Technical analysis differs from fundamental analysis in that technical analysis is applied only to the price action of the market, ignoring fundamental factors. As fundamental data can often provide only a long-term or "delayed" forecast of market price movements, technical analysis has become the primary tool with which to successfully trade shorter-term price movements, and to set stop loss and profit targets.
Technical analysis consists primarily of a variety of technical studies, each of which can be interpreted to generate buy and sell decisions or to predict market direction.
Support and Resistance Levels
One use of technical analysis, apart from technical studies, is in deriving "support" and "resistance" levels. The concept here is that the market will tend to trade above its support levels and trade below its resistance levels. If a support or resistance level is broken, the market is then expected to follow through in that direction. These levels are determined by analyzing the chart and assessing where the market has encountered unbroken support or resistance in the past.
Popular Technical Analysis Tools
Moving Averages (MA): Indicators used to smooth price fluctuations and identify trends. The most basic type of moving average, the simple moving average, is the average of the past x bars ending with the current bar;
Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD): Indicator that utilizes moving averages to identify possible trends and an oscillator to determine when a trend is overbought or oversold;
Bollinger Bands: Bands that are placed x moving average standard deviations above and below a simple MA line;
Fibonacci Retracement Levels: Indicator used to identify potential levels of support and resistance;
Directional Movement Index (DMI): A positive line (+DI) measuring buying and a negative line (-DI) measuring selling pressure;
Relative Strength Index (RSI): Momentum oscillator that is plotted on a vertical scale from 0 to 100;
Stochastics: Momentum oscillator that measure momentum by comparing the recent close to the absolute price range (high of the range minus the low of the range) over a period of x bars;
Trendlines: Straight line on a chart that connects consecutive tops or consecutive bottoms of prices and is utilized to identify levels of support and resistance;