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Understanding Bear Trap Stocks For Beginners & Advanced Traders

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 9/26/2023 16 min read

Bear trap stocks are stocks that mislead short-sellers by following a downward trend that the price will ultimately recover from. Bear traps are intricate patterns that lure bears into a false downtrend, only to reverse into an uptrend.

Stay with me here because this article is your survival guide for navigating bear trap stocks, crucial for safeguarding your capital in volatile markets.

These are some of the questions you’ll answer by reading this article …

  • What Is a Bear Trap in Stocks?
  • Why Is It Called a Bear Trap?
  • How Does a Bear Trap Work?
  • What Causes a Bear Trap?
  • How Do You Identify a Bear Trap?
  • Bear Trap vs. Bull Trap: How To Tell the Difference?
  • Bear Trap vs. Short Sale: How To Tell the Difference?
  • How Do You Avoid a Bear Trap?
  • What Are the Key Indicators for Spotting a Bear Trap?
  • What Are Some Real-Life Examples of Bear Traps?

What Is a Bear Trap in Stocks?

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A bear trap is a sharp, deceptive decline in a stock’s price, followed by a sudden reversal. Traders, thinking a downtrend is in play, short the stock only to be caught off guard when the price quickly rises.

Understanding bear traps is crucial for anyone in the stock market — from Wall Street tycoons to individual investors.

Here’s how bear traps look in my 7-step pennystocking framework …

Why Is It Called a Bear Trap?

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This phenomenon is called a bear trap because it lures bearish traders into a position, only to trap them when the trend reverses.

Like a real bear trap that’s hidden and unexpected, this market movement can catch traders unprepared, leading to losses. It’s a financial trap, and escaping unscathed requires insight and preparation.

How Does a Bear Trap Work?

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Bear traps occur when bears expect a trend reversal into a downtrend but get caught when the price level swiftly rises instead.

Here’s how it works: Price drops lure people into shorting, but unexpected highs trigger a margin call. In margin trading, the direction of market moves is crucial. This phenomenon can relate to …

  • Bulls and bears
  • Margin accounts
  • Company dynamics
  • Even specific stocks like AAPL

The number of factors influencing a bear trap is vast, from asset value to brokers’ role in the entire business.

Results may vary, and some might benefit from these price actions, but the underlying reason is often complex. It’s not something that happens anywhere and everywhere; proper advice, security measures, and an understanding of market lows and highs can make a difference.

Bear traps are one of my favorite patterns to trade. Here’s what to do if you encounter one …

There are a lot of different patterns to be aware of in the market. My millionaire students often play more than one strategy. But when starting, a trader should focus on ONE at a time.

Understanding a Bear Trap’s Initial Decline

An initial decline starts the bear trap process. Traders observe the price drop, often accompanied by increasing trading volume and some other indicators.

The belief is that it’s the beginning of a downtrend. But, this decline is a deceptive move, it’s not always what it seems.

Understanding a Bear Trap Short Selling

Traders then move to short selling, betting the stock price will continue to fall. This step is where the bear trap gains its momentum, as selling accelerates and others join in.

Understanding a Bear Trap Unexpected Reversal

An unexpected reversal occurs when the price suddenly rises, contrary to traders’ expectations. This can lead to panic and hasty decisions, turning potential profits into losses for short sellers.

Understanding a Bear Trap Covering the Short Position

Caught in the trap, traders scramble to cover their short positions, buying back the shares they shorted. This leads to further price increases, and those late to exit are left with significant losses.

Understanding a Bear Trap Price Increase

The rapid price increase, driven by short sellers covering their positions, creates opportunities for others who recognize the trap.

That’s where long-biased traders can capitalize.

It’s a part of the complex nature of market dynamics and requires keen analysis to navigate.

Causes of a Bear Trap

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Understanding the causes of a bear trap can mean the difference between a well-timed trade and a painful loss.

  • Market speculation
  • Misinformation
  • Sudden changes in market sentiment

These can all lead to bear traps. Analyzing support and resistance levels, coupled with wise risk management, can mitigate the risks.

Understand: Day trading can lead to substantial losses.

A 2019 study called “Day Trading for a Living?” looked at the success rates of Brazilian traders over a 2-year window, and found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days of active trading lost money. Only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage — that’s only $16 per day!


There is a process for success. And I’m the proof. I’ve made $7.5 million in my 20+ years of trading. I guess I’m part of the 1%.

You know how I got here? Hard work, discipline, and cutting my losses quickly.

Bear Trap vs. Bull Trap: How To Tell the Difference

A bear trap occurs when prices falsely break below a support level, while a bull trap happens when prices falsely break above a resistance level.

Understanding these differences helps traders identify real opportunities from deceptive ones.

Both traps play on emotions, but recognizing the patterns can keep you on the right side of the trade.

Bear Trap vs. Short Sale: How To Tell the Difference

A bear trap is a deceptive price movement, while a short sale is a trading strategy betting on a price decline.

In a bear trap, short sellers are often the victims, while in a typical short sale, they aim to profit from falling prices. Knowing when a bear trap is in play vs. a genuine shorting opportunity is essential.

How To Identify a Bear Trap

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Identifying a bear trap involves careful analysis of various elements like …

  • Trend reversal
  • Price action
  • Support levels

And always utilize strategies like setting a stop loss.

It involves understanding the types of assets, price levels, the role of buyers, and even the influence of news on equities. Even big names in the business can fall victim to bear traps, so using proper resources, data, and services is essential. Bear trap patterns can even affect those investing in the exchange market.

A wealth of knowledge is key, and it’s more than just something to know; it’s a necessary part of investing.

Identifying a bear trap requires a multifaceted approach, including the use of various indicators. One such powerful tool is the Volume Weighted Average Price (VWAP).

VWAP provides insight into both price and volume, offering a true reflection of a security’s value.

It’s used by traders to gauge whether a stock is overbought or oversold, helping to avoid potential traps. If you want to enhance your trading skills and learn how to incorporate VWAP into your strategy, you can read my in-depth guide on how to use VWAP in trading.

It’s a must-read for anyone looking to understand this essential indicator.

Spotting Divergences and Market Volume

Identifying a bear trap requires careful observation of divergences and market volume.

A divergence between price movement and an indicator like RSI or MACD can be a warning sign.

Understanding market volume and its relationship with price action is pivotal in trading. One aspect that often goes unnoticed is relative volume.

Relative volume compares the current volume to the average volume for the same time of day, and it’s a great indicator of how unique the current trading day is compared to the average. It can provide insights into the strength or weakness of a trend.

For those who want to delve deeper into this concept, you can explore my detailed guide on understanding relative volume in trading. It’s a valuable resource for both beginners and seasoned traders.

Bear Trap Chart Patterns and Technical Analysis

Chart patterns and technical analysis tools, such as Fibonacci levels and trend lines, can help traders recognize a bear trap. Study the charts, understand the patterns, and don’t let emotions guide your trades.

Technical analysis is an essential part of trading, and it involves various indicators to predict future price movements. Helpful indicators can include moving averages, trend lines, and oscillators like RSI or MACD.

Understanding how to use these tools effectively can make a significant difference in your trading strategy. If you’re interested in learning more about these essential tools, check out my comprehensive guide on day trading indicators.

It’s designed to help you navigate the complexities of market analysis.

How To Avoid a Bear Trap

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Avoiding a bear trap is more than just a good idea, it’s an essential skill for safeguarding your money in the trading world if you’re a short seller.

It’s not something learned overnight but developed over time through experience, analysis, and, of course, learning from mistakes. Having the right tools at hand can make a significant difference.

Whether you’re considering an option strategy or analyzing trends in the equities market, understanding bear trap signals can save valuable capital. A well-structured course can guide you in recognizing the signs and devising strategies to sidestep these deceptive market moves.

But it’s not merely about saving money, it’s about growing in wisdom, resilience, and capability in the often turbulent world of trading.

Practice Disciplined Risk Management

Risk management is key. Setting stop-loss orders and understanding your risk tolerance can prevent significant losses in a bear trap.

Don’t Ignore the Big Picture (Technical Pattern)

Look at the whole chart, not just recent movements. Analyzing the bigger picture, including major support and resistance levels, helps you make more informed decisions.

Don’t Short Into Upside Momentum

Shorting into upside momentum can lead you directly into a bear trap.

Recognize the signs, analyze the trends, and don’t fall victim to the trap.

Don’t Try To Be Early

Being early in trading often leads to being wrong. Wait for confirmation of trends and don’t try to predict every market move.

Bear Trap Trading Strategy

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A bear trap trading strategy requires a keen eye on various things, including price drops, direction, trend reversal, and the behavior of both bears and bulls.

Equities, securities, even ETFs — anywhere in the world of asset classes, bear traps can occur. Capital preservation is crucial, and understanding how to use margin trading, set the right stop loss, and read the price level of plays is a vital part.

From beginners in the business to Wall Street brokers, strategies to navigate bear traps are essential, and understanding bull traps, support levels, and the value of assets is key.

This article offers content, links, and resources that can guide you.

However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each trader’s place, goals, and wealth must align with their strategy.

Always consider professional advice and bear in mind the disclaimer: Trading involves risks, and past results are no guarantee of future returns.

Trading on Exit From the Trap

Exiting a bear trap with minimal loss requires skill. Trading on the exit requires recognizing the trap early and reacting quickly.

Buy Inside the Trap

For advanced traders, buying inside the bear trap can be a lucrative strategy. It requires keen analysis and understanding of market psychology.

Real-Life Examples of Bear Traps

From Tesla’s unexpected price reversals to sudden changes in the cryptocurrency market … we have real-life examples of bear traps abound.

Studying these instances helps traders recognize future traps and navigate the markets more effectively.

Key Takeaways

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Understanding bear traps is essential for successful trading. Recognize the signs, use the right tools, and never ignore the importance of risk management.

Bear traps are complex, but with experience and vigilance, they don’t have to spell disaster.

It isn’t a silver bullet for your trading plan — but knowing how to handle bear trap stocks is one of many topics you should learn as part of your trading education!

Trading isn’t rocket science. It’s a skill you build and work on like any other. Trading has changed my life, and I think this way of life should be open to more people…

I’ve built my Trading Challenge to pass on the things I had to learn for myself. It’s the kind of community that I wish I had when I was starting.

We don’t accept everyone. If you’re up for the challenge — I want to hear from you.

Apply to the Trading Challenge here.

Trading is a battlefield. The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you’ll be.

Do you target bear trap stocks with your trading strategy? Let me know in the comments — I love hearing from my readers!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Difference Between a Bear Trap and a Bull Trap?

A bear trap misleads traders into thinking a stock will decline, while a bull trap does the opposite.

Both are pitfalls, but understanding their nature helps traders navigate them.

How Can I Avoid Falling Into a Bear Trap?

Avoiding a bear trap requires discipline, analysis, and an understanding of market patterns. Use tools like trend lines, and volume indicators, and always have a risk management strategy.

Search for authors with articles that point out the popular theory and advantage behind the strategy.

In many cases, there are at least a few books on every area of finance. If push comes to shove, waltz on down to the library.

How Does a Bear Trap Affect Average Investors?

Bear traps can lead to significant losses for average investors who follow the crowd without analysis. Maybe a short seller expects a huge crash, but instead the price rallies.

Understanding market signals and having a disciplined approach to trading can protect your portfolio.

It’s not just Wall Street: Bear traps can catch anyone unprepared. Stay vigilant, and don’t fall into the trap.

The more times you witness these plays, the faster things will start to click.

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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

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* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”