Wyckoff trading method and ranging markets
Strategic Tools . Published · By KarlVonBahnhof
If you want more Wyckoff, take a look at the “Wyckoff Trading” tag in the blog.
Richard D. Wyckoff’s trading method was popularized in the crypto trading circles mainly thanks to John Bollinger who has been using it a lot for his chart analyses on crypto twitter. He usually combines Wyckoff method with Bollinger bands, his own invention.
The combination of Wyckoff method and Bollinger bands has a reason:
Definitely something to consider: The markets for big cryptos are maturing, traders who were used to capitalising on the obscene crypto volatility might have to actually develop a skill for the milder, ranging trades before their time comes again with the next alt season.
John Bollinger: “Bollinger Bands work fantastic on Bitcoin. And they work fantastic on all forex. There’s a reason for that. Currency trading is pairs trading - you’re long one and short the other, essentially. The idea is to earn a return at reduced volatility over time. So, forex is pairs trading and pairs have a statistical property, they’re stationary or they exhibit in the statistical parlance, stationarity. And it just turns out that Bollinger Bands work just a little bit better with series that exhibit stationarity. So, there is sort of a built-in edge to using Bollinger Bands on anything that’s a pair.” (From Meb Faber’s podcast, Episode 37, 2017/02/01)
One of the most notable things the very old Wyckoff method left us are the so called phases.
Some phases are characterised by increased volatility and rapid price changes, but the key market phases that Wyckoff analyses are in fact ranges.
Market ranges are where traders are scaling in to slowly build up a position, so that once the volatile phase starts, they are already riding on a profit.
As a result, there is less pressure to FOMO on them and in fact less risk as well: With a position in profit, the trader can simply check the markets once a day and move his stop loss.
What is a Market Range
Ranges are market structures when the market is not trending. It is bouncing roughly between the same two support and resistance levels to decide the next move and start the next markup or markdown.
Cryptocurrencies had an amazing multi-year bull market. That means right now the two most common Wyckoff phases in cryptocurrency markets are the reacummulation phase and the start of the distribution phase.
Distribution range is the trend reversal at the end of a bull run.
The notorious problem is the reaccumulation phase looking very much like the distribution phase.
From the high-level point of view, there is only one difference - the market continues to rise after reaccumulation rather than proceeding to markdown, which it does in distribution. That’s not very helpful when analyzing the market, is it?
You will need to go deeper to see how the distribution and re-accumulation differ.
Let’s look into the ways you can tell one from another.
Telling the difference between Wyckoff distribution and Wyckoff reaccumulation boils down to the basics.
While hard fundamentals might not matter that much on legacy markets, they still do apply better in the free-ish, not overly regulated crypto.
Richard Wyckoff considered the very basic principles of supply and demand and applied them to the markets when he developed his trading method:
Excess supply leads to decrease in price, excess demand leads to price increase – plus, if there is effort, in the markets the result must be proportional to it. The volume and the price change must be in harmony.
This supply vs demand logic is particularly useful at the ends of ranges.
Analyze The market patterns: “Trying to jump the creek” vs “Walking on thin ice”
This is a thing that will suit best to the more macro-oriented traders.
In the final stages of a range, when the price bounced back and forth in a range a few times, the market can do two things:
In a way, traders are making the market like this.
Use BBands: Tops have the typical 3-push pattern, bottoms the typical W pattern
In ranging markets, Bollinger bands provide balance boundaries.
Now that we have our boundaries established, we can start searching for typical Wyckoff range chart patterns relative to the bands.
This is where bbands get to be really helpful: Traders often look for lower highs when they are looking for a top formation and higher lows when they are looking for a bottom formation. But they are only considering the basic horizontal chart levels.
That’s not wrong, it’s just a bit too basic. If you look at the actual price action’s own boundary, which are the bbands, you get a more refined information and potentially a better entry or exit.
Because of the fear and greed psychology, cryptocurrency markets typically do three pushes when forming a top but only two drops when forming a bottom - also known as three pushes to a high and W-bottom.
Let’s take the W-bottom formation. On the chart’s vertical axis only, you’d think of it like this:
With bbands you will look for the 3-push and W-bottom structures relative to the bbands:
Wyckoff with Volume and Volume-based Indicators
A simple and effective approach to see if a range is distribution or reaccumulation is simply to look at volumes.
It is true that especially on shorter timeframes, whale traders might be able to paint the volume – but sometimes their campaign gains following nonetheless.
With basic volume, you get to use the basic supply/demand logic:
If there is a drop, the volume is rising and the price keeps sliding down – there is not enough demand and plenty of supply. The price is bound to drop some more.
By this logic, when there the market starts ranging, flagging and correcting healthily, the volume will diminish through the range too.
There are volume-based indicators like on-balance volume and others but what’s perhaps most helpful for traders are colored candles. There are several scripts for TradingView available that will color your chart’s candles according to the changing trading volume flow. Volume flow colored candles will give you a quick single-look idea about the state of the market, no need to overcomplicate it.
Volume Flow Script for Tradingview
One of the best ones is a free one, was made by spacetrader and you can get it from the strategy library if you search for
[ST] Volume Flow v6. The code and some how-to is available here, it is well possible to reuse it for a script in another language.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. Here are two different kinds of BTCUSD price action.
A/ Weekly BTCUSD chart with the infamous 2-year bear market: there was an accumulation structure at the bottom.
B/ Daily BTCUSD chart of recent BTCUSD action that ended up corrective continuation.
The structure A/ formed obviously after a long downtrend. The fundamentals were shaken by MtGox bankruptcy, the prevailing opinion was that bitcoin was going to bleed out into death and that the whole cryptocurrency experiment failed.
From the fundamental point of view, at this stage savvy traders are have the option to literally buy wholesale: Buying the capitulation, provided the trader sees an opportunity in the asset. (“It will not really fail, there are industries that need payments resistant to censorship and regulations, people who just went in during the hype to make a quick buck are just capitulating irrationally.”)
For a deeper analysis you can scale in to shorter timeframes and look for ranges within the range.
Finding the inner market ranges
You get your inner ranges simply by checking lower timeframes, which you do anyway when you are looking for entries. The only change here is you are looking for ranging structures that stay within the bbands.
Let’s take the daily range in BTCUSD from above - that’s a 1D chart with the original range:
Now let’s switch to 4H:
Here you can easily spot the first inner reaccumulation range:
The second inner range was a distribution:
Following the fast markdown the market tests previous breakout point and gets quickly bought up, consolidates a little on diminishing volume (sign of ranging coming to close) and continues upward. Looking back to the 1D chart you see the market formed a strong w-bottom with good higher low (both price-wise and relatively to the bband) and pushed through a resistance line.
All in all, on the 1D this was reaccumulation: A continuation structure in a bull trend.
Assessing the shorter timeframe movements of the range should help you get the idea about the health of the trend and the next direction of the market.
Of course, simpler and more basic TA will also be helpful:
Also look for rare formations provided they are reliable – like widening formations that resemble bull flag which is rare but it indicates good bullish momentum:
Last but not least, fundamental analysis cannot be discounted.
It is true that fundamental reasons are directly important mainly for bigger cryptocurrencies.
The valuation of most altcoins is based mostly on future expectation rather than present utility.
Still though, cryptocurrencies are somewhat correlated with each other – the money flows easily from one crypto market to another.
Seekingalpha once commented the real fundamental data for crypto are metrics like the Bitcoin network activity, transaction counts, number of ATMs, p2p data, darknet markets usage.
If you are trading flags, channels, megafones and triangles, the height of these usually provides a short term target within the range.
One of the very popular (paid) technical analysis suites for TradingView has been the SCMR. It provides the elusive colored candles - blue candle signifying a bullish shift in volume, suggesting bottom is near. Another popular feature are the dynamic levels which are basically better pivot lines. Traders use these very successfully.
It’s anyone’s guess if the Fibonacci retracement stuff fundamentally makes sense but in 2017 most traders still use fibs to determine their targets, especially in a bull run that keeps reaching new ATHs where there is no previous data to draw resistance lines from. Some people do use simple pivots, but it seems that Fibs are still the most prevalent – which, if nothing else, makes them valid.
How to draw fibs from a correction/markdown
The correct way to draw Fibonacci retracement lines for a currection or a markdown is to start from the swing high and drag the fib all the way to the swing low. This way you get to where to the north the market can reach in recovery from the correction.
You can get a fib retracement from a corrective range too - drag from its high to its low on the timeframe where you see the range. It’s far from a bad idea to have several fib structures one over another to see which fib levels coincide.
Cryptocurrencies seem to be particularly fond of the following fib extension levels: 1, 1.618, 2.618, 4.236. These are the ones that you need to have ticked in your TradingView settings as a minimum.
How to draw fibs from a runup
If you want to see how far the market will correct from a runup, you do the opposite: start drawing the fib from the bottom to the high.
Fibonacci levels can provide longer term and swing targets if you use them on higher timeframes, even targets that will contain multiple ranges.
That’s all. Please share this post, if you like it.
About the author
Written by KarlVonBahnhof
KarlVonBahnhof also on Reddit, Chris belongs to the crypto trader class of 2013. Located in the Americas most of the time, you're most likely to meet at r/BitcoinMarkets though.