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Distinguishing Between a Reversal and a Pullback as a Trader

Featured image by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels

As a trader, it’s useful to be able to identify a reversal. This is a skill you should aim to learn quickly when trading stocks and forex. Knowing when the price direction of an asset is going to change can help you to exit the market at the right time. It can also help you to set up winning trades when you enter the market.


The dictionary definition for the term reversal is “a change to an opposite direction.” This definition holds true in trading, with reversals signaling a change to either the upside or downside. An asset could be trending downward and then reverse to the upside. Or it could be trading upward and then reverse to the downside.

Because these movements and identifying them on the micro level are so critical to success, traders focus heavily on technical analysis. This helps to ensure they are ready to act at the right moment.

If you want to take advantage of these movements in the market to profit, you will first need to select a reputable broker. When comparing brokers online, you may be wondering, is Tradeo safe? Reading a comprehensive review from a leading financial consultant will break down the services offered by this broker. This will give you a clear idea of what to expect when opening an account and making a deposit.

How Does a Pullback Differ from a Reversal?

A pullback is different from a reversal. It is important to know the difference between the two. In the simplest terms, pullbacks are temporary changes that do not have a bearing on the wider trend. A pullback can occur for a few hours or over several sessions, but the prevailing market sentiment remains the same.

This might happen when a company has posted a strong earnings report and is trading higher in the aftermath. A pullback might also occur briefly when short-term traders opt to sell and make a profit but the fundamental signal remains the same. The sentiment is bullish and there will be further gains as the stock resumes its upward trend.

Reversals, on the other hand, are longer-term changes that are often triggered by a complete switch in market sentiment. This is usually the result of analysis on the part of traders who have identified an event or factors that lead them to re-evaluate a stock’s value.

The patterns for a reversal often also manifest in the short term. This can make them appear like a pullback initially. Traders therefore use the tools at their disposal, such as reading charts and trend lines. The various tools help them to identify when a particular movement is on the verge of becoming a reversal.

How to Identify Pullbacks and Reversals

One of the tools traders rely on in these situations is the Fibonacci retracement. This tool is excellent for identifying forces traders think of as “support” and “resistance.”

A support level is related to the price of a security. When the price falls, traders say it “bounces” off this level rather than breaking through. However, when the level is eventually breached, the price is likely to fall further before it hits another level. Resistance levels follow the same logic but for price rises.

A retracement is similar to a pullback, except that it is a smaller degree of change. Therefore, traders use retracement levels to identify reversals. When trading forex, price retracements usually hover at 38.2%, 50.0%, and 61.8% levels on the chart. This is typical of the smaller pullback movements that don’t affect the overall trend. However, when prices breach these levels, it could be a sign that a reversal is occurring.

Another method for identifying reversals is via pivot points. Depending on whether there is currently an uptrend or downtrend, traders will keep an eye on either support and resistance points. Then they will act when there is a “break,” as this is a strong signal that a reversal is happening or is about to occur.

Another commonly used method in forex trading revolves around trend lines. These are a core tool in a trader’s armory when conducting technical analysis for trading foreign currency. Here, trend lines are analyzed until a major trend line is broken. This movement suggests that a reversal may be in the offing. Traders often use trend lines with candlestick chart patterns to improve the quality of their analysis and decision-making.


When trading stocks, traders often use a popular technique called the “sushi roll” alongside confirmation indicators. This helps them to pinpoint directional changes in the market. When a sushi roll pattern emerges in either direction, traders can either buy or sell their long or short positions.

Watch for Directional Changes with a Variety of Tools

It is important to note that these methods are great for identifying trends. However, due to the complexity of financial markets, they are not always 100% effective for determining whether a reversal will take place. This is why professional traders cross-reference their insights. They use a variety of methods to improve the quality of their decision-making and broader trading strategies. By being able to identify reversals and act on them, you can mitigate your losses and maximize the profits from your trades.