The Elliott wave principle is a form of technical analysis that finance traders use to analyze financial market cycles and forecast market trends by identifying extremes in investor psychology, highs and lows in prices, and other collective factors. Ralph Nelson Elliott (1871–1948), a professional accountant, discovered the underlying social principles and developed the analytical tools in the 1930s. He proposed that market prices unfold in specific patterns, which practitioners today call “Elliott waves”, or simply “waves”. Elliott published his theory of market behavior in the book The Wave Principle in 1938, summarized it in a series of articles in Financial World magazine in 1939, and covered it most comprehensively in his final major work, Nature’s Laws: The Secret of the Universe in 1946. Elliott stated that “because man is subject to rhythmical procedure, calculations having to do with his activities can be projected far into the future with a justification and certainty heretofore unattainable.” The empirical validity of the Elliott Wave Principle remains the subject of debate.
The patterns link to form five and three-wave structures which themselves underlie self-similar wave structures of increasing size or higher degree. Note the lowermost of the three idealized cycles. In the first small five-wave sequence, waves 1, 3 and 5 are motive, while waves 2 and 4 are corrective. This signals that the movement of the wave one degree higher is upward. It also signals the start of the first small three-wave corrective sequence. After the initial five waves up and three waves down, the sequence begins again and the self-similar fractal geometry begins to unfold according to the five and three-wave structure which it underlies one degree higher. The completed motive pattern includes 89 waves, followed by a completed corrective pattern of 55 waves.
A correct Elliott wave count must observe three rules:
- Wave 2 never retraces more than 100% of wave 1.
- Wave 3 cannot be the shortest of the three impulse waves, namely waves 1, 3 and 5.
- Wave 4 does not overlap with the price territory of wave 1, except in the rare case of a diagonal triangle formation.