What Are Head and Shoulders Patterns and How to Trade?

Head and shoulders patterns consist of several candlesticks that form a peak, which makes up the head, and two lower peaks that make up the left and right shoulders. The right shoulder on these patterns typically is lower than the left but many of times it’s equal. Sometimes there’s a fake out which makes right shoulder higher than the left. They are a very well known pattern and probably one of the easiest to learn. Watch our video on how to trade head and shoulders patterns.

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They are part of the reversal pattern family. The head & shoulders pattern is a specific chart pattern informing you of a bullish to bearish trend reversal. Knowing this pattern can save you from becoming a bag holder.  The H & S pattern also happens to be one of the most reliable reversal patterns out there. It’s pretty accurate at telling you an uptrend is coming to an end. They are very fun to trade and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes!

The stock market is a tug of war between the bulls (buyers) and bears (sellers). Japanese candlesticks patterns were invented for us to gauge this tug of war. As a matter of fact, this allows us to gauge the emotions of traders all over the world.

Basics of Head and Shoulders Patterns

Head and Shoulders Patterns

Head and shoulders patterns are also known as the F you pattern. This is because the head can look like a middle finger and shoulders knuckles. It’s basically telling the bulls screw you before it drops.

Like any chart pattern bullish candlesticks and bearish candlesticks tell the story about the battle being waged by the bulls and bears. The constant tug of war forms this pattern.

The H&S pattern is pretty easy to spot on any time frame. Therefore, it’s useful for day traders and swing traders or even long term investors.

Read our posts on day trading strategies that work and swing trading strategies for beginners to learn strategies that you can use when trading the head and shoulders pattern (book mark our day trade watch list and swing trade watch list pages which we update daily).

Technicals of Head and Shoulders Patterns

The head and shoulders pattern has 4 components. The left shoulder, head, right shoulder and neckline.

After a long bullish trend, price rises to a peak then falls to form a trough. This is the left shoulder. Price rises again. This time much higher than the first peak. Then price falls again. This forms the head.

The right shoulder is another rise in price followed by a decline again. The line that connects the two shoulders is the neckline. The neckline is a key support level. One that is usually broken on this bullish to bearish reversal pattern. Take our candlesticks patterns course.

head and shoulders patterns

This chart for ASNA shows two H&S patterns. The first one completed and opened with a gap down. It started to head back up creating another head and shoulders pattern. This again broke back down.

How Reliable Is a Head and Shoulders Pattern?

A head and shoulders pattern is one of the most reliable patterns. The first high is formed which makes up the left shoulder. Then price action breaks left shoulder high and creates a new high, thus forming the head. Price falls, gets a bounce and retests left shoulder resistance area again but then fails.

Volume and Neckline Break

For h&s patterns to be confirmed the uptrend needs to be broken. This reverse doesn’t happen until the neckline support has been broken.

It should be a convincing breakdown. It needs volume to make that happen. Volume actually plays an important role in all aspects of this pattern. Ideally, volume would be pretty high during the formation of the left shoulder. It doesn’t always happen this way though.

The decrease in volume then the formation of the head act together as a warning sign. The next warning sign occurs when volume increases during the decline from the peak of the head.

It then decreases as the right shoulder forms. You get final confirmation when the volume increases during the fall of the right shoulder. That’s when you get the neckline break.

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Support Turned Resistance

head and shoulders patterns

The neckline of the H&S patterns is a key support level. When price falls below the neckline, that support level now becomes resistance.

Usually price will reverse to the new resistance level. This offers you a second chance to sell. This is why it’s very important for traders to wait for the pattern to complete.

Never assume a partially developed pattern will complete in the future. Never make a trade until head and shoulders patterns break the neckline. Those support and resistance levels are key.

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How to Trade Head and Shoulders Patterns

  • How to trade head and shoulders patterns:
  • Watch for first high to form which will end up being left shoulder.
  • Once first high is formed, watch for price to break above that level forming the head.
  • Next, look for price action to fail then get a bounce back up to left shoulder area.
  • Watch for right shoulder formation then failure at left shoulder area.
  • Some traders that a short position at right shoulder rejection using a close above as a stop.
  • The safest way to trade is take a short below neckline failure using a close above right shoulder as stop.

Bottom Line

Head and shoulders patterns can be used whether you’re trading using penny stock trading strategies or trading options for a living. The key is to be able to find them on stock charts.

Practicing in a simulated account is smart. Head and shoulders are pretty common. Study how to spot them as well as how to trade them. The more you practice the better you’ll be.

But remember, traders no matter how good they are, still fail 30-40% of the time. You’re going to lose as well and that’s ok. Take our free online trading courses for beginners.

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