Technical analysis has many strengths and weaknesses. Each strength gives it a sense of reliability, while each weakness puts you one step closer to making a fatal mistake. By becoming adept at knowing the weaknesses, you are able to shore them up with the proper money management and risk management techniques.
Minimal Reliance on Fundamental Info
Practically every day there is some report coming out in the United States or overseas, whether it’s regarding job numbers, import numbers, or interest rate increases or decreases. Each bit of news has already been factored into the market’s activity in some form or fashion.
At one time, the concept of seasonal trading was “hot.” Every TV and radio guru talked about gasoline prices increasing in the summer, heating oil going through the roof in the winter, or oranges being wiped out by hurricanes. While these seasonal opportunities may have been tradable in the past, because they are so well known now, the level of impact that the seasons have on the markets has changed. Often times the actual movement in the market occurs far in advance of the actual seasonal problems themselves.
So instead of waiting for these seasonal trades to occur, it is far simpler to watch these markets and see the technical analysis movement now. If it’s heating up, get into the market; if it’s cooling down, get into the market; if nothing is happening, keep waiting and watching-don’t just follow fundamental analysis blindly.
Quick Snapshot of Data
Price, volume, and open interest all on one chart. With the right set of technical analysis tools and asking the right questions, you are capable of looking at a chart and within a few minutes being able to determine if a trade is worthwhile or not. You should also be able to determine your profit targets, loss risk, and risk management parameters as well. There is no comparable way to glean this much information from one piece of fundamental news.
A Sense of Immediate Control and Understanding
“What we don’t understand, we fear.”
As traders, we strive to be in control of the situation. The market itself is a beast. It moves up and down, left and right, for however long it wants and however violently it wants. There is little we can do with our finite amount of capital to truly move it. Therefore, the goal is to put the market in a context you can understand.
Since the mind enjoys creating patterns, we give ourselves the opportunity to look at daily, monthly, and weekly charts. We analyze minute-to-minute charts and focus on giving ourselves the best opportunity possible. Technical analysis does just that for us. It gives us the window to take a mass of information and to place it on the screen and feel like we can ride the wave as opposed to being crushed by it.
Lagging Indicators Aren’t Always Appropriate
Don’t misplace your faith. Technical analysis is a wonderful tool to be used; at the same time, you have to be careful when attempting to use it for predictive features. Elliot Wave, Gann, and Fibonacci can tell you only what happened and what is happening, but they cannot reliably tell the future.
Once you begin to rely on the predictions to the point of where you believe they are absolute and you fail to prepare for contingencies, you give yourself few outs. This goes back to the difference between gambling and speculating. Predictions cause us to make assumptions about what will happen that leaves little room for what is happening.
Since the information for technical indicators revolves around price and time movements that have already occurred, it is best to temper your reliance with common sense, which means that you will use technical analysis, not let it use you.
Tools Are Available to Everyone
Bollinger bands, candlesticks, and William’s %R, are on all charting software. From the newbie just opening an account to the professional trader working for a hedge fund, the information is readily available. The calculations are known, the setups are known, as well as common market wisdom, and gaps are filled.
Using off-the-shelf information gives you little to no competitive advantage over fellow traders. In fact, how you operate plays into the hands of self-fulfilling prophecies, which leads to predictable stop placements and whipsawing in the market.
Putting your own custom spin on the tools will be to your advantage as well as immunizing your predictability in following conventional forms of money management and risk management. At every turn, customize either your reactions or your interpretation of the information in order to refine your opportunities for a competitive advantage.
Interpretation Is More Art than Science
No one can guarantee that every time you see a “cup and saucer” the market will behave with 100% predictability. No one will claim that every time the price of a market hits the upper Bollinger, it will collapse in price. Technical analysis is an art masquerading as science.
While the numbers themselves may accurately calculate deviation, accumulation, and distribution, as well as relative strength, the interpretation of this data is the key. What does it mean this time, and how will I react to it? Everyone has their own spin on the function of their technical analysis tools. There is no wrong way.
This is the reason why many commodity trading advisers (CTAs) may have a mechanical trading program, but they still leave the final decisions up to discretion. They know full well that there are patterns and various activities that cannot be left to chance and solely for a robot to determine. This is the tailspin that too many traders take when they believe that technical tools are the gospel.