Technical Analysis Strategies for Beginners

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By SHOBHIT SETH

Updated February 07, 2022Reviewed by CHARLES POTTERSFact checked by PETE RATHBURN

Many investors analyze stocks based on their fundamentals—such as their revenue, valuation, or industry trends—but fundamental factors aren’t always reflected in the market price. Technical analysis seeks to predict price movements by examining historical data, mainly price and volume.

It helps traders and investors navigate the gap between intrinsic value and market price by leveraging techniques like statistical analysis and behavioral economics. Technical analysis helps guide traders to what is most likely to happen given past information. Most investors use both technical and fundamental analysis to make decisions.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Technical analysis, or using charts to identify trading signals and price patterns, may seem overwhelming or esoteric at first.
  • Beginners should first understand why technical analysis works as a window into market psychology to identify opportunities to profit.
  • Focus on a particular trading approach and develop a disciplined strategy that you can follow without letting emotions or second-guessing get in the way.
  • Find a broker that can help you execute your plan affordably while also providing a trading platform with the right suite of tools you’ll need.

There are generally two different ways to approach technical analysis: the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach. Often, short-term traders will take a top-down approach and long-term investors will take a bottom-up approach. In addition to this, there are five core steps to getting started with technical analysis.

Top-Down

The top-down approach is a macroeconomic analysis that looks at the overall economy before focusing on individual securities. A trader would first focus on economies, then sectors, and then companies in the case of stocks. Traders using this approach focus on short-term gains as opposed to long-term valuations. For example, a trader may be interested in stocks that broke out from their 50-day moving average as a buying opportunity.2

Bottom-Up

The bottom-up approach focuses on individual stocks as opposed to a macroeconomic view.3 It involves analyzing a stock that appears fundamentally interesting for potential entry and exit points. For example, an investor may find an undervalued stock in a downtrend and use technical analysis to identify a specific entry point when the stock could be bottoming out. They seek value in their decisions and intend to hold a long-term view of their trades.

In addition to these considerations, different types of traders might prefer using different forms of technical analysis. Day traders might use simple trendlines and volume indicators to make decisions, while swing or position traders may prefer chart patterns and technical indicators. Traders developing automated algorithms may have entirely different requirements that use a combination of volume indicators and technical indicators to drive decision-making.

1. Pick a Strategy or Develop a Trading System

The first step is to identify a strategy or develop a trading system. For example, a novice trader may decide to follow a moving average crossover strategy, where they will track two moving averages (50-day and 200-day) on a particular stock price movement.

For this strategy, if the short-term 50-day moving average goes above the long-term 200-day moving average, it indicates an upward price trend and generates a buy signal. The opposite is true for a sell signal.

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Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2020

2. Identify Securities

Not all stocks or securities will fit with the above strategy, which is ideal for highly liquid and volatile stocks instead of illiquid or stable stocks. Different stocks or contracts may also require different parameter choices—in this case, different moving averages like a 15-day and 50-day moving average.1

3. Find the Right Brokerage

Get the right trading account that supports the selected type of security (e.g., common stock, penny stock, futures, options, etc.). It should offer the required functionality for tracking and monitoring the selected technical indicators while keeping costs low to avoid eating into profits. For the above strategy, a basic account with moving averages on candlestick charts would work.

4. Track and Monitor Trades

Traders may require different levels of functionality depending on their strategy. For example, day traders will require a margin account that provides access to Level II quotes and market maker visibility. But for our example above, a basic account may be preferable as a lower-cost option.

5. Use Additional Software or Tools

There may be other features that are needed to maximize performance. Some traders may require mobile alerts or access to trading on the go, while others may leverage automated trading systems to execute trades on their behalf.

Tips and Risk Factors

Trading can be challenging, which means it’s important to do your homework beyond the above points. Some other key considerations include:

  • Understanding the rationale and underlying logic behind technical analysis.
  • Backtesting trading strategies to see how they would have performed in the past.
  • Practicing trading in a demo account before committing real capital.
  • Being aware of the limitations of technical analysis to avoid costly failures and surprises.
  • Being thoughtful and flexible about scalability and future requirements.
  • Trying to evaluate the features of a trading account by requesting a free trial.
  • Starting small in the beginning and expanding as you gain experience.

The Bottom Line

Many investors leverage both fundamental and technical analysis when making investment decisions since technical analysis helps fill in the gaps of knowledge. By developing an understanding of technical analysis, traders and investors can improve their long-term risk-adjusted returns, but it’s important to understand and practice these techniques before committing real capital to avoid costly mistakes.

To read further and from the same source of articles.

What Is Technical Analysis?

Technical analysis is the study of historical market data, including price and volume. Using insights from market psychology, behavioral economics, and quantitative analysis, technical analysts aim to use past performance to predict future market behavior. The two most common forms of technical analysis are chart patterns and technical (statistical) indicators.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Technical analysis attempts to predict future price movements, providing traders with the information needed to make a profit.
  • Traders apply technical analysis tools to charts in order to identify entry and exit points for potential trades.
  • An underlying assumption of technical analysis is that the market has processed all available information and that it is reflected in the price chart.

What Does Technical Analysis Tell You?

Technical analysis is a blanket term for a variety of strategies that depend on interpretation of price action in a stock. Most technical analysis is focused on determining whether or not a current trend will continue and, if not, when it will reverse. Some technical analysts swear by trendlines, others use candlestick formations, and yet others prefer bands and boxes created through a mathematical visualization. Most technical analysts use some combination of tools to recognize potential entry and exit points for trades. A chart formation may indicate an entry point for a short seller, for example, but the trader will look at moving averages for different time periods to confirm that a breakdown is likely.


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A Brief History of Technical Analysis

The technical analysis of stocks and trends has been used for hundreds of years. In Europe, Joseph de la Vega adopted early technical analysis techniques to predict Dutch markets in the 17th century. In its modern form, however, technical analysis owes heavily to Charles Dow, William P. Hamilton, Robert Rhea, Edson Gould, and many others—including a ballroom dancer named Nicolas Darvas. These people represented a new perspective on the market as a tide that is best measured in highs and lows on a chart rather than by the particulars of the underlying company. The diverse collection of theories from early technical analysts were brought together and formalized in 1948 with the publishing of Technical Analysis of Stock Trends by Robert D. Edwards and John Magee.1

Candlestick patterns date back to Japanese merchants eager to detect trading patterns for their rice harvests. Studying these ancient patterns became popular in the 1990s in the U.S. with the advent of internet day trading. Investors analyzed historical stock charts eager to discover new patterns for use when recommending trades. Candlestick reversal patterns in particular are critically important for investors to identify, and there are several other commonly used candlestick charting patterns. The doji and the engulfing pattern are all used to predict an imminent bearish reversal.

How to Use Technical Analysis

The core principle underlying technical analysis is that the market price reflects all available information that could impact a market. As a result, there’s no need to look at economic, fundamental, or new developments since they’re already priced into a given security. Technical analysts generally believe that prices move in trends and history tends to repeat itself when it comes to the market’s overall psychology. The two major types of technical analysis are chart patterns and technical (statistical) indicators.

Chart patterns are a subjective form of technical analysis where technicians attempt to identify areas of support and resistance on a chart by looking at specific patterns. These patterns, underpinned by psychological factors, are designed to predict where prices are headed, following a breakout or breakdown from a specific price point and time. For example, an ascending triangle chart pattern is a bullish chart pattern that shows a key area of resistance. A breakout from this resistance could lead to a significant, high-volume move higher.

Technical indicators are a statistical form of technical analysis where technicians apply various mathematical formulas to prices and volumes. The most common technical indicators are moving averages, which smooth price data to help make it easier to spot trends. More complex technical indicators include the moving average convergence divergence (MACD), which looks at the interplay between several moving averages. Many trading systems are based on technical indicators since they can be quantitatively calculated.

The Difference Between Technical Analysis and Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental analysis and technical analysis are the two big factions in finance. Whereas technical analysts believe the best approach is to follow the trend as it forms through market action, fundamental analysts believe the market often overlooks value. Fundamental analysts will ignore chart trends in favor of digging through the balance sheet and the market profile of a company in search of intrinsic value not currently reflected in the price. There are many examples of successful investors using fundamental or technical analysis to guide their trading and even those who incorporate elements of both. On the whole, however, technical analysis lends itself to a faster investing pace, whereas fundamental analysis generally has a longer decision timeline and holding period by virtue of the time required for the extra due diligence.

Limitations of Technical Analysis

Technical analysis has the same limitation of any strategy based on particular trade triggers. The chart can be misinterpreted. The formation may be predicated on low volume. The periods being used for the moving averages may be too long or too short for the type of trade you are looking to make. Leaving those aside, the technical analysis of stocks and trends has a fascinating limitation unique to itself.

As more technical analysis strategies, tools, and techniques become widely adopted, these have a material impact on the price action. For example, are those three black crows forming because the priced-in information is justifying a bearish reversal or because traders universally agree that they should be followed by a bearish reversal and bring that about by taking up short positions? Although this is an interesting question, a true technical analyst doesn’t actually care as long as the trading model continues to work.

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