You are going to love this lesson. Using pivot points as a trading strategy has been around for a long time and was originally used by floor traders. This was a nice simple way for floor traders to have some idea of where the market was heading during the course of the day with only a few simple calculations.
The pivot point is the level at which the market direction changes for the day. Using some simple arithmetic and the previous days high, low and close, a series of points are derived. These points can be critical support and resistance levels. The pivot level, support and resistance levels calculated from that are collectively known as pivot levels.
Every day the market you are following has an open, high, low and a close for the day (some markets like forex are 24 hours but generally use 5pm EST as the open and close). This information basically contains all the data you need to use pivot points.
The reason pivot points are so popular is that they are predictive as opposed to lagging. You use the information of the previous day to calculate potential turning points for the day you are about to trade (present day).
Because so many traders follow pivot points you will often find that the market reacts at these levels. This give you an opportunity to trade.
Before I go into how you calculate pivot points, I just want to point out that I have put an online calculator and a really neat desktop version that you can download for free HERE
If you would rather work the pivot points out by yourself, the formula I use is below:
Resistance 3 = High + 2*(Pivot - Low)
Resistance 2 = Pivot + (R1 - S1)
Resistance 1 = 2 * Pivot - Low
Pivot Point = ( High + Close + Low )/3
Support 1 = 2 * Pivot - High
Support 2 = Pivot - (R1 - S1)
Support 3 = Low - 2*(High - Pivot)
As you can see from the above formula, just by having the previous days high, low and close you eventually finish up with 7 points, 3 resistance levels, 3 support levels and the actual pivot point.
If the market opens above the pivot point then the bias for the day is long trades. If the market opens below the pivot point then the bias for the day is for short trades.
The three most important pivot points are R1, S1 and the actual pivot point.
The general idea behind trading pivot points are to look for a reversal or break of R1 or S1. By the time the market reaches R2,R3 or S2,S3 the market will already be overbought or oversold and these levels should be used for exits rather than entries.