Technical Analysis: A Guide to Investing Success


Technical analysis is an evaluation method used by traders and investors to determine investments and identify possible trading opportunities. The method uses past trading activity and price changes in a company’s stock to forecast future price movements. Technical analysis takes into account factors such as supply and demand, changes in volume, and implied volatility to provide short-term trading signals using charting tools. Technical analysis can also improve the overall valuation estimate of a security. Technical analysis assumes that the market discounts everything and that prices move in trends, and it is an essential tool for traders and investors looking to make profitable trades and build successful portfolios.

Getting to know technical analysis

Technical analysis is a popular method used by traders to make investment decisions based on price and volume data. By studying charts and identifying trends, technical analysts believe they can identify patterns that indicate where a stock’s price is headed. This approach assumes that all relevant information about the stock is reflected in its price and volume history and that market psychology plays a major role in determining future prices.

Technical analysts use a variety of tools and indicators to analyze charts, including moving averages, support and resistance levels, trend lines, and chart patterns. They may also use technical indicators like the relative strength index (RSI), moving average convergence divergence (MACD), and stochastic oscillator to help them identify potential buy or sell signals.

Technical analysis may seem daunting at first, but it’s not as complicated as it may appear. With the abundance of resources available online and offline, beginners can quickly gain knowledge about the subject and start using technical analysis in their investment decisions.

An overview of technical analysis and how it’s used

Technical analysis is a trading methodology that uses past price movements and trading activity of securities to predict future price trends. Its roots can be traced back to the late 1800s when Charles Dow introduced the Dow Theory that laid the foundation for modern technical analysis. Since then, many researchers have refined and expanded the concepts behind this method, resulting in a plethora of patterns and signals that traders can use to identify potential trades.

To perform technical analysis, traders look at a variety of factors that may influence the price of a security. These factors include supply and demand, trading volume, and implied volatility. Charting tools are commonly used to visualize price trends and identify patterns that may signal a buying or selling opportunity. Traders may also use technical analysis to compare a security’s strength against the broader market or a specific sector.

While technical analysis is not always accurate, many traders find it to be a valuable tool in their investment decision-making process. It provides a framework for understanding market psychology and can be used to generate short-term trading signals. With its long history of research and refinement, technical analysis has become an integral part of the world of trading and finance. Whether you’re a seasoned trader or a novice investor, understanding the basics of technical analysis can help you make informed decisions about your portfolio.

How technical analysis is used by investors

While some retail traders rely solely on technical analysis, most professional analysts use it in conjunction with other research methods, such as fundamental analysis.

What’s great about technical analysis is that it can be applied to any security with historical trading data, including stocks, futures, commodities, fixed-income, currencies, and other securities. It’s especially prevalent in commodities and forex markets, where traders focus on short-term price movements.

Technical analysis is an attempt to forecast the price movement of any tradable instrument by studying supply and demand forces reflected in market price movements. While it mainly focuses on price changes, it can also include the analysis of other market indicators, such as trading volume or open interest figures. By understanding technical analysis, investors can gain valuable insights into the markets and make informed trading decisions.

Technical analysis indicators

Technical analysts have developed a variety of trading systems to help them predict and act on price movements. These analysis indicators focus on identifying the current market trend, assessing its strength, and gauging the probability of its continuation.

Some commonly used technical indicators and charting patterns include trendlines, channels, moving averages, and momentum indicators.

Trendlines help identify the direction of a trend, while channels show the range of prices within which a security is trading. Moving averages smooth out price data and help identify potential buy or sell signals, and momentum indicators measure the speed and strength of price movements.

Technical analysts broadly classify indicators into four types:

  • Trend-following indicators help determine the direction and strength of a trend.
  • Momentum indicators measure the speed and strength of price movements.
  • Volatility indicators help determine the degree of price variability.
  • Volume indicators measure the level of trading activity.

Charles Dow and the assumptions of technical analysis

Technical analysis assumes that all publicly available information is already reflected in a security’s price and focuses on identifying patterns and trends in price movements to gain insights into market sentiment.

Charles Dow is considered the father of technical analysis due to his pioneering work in the late 1800s. He wrote a series of editorials that introduced the basic principles of technical analysis, which are still used today. Dow’s editorials were based on two main assumptions:

  • Market price action reflects all publicly available information, including economic data, company news, and investor sentiment.
  • Price movements tend to follow established trends, so by identifying these trends, investors can make more informed investment decisions.

The practice of technical analysis has evolved since its inception by Charles Dow, and today, professional analysts generally agree on three foundational assumptions.

Firstly, technical analysts believe in the efficient markets hypothesis (EMH), which holds that the market incorporates all available information into a stock price. Therefore, technical analysts concentrate on analyzing a stock’s price movements to understand its supply and demand dynamics.

Secondly, technical analysts believe that prices move in trends and that they are more likely to continue in the same direction than to move erratically. This assumption is fundamental to most technical trading strategies, which focus on identifying and following trends.

Lastly, technical analysts believe in the repetitive nature of price movements, which is often linked to predictable market psychology rooted in emotions such as fear and greed. By examining chart patterns, the technical analysis aims to identify these emotions and subsequent market movements, thereby gaining insight into trends.

Despite being over a century old, technical analysis remains relevant today due to its ability to identify repeating patterns in price movements.

Fundamental vs. technical analysis

Fundamental analysis and technical analysis are two popular approaches used by investors to evaluate stocks. Fundamental analysis involves analyzing a company’s financial statements, management team, industry trends, and macroeconomic factors to determine a stock’s intrinsic value and overall merit. The idea is to identify stocks that are undervalued or overvalued compared to their fair value.

Technical analysis is different in that it is based on the idea that all relevant information is already reflected in a stock’s price. Technical analysts focus on analyzing charts, historical price movements, trading volume, and other market data to identify patterns and trends that may indicate a stock’s future direction. Technical analysts use various tools and indicators to make predictions about where a stock may be headed next.

While fundamental analysis is more focused on the long-term prospects of a company, technical analysis is more geared toward identifying short-term trading opportunities. Technical analysis can be useful for traders who are looking to make short-term profits by capitalizing on price movements in the market. However, it’s important to note that technical analysis is not foolproof, and relying solely on technical analysis can be risky.

How does technical analysis compare to fundamental analysis?

Fundamental analysis is a critical tool for investors looking to understand the true value of a security. It involves examining a company’s financial statements and market conditions to determine a stock’s intrinsic value. By examining a company’s financial health, management, industry conditions, and economic trends, investors can make more informed decisions about whether to buy, sell, or hold a particular stock.

Despite its popularity, fundamental analysis has its detractors. Some argue that it can be challenging to accurately assess a company’s intrinsic value, and market sentiment and other factors can result in significant deviations from fair value.

While fundamental analysts focus on a company’s financial health and management, technical analysts take a different approach. They believe that a stock’s price reflects all known fundamentals, such as earnings and financial health, and instead focus on analyzing price and volume data to predict future price movements.

Technical analysts use charts to identify patterns and trends that may indicate a stock’s future direction, and they also consider the psychology of market participants and how it affects price movements.

What are some limitations of technical analysis?

Despite its widespread use, technical analysis has its critics, who argue that relying on historical price and volume data does not provide useful information. These critics often point to the efficient markets hypothesis, which posits that all publicly available information is already reflected in the stock price. However, this argument also implies that fundamental analysis, which examines a company’s financial health, should not provide any useful information. Critics have categorized these views as the weak and semi-strong forms of the EMH.

Another criticism of technical analysis is that price patterns from the past may not accurately predict the future, and prices may instead follow a random walk. Therefore, past prices should not be considered a consistent and reliable predictor of future prices.

The self-fulfilling prophecy of technical analysis

Critics also contend that technical analysis can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if a large number of traders set stop-loss orders below a particular company’s 200-day moving average, then when the stock reaches that price, there may be a cascade of sell orders that push the stock price down, as predicted by the technical traders. This creates a feedback loop that reinforces the validity of the technical analysis.

While a group of traders can influence prices in the short term, over the long run, prices will be determined by a broader range of market participants and factors. This short-term selling pressure may be seen as self-fulfilling, but it is unlikely to significantly impact an asset’s price weeks or months down the line.

Chartered Market Technicians (CMTs) and technical analysis

The CMT Association serves as a prominent organization for professional analysts who utilize technical analysis as their primary approach to assessing the markets. To earn the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) designation, analysts must pass a series of three rigorous exams that cover various technical analysis aspects. The CMT designation holds global recognition and garners significant respect from industry professionals.

Notably, the CMT Association recently waived the Level 1 exam requirement for individuals who have already earned the Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) charter. This demonstrates how the two approaches complement each other, as the CFA designation centers on fundamental analysis while the CMT designation focuses on technical analysis. By combining these skill sets, finance professionals can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the markets.

What are the assumptions made by technical analysts?

Professional technical analysts generally accept three key assumptions in their approach. The first assumption is that the market discounts everything, similar to the efficient market hypothesis. Second, prices exhibit trends even in random market movements. Third, history tends to repeat itself, with the repetitive nature of price movements attributed to predictable market psychology influenced by emotions like fear and excitement.

How and where does one learn about technical analysis?

As an aspiring investor, it’s natural to want to learn about technical analysis, a popular method of evaluating securities. However, jumping into technical analysis without first understanding the basics of investing, stocks, and financials can be overwhelming and ineffective. To build a strong foundation, consider reading books, enrolling in online courses, or attending classes to gain a fundamental understanding of the market.

Once you have a grasp of the basics, you can begin to explore technical analysis in greater depth. Resources such as books, websites, and online courses are available to help you develop a working knowledge of the tools and techniques of technical analysis. With patience, persistence, and a willingness to learn, anyone can master technical analysis and make informed investment decisions.

Key takeaways

  • Technical analysis uses past price and volume data to identify trading opportunities and predict future price movements.
  • Technical analysis differs from fundamental analysis, which focuses on a company’s financials rather than price trends.
  • Technical analysts believe that studying past trading activity and price changes can provide valuable insights into a security’s future price movements.
View Article Sources
  1. Blume, M.E., & Stambaugh, R. F. (1983). Biases in computed returns: An application to the size effect. Journal of Financial Economics, 12(3), 387-404.
  2. Edwards, R. D., & Magee, J. (1992). Technical analysis of stock trends (5th ed.). CRC Press.
  3. Kirkpatrick, C. D., & Dahlquist, J. R. (2010). Technical analysis: The complete resource for financial market technicians (2nd ed.). FT Press.
  4. Lo, A. W., Mamaysky, H., & Wang, J. (2000). Foundations of technical analysis: Computational algorithms, statistical inference, and empirical implementation. Journal of Finance, 55(4), 1705-1770.
  5. What Is A Buy Stop Order And When Would You Use One? – SuperMoney
  6. Collar Options Strategy – SuperMoney