October 09, 2007 at 7:16 am | | Comments 0

Sluggish Breakouts Can’t Be Trusted

I love to trade breakouts, and we’re seeing a lot of them in the current market environment. Many stocks have rallied back up near their summer highs, built new bases, and are starting to move higher once again. In general, there has been no shortage of breakout candidates in recent weeks, and if the bulls keep running then we’ll only see more in the coming weeks.

I’ve talked before about gauging the character of how a stock moves, and that certainly holds true on breakout plays. Ignoring things like weak volume on a breakout, late-day selling to come down from the highs, or simply the way a stock might clear resistance and yawn, are all ways to deny an underlying lack of strength which should really be monitored closely.

Let’s look at an example. Last week, I really liked the setup in SYNO. The stock had been in rally mode for a few weeks, and more recently had settled into a nice consolidation phase to digest the gains of the past few weeks. As the stock rested, it built a well-defined bullish pattern in the form of an ascending triangle. Volume had slowed during the rest phase, and I set up a trade to go long once resistance was cleared. My buy point was $23.25 as the upper horizontal trend line was cleared. Here’s a look at SYNO’s chart the day before entry:

(Click for full-size image, courtesy of TeleChart)

On Friday, I got my entry signal and went long. However, the stock wasn’t acting the way I would have expected it to as it got back on the move. The buying was sluggish and upside traction was short-lived. Although the stock closed higher on the session, it fell back into its base, finishing on a weak note to end up right back below the trend line.

Over the weekend, I raised my stop on the trade. This is quite common for me as a trade progresses, particularly when I’m facing a potential failed breakout like this was setting up to be. The best breakouts will trigger and rarely even look back, but that isn’t what this one did. On Monday, the stock gapped lower and never turned back up, so I was stopped out right after the opening bell. Here’s a look at SYNO’s failed breakout:

(Click for full-size image, courtesy of TeleChart)

While the failed trade cost me money, it certainly could have been worse. I could still be in the stock having to babysit a losing trade. I could have left my initial stop intact and taken a larger loss than necessary. I suppose I could have decided it’s now an “investment” and cling to hope that it will turn back up.

But I didn’t.

Sluggish breakouts can’t be trusted, it’s as simple as that. When you enter trades as stocks clear key levels, it’s difficult to know just how far a good move can carry. However, it isn’t too difficult to know when a stock is stinking up the joint and sending smoke signals that it lacks the gusto to keep going. Pay attention to those signals!

Keeping close tabs on the character of moves will let you hang onto more of your trading capital on those occasions when you’re wrong, which is the name of the game. Small losses are very manageable, but stubbornness isn’t. So the next time you notice a breakout play starting to falter, cut it quick and move on to the next setup.

Jeff White
President, The Stock Bandit, Inc.
Swing Trading & Day Trading Service

[tags]Stock Market, Day Trading, Stock Trading, Investing, Swing Trading[/tags]

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