Tales From the Trenches: The Rising Wedge Breakdown

A rising wedge is a technical indicator, suggesting a reversal pattern frequently seen in bear markets. This pattern shows up in charts when the price moves upward with pivot highs and lows converging toward a single point known as the apex. Using two trend lines—one for drawing across two or more pivot highs and one connecting two or more pivot lows—convergence is apparent toward the upper right part of the chart (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

This pattern has a familiar look to a bear flag (Figure 2). Figure 1 shows a rising wedge on a 60-minute chart, while a bear chart pattern is evident in the daily chart.

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Figure 2. Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021 

The Pattern

In the days following the big drop that began on Feb. 27, 2007, which was caused by the Shanghai stock market panic, the market continued to move down until it found the bottom on March 5, 2007. From that day onward, a general market recovery began, which continued for the next several days. On the e-mini Russell index, futures stood out in a pattern that many technical analysts would immediately recognize as a bear flag or a rising wedge (see Figure 1 and Figure 2).

During the formation, there are a few indicators that can be used to determine whether the pattern is a real pattern or a disguise.

As this formation progresses, it is a favorable signal if the volume is decreasing. That’s because it would show a divergence between price and volume, adding evidence that a reversal may be imminent.

The second indication is to look for how far the retrace has advanced from the beginning of the downtrend. If the move has advanced well above the 50% Fibonacci level, this pattern might not be a valid pattern. If it's still under that level, the pattern is still valid.

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Figure 3. Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

The Breakdown

One thing experienced traders love about this pattern is that once the breakdown happens, the target is reached very quickly. Unlike other patterns, where confirmation must be shown before a trade is taken, wedges often do not need confirmations; they normally break and drop fast to their targets. Targets are usually located at the beginning of the upper trendline, or the first pivot high where the trendline is connected. In this example, the target was set at 773.69.

Figure 4 shows the short entry was made when the price broke the lower trendline at 786.0, on the close of the bar that broke the trendline. It only took six hours to reach the target, compared to the several days that it took for the pattern to form before the breakdown.

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Figure 4. Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

In this case, correctly identifying a rising wedge put probability on our side and, luckily for us, the trade reached the target, shown in Figure 5, below.

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Figure 5. Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

The Outcome

Figure 6 shows the final result after the target is reached. Although the index continued to move lower, we exited the position and started looking for other rising wedge patterns.

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Figure 6. Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

Conclusion

Rising wedges have a relatively low risk/high reward ratio and, as a result, they are a favorite among professional technical traders. But there are many false patterns or patterns in disguise that may come off as rising wedges. The only way to differentiate a true rising wedge from a false one is by finding price/volume divergences and to make sure that the failure is still under the 50% Fibonacci retrace. As this historical example shows, when the breakdown does happen, the subsequent target is generally achieved very quickly.