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Falling Knife

A rapid drop in share price, resulting in significant momentum in a downwards direction

What is a Falling Knife?

A falling knife is a term used when a security, such as a stock, quickly drops in price. During such instances, investors are recommended to wait for the security to reach its lowest point before buying back in. Despite the events of a falling knife, many equities are capable of rebounding quickly; the process is known as a whipsaw.

 

Falling Knife

 

Summary

  • A falling knife is considered a rapid drop in share price, resulting in significant momentum in a downwards direction.
  • The cause behind a falling knife can vary, but some factors include poor earnings, equity offerings, underwhelming economic reports, and breaking support lines.
  • For many investors, a falling knife can yield great returns if timed properly. If investors do not purchase the stock near or at the bottom of the trend, they can incur losses as the price continues to drop, unless a whipsaw occurs that rebounds prices higher than the investors’ original position.

 

Causes Behind a Falling Knife

A falling knife may happen for various reasons. The causes may include but are not limited to:

 

1. Poor earnings

When companies report their earnings numbers, and they are below expectations, the stock may drop and result in volatile swings until supply and demand for the stock re-stabilizes.

 

2. Equity offering

If a company requires the need to raise capital, it may issue additional shares to the public. It would result in current shareholder dilution, which would become the impetus to a sell-off.

 

3. Economic reports

If the Federal Reserve or a bank releases underwhelming or negative news regarding the current economic landscape, investors would quickly sell stocks or move assets to different types of investments causing stock prices to drop.

 

4. Support levels

If a security breaks below its support line, technical traders believe the price will continue to dive before reaching the next level of support.

 

Strategies to Generate Profit During a Falling Knife

A falling knife can be profitable if timed appropriately, assuming traders buy the stock near or at the bottom of a downwards trend. When prices begin to correct and recover, the realized gains can be enormous.

Another strategy that can be used is to short or sell the investment. If investors are capable of shorting the stock during a falling knife, they will gain the spread between selling the stock at a higher price and repurchasing it at a lower value.

For long-term investors, a falling knife can be economically beneficial if they purchase the stock at any period during the downwards trend and hold it for several years, hoping that the price will appreciate.

 

Understanding Momentum

Momentum is considered the rate of acceleration of a security’s price or volume, analyzing trends and the speed at which prices are changing. In technical analysis, momentum is known as oscillation, which is used to identify trends. For trading, investors can use momentum as a technique to yield profits.

For example, if one sees an acceleration in a stock’s price, earnings, or revenue, they will take a long or short position, assuming that the momentum will continue to move upwards or downwards. Much like any other risk, price trends are never guaranteed; thus, it is important to be prepared for any potential reversals or corrections that may occur in the future.

 

Risks and Mitigations of a Falling Knife

The largest risk behind profiting from a falling knife is the timing and events. There is no guarantee that the stock price will whipsaw nor gradually regain momentum – in fact, bankruptcy can ultimately be the outcome. Therefore, it is important to take precautions when deciding to enter a trade that involves a falling knife pattern.

Rather than focusing solely on the falling knife, traders should substantiate their belief that the stock will eventually recover by analyzing historical trend reversals through technical indicators and chart patterns. For example, investors can look at the RSI for signs of strong upwards before buying in.

 

Additional Resources

CFI offers the Capital Markets & Securities Analyst (CMSA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To keep learning and advancing your career, the following resources will be helpful:

  • Downside Risk
  • Long and Short Positions
  • Momentum Investing
  • Stock Market Crash

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