Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Why investors are reaching for the astrology of finance

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Why did the markets move? Most investors, analysts and even financial journalists will look, first and foremost, for news. Perhaps the jobs data were published, a firm announced it was being acquired or a central banker gave a sombre speech. Yet a small, dedicated cult of “chartists” or “technical analysts” believes that the movement of stocks, bonds and currencies can be divined by the making and interpreting of charts.

Their methods are many, varied and wackily named. A “death cross” is when a short-term moving average of an asset’s price falls below a long-term moving average. “Fibonacci retracement levels” rely on the idea that an asset climbing in price will fall back before rising again. Such backsliding is supposed to stop at levels based on Fibonacci numbers, like a 61.8% drop. The “ichimoku cloud”, loved by Japanese traders, sees the construction of a cloud by—bear with this—shading the area between two averages of high and low prices over the past week, month or two months. A price above the cloud is auspicious; one below it is ominous. A true chartist needs only such information and “does not even care to know what business or industry a company is in, as long as he or she can study its chart”, as Burton Malkiel, an economist at Princeton and author of “A Random Walk Down Wall Street”, has noted.

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