Any attempt to trace the origins of technical analysis would inevitably lead to Dow theory. While more than 100 years old, Dow theory remains the foundation of much of what we know today as technical analysis. Dow theory was formulated from a series of Wall Street Journal editorials authored by Charles H. Dow from 1900 until the time of his death in 1902. These editorials reflected Dow's beliefs on how the stock market behaved and how the market could be used to measure the health of the business environment.
Due to his death, Dow never published his complete theory on the markets, but several followers and associates have published works that have expanded on the editorials. Some of the most important contributions to Dow theory were William P. Hamilton's "The Stock Market Barometer" (1922), Robert Rhea's "The Dow Theory" (1932), E. George Schaefer's "How I Helped More Than 10,000 Investors To Profit In Stocks" (1960) and Richard Russell's "The Dow Theory Today" (1961).
Dow believed that the stock market as a whole was a reliable measure of overall business conditions within the economy and that by analyzing the overall market, one could accurately gauge those conditions and identify the direction of major market trends and the likely direction of individual stocks.
Dow first used his theory to create the Dow Jones Industrial Index and the Dow Jones Rail Index (now Transportation Index), which were originally compiled by Dow for TheWall Street Journal. Dow created these indexes because he felt they were an accurate reflection of the business conditions within the economy because they covered two major economic segments: industrial and rail (transportation). While these indexes have changed over the last 100 years, the theory still applies to current market indexes.
Much of what we know today as technical analysis has its roots in Dow's work. For this reason, all traders using technical analysis should get to know the six basic tenets of Dow theory. Let's explore them.