This is the first part of a series of articles about technical analysis from a new course we're developing. If you are new to charting, these articles will give you the “big picture” behind the charts on our site. If you are an “old hand,” these articles will help ensure you haven't “strayed too far” from the basics. Enjoy!
Technical analysis is the study of price and volume changes over time. Technical analysis usually involves the use of financial charts to help study these changes. Any person who analyzes financial charts can be called a Technical Analyst.
Despite being surrounded with data, charts, raw numbers, mathematical formulas, etc., technical analysts are really studying human behavior - specifically the behavior of crowds with respect to fear and greed. All of the investors that have any kind of interest in a particular stock can be considered to be “the market” for that particular stock and the emotional state of those investors is what determines the price for that stock. If more investors feel the stock will rise, it will! If more feel that the stock will fall, then fall it will. Thus, a stock's price change over time is the most accurate record of the emotional state - the fear and the greed - of the market for that stock and thus, technical analysis is, at its core, a study of crowd behavior.
When was the last time you saw a 100% accurate weather forecast for your area? Chances are that at least some of the weather predictions your local weather person tells you won't come to pass. In many cases, most of the predictions are wrong. So why do we keep listening to weather forecasts?
Weather forecasts are useful because they help us prepare for what is likely. If the forecast calls for rain, we bring our umbrellas with us when we go out. If sunshine is predicted, we bring our sunglasses. We know that we might not need these things, but more than likely we will and we like to be prepared.
Technical analysis is very similar to weather forecasting. Good technical analysts know that T/A can prepare you for what is likely to happen but, just like many weather forecasts, things can change in unpredictable ways. Here are some other ways that technical analysis is like weather forecasting:
It is easy to lose perspective on what technical analysis can and cannot do. Try to remember this comparison with weather forecasting to keep yourself aware of its benefits and limitations.