What is a Symmetrical Triangle

A symmetrical triangle is a chart pattern characterized by two converging trend lines connecting a series of sequential peaks and troughs. These trend lines should be converging at a roughly equal slope. Trend lines that are converging at unequal slopes are referred to as a rising wedge, falling wedge, ascending triangle, or descending triangle.

Key Takeaways

  • Symmetrical triangles occur when a security's price is consolidating in a way that generates two converging trend lines with similar slopes.
  • The breakout or breakdown targets for a symmetrical triangle is equal to the distance between the initial high and low applied to the breakout or breakdown point.
  • Many traders use symmetrical triangles in conjunction with other forms of technical analysis that act as a confirmation.

Symmetrical Triangles Explained

A symmetrical triangle chart pattern represents a period of consolidation before the price is forced to breakout or breakdown. A breakdown from the lower trendline marks the start of a new bearish trend, while a breakout from the upper trendline indicates the start of a new bullish trend. The pattern is also known as a wedge chart pattern.

The price target for a breakout or breakdown from a symmetrical triangle is equal to the distance from the high and low of the earliest part of the pattern applied to the breakout price point. For example, a symmetrical triangle pattern might start at a low of $10 and move up to $15 before the price range narrows over time. A breakout from $12 would imply a price target of $17, or $15 – $10 = $5, then + $12 = $17.

The stop-loss for the symmetrical triangle pattern is often just below the breakout point. For example, if the aforementioned security breaks out from $12 on high volume, traders will often place a stop-loss just below $12.

Symmetrical triangles differ from ascending triangles and descending triangles in that the upper and lower trendlines are both sloping towards a center point. In contrast, ascending triangles have a horizontal upper trendline, predicting a potential breakout higher, and descending triangles have a horizontal lower trendline, predicting a potential breakdown lower. Symmetrical triangles are also similar to pennants and flags in some ways, but pennants have upward sloping trendlines rather than converging trendlines.

As with most forms of technical analysis, symmetrical triangle patterns work best in conjunction with other technical indicators and chart patterns. Traders often look for a high volume move as confirmation of a breakout and may use other technical indicators to determine how long the breakout might last. For example, the relative strength index (RSI) may be used to determine when a security has become overbought following a breakout.

Real World Example of a Symmetrical Triangle

The following chart shows an example of a symmetrical triangle pattern in Northwest Bancshares (NWBI):

Symmetrical Triangle Example

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

In this example, Northwest Bancshares is forming a symmetrical triangle that could precede a breakout. The price target for a breakout would be $19.40, or $17.40 – $15.20 = $2.20, then + $17.20 = $19.40. The stop-loss would be $16.40 for a breakdown or $17.20 for a breakout.