Phase A: Phase A in the Wyckoff schematic above marks the stopping of the prior downtrend. Up to this point, supply has been dominant. The approaching diminution of supply is evidenced in preliminary support (PS) and a selling climax (SC). These events are often very obvious on bar charts, where widening spread and heavy volume depict the transfer of huge numbers of shares from the public to large professional interests. Once these intense selling pressures have been relieved, an automatic rally (AR), consisting of both institutional demand for shares as well as short-covering, typically ensues. A successful secondary test (ST) in the area of the SC will show less selling than previously, a narrowing of spread and decreased volume, generally stopping at or above the same price level as the SC. If the ST goes lower than that of the SC, one can anticipate either new lows or prolonged consolidation. The lows of the SC and the ST and the high of the AR set the boundaries of the TR. Horizontal lines may be drawn to help focus attention on market behavior, as seen in the two Accumulation Schematics above.
Sometimes the downtrend may end less dramatically, without climactic price and volume action. In general, however, it is preferable to see the PS, SC, AR and ST, as these provide not only a more distinct charting landscape, but also a clear indication that large operators have definitively initiated accumulation.
In a re-accumulation TR (which occurs during a longer-term uptrend), the points representing PS, SC and ST are not evident in Phase A. Rather, in such cases, Phase A resembles that more typically seen in distribution (see below). Phases B-E in re-accumulation TRs generally have a shorter duration and smaller amplitude than those in the primary accumulation base.
Phase B: In Wyckoffian analysis, Phase B serves the function of “building a cause” for a new uptrend (see Wyckoff Law #2 – “Cause and Effect”). In Phase B, institutions and large professional interests are accumulating relatively low-priced inventory in anticipation of the next markup. The process of institutional accumulation may take a long time (sometimes a year or more) and involves purchasing shares at lower prices and checking advances in price with short sales. There are usually multiple STs during Phase B, as well as upthrust-type actions at the upper boundary of the TR. Overall, the large interests are net buyers of shares as the TR evolves, with the goal of acquiring as much of the remaining floating supply as possible. Institutional buying and selling imparts the characteristic up-and-down price action of the trading range.
Early in Phase B, the price swings tend to be wide and accompanied by high volume. As the professionals absorb the supply, however, the volume on downswings within the TR tends to diminish. When it appears that supply is likely to have been exhausted, the stock is ready for Phase C.
Phase C: It is in Phase C of the Wyckoff Method that the stock price goes through a decisive test of the remaining supply, allowing the “smart money” operators to ascertain whether the stock is ready to be marked up. As noted above, a spring is a price move below the support level of the TR (established in Phases A and B) that quickly reverses and moves back into the TR. It is an example of a bear trap because the drop below support appears to signal resumption of the downtrend. In reality, though, this marks the beginning of a new uptrend, trapping the late sellers or bears. In Wyckoff’s method, a successful test of supply represented by a spring (or a shakeout) provides a high-probability trading opportunity. A low-volume spring (or a low-volume test of a shakeout) indicates that the stock is likely to be ready to move up, so this is a good time to initiate at least a partial long position.
The appearance of a sign of strength (SOS) shortly after a spring or shakeout validates the analysis. As noted in Accumulation Schematic #2, however, the testing of supply can occur higher up in the TR without a spring or shakeout; when this occurs, the identification of Phase C can be challenging.
Phase D: If we are correct in our analysis, what should follow is the consistent dominance of demand over supply. This is evidenced by a pattern of advances (SOSs) on widening price spreads and increasing volume, as well as reactions (LPSs) on smaller spreads and diminished volumes. During Phase D, the price will move at least to the top of the TR. LPSs in this phase are generally excellent places to initiate or add to profitable long positions.
Phase E: In Phase E, the stock leaves the TR, demand is in full control and the markup is obvious to everyone. Setbacks, such as shakeouts and more typical reactions, are usually short-lived. New, higher-level TRs comprising both profit-taking and acquisition of additional shares (“re-accumulation”) by large operators can occur at any point in Phase E. These TRs are sometimes called “stepping stones” on the way to even higher price targets.