ELLIOTT WAVE PRINCIPLE
The Elliott Wave Principle, or Elliott wave theory, is a form of technical analysis that finance traders use to analyze financial market cycles and forecast market trends by identifying extremes in investor psychology and price levels, such as highs and lows, by looking for patterns in prices.
ELLIOTT WAVE PRINCIPLE
The Elliott Wave Principle states that markets grow from small price movements by linking Elliot wave patterns to form larger five-wave and three-wave structures that exhibit self-similarity, applicable on all timescales. Each level of such timescales is called the degree of the wave, or price pattern. Each degree of waves consists of one full cycle of motive and corrective waves. Waves 1, 3, and 5 of each cycle are motive in character, while waves 2 and 4 are corrective. The majority of motive waves assure forward progress in the direction of the prevailing trend, in bull or bear markets, but yielding an overall principle of growth of a market.
The overall movement of a wave one degree higher is upward in a bullish trend. After the initial five waves forward and three waves of correction, the sequence is repeated on a larger degree and the self-similar fractal geometry continues to unfold. The completed motive pattern comprises 89 waves, followed by a completed corrective pattern of 55 waves.
Each degree of a pattern in a financial market has a name. Practitioners use symbols for each wave to indicate both function and degree. Numbers are used for motive waves, and letters for corrective waves (shown in the highest of the three idealized series of wave structures or degrees). Degrees are not strictly defined by absolute size or duration, by form. Waves of the same degree may be of very different size or duration.
Elliott wave analysts (or Elliotticians) hold that each individual wave has its own signature or characteristic, which typically reflects the psychology of the moment. Understanding those personalities is key to the application of the Wave Principle; they are defined below. (Definitions assume a bull market in equities; the characteristics apply in reverse in bear markets.)
Elliott's market model relies heavily on looking at price charts. Practitioners study developing trends to distinguish the waves and wave structures, and discern what prices may do next; thus the application of the Wave Principle is a form of pattern recognition.
The structures Elliott described meet the common definition of a fractal (self-similar patterns appearing at every degree of trend). Elliott wave practitioners argue that just as naturally occurring fractals often expand and grow more complex over time, the model shows that collective human psychology develops in natural patterns, via buying and selling decisions reflected in market prices: "It's as though we are somehow programmed by mathematics. Seashell, galaxy, snowflake or human: we're all bound by the same order." Critics, however, argue it is a form of pareidolia.
A common guideline called "alternation" observes that in a five-wave pattern, waves 2 and 4 often take alternate forms; a simple sharp move in wave 2, for example, suggests a complex mild move in wave 4. Alternation can occur in impulsive and corrective waves. Elliott observed that alternate waves of the same degree must be distinctive and unique in price, time, severity, and construction. All formations can guide influences on market action. The time period covered by each formation, however, is the major deciding factor in the full manifestation of the Rule of Alternation. A sharp counter-trend correction in wave 2 covers a short distance in horizontal units. This should produce a sideways counter-trend correction in wave 4, covering a longer distance in horizontal units, and vice versa. Alternation provides analysts a notice of what not to expect when analyzing wave formations.
Corrective wave patterns unfold in forms known as zigzags, flats, or triangles. In turn these corrective patterns can come together to form more complex corrections. Similarly, a triangular corrective pattern is formed usually in wave 4, but very rarely in wave 2, and is the indication of the end of a correction.
R. N. Elliott's analysis of the mathematical properties of waves and patterns eventually led him to conclude that "The Fibonacci Summation Series is the basis of The Wave Principle". Numbers from the Fibonacci sequence surface repeatedly in Elliott wave structures, including motive waves (1, 3, 5), a single full cycle (8 waves), and the completed motive (89 waves) and corrective (55 waves) patterns. Elliott developed his market model before he realized that it reflects the Fibonacci sequence. "When I discovered The Wave Principle action of market trends, I had never heard of either the Fibonacci Series or the Pythagorean Diagram".
The Fibonacci sequence is also closely connected to the Golden ratio (1.618). Practitioners commonly use this ratio and related ratios to establish support and resistance levels for market waves, namely the price points which help define the parameters of a trend. See Fibonacci retracement.
Hamilton Bolton, founder of The Bank Credit Analyst, also known as BCA Research Inc., provided wave analysis to a wide readership in the 1950s and 1960s through a number of annual supplements of market commentary. He also authored the book "The Elliott Wave Principle of Stock Market Behavior".
Among market technicians, wave analysis is widely accepted as a component of trade. The Elliott Wave Principle is among the methods included in the exam that analysts must pass to earn the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) designation, a professional accreditation developed by the CMT Association.
It is intriguing that the log-periodic structures documented here bear some similarity with the "Elliott waves" of technical analysis ... A lot of effort has been developed in finance both by academic and trading institutions and more recently by physicists (using some of their statistical tools developed to deal with complex times series) to analyze past data to get information on the future. The 'Elliott wave' technique is probably the most famous in this field. We speculate that the "Elliott waves", so strongly rooted in the financial analysts' folklore, could be a signature of an underlying critical structure of the stock market.
Critics warn the Wave Principle is too vague to be useful since practitioners cannot consistently identify the beginning or end of waves, resulting in forecasts prone to subjective revisions. Technical analyst David Aronson wrote:
The Elliott Wave Principle, as popularly practiced, is not a legitimate theory, but a story, and a compelling one that is eloquently told by Robert Prechter. The account is especially persuasive because EWP has the seemingly remarkable ability to fit any segment of market history down to its most minute fluctuations. I contend this is made possible by the method's loosely defined rules and the ability to postulate a large number of nested waves of varying magnitude. This gives the Elliott analyst the same freedom and flexibility that allowed pre-Copernican astronomers to explain all observed planet movements even though their underlying theory of an Earth-centered universe was wrong.
Elliott wave was an incredible discovery for its time. But, as technologies, governments, economies, and social systems have changed, the behavior of people has also. These changes have affected the wave patterns R.N. Elliott discovered. Consequently, strict application of orthodox Elliott wave concepts to current day markets skews forecasting accuracy. Markets have evolved, but Elliott has not.
Within Elliott Wave theory, there are different forms of waves, or price formations, from which investors can glean insight. Impulse waves, for example, include both an upward or downward trend that carries five sub-waves that may last hours or even decades. They possess three rules: the second wave cannot retrace more than 100% of the first wave; the third wave cannot be shorter than wave one, three, and five; wave four cannot surpass the third wave ever. Along with impulse waves, there are corrective waves, which fall in patterns of three.
Consider a trader notices that a stock is moving on an upward trend on an impulse wave. Here, they may go long on the stock until it completes its fifth wave. At this point, anticipating a reversal, the trader may then go short on the stock. Underlying this trading theory is the idea that fractal patterns recur in financial markets. In mathematics, fractal patterns repeat themselves on an infinite scale.
Elliott was able to analyze markets in greater depth, identifying the specific characteristics of wave patterns and making detailed market predictions based on the patterns. Elliott based part his work on the Dow Theory, which also defines price movement in terms of waves, but Elliott discovered the fractal nature of market action. Elliott first published his theory of the market patterns in the book titled The Wave Principle in 1938.
Simply put, movement in the direction of the trend is unfolding in 5 waves (called motive wave) while any correction against the trend is in three waves (called corrective wave). The movement in the direction of the trend is labelled as 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The three wave correction is labelled as a, b, and c. These patterns can be seen in long term as well as short term charts.
Ideally, smaller patterns can be identified within bigger patterns. In this sense, Elliott Waves are like a piece of broccoli, where the smaller piece, if broken off from the bigger piece, does, in fact, look like the big piece. This information (about smaller patterns fitting into bigger patterns), coupled with the Fibonacci relationships between the waves, offers the trader a level of anticipation and/or prediction when searching for and identifying trading opportunities with solid reward/risk ratios. 041b061a72