Technical analysis is a trading discipline employed to evaluate investments and identify trading opportunities by analyzing statistical trends gathered from trading activity, such as price movement and volume. Unlike fundamental analysis, which attempts to evaluate a security's value based on business results such as sales and earnings, technical analysis focuses on the study of price and volume.
Technical analysis tools are used to scrutinize the ways supply and demand for a security will affect changes in price, volume, and implied volatility. It operates from the assumption that past trading activity and price changes of a security can be valuable indicators of the security's future price movements when paired with appropriate investing or trading rules.
It is often used to generate short-term trading signals from various charting tools, but can also help improve the evaluation of a security's strength or weakness relative to the broader market or one of its sectors. This information helps analysts improve their overall valuation estimate.
Technical analysis as we know it today was first introduced by Charles Dow and the Dow Theory in the late 1800s.1 Several noteworthy researchers including William P. Hamilton, Robert Rhea, Edson Gould, and John Magee further contributed to Dow Theory concepts helping to form its basis. Nowadays technical analysis has evolved to include hundreds of patterns and signals developed through years of research.
Professional analysts often use technical analysis in conjunction with other forms of research. Retail traders may make decisions based solely on the price charts of a security and similar statistics, but practicing equity analysts rarely limit their research to fundamental or technical analysis alone.
Technical analysis can be applied to any security with historical trading data. This includes stocks, futures, commodities, fixed-income, currencies, and other securities. In fact, technical analysis is far more prevalent in commodities and forex markets where traders focus on short-term price movements.
Technical analysis attempts to forecast the price movement of virtually any tradable instrument that is generally subject to forces of supply and demand, including stocks, bonds, futures, and currency pairs. In fact, some view technical analysis as simply the study of supply and demand forces as reflected in the market price movements of a security.
Technical analysis most commonly applies to price changes, but some analysts track numbers other than just price, such as trading volume or open interest figures.