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What Is the Cup and Handle Pattern?

Adam Lienhard
What Is the Cup and Handle Pattern?

The cup and handle pattern is a recognized technical chart pattern that looks like a cup with a handle. The pattern was first detailed by William J. O’Neil in his 1988 book “How to Make Money in Stocks,” where he highlighted the distinctive teacup shape created by the rounded lows in the pattern. This pattern is often seen in the context of an uptrend and serves as a bullish signal for traders. 

The cup formation

The cup part of the pattern is characterized by a “U” shape. It typically emerges following an uptrend. During this phase, the price tends to consolidate, forming the rounded bottom of the cup. Volume generally decreases as the cup is being formed.

The handle formation

After the cup, a handle appears, which has a slight downward tendency. The handle is usually less prolonged than the cup. Volume during the handle formation is typically lower. The upper trendline of the handle is a key element to consider.

How to use the cup and handle pattern

The cup and handle pattern is viewed as a bullish indicator. It indicates that the asset is likely to continue its upward trajectory. Traders use this pattern to identify potential long (buy) opportunities.

There are several important factors to consider:

  • Length: More elongated, “U”-shaped cups tend to provide a stronger signal.
  • Depth: It’s advisable to avoid excessively deep cups and handles.
  • Volume: Observe a decrease in volume at the base of the cup and an increase during the breakout.

The cup and handle pattern: trading strategy

Identify the pattern. Use technical analysis tools to identify potential cup and handle patterns on price charts. Look for the characteristic shape of a rounded bottom followed by a slight consolidation forming the handle.

Confirm breakout. Wait for the breakout above the resistance level formed by the high point of the cup. The breakout should ideally occur with a surge in trading volume, confirming the strength of the bullish move.

Enter the trade. Enter a long position once the breakout is confirmed. Some traders prefer to wait for a pullback to retest the breakout level before entering to reduce the risk of a false breakout.

Set a Stop-Loss. Place a Stop-Loss order below the low point of the handle to limit potential losses in case the trade doesn’t work out as expected.

Determine the target price. Calculate a target price based on the depth of the cup. One common method is to measure the distance from the bottom of the cup to the breakout level and then add that distance to the breakout level. This gives a potential price target for the bullish move.

Monitor your trade. Keep an eye on the trade to monitor its progress. Trailing Stop-Loss orders can be used to lock in profits as the price continues to rise.

Apply risk management. Always implement proper risk management techniques, such as position sizing and diversification, to protect your capital.

In summary, the cup and handle pattern is a valuable tool for technical traders to spot potential buying opportunities within an uptrending market. It’s important to note that while the cup and handle pattern can be a useful tool for identifying potential bullish continuation patterns, it’s not foolproof, and traders should always combine it with other forms of analysis and risk management techniques.

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