What is Technical Analysis – An Introduction for Beginners


Technical Analysis can be defined as a methodology of forecasting future prices based on an examination of the past price movements. Technical analysis is not astrology for predicting prices. Technical analysis is based on analyzing current demand-supply of commodities, stocks, indices, futures or any tradable instrument.

Technical analysis involves putting stock information like prices, volumes and open interest on a chart and applying various patterns and indicators to it in order to assess the future price movements. The time frame in which technical analysis is applied may range from intraday (1-minute, 5-minutes, 10-minutes, 15-minutes, 30-minutes or hourly), daily, weekly or monthly price data to many years. Here is an example of Nifty vs Gold returns analyzed over a period of last 15 years.

There are essentially two methods of analyzing investment opportunities in the security market viz fundamental analysis and technical analysis. You can use fundamental information like financial and non-financial aspects of the company or technical information which ignores fundamentals and focuses on actual price movements.

The Basis of Technical Analysis

What makes Technical Analysis an effective tool to analyze price behavior is explained by following theories given by Charles Dow:

  1. Price discounts everything
  2. Price movements are not totally random
  3. What is more important than why

1. Price discounts everything

“Each price represents a momentary consensus of value of all market participants – large commercial interests and small speculators, fundamental researchers, technicians and gamblers- at the moment of transaction” – Dr Alexander Elder.

Technical analysts believe that the current price fully reflects all the possible material information which could affect the price. 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 looks at the price and what it has done in the past and assumes it will perform similarly in future under similar circumstances. It looks at the price and assumes that it will perform in the same way as done in the past under similar circumstances in future.

2. Price movements are not totally random

Technical analysis is a trend following system. Most technicians acknowledge that hundreds of years of price charts have shown us one basic truth – prices move in trends. If prices were always random, it would be extremely difficult to make money using technical analysis. A technician believes that it is possible to identify a trend, invest or trade based on the trend and make money as the trend unfolds. Because technical analysis can be applied to many different time frames, it is possible to spot both short-term and long-term trends.

3. “What” is more important than “Why”

It is said that “A technical analyst knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing”. Technical analysts are mainly concerned with two things:

  1. The current price
  2. The history of the price movement

All of you will agree that the value of any asset is only what someone is willing to pay for it. Who needs to know why? By focusing just on price and nothing else, technical analysis represents a direct approach. The price is the final result of the fight between the forces of supply and demand for any tradable instrument.

The objective of analysis is to forecast the direction of the future price. Fundamentalists are concerned with why the price is what it is. For technicians, the why portion of the equation is too broad and many times the fundamental reasons given are highly suspect. Technicians believe it is best to concentrate on what and never mind why. Why did the price go up? It is simple, more buyers (demand) than sellers (supply).

The principles of technical analysis are universally applicable. The principles of support, resistance, trend, trading range and other aspects can be applied to any chart. Technical analysis can be used for any time horizon; for any marketable instrument like stocks, futures and commodities, fixed-income securities, forex, etc.

Top-down Technical Analysis

Technical analysis uses top-down approach for investing. For each stock, an investor would analyze long-term and short-term charts. First of all you will consider the overall market, most probably the index. If the broader market were considered to be in bullish mode, analysis would proceed to a selection of sector charts. Those sectors that show the most promise would be selected for individual stock analysis. Once the sector list is narrowed to 3-5 industry groups, individual stock selection can begin.

With a selection of 10-20 stock charts from each industry, a selection of 3-5 most promising stocks in each group can be made. How many stocks or industry groups make the final cut will depend on the strictness of the criteria set forth. Under this scenario, we would be left with 9-12 stocks from which to choose. These stocks could even be broken down further to find 3-4 best amongst the rest in the lot.

Sources: Jack Schwager TA, NCFM, Admiral Markets

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Hello! Welcome to Stock Gyan. Here we write interesting articles about stock markets, value investing, trading, data analysis and economy. Our goal is to break down complex financial concepts and topics into simple, easy to understand articles.

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