There was a time when I had the patience (and time) to peruse the garbage filled discussion boards and listen to the thoughts of other investors/traders, occasionally offering my own two cents. I must say those days are long gone, especially for the most hyped stocks. I suppose I grew tired of sifting through the usual boasting, insulting, hyping and griping to get to the few interesting posts. On a few occasions, I remember having a disagreement regarding the usefulness of chart reading. It was said that chart reading was just "vodoo" and for the superstititous. Believe it or not, many investors still feel this way. But trading stocks without reading the chart is like navigating a thick forest without a compass. It’s difficult to know where you’re going or where you’ve been. It’s important to remember that the market looks to the future and the current price and volume pattern is a reflection of investors feelings about the future of the company. So much so that often times charts can predict future news or growth long before it actually happens. The charts can tell you where you might be going. (I say might because chart reading is NEVER 100% – if it were, everyone would be rich. It’s all about swinging the probability of success in your favor). You don’t think so? Then why is it that great companies with solid fundamentals sell off on no news, only to find out several months later that earnings and sales targets are missed? Why is it that a stock surges with great volume on no news, only to release postive news a few weeks later? Believe it or not, the big money (institutions… and/or insiders of course) has much more information on a company than you or I do. As much as they would like to hide their tracks, it is not possible because volume levels reveal the move. They are showing their hand.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of the importance of chart reading and the ability of charts to forecast the future. The first example is of a company called Noble International, which was growing rapidly. From March ’03 to June ’04 the company had posted quarter over quarter earnings growth of 61%, 38%, 23%, 71%, 24% and 38%. That’s some mighty impressive growth. The buy and hold investor who was just looking at the fundamentals probably would have held the stock until poor earnings were in fact released. The problem with this strategy is that the stock will almost always sell off long before that first earnings report is released. Once again, the charts (current price/volume) looks to the future. Another argument from the buy and hold investor may be "Well, it’s a great company and it will come back." Sure, it may come back. It may come back in a month, 6 months, 3 years or never. You lose no matter how long the stock spends correcting. Either you’ll be hit with a sizable loss or you’ll be sitting on dead money for who knows how long. You can always buy it back when the technical action improves (with most brokerages charging less than $15 for a market order, commission costs are no longer a big concern). OK, on to the chart of Noble International (NOBL).
Looking at the chart above (click to see larger image) there were several clues that would have told you to get out of the stock long before the 50% decline. Looking at the overall structure you see a series of failed breakout attempts. The stock surges on heavy volume, only to fall back into a base on a few occasions. But the first obvious signal occurred on June 9th when the stock reversed on heavy volume. Clearly, institutions were looking to unload shares at any opportunity. The next couple of clues came in the form of a high volume plummet below major support of the 50 day moving average. If that wasn’t enough of a sell sign, then the large amount of insider selling during that time should have been. Several million dollars worth of NOBL shares were sold in May and June by several insiders. Sure enough, the following quarter, the company reported less than stellar results as earnings came in less than the year ago period with a -6% quarter over quarter growth. A great example of the chart forecasting the future.
It can work in the opposite direction as well. A great example of this is DHB Industries (DHB), which soared over 20% today on news of a major order from the U.S. Army as well as the City of Baltimore. But several days ago, there was a darn good clue that some good news was on the horizon. That clue came in the form of … you guessed it, a high volume advance on no news. But something was going on. Let’s take a look at the chart below (click for larger image)
As you can see, the big gap up with no news occurred on Nov 15. It actually happened again on Nov 22, to a lesser degree. Moves like these don’t usually happen for no reason.. it seemed at the time that another big order announcement was coming down the pike and that is exactly what happened. Perhaps the CEO David Brooks (who sold 3.7 million shares on Nov 30th) should get a few lessons in chart reading! Although, he’s probably too busy counting his money considering he made 70 million on the sale… what’s another 15 million right?