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The Traders Wheel
6/6/98 by Alan Farley

Tape Reading

Have you learned how to read the tape yet? The best way to begin your education is to pick some stocks and memorize key levels on the price chart. Then watch the ticker until some quirks in behavior start to appear. Pay extra attention when price enters action zones, i.e. areas surrounding important support levels. Observe how the tape reacts and see if you can predict key reversals in your head.

Traders can now access four levels of ticker tape information. In the past, professionals relied on the manual ticker, an early version of what CNBC now flashes across the bottom of the screen. Real time services then introduced single issue Level 1 displays showing the inside bid/ask. As processing power grew, vendors added historical time and sales grids featuring all trading activity in a spreadsheet format. Recently, Level 2 NASDAQ has revolutionized trade information by featuring all the players making a market in a stock at the same time.

Always look outside the tape flow before execution. Time of day, market sentiment, characteristics of a particular stock and chart support/resistance affect the importance of tape transaction signals. Keep in mind that all skilled tape reading relies on one key observation to locate profitable signals: insiders consistently move their markets in whatever direction yields the greatest volume. At the most basic level, they manipulate trader emotions against the flow of orders coming in the door.

Stock insiders keep one eye on their market and the other on external conditions that affect prices. They use their knowledge of the order book to bend the tape towards volume in an effort to trigger execution. Quiet times (lunch hour, holidays) offer prime conditions to gun key support and trigger common stop locations. And during long periods of little interest, price can reach important levels on very little volume. At these times, insiders will test the breakout waters to see how much new trading interest they can generate.

Although each issue has its own personality, most emotional market behavior unfolds in a straightforward manner. Price will respond with sharp movement in the direction of the impulse but then pause to test demand with short pullbacks. These countertrend movements highlight the real challenge for tape readers. Volume can dry up at any moment and for no apparent reason, trapping one side in a sudden reversal.

More information does not necessarily improve trading results. NASDAQ Level II provides detailed data on market makers and the depth of their markets. Unfortunately such information may focus the trader on the process rather than the result. The final resolution of this price competition often presents more valuable signals for profitable execution.

 
Article contributed by The HARD Right Edge, which presents highly original workshops, tutorials, strategies and resources on multi-trend technical analysis and and short term trading. Article reprinted here with permission, which presents highly original workshops, tutorials, strategies and resources on multi-trend technical analysis and and short term trading. Article reprinted here with permission.
 
 

 

 
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Last modified: April 02, 2001

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