What is a Buy Stop Order

A buy stop order instructs a broker to purchase a security when it reaches a pre-specified price. Once the price hits that level, the buy stop becomes either a limit or a market order, fillable at the next available price.

This type of stop order can apply to stocks, derivatives, forex or a variety of other tradable instruments. The buy stop order can serve a variety of purposes with the underlying assumption that a share price that climbs to a certain height will continue to rise.

Key Takeaways

  • A buy stop order is an order to purchase a security only once the price of the security reaches the specified stop price.
  • The stop price is entered at a level, or strike, set above the current market price.
  • It is a strategy to profit from an upward movement in a stock’s price by placing an order in advance.
  • Buy stop orders can also be used to protect against unlimited losses of an uncovered short position.
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Buy Stop Order

Basics of a Buy Stop Order

A buy stop order is most commonly thought of as a tool to protect against the potentially unlimited losses of an uncovered short position. An investor is willing to open that short position to place a bet that the security will decline in price. If that happens, the investor can buy the cheaper shares and profit the difference between the short sale and the purchase of a long position. The investor can protect against a rise in share price buy placing a buy stop order to cover the short position at a price that limits losses. When used to resolve a short position, the buy stop is often referred to as a stop loss order.

The short seller can place their buy stop at a stop price, or strike price either lower or higher than the point at which they opened their short position. If the price has declined significantly and the investor is seeking to protect their profitable position against subsequent upward movement, they can place the buy stop below the original opening price. An investor looking only to protect against catastrophic loss from significant upward movement will open a buy stop order above the original short sale price.

Buy Stop Orders for Bulls

The strategies described above use the buy stop to protect against bullish movement in a security. Another, lesser-known, strategy uses the buy stop to profit from anticipated upward movement in share price. Technical analysts often refer to levels of resistance and support for a stock. The price may go up and down, but it is bracketed at the high end by resistance and by support on the low end. These can also be referred to as a price ceiling and a price floor. Some investors, however, anticipate that a stock that does eventually climb above the line of resistance, in what is known as a breakout, will continue to climb. A buy stop order can be very useful to profit from this phenomenon. The investor will open a buy stop order just above the line of resistance to capture the profits available once a breakout has occurred. A stop loss order can protect against subsequent decline in share price.

Example of a Buy Stop Order

Consider the price movement of a stock ABC that is poised to break out of its trading range of between $9 and $10. Let’s a say a trader bets on a price increase beyond that range for ABC and places a buy stop order at $10.20. Once the stock hits that price, the order becomes a market order and the trading system purchases stock at the next available price.

The same type order can be used to cover short positions. In the above scenario, assume that the trader has a large short position on ABC, meaning that she is betting on a future decline in its price. To hedge against the risk of the stock’s movement in the opposite direction i.e., an increase of its price, the trader places a buy stop order that triggers a buy position if ABC’s price increase. Thus, even if the stock moves in the opposite direction, the trader stands to offset her losses.