What does It Mean to “Catch a Falling Knife”? 7 Facts

The meaning of “catching a falling knife” is obvious, but the implications are not. This popular trader’s phrase describes the attempt to make up the losses on an equity holding that has quickly lost a significant portion of its value.

The trader tries to catch the knife by attempting to buy it at or near its low point. Then they hope to hold on as it rises again, hoping to make up their losses finally. Read the article for more updates on “catch a falling knife”.

What does It Mean to “Catch a Falling Knife”?

To catch a falling knife is an investment expression referring to a high-risk investment technique. If you acquire a stock that is experiencing a rapid decline in price, you do so with the expectation that it will soon recover.

The risk of attempting to catch a falling knife is that the stock will continue to decline, forcing you to lose money on an investment that becomes increasingly worthless. The expression is a metaphor based on the premise that if you try to grab a falling knife with your hand, you may harm it.

What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"?

According to experts, novice investors are more likely to attempt to “catch a falling knife” since it allows them to purchase at a cheap price. However, it may also be a hazard to investors with a long-term perspective, as they may expect that a stock that is falling will eventually recover.

Attempting to grab a falling knife is a calculated risk that may pay off in the long term. A percentage of a big stock portfolio can be allocated to this sort of investment, but it is extremely dangerous to have a substantial proportion of your assets be of this type.

Investing in a falling knife stock requires careful consideration of a number of things. You may want to begin by determining how long the stock has been down and why it is declining. According to some analysts, many freefalls occur when a stock’s value was initially overstated and are the result of the market achieving equilibrium.

You will also need to determine if its value is in freefall or close to bottoming out. This may be a true assumption, but acquiring a company at its absolute lowest carries a far lesser risk than purchasing one that has fallen only half as much as it will.

Examining the patterns of comparable stocks might help you identify whether a stock is declining or has already reached the ground. Determine if the decline is a result of company-specific factors, such as scandals or management changes, or a market-wide issue.

This method might assist you in determining the likelihood of a stock comeback. Small firm difficulties, such as a management change, will generally be resolved quickly and result in a comeback, but market-wide concerns might take a significant amount of time to overcome.

To grab a falling knife without incurring financial loss involves luck, bravery, and market acumen. Freefall techniques are not advised for persons with limited investment capital or an undiversified portfolio.

However, for investors who perceive the market as a game in addition to a financial opportunity, the inherent risk and chance make this method appealing.

A Historical Example of “Catch a Falling Knife”

DailyFX, a research and news website, has created a Speculative Sentiment Index (SSI). The indicator is based on the number of forex traders that have both long and short bets on major currency pairs. It displays the positioning ratio for a certain currency pair.

The purpose is to aid the reader in comprehending shifts in investor sentiment by illustrating dynamic changes in purchasing and selling patterns.

What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"?

In one occasion, the price of the U.S. dollar versus the Canadian dollar saw a strong and quick increase. As the price continued to increase, the SSI indicated that more and more traders were betting against it and losing their wagers.

As the price continued to rise, traders eventually capitulated and began to follow the trend. At that time, the USD/CAD began a precipitous decline. Throughout the spectacular rise and subsequent collapse of the currency pair, traders attempted to “catch a falling knife.”

In both instances, the knife caused severe injuries. Each trader’s losing wager was based on the notion that the trader had some real (and typically “unique”) insight into the future performance of the market.

What a Falling Knife Tells You

The expression falling knife implies that investing in a market with a great deal of downward velocity is exceedingly risky, similar to attempting to catch a falling knife. In practice, however, there are several places of profit for a falling knife.

A trader who purchases at the bottom of a downtrend might achieve a substantial profit when the market recovers, assuming the timing is just right. Also beneficial is entering a short position when the price declines and exiting prior to a price comeback. Moreover, even buy-and-hold investors might utilize a falling knife as a buying opportunity if the stock’s fundamentals justify ownership.

However, there is a very real possibility that the timing will be inaccurate and that there will be big losses prior to profits. Numerous traders continue to give lip regard to the adage. Instead of attempting to “catch the falling knife,” traders should seek confirmation of a trend reversal through the use of other technical indicators and chart patterns.

A confirmation might be as easy as waiting for several days of upward momentum following a decline or examining the relative strength index (RSI) for indications of a stronger upswing prior to investing in the new trend.

How to Use a Falling Knife?

As previously said, there are methods for profiting from a falling knife. Many trading strategies are time-sensitive and require additional resources than only detecting a company experiencing a severe decline. Nevertheless, depending on the cause of the drop, there may be a basic argument for grabbing a falling knife.

What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"?

There are several probable causes for a falling knife, including the following:

  • Results Reports: Companies that publish their earnings frequently experience significant fluctuations. If the financial results are less than anticipated, the stock price may continue to decline until the market achieves equilibrium.
  • Economic Data: Economic reports, such as employment reports and FOMC meetings, have a significant impact on major indices. If these news are unfavorable, the market may respond with a severe decline.
  • Some falling knives are the result of technical, as opposed to fundamental, causes. If crucial support levels are breached, the price of a security might fall dramatically before finding support below.
  • Fundamental Deterioration: This occurs when the firm underlying the stock fails significantly on a key performance measure, such as sales, profits, etc. It can also occur when corporations are discovered to be engaging in fraudulent activity or when they incur media-related harm.

If the conditions that led to the falling knife are transitory or do not affect the buy-and-hold investor’s investment thesis, then a falling knife may present a purchasing opportunity. It is tough to accurately timing bullish transactions for traders and individuals with a shorter period.

The Psychology Underlying These Axioms

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, was interested by the knife-catching phenomena. Together with Wall Street Journal financial journalist Jason Zweig, he authored a book on this topic, as well as many other phenomena connected to judgment and decision-making.

The book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” should be read by every trader. Kahneman and Zweig investigate the reasoning behind an investor or trader’s assumption that he or she can catch a falling knife and forecast the market’s reversal. They ascribe it to a collection of basic human characteristics.

First, nearly everyone has a tendency to assume that they possess unique knowledge that offers them an advantage over others.

Second, we prefer to depend on our intuitions in important situations that develop swiftly – a classic example being a rapidly collapsing market in which we are highly involved. It is a variant of the fight-or-flight reaction.

When we are fast losing money, we enter a state of rapid thought and prepare for battle. Kahneman argues that we would be better off if we slowed down and took the time to assess not only the developing market scenario but also our response to it.

What, for instance, leads us to feel that we may recover our losses with a single, extreme trading maneuver? What are the repercussions should this endeavor fail?

Thirdly, Kahneman analyses more than fifty years of investor behavior and finds that the market is essentially unpredictable and turbulent, a fact that is frequently overlooked.

The whole retail finance business is founded on our propensity to assume that we can pay someone to outperform the market even if we lack the superior intelligence required to do so.

An annual S&P analysis indicates that the majority of professional investment managers underperform the market considerably year after year. The great majority of individuals who exceed in a particular year are unable to replicate that success in subsequent years.

Do You “Catch a Falling Knife”?

Buying low and selling high seems so simple. Look for equities, cryptocurrencies, or anything else whose price has decreased. You purchase it and then wait for it to arrive. This is the procedure for catching a falling knife.

What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"?

Knife catching is the act of purchasing a stock that has plummeted dramatically, at its lowest point. Then profit on the price’s comeback. Consider the current Ethereum price as an illustration of a falling knife.

Ethereum’s current value is $2332. So marginally less than our first buy. This illustration is designed to demonstrate that catching a knife is practically difficult. Even seasoned traders are unable to do so dependably.

According to an outstanding research undertaken by J.P. Morgan, forty percent of all equities encounter a “catastrophic loss” (defined as a value decrease of 70 percent from its high) from which they never recover.

Even 13% of utilities are not exempt from these catastrophic accidents.

Ensure you understand why the knife dropped. Is there any hope that the asset’s price will rise again? Or is this the start of a string of terrible news?

So Is There Any Hope for “Catch a Falling Knife”?

We are aware that there will always be individuals who believe they can catch a falling knife. They will likely have the same level of success as those who seek to catch bullets in their teeth.

A few approaches may be applied to reduce risk, and these methods are applicable to practically all trading situations. The most essential guideline is to adhere to your strategy. If your instincts tells you to deviate from this strategy, you are not following this guideline, and in the long term, you will incur significant losses.

What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"?

What Should You Do If “Catch a Falling Knife”?

Ensure that you have an escape plan if you catch a falling knife. This is crucial when attempting to game a rapid bounce off a whipsaw. Having a stop order in place might save you from being murdered, as the majority of knife catchers purchase cheap and sell low.

Don’t Buy On the First Drop:

When unpleasant news arrives, two things frequently follow. First, it is more probable that further terrible news will follow, creating a second decline, and even if there is good news in the near future, there will likely be more negative news in the majority of situations.

Bad profits are producing liquidity concerns, yet the board has decided to dismiss the CEO; the existing CFO will serve as CEO until a replacement is found.

Second, as a result of the “monkey see, monkey do” principle, additional traders will frequently sell following the initial large decline, whether due to panic or stop orders. Wait for the second decline, and if technical criteria (MACD) support this bottom, you may then begin purchasing.

Moving Average Convergence Divergence Momentum Indicator (MACD)

We will not dig into the math underlying it, but the MACD can assist predict the future direction of an asset. It is a momentum indicator that follows trends and displays the connection between two moving averages of an asset’s price.

If an asset and the MACD both reach a new low, the downtrend is likely to continue. With a rising MACD, however, both the downturn and the possibility of a falling knife are less likely to continue.

Difference Between a Falling Knife and a Spike

Specifically, a falling knife is a sharp descent. A comparable sort of trading jargon is spike, which refers to a sudden upward or downward price movement. In actuality, a spike is typically connected with an upward movement.

Limitations of a Falling Knife

As said, there are several instances in which a steep decline presents an opportunity. Many of them required confirmation from a trading standpoint, such as a moving average convergence divergence (MACD) indicator displaying positive divergence.

What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"?

Therefore, a falling knife, which is at best an ill-defined chart formation, is not the most crucial aspect of a trade based on a breach of support or a proper reversal.


In short, catch a falling knife is a colloquial term for a catch when rapid drop in the price or value of a security. The term translates to, “wait for the price to bottom before buying it.”

A catch falling knife is sometimes used as a warning against investing in a stock or other asset during a decline. Traders will trade during a severe decline, but they prefer to be short and will utilize technical indicators to timing their transactions.

5/5 - (1 vote)
Pat Moriarty
Follow me

Leave a Comment