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Lesson 7:

 

Wave Personality

 

The idea of wave personality is a substantial expansion of the Wave Principle. It has the advantages of bringing human behavior more personally into the equation and even more important, of enhancing the utility of standard technical analysis.

 

The personality of each wave in the Elliott sequence is an integral part of the reflection of the mass psychology it embodies. The progression of mass emotions from pessimism to optimism and back again tends to follow a similar path each time around, producing similar circumstances at corresponding points in the wave structure. The personality of each wave type is usually manifest whether the wave is of Grand Supercycle degree or Subminuette. These properties not only forewarn the analyst about what to expect in the next sequence but at times can help determine one's present location in the progression of waves, when for other reasons the count is unclear or open to differing interpretations. As waves are in the process of unfolding, there are times when several different wave counts are perfectly admissible under all known Elliott rules. It is at these junctures that a knowledge of wave personality can be invaluable. If the analyst recognizes the character of a single wave, he can often correctly interpret the complexities of the larger pattern. The following discussions relate to an underlying bull market picture, as illustrated in Figures 2-14 and 2-15. These observations apply in reverse when the actionary waves are downward and the reactionary waves are upward.

 

attachment.php?attachmentid=37687&stc=1&d=1391366346

 

Figure 2-14

 

Wave Personality

 

 

1) First waves — As a rough estimate, about half of first waves are part of the "basing" process and thus tend to be heavily corrected by wave two. In contrast to the bear market rallies within the previous decline, however, this first wave rise is technically more constructive, often displaying a subtle increase in volume and breadth. Plenty of short selling is in evidence as the majority has finally become convinced that the overall trend is down. Investors have finally gotten "one more rally to sell on," and they take advantage of it. The other fifty percent of first waves rise from either large bases formed by the previous correction, as in 1949, from downside failures, as in 1962, or from extreme compression, as in both 1962 and 1974. From such beginnings, first waves are dynamic and only moderately retraced.

 

2) Second waves — Second waves often retrace so much of wave one that most of the advancement up to that time is eroded away by the time it ends. This is especially true of call option purchases, as premiums sink drastically in the environment of fear during second waves. At this point, investors are thoroughly convinced that the bear market is back to stay. Second waves often produce downside non-confirmations and Dow Theory "buy spots," when low volume and volatility indicate a drying up of selling pressure.

 

3) Third waves — Third waves are wonders to behold. They are strong and broad, and the trend at this point is unmistakable. Increasingly favorable fundamentals enter the picture as confidence returns. Third waves usually generate the greatest volume and price movement and are most often the extended wave in a series. It follows, of course, that the third wave of a third wave, and so on, will be the most volatile point of strength in any wave sequence. Such points invariably produce breakouts, "continuation" gaps, volume expansions, exceptional breadth, major Dow Theory trend confirmations and runaway price movement, creating large hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly gains in the market, depending on the degree of the wave. Virtually all stocks participate in third waves. Besides the personality of "B" waves, that of third waves produces the most valuable clues to the wave count as it unfolds.

 

4) Fourth waves — Fourth waves are predictable in both depth (see Lesson 11) and form, because by alternation they should differ from the previous second wave of the same degree.

More often than not they trend sideways, building the base for the final fifth wave move. Lagging stocks build their tops and begin declining during this wave, since only the strength of a third wave was able to generate any motion in them in the first place. This initial deterioration in the market sets the stage for non-confirmations and subtle signs of weakness during the fifth wave.

 

5) Fifth waves — Fifth waves in stocks are always less dynamic than third waves in terms of breadth. They usually display a slower maximum speed of price change as well, although if a fifth wave is an extension, speed of price change in the third of the fifth can exceed that of the third wave. Similarly, while it is common for volume to increase through successive impulse waves at Cycle degree or larger, it usually happens below Primary degree only if the fifth wave extends. Otherwise, look for lesser volume as a rule in a fifth wave as opposed to the third. Market dabblers sometimes call for "blowoffs" at the end of long trends, but the stock market has no history of reaching maximum acceleration at a peak. Even if a fifth wave extends, the fifth of the fifth will lack the dynamism of what preceded it. During fifth advancing waves, optimism runs extremely high, despite a narrowing of breadth. Nevertheless, market action does improve relative to prior corrective wave rallies. For example, the year-end rally in 1976 was unexciting in the Dow, but it was nevertheless a motive wave as opposed to the preceding corrective wave advances in April, July and September, which, by contrast, had even less influence on the secondary indexes and the cumulative advance-decline line. As a monument to the optimism that fifth waves can produce, the market forecasting services polled two weeks after the conclusion of that rally turned in the lowest percentage of "bears," 4.5%, in the history of the recorded figures despite that fifth wave's failure to make a new high!

 

Ideal Wave Personality

 

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Figure 2-15

 

6) "A" waves — During "A" waves of bear markets, the investment world is generally convinced that this reaction is just a pullback pursuant to the next leg of advance. The public surges to the buy side despite the first really technically damaging cracks in individual stock patterns. The "A" wave sets the tone for the "B" wave to follow. A five-wave A indicates a zigzag for wave B, while a three-wave A indicates a flat or triangle.

 

7) "B" waves — "B" waves are phonies. They are sucker plays, bull traps, speculators' paradise, orgies of odd-lotter mentality or expressions of dumb institutional complacency (or both). They often involve a focus on a narrow list of stocks, are often "unconfirmed" (Dow Theory is covered in Lesson 28) by other averages, are rarely technically strong, and are virtually always doomed to complete retracement by wave C. If the analyst can easily say to himself, "There is something wrong with this market," chances are it's a "B" wave. "X" waves and "D" waves in expanding triangles, both of which are corrective wave advances,

have the same characteristics. Several examples will suffice to illustrate the point.

 

— The upward correction of 1930 was wave B within the 1929-1932 A-B-C zigzag decline. Robert Rhea describes the emotional climate well in his opus, The Story of the Averages (1934):

 

...many observers took it to be a bull market signal. I can remember having shorted stocks early in December, 1929, after having completed a satisfactory short position in October. When the slow but steady advance of January and February carried above [the previous high], I became panicky and covered at considerable loss. ...I forgot that the rally might normally be expected to retrace possibly 66 percent or more of the 1929 downswing. Nearly everyone was proclaiming a new bull market. Services were extremely bullish, and the upside volume was running higher than at the peak in 1929.

 

— The 1961-1962 rise was wave (b) in an (a)-(b)-© expanded flat correction. At the top in early 1962, stocks were selling at unheard of price/earnings multiples that had not been seen up to that time and have not been seen since. Cumulative breadth had already peaked along with the top of the third wave in 1959.

 

— The rise from 1966 to 1968 was wave * in a corrective pattern of Cycle degree. Emotionalism had gripped the public and "cheapies" were skyrocketing in the speculative fever, unlike the orderly and usually fundamentally justifiable participation of the secondaries within first and third waves. The Dow Industrials struggled unconvincingly higher throughout the advance and finally refused to confirm the phenomenal new highs in the secondary indexes.

 

— In 1977, the Dow Jones Transportation Average climbed to new highs in a "B" wave, miserably unconfirmed by the Industrials. Airlines and truckers were sluggish. Only the coal-carrying rails were participating as part of the energy play. Thus, breadth within the index was conspicuously lacking, confirming again that good breadth is generally a property of impulse waves, not corrections.

 

As a general observation, "B" waves of Intermediate degree and lower usually show a diminution of volume, while "B" waves of Primary degree and greater can display volume heavier than that which accompanied the preceding bull market, usually indicating wide public participation.

 

8) "C" waves — Declining "C" waves are usually devastating in their destruction. They are third waves and have most of the properties of third waves. It is during this decline that there is virtually no place to hide except cash. The illusions held throughout waves A and B tend to evaporate and fear takes over. "C" waves are persistent and broad. 1930-1932 was a "C" wave. 1962 was a "C" wave. 1969-1970 and 1973-1974 can be classified as "C" waves. Advancing "C" waves within upward corrections in larger bear markets are just as dynamic and can be mistaken for the start of a new upswing, especially since they unfold in five waves. The October 1973 rally (see Figure 1-37), for instance, was a "C" wave in an inverted expanded flat correction.

 

9) "D" waves — "D" waves in all but expanding triangles are often accompanied by increased volume. This is true probably because "D" waves in non-expanding triangles are hybrids, part corrective, yet having some characteristics of first waves since they follow "C" waves and are not fully retraced. "D" waves, being advances within corrective waves, are as phony as "B" waves. The rise from 1970 to 1973 was wave [D] within the large wave IV of Cycle degree. The "one-decision" complacency that characterized the attitude of the average institutional fund manager at the time is well documented. The area of participation again was narrow, this time the "nifty fifty" growth and glamour issues. Breadth, as well as the Transportation Average, topped early, in 1972, and refused to confirm the extremely high multiples bestowed upon the favorite fifty. Washington was inflating at full steam to sustain the illusory prosperity during the entire advance in preparation for the election. As with the preceding wave , "phony" was an apt description.

 

10) "E" waves — "E" waves in triangles appear to most market observers to be the dramatic kickoff of a new downtrend after a top has been built. They almost always are accompanied by strongly supportive news. That, in conjunction with the tendency of "E" waves to stage a false breakdown through the triangle boundary line, intensifies the bearish conviction of market participants at precisely the time that they should be preparing for a substantial move in the opposite direction. Thus, "E" waves, being ending waves, are attended by a psychology as emotional as that of fifth waves.

 

Wave Tendencies

 

Because the tendencies discussed here are not inevitable, they are stated not as rules, but as guidelines. Their lack of inevitability nevertheless detracts little from their utility. For example, take a look at Figure 2-16, an hourly chart showing the first four Minor waves in the DJIA rally off the March 1, 1978 low. The waves are textbook Elliott from beginning to end, from the length of waves to the volume pattern (not shown) to the trend channels to the guideline of equality to the retracement by the "a" wave following the extension to the expected low for the fourth wave to the perfect internal counts to alternation to the Fibonacci time sequences to the Fibonacci ratio relationships embodied within. It might be worth noting that 914 would be a reasonable target in that it would mark a .618 retracement of the 1976-1978 decline.

 

attachment.php?attachmentid=37689&stc=1&d=1391367009

 

Figure 2-16

 

There are exceptions to guidelines, but without those, market analysis would be a science of exactitude, not one of probability. Nevertheless, with a thorough knowledge of the guide lines of wave structure, you can be quite confident of your wave count. In effect, you can use the market action to confirm the wave count as well as use the wave count to predict market action.

 

Notice also that Elliott Wave guidelines cover most aspects of traditional technical analysis, such as market momentum and investor sentiment. The result is that traditional technical analysis now has a greatly increased value in that it serves to aid the identification of the market's exact position in the Elliott Wave structure. To that end, using such tools is by all means encouraged.

 

Learning the Basics

 

With a knowledge of the tools in Lessons 1 through 15, any dedicated student can perform expert Elliott Wave analysis. People who neglect to study the subject thoroughly or to apply the tools rigorously have given up before really trying. The best learning procedure is to keep an hourly chart and try to fit all the wiggles into Elliott Wave patterns, while keeping an open mind for all the possibilities. Slowly the scales should drop from your eyes, and you will continually be amazed at what you see.

 

It is important to remember that while investment tactics always must go with the most valid wave count, knowledge of alternative possibilities can be extremely helpful in adjusting to unexpected events, putting them immediately into perspective, and adapting to the changing market framework. While the rigidities of the rules of wave formation are of great value in choosing entry and exit points, the flexibilities in the admissible patterns eliminate cries that whatever the market is doing now is "impossible."

 

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Thus eloquently spoke Sherlock Holmes to his constant companion, Dr. Watson, in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Sign of Four. This one sentence is a capsule summary of what one needs to know to be successful with Elliott. The best approach is deductive reasoning. By knowing what Elliott rules will not allow, one can deduce that whatever remains must be the most likely course for the market. Applying all the rules of extensions, alternation, overlapping, channeling, volume and the rest, the analyst has a much more formidable arsenal than one might imagine at first glance. Unfortunately for many, the approach requires thought and work and rarely provides a mechanical signal. However, this kind of thinking, basically an elimination process, squeezes the best out of what Elliott has to offer and besides, it's fun!

 

As an example of such deductive reasoning, take another look at Figure 1-14, reproduced below:

 

 

attachment.php?attachmentid=37690&stc=1&d=1391367129

 

Figure 1-14

 

Cover up the price action from November 17, 1976 forward. Without the wave labels and boundary lines, the market would appear as formless. But with the Wave Principle as a guide, the meaning of the structures becomes clear. Now ask yourself, how would you go about predicting the next movement? Here is Robert Prechter's analysis from that date, from a personal letter to A.J. Frost, summarizing a report he issued for Merrill Lynch the previous day:

 

Enclosed you will find my current opinion outlined on a recent Trendline chart, although I use only hourly point charts to arrive at these conclusions. My argument is that the third Primary wave, begun in October of 1975, has not completed its course as yet, and that the fifth Intermediate wave of that Primary is now underway. First and most important, I am convinced that October 1975 to March 1976 was so far a three-wave affair, not a five, and that only the possibility of a failure on May 11th could complete that wave as a five. However, the construction following that possible "failure" does not satisfy me as correct, since the first downleg to 956.45 would be of five waves and the entire ensuing construction is obviously a flat. Therefore, I think that we have been in a fourth corrective wave since March 24th. This corrective wave satisfies completely the requirements for an expanding triangle formation, which of course can only be a fourth wave. The trendlines concerned are uncannily accurate, as is the downside objective, obtained by multiplying the first important length of decline (March 24th to June 7th, 55.51 points) by 1.618 to obtain 89.82 points. 89.82 points from the orthodox high of the third Intermediate wave at 1011.96 gives a downside target of 922, which was hit last week (actual hourly low 920.62) on November 11th. This would suggest now a fifth Intermediate back to new highs, completing the third Primary wave. The only problem I can see with this interpretation is that Elliott suggests that fourth wave declines usually hold above the previous fourth wave decline of lesser degree, in this case 950.57 on February 17th, which of course has been broken on the downside. I have found, however, that this rule is not steadfast. The reverse symmetrical triangle formation should be followed by a rally only approximating the width of the widest part of the triangle. Such a rally would suggest 1020-1030 and fall far short of the trendline target of 1090-1100. Also, within third waves, the first and fifth subwaves tend toward equality in time and magnitude. Since the first wave (Oct. 75-Dec.75) was a 10% move in two months, this fifth should cover about 100 points (1020-1030) and peak in January 1977, again short of the trendline mark.

 

Now uncover the rest of the chart to see how all these guidelines helped in assessing the market's likely path.

 

Christopher Morley once said, "Dancing is a wonderful training for girls. It is the first way they learn to guess what a man is going to do before he does it." In the same way, the Wave Principle trains the analyst to discern what the market is likely to do before it does it.

 

After you have acquired an Elliott "touch," it will be forever with you, just as a child who learns to ride a bicycle never forgets. At that point, catching a turn becomes a fairly common experience and not really too difficult. Most important, in giving you a feeling of confidence as to where you are in the progress of the market, a knowledge of Elliott can prepare you psychologically for the inevitable fluctuating nature of price movement and free you from sharing the widely practiced analytical error of forever projecting today's trends linearly into the future.

 

Practical Application

 

The Wave Principle is unparalleled in providing an overall perspective on the position of the market most of the time. Most important to individuals, portfolio managers and investment corporations is that the Wave Principle often indicates in advance the relative magnitude of the next period of market progress or regress. Living in harmony with those trends can make the difference between success and failure in financial affairs.

Despite the fact that many analysts do not treat it as such, the Wave Principle is by all means an objective study, or as Collins put it, "a disciplined form of technical analysis." Bolton used to say that one of the hardest things he had to learn was to believe what he saw. If the analyst does not believe what he sees, he is likely to read into his analysis what he thinks should be there for some other reason. At this point, his count becomes subjective. Subjective analysis is dangerous and destroys the value of any market approach.

 

What the Wave Principle provides is an objective means of assessing the relative probabilities of possible future paths for the market. At any time, two or more valid wave interpretations are usually acceptable by the rules of the Wave Principle. The rules are highly specific and keep the number of valid alternatives to a minimum. Among the valid alternatives, the analyst will generally regard as preferred the interpretation that satisfies the largest number of guidelines, and so on. As a result, competent analysts applying the rules and guidelines of the Wave Principle objectively should usually agree on the order of probabilities for various possible outcomes at any particular time. That order can usually be stated with certainty. Let no one assume, however, that certainty about the order of probabilities is the same as certainty about one specific outcome. Under only the rarest of circumstances does the analyst ever know exactly what the market is going to do. One must understand and accept that even an approach that can identify high odds for a fairly specific outcome will be wrong some of the time. Of course, such a result is a far better performance than any other approach to market forecasting provides.

 

Using Elliott, it is often possible to make money even when you are in error. For instance, after a minor low that you erroneously consider of major importance, you may recognize at a higher level that the market is vulnerable again to new lows. A clear-cut three-wave rally following the minor low rather than the necessary five gives the signal, since a three-wave rally is the sign of an upward correction. Thus, what happens after the turning point often helps confirm or refute the assumed status of the low or high, well in advance of danger.

 

Even if the market allows no such graceful exit, the Wave Principle still offers exceptional value. Most other approaches to market analysis, whether fundamental, technical or cyclical, have no good way of forcing a change of opinion if you are wrong. The Wave Principle, in contrast, provides a built-in objective method for changing your mind. Since Elliott Wave analysis is based upon price patterns, a pattern identified as having been completed is either over or it isn't. If the market changes direction, the analyst has caught the turn. If the market moves beyond what the apparently completed pattern allows, the conclusion is wrong, and any funds at risk can be reclaimed immediately. Investors using the Wave Principle can prepare themselves psychologically for such outcomes through the continual updating of the second best interpretation, sometimes called the "alternate count." Because applying the Wave Principle is an exercise in probability, the ongoing maintenance of alternative wave counts is an essential part of investing with it. In the event that the market violates the expected scenario, the alternate count immediately becomes the investor's new preferred count. If you're thrown by your horse, it's useful to land right atop another.

 

Of course, there are often times when, despite a rigorous analysis, the question may arise as to how a developing move is to be counted, or perhaps classified as to degree. When there is no clearly preferred interpretation, the analyst must wait until

the count resolves itself, in other words, to "sweep it under the rug until the air clears," as Bolton suggested. Almost always, subsequent moves will clarify the status of previous waves by revealing their position in the pattern of the next higher degree. When subsequent waves clarify the picture, the probability that a turning point is at hand can suddenly and excitingly rise to nearly 100%.

 

Practical Application

 

The ability to identify junctures is remarkable enough, but the Wave Principle is the only method of analysis which also provides guidelines for forecasting, as outlined in Lessons 10 through 15 and 20 through 25 of this course. Many of these guidelines are specific and can occasionally yield results of stunning precision. If indeed markets are patterned, and if those patterns have a recognizable geometry, then regardless of the variations allowed, certain price and time relationships are likely to recur. In fact, real world experience shows that they do.

 

It is our practice to try to determine in advance where the next move will likely take the market. One advantage of setting a target is that it gives a sort of backdrop against which to monitor the market's actual path. This way, you are alerted quickly when something is wrong and can shift your interpretation to a more appropriate one if the market does not do what is expected. If you then learn the reasons for your mistakes, the market will be less likely to mislead you in the future.

 

Still, no matter what your convictions, it pays never to take your eye off what is happening in the wave structure in real time. Although prediction of target levels well in advance can be done surprisingly often, such predictions are not required in order to make money in the stock market. Ultimately, the market is the message, and a change in behavior can dictate a change in outlook. All one really needs to know at the time is whether to be bullish, bearish or neutral, a decision that can sometimes be made with a swift glance at a chart.

 

Of the many approaches to stock market analysis, the Elliott Wave Principle, in our view, offers the best tool for identifying market turns as they are approached. If you keep an hourly chart, the fifth of the fifth of the fifth in a primary trend alerts you within hours of a major change in direction by the market. It is a thrilling experience to pinpoint a turn, and the Wave Principle is the only approach that can occasionally provide the opportunity to do so. Elliott may not be the perfect formulation since the stock market is part of life and no formula can enclose it or express it completely. However, the Wave Principle is without a doubt the single most comprehensive approach to market analysis and, viewed in its proper light, delivers everything it promises.

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