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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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 as fundamental analysis generally has a longer decision timeline and holding period by virtue to the time going into doing the due diligence.
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.
Technical analysis is the other primary form of security analysis. Put simply, technical analysts base their investments (or, more precisely, their trades) solely on the price and volume movements of stocks. Using charts and other tools, they trade on momentum and ignore the fundamentals.
One of the basic tenets of technical analysis is that the market discounts everything. All news about a company is already priced into the stock. Therefore, the stock’s price movements give more insight than the underlying fundamentals of the business itself.
Followers of the efficient market hypothesis (EMH), however, are usually in disagreement with both fundamental and technical analysts.
The efficient market hypothesis contends that it is essentially impossible to beat the market through either fundamental or technical analysis. Since the market efficiently prices all stocks on an ongoing basis, any opportunities for excess returns are almost immediately whittled away by the market’s many participants, making it impossible for anyone to meaningfully outperform the market over the long term.
Fundamental analysis (FA) is a method of measuring a security’s intrinsic value by examining related economic and financial factors. Fundamental analysts study anything that can affect the security’s value, from macroeconomic factors such as the state of the economy and industry conditions to microeconomic factors like the effectiveness of the company’s management.
The end goal is to arrive at a number that an investor can compare with a security’s current price in order to see whether the security is undervalued or overvalued.
This method of stock analysis is considered to be in contrast to technical analysis, which forecasts the direction of prices through an analysis of historical market data such as price and volume.
- Fundamental analysis is a method of determining a stock’s real or “fair market” value.
- Fundamental analysts search for stocks that are currently trading at prices that are higher or lower than their real value.
- If the fair market value is higher than the market price, the stock is deemed to be undervalued and a buy recommendation is given.
- In contrast, technical analysts ignore the fundamentals in favor of studying the historical price trends of the stock.
All stock analysis tries to determine whether a security is correctly valued within the broader market. Fundamental analysis is usually done from a macro to micro perspective in order to identify securities that are not correctly priced by the market.
Analysts typically study, in order, the overall state of the economy and then the strength of the specific industry before concentrating on individual company performance to arrive at a fair market value for the stock.
Fundamental analysis uses public data to evaluate the value of a stock or any other type of security. For example, an investor can perform fundamental analysis on a bond’s value by looking at economic factors such as interest rates and the overall state of the economy, then
studying information about the bond issuer, such as potential changes in its credit rating.
For stocks, fundamental analysis uses revenues, earnings, future growth, return on equity,
profit margins, and other data to determine a company’s underlying value and potential for future growth. All of this data is available in a company’s financial statements (more on that below).
Fundamental analysis is used most often for stocks, but it is useful for evaluating any security, from a bond to a derivative. If you consider the fundamentals, from the broader economy to the company details, you are doing fundamental analysis.
An analyst works to create a model for determining the estimated value of a company’s share price based on publicly available data. This value is only an estimate, the analyst’s educated opinion, of what the company’s share price should be worth compared to the currently trading market price. Some analysts may refer to their estimated price as the company’s intrinsic value.
If an analyst calculates that the stock’s value should be significantly higher than the stock’s current market price, they may publish a buy or overweight rating for the stock. This acts as a recommendation to investors who follow that analyst. If the analyst calculates a lower intrinsic value than the current market price, the stock is considered overvalued and a sell or underweight recommendation is issued.
Investors who follow these recommendations will expect that they can buy stocks with favorable recommendations because such stocks should have a higher probability of rising over time. Likewise stocks with unfavorable ratings are expected to have a higher probability of falling in price. Such stocks are candidates for being removed from existing portfolios or added as “short” positions.
This method of stock analysis is considered to be the opposite of technical analysis, which forecasts the direction of prices through an analysis of historical market data such as price and volume.
Examples of Fundamental Analysis
Take the Coca-Cola Company, for example. When examining its stock, an analyst must look at the stock’s annual dividend payout, earnings per share, P/E ratio, and many other quantitative factors. However, no analysis of Coca-Cola is complete without taking into account its brand recognition. Anybody can start a company that sells sugar and water, but few companies are known to billions of people. It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what the Coke brand is worth, but you can be sure that it’s an essential ingredient contributing to the company’s ongoing success.
Even the market as a whole can be evaluated using fundamental analysis. For example, analysts looked at fundamental indicators of the S&P 500 from July 4 to July 8, 2016. During this time, the S&P rose to 2129.90 after the release of a positive jobs’ report in the United States. In fact, the market just missed a new record high, coming in just under the May 2015 high of 2130.82.3 The economic surprise of an additional 287,000 jobs for the month of June4 specifically increased the value of the stock market on July 8, 2016.