Price, Volume, and Accumulation/Distribution

Identifying Market Participant Groups by Patterns  
The Stockcharts indicator Accum/Dist was designed to help track the large lot activity versus the small lot activity. Decades ago when the concept of distinguishing between the large lots versus small lots started being discussed by the Sell Side Institutions, the Stock Market was an entirely different Market Structure.  
Almost all orders were filled on the exchanges via Market Makers. Few were filled off the exchanges via dealers and professional side brokers. The only access the retail crowd had was through a broker who typically charge $75-$100 per transaction. 
There were Mutual Funds in the market but no Pension Funds and the number of Market Participant Groups was 5 not 9, so the interpretation of this indicator was simpler. Thus what you read everywhere is based on that era.
Now the Stock Market is more complex because there are 9 distinctly different Market Participant Groups which each have different order types, venues, order sizes, agendas, and vast disperities of knowledge and INFORMATION. By the time the retail crowd gets the news, it is old news to just about every other Market Participant Group.
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If you want to use accumulation indicators you need to approach their use properly for the current Stock Market of today, not what it was many decades ago. If you use outdated training then you will be wrong much of the time in your analysis.
When analyzing a stock using Accum/Dist you MUST use Relational Analysis™ because is more complete. This type of analysis combines Price via Candlestick Patterns, Trend and Trendline Patterns Volume, and Accum/Dist as shown in the chart example Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN: NASDAQ) below.
amazon.com chart example - technitrader

The footprint of each different Market Participant Group is in the combination of these on the chart and can be found in Price, Volume, and Accumulation/Distribution.
Price shows use the magnitude of the daily price action which tells us whether it was contained and controlled via Time-Weighted Average Price TWAPs OR if High Frequency Traders HFTs were creating huge price action as one example. Each group has its own candlestick amplitude that group creates, often deliberately based on the ORDER TYPE they prefer to use and the VENUE they typically use.
Trend and Trendline Patterns tell you who is trading OR investing in the stock. Dark Pools do not buy stocks that are topping. They prefer to buy in bottoms and their Buy Zones.
Volume defines the quantity of orders flowing through on an given day. Dark Pools deliberately use TWAPs which fire off over a longer period of time, usually several days to weeks. So their gigantic quantities are spread out lowering Volume rather than spiking Volume. It is HFTs that spike Volume. Professional Traders ease Volume above its average to entice Retail Traders into the stock. Smaller Funds tend to surge Volume.
Accumulation is a consistent buying pattern over time. One day of Accum/Dist or my TechniTrader Quiet Accumulation TTQA indicator does not provide the analysis. The TTQA histogram looks similar to the Volume indicator but can show contrarian patterns to Volume.  It is the appearance of the line or histogram, that tells you whether the buying OR selling is incremetal and consistent meaning Dark Pool activity OR if it is sudden and spiking.
As an example of how to interpret the downward action recently for AMZN, there is a Price at market open gap down on October 28, a Volume Spike, and a severe sudden Angle of Descent™ on Accum/Dist which is a HFT footprint. Trend tells us that prior to this Professional Traders moved price up but took profits as the stock formed a short-term top, due to their profit taking into Retail Traders buying at the first of October. This profit taking awakened HFTs.
So that pattern in combination tells us this is NOT Dark Pools or Professional Traders, but HFTs action. Over the next few days the stock runs down on Small Funds Volume-Weighted Average Price VWAP orders, that trigger any time there is a huge Volume spike. The spikes in Volume are always created by HFTs, not Dark Pools who spread out their buying or selling to avoid this pattern.
Then AMZN price falls into a Dark Pool Buy Zone. HFTs attempt another big sell down day on November 10, but this time that fails as the Buy Zone triggers TWAP orders moving price up along with Proesssional Traders intraday buying. 
Smaller Funds VWAPs sell the stock down again on November 14, but they are unaware they are selling into a Buy Zone which is clearly defined in the stock chart via Price, Volume, and Accum/Dist indicator. Professional Traders move stock out of the Buy Zone even as Smaller Funds continue to sell.
Summary
In order to use Accum/Dist properly you must know what Price, Volume, and Accumulation/Distribution Pattern each Market Participant Group creates on the chart. Just seeing Accum/Dist tick upward does not tell you enough, because you have no idea who ticked it up. Dark Pools prefer to accumulate in the summer, because retail is busy on vacation and most in the retail group thinks it is a bad time to trade stocks.
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Trade Wisely,
Martha Stokes CMT
TechniTrader technical analysis using a StockCharts chart, courtesy of StockCharts.com


Chartered Market Technician
Instructor & Developer of TechniTrader Stock and Option Courses
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