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What is Dow Theory?

The Dow Theory is a crucial tool in the arsenal of financial market analysts and investors. Born out of the writings of Charles H. Dow, co-founder of Dow Jones & Company and the Wall Street Journal, this theory has become an intrinsic part of modern finance. Despite its age, it still finds relevance as a method for determining market trends, acting as a valuable guideline for interpreting market movements and investor behavior.

Origin and Evolution of the Dow Theory

The inception of the Dow Theory can be traced back to Charles H. Dow's work around the turn of the 20th century. Dow, who also developed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) in 1896, was a stalwart of financial journalism. His theories, however, were never published in a complete form due to his untimely death in 1902. Nonetheless, several of his associates and followers expanded on his editorial writings, thereby providing the foundations of Dow Theory.

The Practical Application of Dow Theory

The Dow Theory is based on the principle of market averages, specifically the DJIA and the Dow Jones Transportation Average (DJTA). This theory postulates that when one of these averages hits a significant high, it needs to be confirmed by a similar advance in the other average for an upward trend to be validated. For instance, if the DJIA reaches an intermediate high, investors might wait for the DJTA to rise correspondingly, confirming the upward trend.

The Premise of the Dow Theory

The underlying premise of the Dow Theory aligns with the efficient market hypothesis: the market discounts everything. This means that every relevant piece of information - economic, political, and psychological factors - is reflected in the market price. Therefore, the indices must corroborate each other in terms of price action and volume patterns until a reversal in the trend occurs.

Dow Theory: Trend Analysis

Dow Theory distinguishes between three types of trends - primary, intermediate, and minor. Primary trends are long-term (several years), intermediate trends persist for under a year, and minor trends last less than a month. This theory argues that larger, longer trends are more predictive than smaller ones, though discerning the primary trend remains the ultimate objective.

Reliability of Dow Theory

Dow believed that the stock market is a reliable indicator of broader business conditions and economic trends. Despite not having consistently proven statistical success as Dow originally intended, the theory's insights remain valuable. This enduring relevance, coupled with the increasing computational power and the advent of artificial intelligence, enables analysts to develop more sophisticated strategies, reinforcing Dow Theory’s standing in the financial world.

Dow Theory in the Modern Trading Landscape

Today, Dow Theory is just one of the many tools used by traders. Modern traders and investors have a variety of indicators at their disposal, including Moving Averages, MACD, RSI, Stochastics, Aroon, among others. These indicators, coupled with AI, help traders to identify potential trading opportunities. Trend trading, which aims to exploit ongoing bullish or bearish trends, often utilizes AI to confirm short or long-term trends.

In conclusion, Dow Theory, despite being more than a century old, remains a cornerstone of technical analysis. It's one of the longest-standing market analysis methods still in use, testifying to its enduring value. While the choice of indicators or methodologies ultimately depends on individual trader's experience, skill set, and tools at hand, the Dow Theory continues to hold its ground as an essential component of a trader's toolkit.


Dow Theory is perhaps the longest-standing method of market analysis still used in modern finance. It suggests that markets experience primary trends (which last several years), intermediate trends (which last under a year), and minor trends (which last less than a month). Markets are in an upward trend if an average exceeds certain thresholds, followed by a similar movement from another average. Longer, larger trends are considered more predictive than smaller ones, though correctly reading the primary trend in the main goal.

Dow Theory’s theoretical tenets were presented in editorials written by Charles Dow around 1900 and summarized by his successors. Dow is also the creator of the Dow Jones Industrial Average – an index comprised of 30 significant U.S. stocks, typically the biggest and most frequently traded.

Dow Theory reflects Dow’s belief that the stock market is a dependable way to measure to measure business conditions and trends for the entire economy. The original indicators used to gauge the primary trend were the convergence or divergence of indexes for Manufacturing and Rail. Today, the convergence or divergence between the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Dow Jones Transportation are interpreted as bullish or bearish signals.

Statistically, these indicators have not proven to be as successful as Dow intended, but a good market analyst can still glean insight from this theory – one of the reasons it has stuck around as other indicators have fallen by the wayside.

The Dow Theory can be just one of many tools in a trader’s toolbox. Increases in computing power mean more tools are being developed with each passing year, and institutional and retail investors are using them to develop strategies. There are several common indicators that traders use for technical analysis in trading. A few examples include the Moving Averages indicator, MACD, RSI, Stochastics, Aroon, and more.

Trend trading seeks to capture an ongoing bullish or bearish trend and invest with momentum. Usually it’s best to use the help of Artificial Intelligence to determine whether a trend is confirmed over the short or long-term.

There are myriad ways to use technical analysis in trading, and which indicator or methodology a trader decides to use usually depends on their experience, skillset, and the quality of the tools (A.I.) available to help them find trade ideas.

Disclaimers and Limitations

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