Numerous investors believe in and use the principles of technical analysis. In fact, large brokerage houses provide extensive support for technical analysis and a large part of the discussion related to capital markets in the media is based on a technical view of the market.
Technical analysis observes historical price movements of the stock market and individual securities and develops a variety of models and technical trading rules such as moving averages, regression analysis and relative strength index to predict future market behavior. By taking into account price and volume changes, technical analysis comes in sharp contrast with fundamental analysis, which suggests that past performance has no influence on future performance or market values. Technical analysis involves the observation of past market data to estimate future market trends and therefore an investment decision using the market itself to predict its future performance.
To predict future behavior, technical analysts use several underlying assumptions that lead to this view of price movements. First of all, technical analysis assumes that the market value of any good or service is determined solely by the interaction of supply and demand. This assumption is universally accepted by both technical and fundamental analyst as it constitutes a basic theory in economics. The price of any security is determined by the interaction of supply and demand.
The second assumption of technical analysis is that supply and demand are driven by a variety of rational and irrational factors. In these factors are also included economic variables that fundamental analysts recognize as determinants of market corrections, but also factors such as opinions, moods and guesses that actually shape trends which are fundamental in technical analysis. In regards to this second assumption, most observers acknowledge that supply and demand are driven by numerous variables that cannot be separated and the market has to continually and automatically weigh all these factors and reflect them in the stock price.
The third assumption of technical analysis is that the prices of individual securities and the value of the market as a whole have the tendency to move in trends, which persist for considerable lengths of time. These prevailing trends tend to adjust to changes in supply and demand. Technical analysts assume that stock prices move in trends that persist for long periods because they consider that new information enters the market over a period of time and not at once. This gradual pattern of information occurs as various groups of securities professional to the average investor receive gradually the information and buy or sell the stocks accordingly, moving the price accordingly and gradually reaching a new equilibrium. Therefore, technical analysis is based on a gradual price adjustment that reflects the gradual flow of information into the market.
There are numerous technical trading rules and a range of interpretations for each of them. Technical analysts, in majority, watch many alternative rules and decide on a buy or sell decision based on a consensus of the signals because it is rare to achieve complete agreement of all the rules. Many technical analysts assume that investors are wrong as the market approaches peaks and lows and they try to determine when the majority of investors are either bearish or bullish and trade in the opposite direction. In technical analysis, this is known as contrary-opinion rules. Another set of rules such as the Confidence Index, and the T-Bill Eurodollar Yield Spread follows the behavior of sophisticated investors and are widely known as the follow-the-smart-money tactics. Finally, there are momentum indicators such as the 200-day moving average, and the breadth of market, as well as stock price and moving techniques such as relative strength, moving-average lines, bar charting, resistance levels, and point-and-figure charts that are used to make aggregate market decisions based on rising and declining trend channels.
Overall, technical analysis is applied to both domestic and global capital markets and can also be used to analyze currency exchange rates and determine the prevailing sentiment in the bond market.