The Elliott Wave Principle is a form of technical analysis based on investor psychology to forecast market price movements for a particular period of time. The Elliott Wave Principle was developed by Ralph Nelson Elliott (1871–1948), a professional accountant, who discovered the underlying social principles and developed the analytical tools during the Great Depression era. He proposed that market prices unfold in specific patterns over time and that there are strong correlation between “waves” and nature. 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 Elliott Wave Principle posits that collective investor psychology, or crowd psychology, moves between optimism and pessimism in natural sequences. These mood swings create patterns evidenced in the price movements of markets at every degree of trend or time scale.
In Elliott’s model, market prices alternate between an impulsive, or motive phase, and a corrective phase on all time scales of trend, as the illustration shows. Impulses are always subdivided into a set of 5 lower-degree waves, alternating again between motive and corrective character, so that waves 1, 3, and 5 are impulses, and waves 2 and 4 are smaller retraces of waves 1 and 3. Corrective waves subdivide into 3 smaller-degree waves starting with a five-wave counter-trend impulse, a retrace, and another impulse. In a bear market the dominant trend is downward, so the pattern is reversed—five waves down and three up. Motive waves always move with the trend, while corrective waves move against it.