By Elliott Wave International
Some of the best stories about global positioning systems (GPS’s) are the weird detours they sometimes recommend to drivers. Just like some of the weird detours that financial markets can make you take when you think they would be better off going in a straight line either up or down, depending on how you’ve positioned your trades.
Not long ago, while taking a trip with my family through Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way to Gatlinburg, Tenn., I decided to use my GPS to drive around the park’s western boundary. We wanted to visit Fontana Dam and Cades Cove to see the wildlife. We’d do the go-carts, miniature golf and rides the following day.
From Fontana Dam, my old-fashioned map made it look like it would take the better part of the day to drive around the park to Gatlinburg and then head into Cades Cove from the north. But my new GPS unit suggested that Cades Cove was less than 20 miles away. I could have kissed it — my GPS was going to save me hours of travel time! Or so I thought. Little did I know until I got there that the road my GPS suggested for the final few miles was only the remnant of an old wagon trail — and it was a one-way wagon trail, going the wrong way. I had to backtrack and take the much longer path my paper map suggested.
What’s the moral of the story? Sometimes the new-fangled gadget is not much of an improvement over what it’s designed to replace. Although my GPS unit is great when it comes to identifying the quickest and most efficient route from point A to point B, it sometimes fails to take into account some of those necessary nuances, such as whether a street is one way or whether it might be impassable at times. Every so often, the old-fashioned way of doing things is still the best way.
I believe that’s true when it comes to analyzing markets, too. The method I employ every day has been around since the 1930s, and it works as well as, if not better than, any new-fangled technical analysis method for which you must buy some expensive computer software. My method is a form of technical analysis based on the Elliott Wave Principle, which Ralph N. Elliott worked out via hundreds of hand-drawn charts, well before the dawn of charting software. If you like those GPS units that talk you through every turn, you can almost imagine Ralph’s voice explaining where to turn as you follow a market. Those directions — the road map he drew for tradable markets — have withstood the test of time.
As I found during my trip, detours are a fact of life. They are also a part of market trends. For instance, a bull market shows periods of "punctuated growth" — that is, periods of alternating growth and non-growth, or even decline. The patterns then build on themselves to form similar designs at a larger size, and then again at an even larger size.
You’ve probably heard of this idea of repeating patterns on increasing and decreasing levels of scale. This emerging science, which is called "fractal geometry," is a branch of chaos theory. And it is precisely the model identified by R. N. Elliott more than 60 years ago.
(Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.)
Who is Jim Martens?
Jim is one of the very few forex Elliott wave instructors in the world, and a long-time editor of EWI’s Currency Specialty Service. A sought-after speaker, Jim has been successfully applying Elliott since the mid-1980s, including 2 years at the George Soros-affiliated hedge fund, Nexus Capital, Ltd.
Catch up on Jim’s latest thoughts about FX markets and the business of trading them at his Twitter feed.
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This article was syndicated by Elliott Wave International and was originally published under the headline Which Works Best — GPS or Road Map? (Part 1). EWI is the world’s largest market forecasting firm. Its staff of full-time analysts led by Chartered Market Technician Robert Prechter provides 24-hour-a-day market analysis to institutional and private investors around the world.