Ranges occur when the price of a stock is bound between an upper ceiling (resistance) and a lower floor (support), which it can't break through. The price channels back and forth between these areas establish the price range. In hindsight ranges can look easy to trade, but don't be fooled. One of the major issues is that the price doesn't usually stop and reverse at the exact same price levels as it did before. This can make defining entry points, targets and stop losses tricky. To help remedy this, use volume analysis and wait for signs of a reversal near resistance or support areas before jumping in.

United Technologies Corp. (UTX) has been ranging since March, even though the long-term trend remains up. Resistance is between $120.19 and $120.66. Support has developed between $113.54 and $112.32 (all unadjusted prices). The price may move slightly beyond these levels, or reverse just shy of them on the next attempt. Each side has been tested multiple times, and volume hasn't increased near the breakout points. The trend is up, so ideal trades are taken in the support area, following an up day which shows support has likely held. Place a stop below the recent low. Target is near $120 based on the range, but if the price breaks higher the trade can be held for a larger gain based on the up trend continuing. (For related reading, see: 3 Points of Validation for Any Price Breakout.)

UTX uptrend

Genuine Parts Co. (GPC) has been ranging since mid-February. The longer-term trend is up, but has been very choppy going back to May 2013. The price is currently testing the resistance area between $90 and $88. Volume is near average and will likely need to increase – combined with a strong up day – to break the range. If volume remains subdued, wait for a down day to indicate that some selling pressure is present in the resistance area. Place a stop just above the recent high and a target near $84. Support is between $83.84 and $83.43. Given the slight uptrend the long has a slightly higher probability of success, but only marginally so because the price has been so choppy over the last year. Watch for a test of support and then buy following an up day. Enter a stop below the recent low and a target near $88.

GPC watch for a support

Darling Ingredients Inc. (DAR) has been range bound since December, and currently testing resistance between $21.30 and $21.85. The price has already been rejected from this area in late June, indicating the range is likely to hold. In July the price has been creeping back toward resistance, offering a second chance short entry with a stop above $21.50. The downside target is $19.50 to $19.25, just above the support area at $19 to $18.66. The trend outlook is mixed, so long trades near support (with a stop just below) or a short trade, as described, are both valid. This is assuming there isn't a breakout on high volume; low volume breakouts will likely fail and confirm the range trades.

DAR range bound

Avery Dennison Corp. (AVY) gapped higher last November and has been moving within a range since. The price action has been choppy, but there is well defined resistance between $51.92 and $52.24. The overall trend is up in the stock, so taking a short position in the resistance area goes against that trend. A potential upside breakout – above $52 on high volume – may be worth keeping an eye on. In the event the range continues, support is between $46.65 and $46.03. If the stock reverses higher in this region, look to go long with a stop below the recent low and a target near $51.50. (For related reading, see: Taking Advantage of Missed Breakout Opportunities.)

AVY has been choppy

The Bottom Line

Ranges can be lucrative, as they offer trades with relatively low risk compared to the potential reward if the range continues. They look simple, but can be tough to trade in real-time. View support and resistance as price areas, not specific prices, because rarely will price stop and reverse at the exact same level(s) as before. An increase in volume should typically accompany a breakout, so if volume remains subdued while the price is in a support or resistance area there is a greater likelihood the range will hold. Price reversals near support or resistance help highlight that the range will continue. Stops can be placed just outside these reversal points to control risk, with targets near the other side of the channel. Only risk a small percentage of the trading account on any one trade, that way a single loss doesn't significantly draw down your capital.

Related Articles
  1. Chart Advisor

    Trading the Channel Bounce

    In strong trend channels, a bounce off support indicates buying opportunities as the channels continue.
  2. Chart Advisor

    Gold Stocks Pushing At Trend Channel Resistance

    Gold and gold-related stocks have been pushing higher, but are now approaching resistance. How these gold stock react around resistance can not only help determine the most likely short-term ...
  3. Chart Advisor

    Stocks In Strong Rising Trend Channels

    These four stocks are all moving higher within strong trend channels, presenting risk-controlled trades with further upside potential.
  4. Chart Advisor

    Channeling Your Profit Potential

    Traders will keep an eye on these stocks as they trading within a confined range.
  5. Chart Advisor

    ChartAdvisor for October 2 2015

    Weekly technical summary of the major U.S. indexes.
  6. Stock Analysis

    5 Cheap Dividend Stocks for a Bear Market

    Here are five stocks that pay safe dividends and should be at least somewhat resilient to a bear market.
  7. Investing

    How Diversifying Can Help You Manage Market Mayhem

    The recent market volatility, while not unexpected, has certainly been hard for any investor to digest.
  8. Investing

    How to Win More by Losing Less in Today’s Markets

    The further you fall, the harder it is to climb back up. It’s a universal truth that is painfully apparent in the investing world.
  9. Technical Indicators

    Why MACD Divergence Is an Unreliable Signal

    MACD divergence is a popular method for predicting reversals, but unfortunately it isn't very accurate. Learn the weaknesses of indicator divergence.
  10. Fundamental Analysis

    Use Options Data To Predict Stock Market Direction

    Options market trading data can provide important insights about the direction of stocks and the overall market. Here’s how to track it.
  1. What are some of the most common technical indicators that back up Doji patterns?

    The doji candlestick is important enough that Steve Nison devotes an entire chapter to it in his definitive work on candlestick ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Tame Panic Selling with the Exhausted Selling Model

    The exhausted selling model is a pricing strategy used to identify and trade based off of the price floor of a security. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Point and Figure Charting Using Count Analysis

    Count analysis is a means of interpreting point and figure charts to measure vertical price movements. Technical analysts ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What assumptions are made when conducting a t-test?

    The common assumptions made when doing a t-test include those regarding the scale of measurement, random sampling, normality ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!