"In finance, technical analysis is an analysis methodology for forecasting the direction of prices through the study of past market data, primarily price and volume. Behavioral economics and quantitative analysis use many of the same tools of technical analysis, which, being an aspect of active management, stands in contradiction to much of modern portfolio theory. The efficacy of both technical and fundamental analysis is disputed by the efficient-market hypothesis, which states that stock market prices are essentially unpredictable, and research on whether technical analysis offers any benefit has produced mixed results. As such it has been described by many academics as pseudoscience.
The principles of technical analysis are derived from hundreds of years of financial market data. Some aspects of technical analysis began to appear in Amsterdam-based merchant Joseph de la Vega's accounts of the Dutch financial markets in the 17th century. In Asia, technical analysis is said to be a method developed by Homma Munehisa during the early 18th century which evolved into the use of candlestick techniques, and is today a technical analysis charting tool.
Journalist Charles Dow (1851-1902) compiled and closely analyzed American stock market data, and published some of his conclusions in editorials for The Wall Street Journal. He believed patterns and business cycles could possibly be found in this data, a concept later known as "Dow theory". However, Dow himself never advocated using his ideas as a stock trading strategy.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Richard W. Schabacker published several books which continued the work of Charles Dow and William Peter Hamilton in their books Stock Market Theory and Practice and Technical Market Analysis. In 1948, Robert D. Edwards and John Magee published Technical Analysis of Stock Trends which is widely considered to be one of the seminal works of the discipline. It is exclusively concerned with trend analysis and chart patterns and remains in use to the present. Early technical analysis was almost exclusively the analysis of charts because the processing power of computers was not available for the modern degree of statistical analysis. Charles Dow reportedly originated a form of point and figure chart analysis. With the emergence of behavioral finance as a separate discipline in economics, Paul V. Azzopardi combined technical analysis with behavioral finance and coined the term "Behavioral Technical Analysis".
Other pioneers of analysis techniques include Ralph Nelson Elliott, William Delbert Gann, and Richard Wyckoff who developed their respective techniques in the early 20th century. More technical tools and theories have been developed and enhanced in recent decades, with an increasing emphasis on computer-assisted techniques using specially designed computer software.
Fundamental analysts examine earnings, dividends, assets, quality, ratio, new products, research and the like. Technicians employ many methods, tools and techniques as well, one of which is the use of charts. Using charts, technical analysts seek to identify price patterns and market trends in financial markets and attempt to exploit those patterns.
Technicians using charts search for archetypal price chart patterns, such as the well-known head and shoulders or double top/bottom reversal patterns, study technical indicators, moving averages and look for forms such as lines of support, resistance, channels and more obscure formations such as flags, pennants, balance days and cup and handle patterns.
Technical analysts also widely use market indicators of many sorts, some of which are mathematical transformations of price, often including up and down volume, advance/decline data and other inputs. These indicators are used to help assess whether an asset is trending, and if it is, the probability of its direction and of continuation. Technicians also look for relationships between price/volume indices and market indicators. Examples include the moving average, relative strength index and MACD. Other avenues of study include correlations between changes in Options (implied volatility) and put/call ratios with price. Also important are sentiment indicators such as Put/Call ratios, bull/bear ratios, short interest, Implied Volatility, etc.
There are many techniques in technical analysis. Adherents of different techniques (for example: Candlestick analysis, the oldest form of technical analysis developed by a Japanese grain trader; Harmonics; Dow theory; and Elliott wave theory) may ignore the other approaches, yet many traders combine elements from more than one technique. Some technical analysts use subjective judgment to decide which pattern(s) a particular instrument reflects at a given time and what the interpretation of that pattern should be. Others employ a strictly mechanical or systematic approach to pattern identification and interpretation.
Contrasting with technical analysis is fundamental analysis, the study of economic factors that influence the way investors price financial markets. Technical analysis holds that prices already reflect all the underlying fundamental factors. Uncovering the trends is what technical indicators are designed to do, although neither technical nor fundamental indicators are perfect. Some traders use technical or fundamental analysis exclusively, while others use both types to make trading decisions."