Technical Analysis: Modern Perspectives

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Technical analysis provides a framework for informing investment management decisions by applying a supply and demand methodology to market prices. Underlying principles of the study of technical analysis are derived from the assumption that changes in the supply and demand of traded securities affect their current market prices. Tools of technical analysis are built into a framework that seeks to gain insight from the changes in supply and demand. This framework has evolved over time from a purely visual analysis to more quantitative techniques. Like other analytical tools, technical analysis employs a disciplined, systematic approach that seeks to minimize the impact of behavioral biases and emotion from the practice of investment selection; consequently, many institutional analysts, strategists, and portfolio managers fuse technical research with other analytical approaches, such as quantitative, fundamental, and macroeconomic methods.

Independent researchers have confirmed the value of technical analysis, beginning with the confirmation of the momentum anomaly. Momentum, or relative strength in the vernacular of technical analysts, has been applied since at least the 1930s. It is now widely accepted that relative strength analysis can help investment managers achieve statistically and economically significant excess. Additional research has confirmed the value of other technical tools, including pattern analysis, moving averages, and indicators.

More recent research has addressed the role of technical analysis in the broader context of financial markets and begins to trace the linkages among behavioral economics, individual actors in financial markets, and the role of technical analysis in studying the behavior of individual actors. In this literature review, a number of those studies are referenced. The review also discusses the evolution of technical analysis and how that evolution, in the tradition of other social science disciplines, has served to address many of the criticisms of the field. This review demonstrates that, over time, ideas expressed by Charles Dow at the dawn of the 20th century have been validated in the 21st century. Researchers are now assessing the observations of analysts that built on Dow’s theories, and technical analysts are applying this research to the market action in real time.

The idea that technical analysis has value as one tool among many in financial research finds strong support in scholarly literature as well as in the work of many practitioners. To show this support, we review recent publications and the work of a large group of practitioners on the topic of technical analysis in an institutional setting. The books and articles we cite are divided into three distinct groups: citations from technical analysis certification curricula, citations suggesting ways that technical analysis can be profitably integrated into investment selection methodologies, and recent citations that reflect a growing acceptance and validation of technical analysis.

In 2015, the Market Technicians Association (MTA), a worldwide professional association of technical analysis practitioners, conducted an extensive survey and analysis of job-related activity. The survey sought to identify how practitioners use technical analysis as part of their financial research activity and particularly what they considered the most critical knowledge and job skills involving technical analysis. This survey was part of the MTA’s ongoing process of maintaining the curriculum readings for the three exam levels of the Chartered Market Technician (CMT), a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)-recognized designation for professionals in financial analysis. The survey sought to identify specific technical analysis knowledge and skills that were considered most valuable to practitioners today and, more specifically, what job tasks were performed using that knowledge and skill. This survey was the most comprehensive of its kind ever completed.

Analysis of the responses found that most practitioners did not use technical analysis in isolation but, rather, integrated their use of this analysis with other skills and knowledge. The responses also show that the approach used by practitioners is evolving over time. Nowadays, practitioners need an understanding of not only technical analysis but also aspects of other disciplines that can provide context for technical study. Based on insights from these responses, the exam curriculum was realigned to match the way that the discipline has evolved and to reflect the integration of technical analysis into financial research more generally. The redesigned curriculum draws on works that discuss not only technical analysis but also statistical analysis, quantitative analysis, behavioral finance, and fundamental analysis.

To help practitioners appreciate and understand the evolution of technical analysis as a modern discipline, the curriculum includes a treatment of the history, recent changes, and current practices in technical analysis. The curriculum also includes readings intended to help practitioners understand the issues that fostered resistance to this discipline in the financial industry. This information should help practitioners understand what practices improve the value of technical analysis, especially as the practice of technical analysis evolves in a manner that can be called “fusion analysis,” or the inclusion of techniques from various disciplines in an integrated investment selection and decision-making model.

Because this effort was so comprehensive and conducted in a manner required by the development of psychometrically sound examinations, this review justifiably includes citations of the books and papers considered for inclusion in the readings for the CMT exams. This review also includes additional publications that contribute in significant ways to the understanding of how technical analysis can or does fuse with other disciplines in research activity. Finally, recent publications show the evolution of technical analysis toward a more robust and valuable body of knowledge and skill.

About the Author(s)

Gordon ScottCMT

Managing Director, CMT Program, Market Technicians Association

Michael CarrCMT

Editor, Banyan Hill Publishing

Mark CremonieCMTCFA

Equity Analyst, SectorAnalytics, Inc.

Book Information

Published by CFA Institute

8 chapters 36 pages

ISBN-10: 1944960112

ISBN-13: 978-1-56619-909-4