharp decline the second week of December.

Golden Retracements

Chart 4 shows Pfizer (PFE) bottoming near the 62% retracement level. Prior to this successful bounce, there was a failed bounce near the 50% retracement. The successful reversal occurred with a hammer on high volume and followed through with a breakout a few days later.

Chart 5 shows JP Morgan (JPM) topping near the 62% retracement level. The surge to the 62% retracement was quite strong, but resistance suddenly appeared with a reversal confirmation coming from MACD (5,35,5). The red candlestick and gap down affirmed resistance near the 62% retracement. There was a two-day bounce back above 44.5, but this bounce quickly failed as MACD moved below its signal line (red dotted line).

Conclusion

Fibonacci retracements are often used to identify the end of a correction or a counter-trend bounce. Corrections and counter-trend bounces often retrace a portion of the prior move. While short 23.6% retracements do occur, the 38.2-61.8% zone covers the most possibilities (with 50% in the middle). This zone may seem big, but it is just a reversal alert zone. Other technical signals are needed to confirm a reversal. Reversals can be confirmed with candlesticks, momentum indicators, volume or chart patterns. In fact, the more confirming factors, the more robust the signal.

Using with SharpCharts

You can use our ChartNotes annotation tool to add Fibonacci Retracement Lines to your charts. Below, you’ll find an example of a chart annotated with Fibonacci Retracement Lines.

To learn more about how to add this annotation to your charts, check out our Support Center article on ChartNotes’ Line Study Tools.

Fibonacci, Reading The Retracements

I know, I know, all of you who have read my previous posts are thinking, “didn’t he say that Fib’s are not signals?” It’s true, I have and it is correct. Just because price action has reached your Fibonacci Retracement level it does not signal an entry. You must wait for a signal/confirmation from other indicators before entering a position as price could break and pass the retracement as easily as it can bounce from it. The signals I am referring to are a little more advance than that and are concerned with which retracement level is in question and what price action does after the signal is confirmed. It is possible to create a short to long term target based on these two criteria. Before moving on the individual levels I want to start with levels in general. As I have said many times, a level in and of itself is not a signal but a target level where a signal may form. Once that signal forms you can make at least two predictions. Which direction prices are going and what the next target level will be.

This is how it works. Once price action has reached or come close to a Fib level it will form either a reversal or a continuation signal. If a reversal, bottoming or other signal of support develops you can be sure that prices will reverse from that point, at least in the near to short term. If a continuation signal or other sign of momentum or strength (either bullish or bearish depending on direction) forms, with a confirmation, you can be sure that prices will continue on in the direction they have been moving. In either case the next target will be the next Fib level. In the case of a bounce it will be the previous level, in the case of a break it will be the next level past the break. As a rule of thumb, either type of signal can form on either side of the retracement level, which is why confirmations are so important. In my example I use a chart of daily prices for my targets, to gain entry I would move down to a chart of hourly or 30 minutes for confirmation.

Rules For Fibonacci Retracement Levels

Where do you start? First, you must choose a place to use the Fib tool. I have chosen a chart of the EUR/CHF, an asset I never trade. Fibonacci’s measure a retracement, or reversal, of price so the best place to use the tool is in a trending market. Start at the bottom of a rally or the top of a decline and draw the tool from the starting point to the next highest/lowest peak/trough. After that it is time to start watching for signals. The 7 Fibonacci Retracement levels are 0%,23.6%, 38.2%, 50%, 61.8%, 78.6% and 100%. 0% is no retracement of the movement, 100% is a full retracement of the move. My signals are focused on the middle 5 levels.

The 23.6% Retracement – This is the first level. If prices retreat to this level and bounce, it is more likely for the underlying to trend than it is to reverse. If prices break this level then the underlying trend may consolidate around that level or reverse course altogether but a consolidation is more likely.

The 38.2% Retracement – This is the second level. If prices have broken the first level this is your next target. At this level if prices bounce then it is more likely that a near to short term consolidation is in play than a major reversal. Prices may hover here or bounce back to the 23.6% level. If prices break this level a deeper correction, but not necessarily a reversal, is in play.

The 50% Retracement – This is the third line and where things can really start to get interesting. As before, if prices break the 38.2% line then the 50% retracement becomes your target. If prices bounce from this level there is a good chance that they will return to retest support at or near the previous low/high that the Fibonacci Retracement is based on, or the 0% line. If, however, prices break the 50% line then all of a sudden a full 100% retracement becomes a possibility. A break of this line indicates an underlying strength/weakness in the market, depending on which direction the retracement is moving.

The 61.8% Retracement – This is the fourth level of retracement. If price breaks the 50% level this is the next target and may be reached very quickly as momentum traders get on board. Once prices reach here the underlying trend is broken and over. Prices may consolidate along this level, move higher and retest the 50% level or continue on to the next level and possible full retracement.

The 78.6% Level – This is the fifth and final level, not counting the full 100% retracement. If prices break the 61.8% level this is your target, and like the previous level, prices may reach this level with a quickness. This level can often become support/resistance in a longer term sense once prices reach it. A bounce from this level will usually mean a longer term consolidation while a break of it will lead to the next target, the 100% retracement.

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