November 21, 2017

Although my primary focus is on the fundamentals, I do use Technical Analysis (TA). However, many of my TA-related beliefs deviate from the mainstream. Below is a collection of these beliefs presented in no particular order. The collection is not comprehensive, but it gives an overview of how I think historical price action can and can’t be used.

Note that there is significant repetition in the following list, in that a similar meaning is sometimes conveyed in separate points using different words. Also, I am not stating that my beliefs are the ‘be all and end all’ of TA and should be adopted by everyone. Far from it. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Consequently, if you are able to make good use of a TA method that I believe to be useless then there is no reason why my opinion should prompt you to make a change.

Here we go:

1) Clues about future price action can sometimes be gleaned from price charts, but price charts tell you a lot about what has happened and very little about what is going to happen.

2) All of the useful information that can be gleaned from a chart is available without drawing a single line or calculating a single Fibonacci ratio. For example, you can tell whether a price has trended upward or downward just by ‘eyeballing’ the chart. You can also tell, just by looking at the chart, if a market is extended to the upside or the downside.

3) You can’t gain an advantage in the financial markets by doing something that could be done by the average nine-year-old, such as drawing lines to connect dots on a chart. Note: I regularly draw lines on the charts contained in TSI commentaries, but this is for illustrative purposes only. For example, for TSI presentation purposes I draw horizontal lines to highlight the previous peaks/troughs that could influence future trading and angled lines to illustrate that a market has been making lower highs or higher lows. I never draw lines on charts for my own trading/investing.

4) Channels are more useful (or less useless) than trend lines, because channel lines show that a market has been rising or falling at a consistent pace. As a consequence, a properly defined price channel can help a trader see when a significant change has occurred. A related consideration is that at least 5 points are needed to properly define a price channel — at least 3 points on one side and at least 2 points on the other side.

5) The more lines drawn on a chart, the less useful the chart becomes. The reason is that the lines obscure the small amount of useful information that can be gleaned from a chart.

6) The more obvious a chart pattern, the less chance it will be helpful in figuring out what the future holds in store or the appropriate action (buy, sell, or do nothing).

7) Markets invariably retrace, which means that they never move upward or downward in straight lines for long. However, markets are no more likely to retrace in accordance with “Fibonacci” numbers than with any other series of similarly spaced numbers.

8) Under normal market conditions, breakouts above resistance and below support are unreliable buy/sell signals. Manic markets like the one for NASDAQ stocks during 1998-2000 are exceptions. Under these abnormal market conditions, most upside breakouts are followed by large gains.

9) False (meaning: failed) upside breakouts are more reliably bearish than downside breakouts, and false downside breakouts are more reliably bullish than upside breakouts.

10) More often than not, a “death cross” (the 50-day moving average moving from above to below the 200-day moving average) will roughly coincide with either a short-term or an intermediate-term low. In other words, “death crosses” usually have bullish implications and are therefore misnamed. “Golden crosses” (the 50-day moving average moving from below to above the 200-day moving average) are neither bullish nor bearish.

11) The trend can’t possibly be your friend, because in real time you never know what the trend is. You only know for certain what it was. Another way of saying this is that the current trend is always a matter of opinion.

12) When figuring out where to buy and sell it can be useful to identify lateral support and resistance levels. For example, part of a money management strategy could involve buying pullbacks to support when there is good reason to believe, based on fundamental analysis, that a bull market is in progress. More generally, charts can help identify appropriate price levels to buy and sell for investments that have been selected using fundamental analysis.

13) Charts and momentum indicators can help determine the extent to which a market is ‘overbought’ or ‘oversold’, which, in turn, can help identify appropriate times to scale into and out of positions.

14) One way of determining the extent to which a market is ‘overbought’ or ‘oversold’ is to check the price relative to its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. For example, when a market price moves a large percentage above or below its 50-day moving average it usually means that the market is sufficiently extended in one direction to enable a significant move in the opposite direction (note that what constitutes a “large percentage” will be different for different markets). For another example, downward corrections in bull markets tend to end slightly below the 200-day moving average.

15) Acceleration usually happens near the end of a trend. This means that if you are long you should view upward acceleration as a warning signal of an impending top, not a reason to get more bullish.

16) Long sequences of up days create short-term selling opportunities and long sequences of up weeks create intermediate-term selling opportunities, especially if the percentage gain is large in the context of the market in question. It’s the same with long sequences of down days/weeks and buying opportunities. A “long” sequence is at least five in a row.

17) Charts showing price ratios can be informative, but traditional TA is even less valid with ratios than with nominal prices. In particular, support and resistance levels only have meaning with reference to the prices of things that people actively and directly trade in financial markets. On a related matter, applying TA to economic statistics or sentiment indicators is a total waste of time.

18) With a few exceptions, intra-day price reversals are unreliable indicators of the future. One exception is when the reversal happens immediately after a breach of an obvious support or resistance level.

19) History repeats, but in real time you can never be sure which history is repeating. Putting it another way, a market’s future price action almost certainly will be similar to the price action of that market or some other market at an earlier time, but while it is happening you can never be certain which historical price action is being replicated.

20) Elliott Wave analysis explains everything with the benefit of hindsight but provides its practitioners with very little in the way of foresight.

21) Price targets determined by measuring distances on charts are little better than random guesses. However, price targets determined in this way can be helpful in figuring out levels at which some buying (in the case of a downside target) or selling (in the case of an upside target) should be done, especially when the targets roughly coincide with a support or resistance level.

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