Market Cycles – Wyckoff Accumulation & Distribution


Market Cycles

According to Wyckoff, the market can be understood and anticipated through detailed analysis of supply and demand, which can be ascertained from studying price action, volume and time. As a broker, he was in a position to observe the activities of highly successful individuals and groups who dominated specific issues, and was able to decipher, through the use of what he called vertical (bar) and figure (point-and-figure) charts, the future intentions of those large interests. An idealized schematic of how he conceptualized the large interests’ preparation for and execution of bull and bear markets is depicted in the figure below. The time to enter long orders is towards the end of the preparation for a price markup or bull market (accumulation of large lines of stock), while the time to initiate short positions is at the end of the preparation for price markdown.

Accumulation Phase

PS – preliminary support, where substantial buying begins to provide pronounced support after a prolonged down-move. Volume increases and price spread widens, signaling that the down-move may be approaching its end.

SC – selling climax, the point at which widening spread and selling pressure usually climaxes and heavy or panicky selling by the public is being absorbed by larger professional interests at or near a bottom. Often price will close well off the low in a SC, reflecting the buying by these large interests.

AR – automatic rally, which occurs because intense selling pressure has greatly diminished. A wave of buying easily pushes prices up; this is further fueled by short covering. The high of this rally will help define the upper boundary of an accumulation TR.

ST – secondary test, in which price revisits the area of the SC to test the supply/demand balance at these levels. If a bottom is to be confirmed, volume and price spread should be significantly diminished as the market approaches support in the area of the SC. It is common to have multiple STs after a SC.(edited)

Test – Large operators always test the market for supply throughout a TR (e.g., STs and springs) and at key points during a price advance. If considerable supply emerges on a test, the market is often not ready to be marked up. A spring is often followed by one or more tests; a successful test (indicating that further price increases will follow) typically makes a higher low on lesser volume.

SOS – sign of strength, a price advance on increasing spread and relatively higher volume. Often a SOS takes place after a spring, validating the analyst’s interpretation of that prior action.

LPS – last point of support, the low point of a reaction or pullback after a SOS. Backing up to an LPS means a pullback to support that was formerly resistance, on diminished spread and volume. On some charts, there may be more than one LPS, despite the ostensibly singular precision of this term.

BU – “back-up”. This term is short-hand for a colorful metaphor coined by Robert Evans, one of the leading teachers of the Wyckoff method from the 1930s to the 1960s. Evans analogized the SOS to a “jump across the creek” of price resistance, and the “back up to the creek” represented both short-term profit-taking and a test for additional supply around the area of resistance. A back-up is a common structural element preceding a more substantial price mark-up, and can take on a variety of forms, including a simple pullback or a new TR at a higher level.

Wyckoff Accumulation

Distribution Phase

PSY – preliminary supply, where large interests begin to unload shares in quantity after a pronounced up-move. Volume expands and price spread widens, signaling that a change in trend may be approaching.

BC – buying climax, during which there are often marked increases in volume and price spread. The force of buying reaches a climax, and heavy or urgent buying by the public is being filled by professional interests at prices near a top. A BC often occurs coincident with a great earnings report or other good news, since the large operators require huge demand from the public to sell their shares without depressing the stock price.

AR – automatic reaction. With intense buying substantially diminished after the BC and heavy supply continuing, an AR takes place. The low of this selloff helps define the lower boundary of the distribution TR.(edited)

ST – secondary test, in which price revisits the area of the BC to test the demand/supply balance at these price levels. If a top is to be confirmed, supply will outweigh demand, and volume and spread should decrease as price approaches the resistance area of the BC. A ST may take the form of an upthrust (UT), in which price moves above the resistance represented by the BC and possibly other STs, then quickly reverses to close below resistance. After a UT, price often tests the lower boundary of the TR.

SOW – sign of weakness, observable as a down-move to (or slightly past) the lower boundary of the TR, usually occurring on increased spread and volume. The AR and the initial SOW(s) indicate a change of character in the price action of the stock: supply is now dominant.

LPSY – last point of supply. After testing support on a SOW, a feeble rally on narrow spread shows that the market is having considerable difficulty advancing. This inability to rally may be due to weak demand, substantial supply or both. LPSYs represent exhaustion of demand and the last waves of large operators’ distribution before markdown begins in earnest.

UTAD – upthrust after distribution. A UTAD is the distributional counterpart to the spring and terminal shakeout in the accumulation TR. It occurs in the latter stages of the TR and provides a definitive test of new demand after a breakout above TR resistance. Analogous to springs and shakeouts, a UTAD is not a required structural element: the TR in Distribution Schematic #1 contains a UTAD, while the TR in Distribution Schematic #2 does not.

Wyckoff Distribution


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