Rule 1 – If you cannot see trends and patterns almost instantly when you look at a chart then they are not there. The longer you stare, the more your brain will try to apply order where there is none.
If you have to justify exceptions, stray data points and conflicting evidence then it is safe to say the market is not showing you what you think it is.
Rule 2 – If you cannot figure out if something is bullish or bearish after three indicators then move on. The more studies you apply to any chart the more likely one of them will say “something.” That something is probably not correct.
When I look at a chart and cannot form an opinion after applying three or four different types of indicators – volume, momentum, trend, even Fibonacci – I must conclude that the market has not decided what it wants to do at that time. Who am I to tell it what it thinks?
Rule 3 – You can torture a chart to say anything you want. Don’t do it.
This is very similar to Rule 2 but it there is an important point to drive home. You can cherry pick indicators to justify whatever biases you bring to the table and that attempts to impose your will on the market. You cannot tell the market what to do – ever.
Rule 4 – Be sure you check out one time frame larger than the one in which you are operating (a weekly chart for a swing trader, a monthly chart for a position trader).
It is very easy to get caught up in your own world and miss the bigger picture getting ready to smack you. It can mean the difference between buying the dip in a rising trend and selling a breakdown in a falling trend.
Rule 5 – Look at both bars (or candles) and close-only line charts to see if they agree. And look at both linear and semi-logarithmic scaled charts when price movements are large.
Short-term traders can ignore the latter since prices are not usually moving 30% in a day. But position traders must compare movements at different price levels.
As for bars and lines, sometimes important highs and lows are set by intraday or intra-week movements. And sometimes intrday or intra-week highs and lows are anomalies that can safely be ignored. Why not look at both?
Rule 6 – Patterns must be in proportion to the trends they are attempting to correct or reverse. I like the trend to be at least three times as long as the pattern.
A three-day correction is not sufficient to get a six-month trend back on track. And a three month pullback after a six month rally is probably a new trend, not a correction.
Rule 7 – Patterns should have symmetry. A triangle should look like a triangle and not a mile high and an inch wide (or vice versa). A head-and-shoulders should look like a central peak with two smaller but equal peaks around it.
Rule 8 – Price rules but it is better when volume, momentum and structure (patterns) agree. Sentiment is a luxury because it is often difficult to quantify.
No matter how strong the case built on indicators and the environment surrounding the market may be, there is no change in condition until price action reflects it. How many times has an overbought market become even more overbought?
Rule 9 – Always confirm one type of analysis with another type. For example, confirm RSI not with MACD but with on-balance volume or relative performance.
There are hundreds of indicators but only a handful of truly unique types. Be sure you do not try to prove your case with a variation on the same set of input data. Most momentum indicators are quite similar so be sure to look at at least the three types listed in Rule 8.
Rule 10 – Don’t get hung up if all your indicators do not agree. They never will all agree and you will end up missing every opportunity. Therefore, pretend you are a trial lawyer gathering a preponderance of evidence, not guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Rule 11 – If a stop is hit you must honor it. All big losses start out as small ones. No exceptions. Feel free to re-analyze a trade that got stopped out to see if you would enter anew but never justify holding on to a loser.