Tuesday, July 21, 2009

StockCharts.com Charts on the Blog

By far, my favorite stock charting site on the web is StockCharts.com, from which quite a few screen shots have been imported into the blog.

Recently I have fielded a few questions about my StockCharts charts and I wanted to spend a little time talking about the information contained in these charts. For starters, StockCharts offers what they call a “gallery view” for each ticker. This is a group of three free charts consisting of a daily chart with five months of data, a weekly chart with two years of data and a point and figure chart. StockCharts members also have a fourth intraday utilizes ten minute bars for the past four days.

While these gallery charts are an excellent starting point, the true power of StockCharts is in creating custom charts. At the bottom of this post is what I would call my “standard chart” from StockCharts, which uses daily bars over the course of the past eleven months. My standard chart utilizes candlesticks because I prefer the informational content that can be displayed in one candle. I also utilized three simple moving averages: 10 days (solid blue line) for the short-term; 50 days (dotted red line) for the intermediate-term; and 200 days (dotted green line) for the longer-term. These are widely-used moving averages and the selection is somewhat arbitrary. I prefer the 10 day to the more common 20 day because I often have a very short-term time horizon and because the 10 day is utilized heavily by traders who follow the VIX.

The gray cloud around the candlesticks is Bollinger Bands, set to 20 days and two standard deviations. I like to use Bollinger Bands to give a sense of the ebb and flow of historical volatility superimposed on the price data, rather than as a separate study above or below the main price chart. I choose to display these by area instead of the more typical lines because I want to limit the lines cluttering up the chart and give some semblance of visual clarity. According to extensive studies done by John Bollinger, one would expect 88-89% of all future daily price moves to fall within the range defined by the current Bollinger Bands – assuming, of course, the future resembles the past.

The only other graphical data on this chart is the volume data, which includes a 50 day exponential moving average line in purple, making it relatively easy to identify large volume spikes.

Finally, a reader recently asked why the y-axis is not proportional. The short answer is that charts can be plotted with a standard (proportional) y-axis or using a logarithmic axis. The benefit of a standard axis is the ease of measuring absolute changes: ten points up and ten points down are the same height. For longer periods, however, compounding distorts percentage changes, so a logarithmic axis ensures that percentage moves up and down are the same height. Consider a $100 stock. If it goes up 50% three years in a row, it ends up at 337.50 (100*1.5*1.5*1.5) a change of 227.50 points. But if the same stock goes down 50% three years in a row, it will be at 12.50, a change of only 87.50 points. On a standard y-axis, the move up 50% for three years will look 2.6 times (237.50 / 87.50) greater than the move down 50% for three years. A logarithmic axis makes sure that these percentage changes look identical to the eye. In a future post, I will talk more about logarithmic axes and use some examples to illustrate their advantages and disadvantages.

In the meantime, those with an interest in learning more about charts, high quality charts and archiving their ideas in chart form are advised to kick the tires of StockCharts.com. If you want to see some of what others have done with the available tools, check out the public charts section.

[source: StockCharts]


Russ Abbott said...

I've never understood the value of Bollinger bands. They don't provide a measure of volatility since as the chart gets more volatile the bands expand. One might look at the width of the band to estimate volatility. But that seems like a very imprecise measure. It doesn't really stand out. A graph of historical volatility would be much more useful.

Nor do they help with estimating when regression to the mean might occur. For again, as the item moves farther from the mean, the bands expand. There are many instances in which the chart touched the extreme of the band only to continue on farther -- with the band following along.

Unknown said...

I enjoy being able to observe so much data in one chart! However, the blog's advertisements cut off the most-important right side of the chart on my wide-screen monitor. Does anyone else have this problem?

Bill Luby said...


Bollinger Bands are essentially measures of historical volatility and as you point out, Bollinger Band width (click through for some examples) is a way to measure this statistically rather than to use the chart as visual shorthand to eyeball relative volatility.

Regarding predictive value, I beg to differ about extreme Bollinger Band readings, particularly when you get more than 2.0 standard deviations away from he mean. Last October and November may be counterexamples, but for the most part, Bollinger Bands often provide some helpful information about the likelihood of mean reversion.

On the other hand, some traders like to play the volatility trend and ride the bands up. Some traders, for instance, take an approach to open and maintain long positions when a stock is trading between +1.0 and +2.0 standard deviations above the mean. (You can do this visually with multiple Bollinger Band areas.)


I'm afraid my graphics are not compatible with all monitors. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The easiest workaround is to right click on the image, highlight "Copy Image Location," and paste the link into a new browser window.

I hope this helps.



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i bought some vxx today for hedging. all major indexes r at the major resistance levels. weekly charts...

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,

I would like to hear your comment on today's market and VIX index. Usually, when the market goes down, the VIX goes up (that is why it also called the Fear Index).

I understand the meaning of VIX, which implies the volatility not a directional indication. However, the recent behavior of VIX, VIX/VXV and all other volatility indicators are all contracting to the historical sense.

I had thought about extremes, like the one we experienced in sept last year. At that time, VIX went extreme, VIX/VXV ratio also went to extreme. Then everything was out of the comfortable zone in prediction. Look back last year, the market were overly pessimistic. Therefore VIX went extreme. Do you think we are in another extreme for too optimistic?



Bill Luby said...


Looks like you, me and quite a few other people were buying VXX today. A record 1.8 million shares were traded today.


In brief, I do think the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of optimism. I hope to have a much more detailed post about this up tomorrow, but my thoughts appear to be similar to yours and stonebat's.



Anonymous said...

I wonder who was selling vxx today... I used to like vxx more but these days you have a large amount of capital (vxx) who's price is determined by a small amount of capital (vix futures.) Very easy to manipulate and someone is doing it.

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DISCLAIMER: "VIX®" is a trademark of Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated. Chicago Board Options Exchange, Incorporated is not affiliated with this website or this website's owner's or operators. CBOE assumes no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness or any other aspect of any content posted on this website by its operator or any third party. All content on this site is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as advice to buy or sell any securities. Stocks are difficult to trade; options are even harder. When it comes to VIX derivatives, don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because you can ride a horse, you can ride an alligator. Please do your own homework and accept full responsibility for any investment decisions you make. No content on this site can be used for commercial purposes without the prior written permission of the author. Copyright © 2007-2023 Bill Luby. All rights reserved.
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