It amazes me how you still hear what I consider to be intelligent and experienced market participants talk about technical analysis as a self fulfilling prophecy. A statement that technical analysis is self-fulfilling is suggesting that there are events in the market that are caused directly or indirectly by the preceding prediction or expectation that it was going to occur by a group of market technicians. I can understand when a new investor who doesn’t know any better uses the phrase because maybe he/she heard it once before and it sounds smart. That’s just human nature and you can’t fault them for it. But you guys who by now should know better? Come on.
First of all, charting and technical analysis is a discipline incorporated by market participants that have all different time horizons. There are price patterns, momentum divergences and an infinite amount of moving averages on intraday, daily, weekly, monthly charts and everything in between. So by using this “self-fulfilling prophecy” excuse for your lack of understanding of technical analysis, you’re right off the bat assuming that the entire marketplace is using the exact same time frame. And if you don’t assume that, now you’re assuming that every price pattern and every detail of technical analysis is working exactly like a book says on every single time frame. And if that were the case, perhaps we as technicians should take that as a compliment. But anyone with common sense knows that isn’t true and quite frankly impossible.
Furthermore, technical analysis is extremely subjective. This is an art, not a science. This isn’t physics where we know that no matter what, certain combinations will always give you the same result – because that’s nature. I am friends with some of the smartest and best technicians on planet earth and I never agree with all of them at all times. In fact, some of the best, most respectful arguments I’ve ever had about the markets are with some of these technicians – they know who they are. Even if we are looking at the exact same patterns on the exact same time frames (and many of us were trained the exact same way) we still don’t always agree.
I’ll keep going, just for fun. Let’s now assume that every technician on earth did use the same time frame and we’ll assume that every technician on earth did agree on how things should develop. Now you have to assume that we’ll all trade it the same way and enter at the exact same time in order for things to be as “self fulfilling” as you claim. In other words, we now all have to be trading the stock, not the options, or the ETF not the futures, and we have to all be “buying the breakout”, or “buying the dip”, rather than the pull-back after the breakout, or anticipating before the breakout. For technical analysis to be “self fulfilling”, not only do we have to all agree on the outcome, all be on the same time frame, but now our execution all has to be exactly the same? Really?
I’ll continue. Let’s talk about how smart the stock market is, and how much smarter the market is than any of us. Let’s just say that everything I clearly dismissed above is actually true and we are all on the same time frame and all agree and all execute the exact same way. If that were actually possible, and true, the market would correct that in a heartbeat. Do you really think this market is stupid enough to allow something so “obvious” to consistently occur enough to actually make it self-fulfilling?
Even if these traders are computers and not humans, the computers are designed and adjusted by humans. If all systems are doing the exact same thing at the exact same time on every single time frame on every single market on earth, in every single asset class (which is impossible, but we’ll go with it) then the traders would have to adjust their systems to become either more or less sensitive, therefore making it more unique and NOT executing the same way as every other computer. Please give Mr. Market a little bit more credit than that. This would never ever happen in the real world.
Here’s John Murphy’s take on the subject:
The self-fulfilling prophecy is generally listed as a criticism of charting. It might be more appropriate to label it as a compliment. After all, for any forecasting technique to become so popular that it begins to influence events, it would have to be pretty darn good. We can only speculate as to why this concern is seldom raised regarding the use of fundamental analysis….
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