What is technical analysis?

What is technical analysis?

Technical Analysis is the forecasting of future price movements based on past price movements. Like weather forecasting, technical analysis does not result in absolute predictions about the future. Instead, technical analysis can help investors anticipate what is “likely” to happen to prices over time. Technical analysis uses a wide variety of charts that show price over time.

Key Assumptions of Technical Analysis
Technical analysis is applicable to securities where the price is only influenced by the forces of supply and demand. Technical analysis does not work well when other forces can influence the price of the security. In order to be successful, technical analysis makes three key assumptions about the securities that are being analyzed:

 High Liquidity
 No Artificial Price Changes
 No Extreme News

The Basis of Technical Analysis

Price Discounts Everything
Technical analysts believe that the current price fully reflects all information. Because all information is already reflected in the price, it represents the fair value, and should form the basis for analysis. After all, the market price reflects the sum knowledge of all participants, including traders, investors, portfolio managers, buy-side analysts, sell-side analysts, market strategist, technical analysts, fundamental analysts and many others. It would be folly to disagree with the price set by such an impressive array of people with impeccable credentials. Technical analysis utilizes the information captured by the price to interpret what the market is saying with the purpose of forming a view on the future.

Chart Analysis

Technical analysis can be as complex or as simple as you want it. The example below represents a simplified version. Since we are interested in buying stocks, the focus will be on spotting bullish situations.

Overall Trend: The first step is to identify the overall trend. This can be accomplished with trend lines, moving averages or peak/trough analysis. For example, the trend is up as long as price remains above its upward sloping trend line or a certain moving average. Similarly, the trend is up as long as higher troughs form on each pullback and higher highs form on each advance.

Support: Areas of congestion and previous lows below the current price mark the support levels. A break below support would be considered bearish and detrimental to the overall trend.

Resistance: Areas of congestion and previous highs above the current price mark the resistance levels. A break above resistance would be considered bullish and positive for the overall trend.

Momentum: Momentum is usually measured with an oscillator such as MACD. If MACD is above its 9-day EMA (exponential moving average) or positive, then momentum will be considered bullish, or at least improving.

Buying/Selling Pressure: For stocks and indices with volume figures available, an indicator that uses volume is used to measure buying or selling pressure.

Relative Strength: The price relative is a line formed by dividing the security by a benchmark. For stocks, it is usually the price of the stock divided by the S&P 500. The plot of this line over a period of time will tell us if the stock is outperforming (rising) or underperforming (falling) the major index.

The final step is to synthesize the above analysis to ascertain the following:
 Strength of the current trend.
 Maturity or stage of the current trend.
 Reward to risk ratio of a new position.
 Potential entry levels for a new long position.