The shooting star candlestick pattern, also known as the pinbar (or bearish pinbar) by some, is one of the most popular candlestick patterns among price action traders. It was the first candlestick signal that I relied on, and one that I still use today, although I trade it much differently than most other price action traders.
I originally wrote this article back in 2012, and the method that I use to trade the shooting star is much different now. I wanted to update this article for a couple of reasons.
First, I wanted to explain the proprietary techniques that I’ve been using to trade this price action signal for the past few years, while still including the basic, standard shooting star techniques for those who aren’t interested in trading it the way I personally do.
I specifically chose to update the shooting star pattern next, because the proprietary filters and entry that I use are different than most other patterns that I trade.
However, once you know the techniques that I use to trade the bearish engulfing pattern and the shooting star, you can apply these two different methods to all of the other patterns that I’ve written about.
The examples used in this article are geared toward the Forex market, but trading the shooting star is effective in any market.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to correctly identify and trade the shooting star candlestick pattern, with both my own proprietary techniques and the standard pinbar techniques.
Just in case you’re completely new to the shooting star candlestick signal, we’ll start with the basics.
What is a Shooting Star Candlestick Pattern?
The shooting star consists of a long upper wick (shadow) that is, at least, twice the size of the real body. It should have a relatively small lower wick or none at all.
Its real body can be bearish or bullish (see the image below) and is usually relatively small in comparison to previous candlesticks.
The shooting star candlestick pattern, like all the other candlestick entry signals, must be traded within the context of the market. In other words, a true shooting star candlestick signal can only come after an uptrend in price (see the image above).
Note: Never trade a candlestick formation that looks like a shooting star from consolidating price action or a tight ranging market.
A shooting star candlestick pattern is a strong reversal signal, and unlike most other price action signals, this one does not need another candle for confirmation, according to the standard trading technique.
However, the proprietary filters that I personally use to qualify a good shooting star are quite different, so let’s go over those now.
What Makes a Good Shooting Star (Pinbar) Pattern?
Some of the filters that I use to qualify a good shooting star make taking the entry completely different than the standard method. In my experience, these filters have drastically improved my strike rate with the shooting star candlestick pattern.
The tradeoff is that I get fewer qualified setups. I’m personally okay with that because it’s always preferable to trade quality over quantity.
If you’re only interested in the standard shooting star trading method, you can skip these filters (qualifiers) completely.
The first filter that I want to talk about is the confirmation close. This is probably the most important filter that I use on the shooting star, and it’s also the filter that changes the way you must take your entry with this pattern.
Basically, as a sign that the uptrend is actually ending, after the shooting star signal, you want to see a bearish candlestick that closes below the real body of the previous candlestick.
The sooner this happens after the shooting star appears the better.
Note: This is important because a bearish reversal has not actually begun until new candlesticks start to close below the real bodies of previous candlesticks.
This isn’t enough reason to take a trade on its own, but in combination with a strong bearish reversal signal, all things being equal, the odds of a reversal are higher.
In my bearish engulfing guide, I mentioned that the confirmation close is necessarily met by the formation of the bearish engulfing pattern itself. With the shooting star candlestick pattern, this isn’t necessarily true (see the image above).
However, it’s possible for the shooting star candlestick to meet this criterion on its own if a bearish real body shooting star occurs after a smaller bullish candlestick (above – left) or another bearish candlestick (above – right).
Note: In the case that a bearish real body shooting star occurs after another bearish candlestick (above – right), it’s important that the shooting star candlestick makes the overall high (as in the example).
Some price action traders will trade shooting star candlesticks that don’t occur at the absolute top of an uptrend, but in my experience, these signals aren’t strong enough to be consistently profitable.
If you’re familiar with the standard shooting star trading method, then you can probably already see why, in most cases, using this filter will change the way you typically trade the shooting star candlestick pattern.
If you don’t understand it yet, don’t worry. I’ll go over the new entry techniques in detail later in the article.
Close Relative to Range
Next, you should determine whether or not the confirmation candlestick closes in the lower 1/3rd of its total range (see the image below).
Note: If the shooting star itself confirms with a lower close (as mentioned in the previous section), it will also meet this requirement, because a bearish real body shooting star will always close within the lower 1/3rd of its range.
This filter makes sense because a long lower wick represents a bullish rejection of price. The odds of a bearish reversal happening at current prices are lower if lower prices have already been rejected by the market.
Also, a candlestick that closes near the bottom of its range is generally considered to be more bearish, so a confirmation candlestick that closes in the lower 1/3rd of its range is an indication that a bearish reversal is more likely to happen.
Relative Size of Pattern
This next filter is probably not new to you if you’ve been trading price action for a while, but it’s another pretty important one in my experience.
How large or small the signal candlestick (in this case the shooting star) is in comparison to the previous candlesticks should also be considered (see the image below).
Larger candlesticks are more significant as far as what they can tell us about current market sentiment. Therefore, a relatively large shooting star candlestick is a more significant bearish signal than a relatively small one.
The farther back you have to go to find a candlestick of similar size the better.
In the image above, the large shooting star candlestick was larger the all the previous 7 candlesticks shown. However, the small shooting star was one of the smallest candlesticks in the series.
Note: You don’t have to rule out shooting stars that aren’t relatively large. However, smaller candlesticks are less significant. If you score your trade setups in your trading journal, you may want to take a point away for the lower significance of smaller signals.
The idea behind this filter is to avoid taking significantly smaller price action signals. In my experience, this is especially important when trading the shooting star candlestick pattern.
Trading the Shooting Star Candlestick Pattern
Unlike the bearish engulfing pattern, the standard entries typically will not work if you apply my proprietary filters to qualify your shooting star setups because the confirmation close filter changes the way you must take your entries with this particular pattern.
Just in case you’re only interested in the standard shooting star candlestick trading method, we’ll go over the standard entries too.
The first standard entry technique for the shooting star candlestick pattern is to simply place a sell order upon the open of the very next candlestick following the shooting star (see the image below – left). Of the two standard entries, I prefer this one because it creates a slightly better reward to risk scenario.
If you use the MetaTrader 4 platform, you can use this candlestick timer to help you time your entries.
The second standard shooting star entry technique is to enter the trade when the low of the shooting star is broken (see the image above – right). In the Forex market, you would enter the trade 1 pip below the low of the shooting star.
Note: In the past I’ve combined the second entry (break of the low) with profitable trading systems that used similar entry techniques. That way I could either get a more aggressive entry or more confirmation.
However, in recent years, I’ve completely abandoned the standard entries used with the shooting star candlestick pattern in favor of the confirmation entry discussed below.
Whenever possible, you should use a sell stop order to enter the market with the second standard entry technique. By using a sell stop, you ensure that you get an accurate entry, and it also keeps you from being glued to your screen, waiting for a candlestick to break the low.
The Confirmation Entry
I call this next entry for the shooting star candlestick pattern the “confirmation entry” because it follows a confirmation candlestick. This is the entry method that I prefer and have been using for the past few years.
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re using the confirmation close filter from above to qualify your shooting star trades, you will not be able to use the standard entry methods because of the confirmation candlestick.
That’s because taking the entry on the open of the candlestick following the confirmation candlestick is likely to create a poor reward to risk scenario. The solution is to wait for a pullback to the normal entry point (see the image below).
Note: If the shooting star itself also acts as the confirmation candlestick, there is no need to wait for a pullback to enter the trade. You would simply enter at the open of next candlestick as in the first standard entry mentioned above.
Of course, using this entry technique means that occasionally you will not get a pullback at all and the market will simply take off without you. Again, I’m personally not bothered if that happens as this method has worked out very well for me in the past (quality over quantity).
If you use a stop limit order, you don’t even need to wait at your computer for a pullback. This also ensures that you get an accurate entry.
Note: Be sure that the pullback happens in about 5 candlesticks or so, starting from the confirmation candlestick. You don’t want to wait forever.
If the pullback hasn’t happened in about 5 candlesticks, the odds of it happening at all become lower. This rule applies to the “50% entry” discussed below as well.
The 50% Entry
Just like I mentioned in my article on the bearish engulfing pattern, I also take the entry at 50% of the total range of the shooting star in certain situations (see the image below).
A very large shooting star candlestick can create a poor reward to risk scenario because some of the bearish reversal that you are hoping to take advantage of has already been taken up by the extra large upper wick of the signal, which lowers the odds of you hitting a full take profit.
It also means that you have to risk more (in pips or points) and therefore have to shoot for a larger take profit (in pips or points), which further decreases the odds of hitting a full take profit.
The solution is to try to get a price improvement on your entry. Basically, if I believe that a shooting star is so large that taking a regular confirmation entry will lead to a poor reward to risk scenario, I wait for a pullback all the way to 50% of the total range of the shooting star – not just to the normal entry point.
Note: Of course, this further decreases your chances of entering the trade (in comparison to the normal confirmation entry), but the alternative would be to take a trade that typically leaves you with an unrealistic chance of hitting a full take profit.
That being said, the market has a tendency to retest the price levels rejected during the formation of a shooting star candlestick, so it’s actually pretty common to get a pullback to the 50% level.
You can use the 50% entry to give yourself improved reward to risk scenarios even if you choose not to use the confirmation close filter. I traded the shooting star this way for years before adopting the methods that I use today.
Whenever possible, you should use a stop limit order to take your 50% entries. Again, this will ensure that you get an accurate entry and prevent you from being stuck at your computer, waiting for a pullback.
Next, we need to talk about where to place your stop loss when trading the shooting star candlestick pattern, moving your stop loss to break even (optional), and when you should do that.
Your stop loss should always be placed at the nearest logical area where, if price reaches that area, you know that you are wrong about the trade. In the case of the shooting star pattern, you know you’re wrong if price makes a new high.
In the Forex market, you pay the spread on the exit of a sell trade, so it’s a good idea to leave a little bit of room above the high of the shooting star to account for the spread. Otherwise, you may end of being stopped out before price actually breaks the high.
A good rule of thumb is to place your stop loss 5 pips above the high of your signal (see the image below). This leaves you enough room to account for the spread plus a few extra pips in case the spread spikes slightly.
Note: I don’t actually measure to get 5 pips exactly on the Daily chart, which makes trading on the Daily chart slightly easier. I just make sure that there is a visible gap between the high of the shooting star and my stop loss.
If you can see a gap between the high and your stop loss, the measurement will typically be about 5 – 10 pips, which is good enough.
Once price has moved in your favor a bit, you can move your stop loss to break even. This step is optional, but I do it myself and recommend it – especially when trading reversal patterns.
I personally move my stop loss to break even (plus 2 – 3 pips to cover the spread) after price has reached 60% of my take profit. Since I shoot for 2:1 reward to risk, this means I move my stop loss to break even a little past the 1:1 mark.
The reason I do this at 60% instead of 50% is that the market often retraces a bit at the 50% (1:1) mark (see the image above). This happens because some traders take profits at 1:1 and market makers also know many traders move to break even at 1:1.
So whether it’s sellers taking profits or market makers stop hunting that causes the retracement, moving to break even at 60% can often keep you in good trades that you would have otherwise been stopped out of.
Note: This is just one of many interesting insights I picked up from Sterling at Day Trading Forex Live that has improved my trading. I recommend checking him out if you’re looking for a profitable trading system.
If you use the free MetaTrader 4 platform, you can use this break even EA to automatically move your stop loss to break even. In case you haven’t noticed yet, I don’t like to be in front of my computer more than I already have to be as a trader and website owner.
As with most of the price action patterns that I trade, I target a 2:1 reward to risk ratio when trading the shooting star candlestick pattern. In other words, if I’m risking 50 pips, I place my take profit 100 pips below my entry (see the image below).
Note: Depending on how you trade price action patterns, if you don’t use the qualifying filters that I mentioned above, you might want to experiment with a 3:1 reward to risk ratio when trading the shooting star.
If I were trading it without my filters today, I would consider a 3:1 reward to risk ratio when entering on the open of the next candle (standard entry #1) or when using the 50% entry (without a confirmation candle).
You can also use your reward to risk ratio as a filter. For instance, if you calculate that you cannot hit your full 2:1 take profit before price moves down into an area that you believe could possibly be a strong support zone, you may want to skip the trade or only take the trade if you can get the 50% entry.
One of the nice things about the shooting star candlestick pattern is that it often provides great entries (fewer pips at risk), which in turn makes it more likely that even a short-lived reversal will hit your full take profit.
In my experience, I’ve found that I can target a full 2:1 take profit with a qualified shooting star setup and the market will hit my full take profit consistently enough to be profitable over time.
Note: Some traders use a trailing stop loss instead of a normal take profit. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods. Test to see what works better for you.
Bonus: Combining Techniques
Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while probably already know that I don’t recommend trading naked price action patterns. Instead, I prefer to combine them with another trading system that is profitable on its own.
If you don’t already have a profitable trading system that works well with candlestick patterns, the next best thing to do is to combine them with other market indicators.
Resistance, like price, is a leading indicator, so that’s a great place to start when trading bearish candlestick patterns. However, most new traders (and many experienced traders for that matter), tend to see support and resistance levels everywhere.
Just like price action signals, you need to qualify any support or resistance levels that you are relying on in order to make trading decisions.
A good resistance level should have a strong price surge into the level, as well as a strong bounce away from it. It should also be an obvious choice. In other words, there shouldn’t be any other competing higher highs close by in recent history.
Support and resistance areas tend to act more like zones than exact levels. That being said, I always draw my support and resistance levels off of the real bodies of the candlesticks – not the highs or lows.
Note: For more on how to pick significant support and resistance levels like the pros do, download my free eBook, How to Choose Better Support and Resistance Levels.
Once you’ve established a good resistance level, you can look for bearish candlesticks patterns, like the shooting star, forming at or near the level. More realistically, if you spot a good shooting star candlestick pattern, look to the left to see if it formed at or near a good resistance level.
When trading the shooting star signal with resistance levels, I like to see the wick, at least, touch the resistance level (assuming the level is chosen and drawn correctly).
However, shooting star patterns that pierce a good resistance level and close below it are typically stronger, because the pierce and return of a significant resistance level is often a sign that the market makers are performing a stop run at that level.
I’m a divergence trader. I’ve traded many forms of divergence in the past and often combine divergence of difference indicators. However, I’m especially fond of trading MACD divergence.
Since the shooting star is a bearish reversal pattern, bearish MACD divergence can help you to further qualify good setups.
Bearish MACD divergence occurs during an uptrend when price is making higher highs while the MACD line or histogram (pictured below) is making lower highs.
The idea behind divergence trading is that the lower highs on the MACD or another indicator could be an early sign that momentum is leaving the trend. If momentum is leaving the trend, the odds of a reversal are increased.
If you combine that with a strong reversal signal, like the shooting star candlestick pattern, the odds that a reversal will happen at the current price are even higher.
I would never trade divergence alone, and I don’t trade candlestick patterns alone (although I know some traders that do it successfully), but combining these two methods can be very powerful and profitable.
When combining bearish divergence and shooting star candlestick patterns, the bearish divergence is actually the key signal. In such cases, the shooting star is used as the entry trigger while divergence is the trade setup.
Note: In order to trade MACD divergence correctly, you need to be sure to use a true MACD indicator. The default indicator in MetaTrader 4, as well as many other platforms, will not work.
You can also combine the shooting star signal with other divergence strategies such as hidden divergence. If you’re extra conservative and patient, you can even wait for divergence to occur on multiple indicators at once, which is a really strong reversal signal.
As with all price action signals, the context in which they occur is very important. Since it’s a bearish reversal signal, a true shooting star candlestick pattern can only occur after an uptrend. Trading it from a consolidating (flat or sideways) market or even a tight range will not work.
Price action patterns that occur on higher time frames are more meaningful. In my experience, I have not had much luck trading them on time frames lower than the 15 Minute chart. That being said, I trade them on the 15 Minute chart regularly and successfully.
I don’t like to trade price action signals on their own, although I know of traders that are successful with that approach. A combination of price action techniques and a good trading system can help you qualify trades and can be very profitable.
It’s important to backtest and demo trade any new trading techniques that you want to add to your live trading toolbox. If you don’t thoroughly test new techniques, you won’t have the confidence to stick with them when you experience losing streaks.
I hope you enjoyed this article on trading the shooting star candlestick pattern (or pinbar). If you found it useful, please share it with other traders. Have any questions or comments? Please leave them below. I’m happy to answer them.