Trading Terms Dictionary (resource for new traders)

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As you may have noticed, we added a new section of links to our blog over the weekend called Learn To Trade Stocks and ETFs.  As the title implies, this is a section of our blog where we will be posting educational trading articles, tips, and resources, especially designed for individuals just getting started in active trading. Obviously, we will still continue to provide the same level of quality content for more experienced swing traders as well, but we felt this new section would be helpful to those who are anxious to start trading stocks and ETFs, but don’t know where to start.

Because we use a lot of trading lingo in our daily trading blog posts and Wagner Daily newsletter, we created this MTG Trading Terms Dictionary to help define our most commonly used trading terminology. Although one can always turn to the reliable Investopedia Financial Dictionary, just the sheer quantity of financial terms could be overwhelming to someone who is just learning to trade. Further, in our dictionary, we have included words that apply specifically to our own methodology of stock and ETF swing trading, rather than investments of all other sorts.

If you wish to reference this post in the future, just look for the “Trading Terms Dictionary” link under the “Learn to trade stocks and ETFs” category. Have you got any suggestions for additions to our dictionary? Just drop us a comment and we’ll update this work in progress. Hope this is helpful.

MTG Trading Terms Dictionary

Above the Market:

A limit order to buy or sell a security for a specified price that is higher than the current market price. If the market does not reach the specified price, the order will go unfilled.


The act of buying more shares of a security without causing the price to increase significantly. After a decline, a stock may start to base and trade sideways for an extended period. While this base builds, well-informed traders and investors may seek to establish or increase existing long positions. In that case, the stock is said to have come under accumulation.

Bar Chart:

A popular way to display and analyze financial price information in graphical form. The horizontal axis of a bar chart represents the passage of time with the most recent time periods on the right side while the vertical axis represents the stock’s price.


A period where the stock or market is “catching its breath” after a decline, characterized by a flat trading range without any noticeable trend. It is common to see a basing period after a lengthy decline of the stock price. Basing may be a sign of accumulation.

Bear Market:

A long period of time when prices in the market are generally declining. It is often measured by a percentage decline of more than 20%.

Below the Market:

A limit order to buy or sell a security for a specific price that is lower than the current market price. If the market does not reach these prices, the order will go unfilled.


Price of a security emerging from a previous trading pattern. The new price “breaks out” above the high (or below the low) trading pattern lines that enclose all other prices for that security in the preceding period. Breakouts are used by technical analysts to predict substantial upside or downside movement.

Bull Market:

A long period of time when prices in the market are generally increasing.

Buy Stop:

A buy order usually placed above the current price, ensuring that a security would have to trade at the set level before the buy order would be activated. at 35. By placing a buy stop order just above resistance, a trader can ensure that the security will break resistance before going long. On the other hand, traders looking to catch a bottom or intraday low might place a buy stop below the current price, but near support.

Buying Climax:

A sudden upward movement in the market value of a security characterized by a gap in the prices between one trading session and the next. Used by technical analysts and often considered an indication that a security has been overbought and the price will fall.

Buying on Margin:

A risky short-term strategy where a buyer borrows money from a broker to make an investment. The buyer believes the stock price will rise and is trying to maximize profits by investing more money in the stock.

Candlestick Chart:

A form of Japanese charting that has become popular in the West. A narrow line (shadow) shows the day’s price range. A wider body marks the area between the open and the close. If the close is above the open, the body is white (not filled); if the close is below the open, the body is black (filled).


When prices trend between two parallel trendlines, this is referred to as a channel.


After an advance, a decline that does not penetrate the low from which the advance began is known as a correction. Also referred to as a retracement, a correction usually retraces 1/3 to 2/3 of the previous advance.


A market stage of a stock that is characterized by a downtrend with subsequently lower highs and lower lows.


The systematic selling of a security without significantly affecting the price. After an advance, a stock may start forming a top and trade sideways for an extended period. While this top forms, a security’s shares may experience distribution as well-informed traders or investors seek to unload positions. A quiet distribution period is usually subtle and not enough to put downward pressure on the price. More aggressive distribution will likely put downward pressure on prices.


Gaps form when opening price movements create a blank spot on the chart. This occurs when the high of the day is below the low of the previous day or when the low of the day is above the high of the previous day. Gaps are especially significant when accompanied by an increase in volume.

Gap – Breakaway:

Breakaway gaps signal a potential change in trend and are especially significant when accompanied by an increase in volume. A bullish breakaway gap forms when a security gaps up after an extended decline. Bullish breakaway gaps can also occur after an extended base or consolidation period. A bearish breakaway gap forms when a security gaps down after an extended advance. Bearish breakaway gaps can also form after an extended top or consolidation period.

Gap – Common:

Common gaps occur within a trading range or shortly after a sharp move as a reaction. These gaps do not signify the beginning or continuation of a move, but rather represent anomalies. For instance, if a security has declined 20% in a week and gaps up, it would be considered a common gap and not likely to signify a change in trend. Or, if a trading range develops between 20 and 30, and a gap forms in the middle, it is probably a common gap.

Gap – Continuation:

A continuation gap forms in the middle of a move and in the same direction as the current move. These gaps signal a continuation of the preceding trend and can mark good entry points. After a short or intermediate advance, a continuation up gap is usually considered bullish and signals a renewal of the uptrend. After a short or intermediate decline, a continuation down gap is usually considered bearish and signals a renewal of the downtrend. This gap is also called a measuring or runaway gap.

Gap – Exhaustion:

After an extended or long move, a gap in the direction of the current move is called an exhaustion gap. For an exhaustion gap to be considered valid, prices should reverse soon after the gap and close the gap. After an extended decline, a gap down could signal that the downtrend is about to exhaust itself. An exhaustion gap is confirmed when prices reverse soon afterwards and move above (or “close”) the gap. After an extended advance, an exhaustion gap would be confirmed when prices reverse soon afterwards and move below the gap.

Key Reversal Day:

A one day chart pattern where prices sharply reverse during a trend. In an uptrend, prices open in new highs and then close below the previous day’s closing price. In a downtrend, prices open lower and then close higher. The wider the price range on the key reversal day and the heavier the volume, the greater the odds that a reversal is taking place.


An industry or company that is under performing the market.


An industry or company that is outperforming the market.

Limit Order:

An order to buy or sell a security at a specific price. As opposed to a market order, limit orders might not be filled immediately if the market moves away from the specified price.

Line Chart:

Price charts that connect the closing prices of a given market over a span of time that form a curving line on the chart. This type of chart is most useful with overlay or comparison charts that are commonly employed in intermarket analysis. It is also used for visual trend analysis of open end mutual funds.


The ease with which a stock may be bought or sold in volume on the marketplace without causing dramatic price fluctuations. A highly liquid stock is characterized by a large volume of trading and a large pool of interested buyers and sellers.

Moving Average (MA):

An average of data for a certain number of time periods. It “moves” because for each calculation, we use the latest x number of time periods’ data. By definition, a moving average lags the market. An exponentially smoothed moving average (EMA) gives greater weight to the more recent data, in an attempt to reduce the lag.

New Highs and New Lows:

New highs refers to the number of stocks recording their highest price level in 52-weeks. New lows are the number of stocks recording their lowest price level in 52-weeks. Lists of stocks making new highs and new lows are available for the NYSE, Nasdaq and Amex. As an indicator, new highs and new lows are usually shown as moving averages to smooth the results and are often plotted together for easy comparison.

Paper Trade:

A hypothetical trade that does not involve any monetary transactions. Paper trading is a risk-free way to learn the ropes of the market.

Position Trading:

A style of trading characterized by holding open positions for an extended period of time.


The distance between the high price and the low price for a given time period. For example, the daily range is equal to the day’s high minus the same day’s low.

Relative Strength:

An indicator that compares the performance of one security against that of another by plotting the two as a ratio. For example, Google can be compared to the S&P 500 with a ratio of the prices (Google/S&P 500). Google is outperforming when the ratio rises and underperforming when the ratio falls.


Resistance is a price level at which there is a large enough supply of a stock available to cause a halt in an upward trend and turn the trend down. Resistance levels indicate the price at which most investors feel that prices will move lower.


A decline that retraces a portion of a previous advance, or an advance that retraces a portion of a previous decline. Retracements typically cover 1/3 to 2/3 of the previous move, and a retracement of more than 2/3 typically signals a trend reversal.

Reward-to-Risk Ratio:

A calculation equal to the potential reward divided by the potential risk of a position. A long position entered at 100 with potential reward estimated at 120 and potential risk of 90 would have a reward-to-risk ratio of 20:10, or 2 to 1. Generally, a higher reward-to-risk ratio is a more appealing trade. For a long position, potential reward might be based on breakout projections, resistance levels or retracement estimates. Potential risk might be based on support levels, stop or loss requirements.


A group of companies that generate revenue in similar ways, and tend to rise and fall with the economic cycle. Sectors are commonly broken down into smaller groups called industries. The sectors tracked by the Standard and Poors Index are Basic Industries, Financials, Technology, Industrials, Energy, Consumer Staples, Consumer Services, Utilities, and Transport/Cyclicals.


A situation where many scared investors exit their positions due to unfavorable news or uncertainty regarding the stock or industry. The dot-com bust was characterized by numerous shakeouts causing many to abandon their dot-com positions, often at great losses.

Short Selling:

The process of selling a stock with the hope of buying it back at a lower price (sell high, buy low). Short sellers are bearish and believe the price will decline. Short selling involves borrowing stock (usually from the broker) to sell short and using margin to finance the borrowing. If the price of the stock in question advances too far, the short seller will receive a margin call and be required to put up more money. A short squeeze occurs when the price advances so fast that short sellers are forced to cover their positions (buy the stock back), which drives prices even higher.


The division of a stock into multiple shares. In a 2-for-1 split, the stockholder’s shares will double in quantity, though the value of each stock will be halved. A stock split is usually an attempt to make high stock prices seem more attractive to investors and generally occurs in the face of new highs.


The difference between the bid and the ask. Generally speaking, more liquid (heavy volume) stocks usually have smaller bid/ask spreads. Less liquid stocks (light volume) usually have larger spreads.

Stop Loss Order:

An instruction to the broker to buy or sell stock when it trades beyond a specified price. They serve to either protect your profits or limit your losses.


A price level at which there is sufficient demand for a stock to cause a halt in an downward trend and turn the trend up. Support levels indicate the price at which most investors feel that prices will move higher.


A period where the stock or market is “catching its breath” after an advance, characterized by a flat trading range without any noticeable trend. It is common to see a topping period after a lengthy increase of the stock price. Topping may be a sign of distribution.

Trailing Stop:

A stop-loss level set above or below the current price that adjusts as the price fluctuates. For a long position, a trailing stop would be set below the current price and would rise as the price advances. Should the price decline and reach the trailing stop, then a stop-loss would be triggered and the position closed. As long as the price remains above the trailing stop, the position is held. Indicators such as the Parabolic SAR or moving averages can be used to set trailing stops.


Refers to the direction of prices. Rising peaks and troughs constitute an uptrend; falling peaks and troughs constitute a downtrend. A trading range is characterized by horizontal peaks and troughs. Trends are generally classified into major (longer than a year), intermediate (one to six months), or minor (less than a month).


Straight lines drawn on a chart below reaction lows (in an uptrend) or above rally peaks (in a downtrend) that determine the steepness of the current trend.

Uptrend line:

A straight line drawn upward and to the right below the reaction lows. The longer the uptrend line has been in effect and the more times it has been tested, the more significant it becomes. Violation of the trendline usually signals that the uptrend may be changing direction.


The number of trades in a security over a period of time. On a chart, volume is usually represented as a histogram (vertical bars) below the price chart.

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