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Elliott Wave Theory – Holy Grail in Forex Trading

Throughout time, one trading theory has proved its value: the Elliott Wave Theory. Trading changed together with humanity.

Humans no longer lead financial transactions. Robots do.

Moreover, execution became essential for profitability. But the Elliott Wave Theory not only survived the test of time. It proves that humans don’t change.

At least, human nature won’t change. For it is the one trading theory that incorporates the human touch. Or, human nature, as we all know it.

Trading in general and Forex trading, in particular, is viewed as a simple process – Buying and selling a financial product (currency pair) to make a profit.

Or, to speculate from its move. Easier said than done.

At least when it comes to Forex retail traders, but not only, most of them lose money. It is what it is.

Various reasons lead to this. Firstly, they come unprepared, having unrealistic expectations.

Next, they don’t have a money management plan. One that works on the Forex market.

Finally, fear and greed control their decisions. But this is what human nature is about: fear and greed, and how we, as humans, react in these two situations.

There’s no other place to notice that like the financial markets. Ralph Nelson Elliott (1871-1948) was the first one to spot that.

As such, he embarked on the greatest journey of them all. To find a hidden order in the financial markets.

That’s no easy task. Moreover, this was at the start of the nineteen hundred years.

No personal computers, the Internet, or anything close to that. Just a man with an incredible will and a powerful mindset.

This article is about his journey in shaping the most powerful trading theory ever created: the Elliott Wave Theory.

The History of Elliott Wave Theory

Elliott was an accountant. Thus, his analytical thinking proved to be crucial for the future Elliott Wave trader.

He had various jobs before taking an interest in the U.S. stock market. As such, he worked in restaurant management and even for various railroad companies.

And he loved to write. From articles to books…his mind was always at work.

At one moment, he fell ill. And so, his study on the stock market began.

It turned out to be a gigantic task. What looked simple, it ended being extremely complex.

However, he had the time and the patience for it. And he had one great belief: the markets and the economy move in cycles. Or, waves.

From that moment on, he dedicated the rest of his life to the wave patterns. The result was stunning.

To this day, the Elliott Wave theory remains one of the most powerful concepts in financial trading.

The Dow Theory and Elliott Wave

Because he strongly believed the market moves in cycles, Elliott found Robert Rhea’s work. Robert had a clear view of the now famous Dow Theory.

As a quick reminder, the Dow Theory considers the following:

  • The market makes three moves.
  • Market trends consist of three phases.
  • The stock market’s evolution discounts the news.
  • Volume confirms a trend.
  • Averages must confirm each other.
  • Reversal patterns signal a trend’s end.

The Elliott Wave Theory shares a great deal with the Dow Theory. But, it wasn’t enough for Elliott.

While the Dow Theory considers a trend that has three phases, the notion was too vague. For Elliott’ keen analytical mind, everything was arbitrary. The Dow Theory left room for error.

Moreover, for the Dow Theory, bear and bull markets are similar. To the Elliott wave pattern theory, that’s incorrect.

But, the main difference is that Elliott Wave is proactive, while the Dow Theory is reactive. Therefore, an elliottwave forecast works to this day.

As technical analysis evolved in time, Elliott Wave traders look at the Dow Theory as its starting point. However, it was merely an idea that helped with the process.

Elliott Wave Theory – The Wave Principle

Three years after H.M Gartley published his “Profits in the Stock Market” book, Elliott wrote “The Wave Principle”. An impressive work!

Elliott found that the market moves in cycles. Moreover, these cycles form on and on.

The key to interpreting a market (a financial product) is to properly understand these cycles. He strongly believed the market is the sum of human nature.

Or, the sum of human behavior. As such, a cycle with the Elliott Wave technical analysis looks like the image below.

Wave Theory

That’s a bullish cycle. It shows the way human nature acts in the financial markets.

It comprises both fear and greed. Moreover, panic and complacency.

In short, five waves up corrected with three waves down. That’s a bullish cycle with the Elliott Wave Theory.

Obviously, the opposite makes a bearish cycle: five waves down, corrected with three waves up.

That’s the pillar of this theory. Any Elliott wave trader knows it.

However, this is only the starting point. Elliott knew that to put an order in such a mess like the free movement of a financial market, he needed to keep things simple.

The Elliott Wave Theory as we know it today is anything but simple. But, above all, it is a logical process. This was the original aim.

At the end of his work, Elliott was convinced he was right. So is any elliottwavetrader today.

With his final book, “Nature’s Law – The Secret of the Universe”, Elliot presented the world the most comprehensive way to approach financial markets. The Elliott Wave Theory applies to any freely traded asset, financial product, or commodity.

Hence, it applies to the current Forex market too.

The Secret of a Wave Pattern

As mentioned earlier, Elliott tried to keep things simple. Of course, as much as possible.

One of his brilliant ideas was that cycles come and go in various degrees. Imagine that this was back in the 1930’s.

While that wasn’t obvious back then, it is clear as the light of day today. Just look at how different time frames appear on all trading platforms.

Those time frames are, in fact, cycles of different degrees.

As such, a cycle is part of one of a bigger degree. And so on.

To make this clear, cycles needed to be identified. But how to differentiate between a five-wave structure and a three-wave one?

Brilliantly, he used the terms impulsive and corrective waves. Therefore, a five-wave structure is an impulsive wave. And, a three-wave one, a corrective wave.

So, a cycle was split into two parts. An impulsive and corrective one.

While the image below shows a bullish cycle, the same is valid for a bearish one.

Elliott Theory

Counting Waves – the Elliottwavetrader’s Nightmare

Now that a cycle was split into two parts, the difficult job begins. Elliott further divided his task.

He figured impulsive and corrective waves should be labeled. Differently, so that any elliottwave trader knows where the count is.

As such, for impulsive waves, he used numbers: 1-2-3-4-5. And, for corrective waves, letters: a-b-c.

Just like that, a cycle part of the Elliott Wave Theory looks like 1-2-3-4-5-a-b-c.


So far, so good. Because of this simple adding, the Elliott Wave Theory looks easy to understand.

Yet, this is exactly why so many traders fail at it. Remember the different cycles of different degrees mentioned earlier?

As such, every one of the eight segments from the image above contains waves of a lower degree. Every one of them!

Elliott laid down clear rules. Both for impulsive and corrective waves.

His approach to market was methodical. Therefore, every impulsive move must respect the rules of an impulsive move.

If one, no matter the degree, won’t respect the rules, the whole cycle gets invalidated.


A cycle of a lower degree appears above. Imagine that the 3rd wave that follows is a five-wave structure too. And so on.

These small details make an Elliott Wave forecast very difficult. Because most traders fail to put everything together.

Impulsive Waves Part of an Elliott Wave Forecast

Elliott claimed that there were waves within waves. And, waves have a clear order, according to their degree.

An impulsive wave is a five-wave entity. A move that has no more, no less, than five swings.

The wave trader knows the 2nd and the 4th waves show corrective activity. The only waves that show impulsive activity are the 1st, the 3rd, and the 5th one.

As such, any impulsive wave has three impulsive waves of a lower degree and two corrective ones. Therefore, the rules of an impulsive wave must consider corrective activity.

  • Elliott Theory Holy Grail

Elliott Wave Theory states that in an impulsive wave:

  • The 1st, 3rd and the 5th waves are impulsive.
  • The 2nd and the 4th waves show corrective activity.
  • No overlapping exists between the 2nd and the 4th
  • No parts of the 2nd wave move beyond the start of the impulsive wave.
  • The 3rd wave is never the shortest impulsive waves.
  • At least one impulsive wave must extend.
  • The 2nd wave cannot start with a triangle.
  • Any correction can appear as a fourth wave.
  • The 5th wave can show terminal activity.

The above are only some of the rules that make an impulsive wave. Elliott also covered complex concepts like:

  • The rules of the 2-4 trend line.
  • Why the 0-2 trend line invalidates a count.
  • How to find the 5th wave’s nature based on the 2-4 trend line’s angle.
  • How to use price and time in an impulsive wave for the perfect trade.

The above are little known to the public. Already in this article, there’s an explanation for that.

People focus only on the basic rules. While they are mandatory, they lack the forecasting power of a true Forex wave analysis.

How an Elliot Wave Trader Defines Extensions

At least one wave in an impulsive move extends. But, what’s an extension’s definition?

Elliott strongly believed in a universal order. It may or it may not appeal to everyone these days, but we cannot ignore the power of the Fibonacci numbers. Neither did Elliott.

For, you see, the Elliott Wave Theory wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Fibonacci ratios. Especially the golden ratio: 61.8%.

Everything surrounding this analytical concept relates to 61.8%. One way or the other, a count gets validated/invalidated because of it.

For one wave to extend, it needs to stand out of the crowd. It needs to be the longest of the impulsive waves of a lower degree.

Namely, when comparing the 1st, the 3rd, and the 5th waves, one is the longest. Not only that is bigger, but it must have more than 161.8% when compared with the next longest one.

It may sound tricky, but it’s a wonderful rule. As such, the theory further divides between impulsive and corrective waves.

For, even if the extended wave is so long, it still must respect all the rules of an impulsive wave.

If an impulsive wave extends, it is said that the “litmus test” succeeded. In fact, the 161.8% represents the minimum condition for such a test. And, the market may have two extended waves part of the same impulsive move.

3rd Wave Extensions Impulsive Moves – Part of Elliott Wave Forex Signals

The most common wave to extend is the 3rd wave. Such extension appears most of the times.

As Forex swing traders that use the Elliott Wave Theory here on Capital Properties FX, this is the impulsive wave we face the most. Therefore, the rules of it make the difference between a losing and a winning trade.

Our Elliott Wave Forex signals depend on how we treat all the rules in this article. This one included.

In a 3rd wave extension, the 3rd wave explodes. It moves beyond 161.8% of the 1st wave’s length. Most of the time, this is the case.

However, Elliott states that the 161.8% distance is the minimum one the price travels. It can go much more than that. 261.8% or more comes often.

Because the 3rd wave is the longest, the other waves must adapt. As such, the 2nd wave is either small and insignificant. Or forms a running correction.

More about running corrections later in this article. The 2nd wave in such an impulsive usually takes more time than the 4th wave.

Moreover, the 4th wave rarely is a complex correction. And, the 5th relates to the 1st wave both in price and time.

As a rule of thumb, they are never equal! If this happens, the market prepares for a major top or bottom.

1st Wave Extensions Impulsive Moves – Part of any Elliottwave Forecast

When the 1st wave extends, it is the longest. But this puts some limits on the other impulsive waves of the same degree.

Think of it. The Elliott Wave Theory states that the 3rd wave is not the shortest.

Excellent! If the 3rd one is not the shortest, but the 1st one is the longest, an Elliott Wave Forex trader knows the 5th wave’s length. It can’t be bigger than the 3rd wave.

Elliott Wave Forex

Above is a possible 1st wave extension. But you won’t reach much only by checking these rules.

If you open any Forex chart, you’ll find plenty of patterns like this one. A proper 1st wave extension looks like below.

Wave Pattern

Firstly, any wave analysis Forex trader does, starts with overlapping. This refers to the two corrective waves in an impulsive move. They shouldn’t overlap. Period.

Some Elliott Wave traders consider a few percentages for overlapping. It may be true in some cases. But to be on the safe side, simply ignore an impulsive move that shows overlapping.

Next, check the 0-2 and the 2-4 trend lines. They tell you much about the move after the 5th wave.

Finally, check the time. The 2nd wave here is the most time-consuming.

Moreover, it won’t retrace much more than 38.2% of the 1st wave. Ever.

5th Wave Extensions Impulsive Moves –  A Rare Pattern for the Wave Trader

An impulsive wave like this one is a rare formation. So rare, that it appears only in two instances.

One of them is at the end of a corrective wave. Namely, at the end of a flat pattern.

Later you’ll find out what a flat is. For now, just remember it is not an impulsive wave.

The other possibility is not even worth mentioning. It forms so rarely, you can ignore it.

But, as the c-wave of a flat, a 5th wave extension forms on the Forex market. Moreover, it has some interesting characteristics:

  • The 5th wave in a 5th wave extension is always 61.8% retraced. Golden ratio again.
  • Waves 1, 2, and 3 look like a correction. As such, traders get caught on the wrong side of the market.
  • Almost always the market completely retraces this impulsive wave.

Double Extended Impulsive Wave with Elliott Wave Theory

This type of impulsive move forms often on the Forex market. In a way, it is normal.

When interpreting the Elliott Wave Theory, Forex traders look for the next setup. What would it be?

Remember, Elliott Wave is a logical process. “What if” is the right question to ask.

As such, traders often find a 3rd wave extension. It forms most of the times.

But then, they trade in the other direction. They use the 5th wave’s length limit.

However, when the impulsive wave double extends, the wave pattern results in a huge 5th wave. So big, it exceeds 161.8% of the already extended 3rd wave.

2nd Waves in an Impulsive Wave

The 2nd wave is the first correction in an impulsive structure. As such, it deserves special attention.

Elliott found that time is an important element here. Even in a 3rd wave extension, the 2nd wave consumes a lot of time.

Such an Elliott Wave pattern is either a simple or a complex correction. But, it can’t start with a triangle.

Typically, an Elliott Wave trader looks for a retracement. And, it buys or sells a currency pair at a specific Fibonacci level.

Of course, 50% or 61.8% levels dominate. But, this is so obvious, that rarely works.

Such a strategy is so shallow, it should be ignored. Not that there’s something wrong with it.

Only that today’s trading changed. What Elliott found almost three-quarters of a century back rarely works in the Forex market.

Now, computers generate selling or buying in the opposite direction. Only because the market reached those Fibonacci levels.

However, the magic of the Elliott Wave Theory still works. Running corrections form most of the time. As such, the classical Elliott Wave trade has a different function.

4th Waves in an Impulsive Wave

The 4th wave is special. Human nature based on greed and fear won’t know how to trade it.

Why is that? Imagine you traded an impulsive wave from the start. The bulk of the move/profit is in.

As such, you’ll feel the need to do something. Namely, to book the profits.

That’s not always a smart move. The 4th wave may run. And, traders’ will often fade the move.

The Elliott Wave Theory states that:

  • The 2nd and the 4th waves must differ. Alternation is key here
  • Any corrective pattern may appear as a 4th
  • Most of the times the 4th wave relates with 38.2% of the 3rd

General rules like the ones above are destined to fool the wave theory Forex trader. How come?

Firstly, Elliott Wave traders don’t have patience. Give it time to form!

Secondly, in some cases, the 4th wave is very small. It fits into what Elliott called a “missing wave”.

But, “missing” refers to waves not visible on that time frame. The proper wave pattern appears on a lower one.

Finally, the 4th wave tells much about the end of the impulsive wave of a bigger degree. But, the key here stays with the 2-4 trend line.

Corrective Waves with Elliott Waves

Elliott defined a corrective wave as a three-wave structure. It effectively means the structure doesn’t have impulsive activity.

Because a three-wave structure may have more segments than just three. For example, a triangle is corrective.

But, it has five segments. Yet, the Elliott wave trader refers to it as a three-wave structure.

Elliott struggled with corrective waves. Because the markets spend most of the time in consolidation, corrective waves form everywhere.

He did the same thing. He split corrective waves.

As such, he came with two categories: simple and complex corrections. And, he continued on the same lines. He kept things within simple rules.

What he did was brilliant. He based the complex corrections on the rules for the simple ones.

Namely, a complex correction is nothing but a combination of two or more simple ones. But, no more than three.

This became a powerful rule under the Elliott Wave Theory. No matter how many segments a corrective wave has, a complex correction doesn’t have more than three simple ones.

The Elliott Wave Forex traders use these days, find this to be a difficult rule to follow. The Forex market makes so many swings!

But, a bit of attention always pays. Remember, it is human behavior that drives the market. Right?

Simple Corrections – The Base for Any Forex Elliott Wave Signal

Elliott noticed the market consumes time before a break. It builds energy.

As such, he wrote down the pattern. That’s a triangle.

He found that triangles are very common. And, instead of having only three legs, they have five.

Moreover, they’re all corrective. This means the labeling can only be: a-b-c-d-e.

A typical triangle that the market forms looks like the one below. It has only corrective waves.

And, they become smaller and smaller. That’s a contracting triangle, the most common wave to form.

Elliottwave Forecast

Capital Properties FX

Not all triangles contract. Some, expand.

The type of a triangle comes from the b-d and a-c trend lines. If they contract, the market forms a contracting one.

If not, an expanding one. In both cases, the key stays with the b-d trend line.

It shows the end of the consolidation, once the price breaks it. And, most of the times, the price retests it.

Elliott Wave Technical Analysis

Besides triangles, flat and zigzags are simple corrections too. They are three-wave structures: a-b-c.

In both cases, the b-wave is key.

Once again, the golden ratio plays a central role in the Elliott Wave Theory. When the b-wave retraces over 61.8%, the market forms a flat pattern.

In this case, the previous a-wave is corrective, while the upcoming c-wave is impulsive.

If the b-wave retraces less than 61.8%, the market forms a zigzag. In this case, both waves a and c have an impulsive structure.

Eliottwave Trader

In all corrective waves, the b-wave is corrective in nature. That’s a powerful statement and an important rule anyone must know.

We won’t go here into more details but Elliott Wave is more than that. The Elliott Wave Theory has no less than ten different types of flats.

And, three types of zigzag patterns. Ramifications continue until every possible market move gets covered.

Complex Corrections with Elliott Wave

There’s a thin line between a simple and a complex corrective wave. The logical process designed by Elliott calls for the price action to confirm a simple correction.

As always, the confirmation comes with time. The time element is one of the most important features of the Elliott Theory.

If the simple correction doesn’t get confirmed, what happens with the count? A complex correction forms.

Complex corrective waves have maximum three simple corrections. The ones mentioned in the previous paragraphs.

But, some limitations exist. Any Elliott Wave forecast that deals with a complex correction can’t start with a triangle.

As such, only two possibilities remain: they start with a flat or with a zigzag. However, most of the times complex corrective waves end with a triangle.

When dealing with complex corrections, Elliott needed to further divide the patterns. He used Fibonacci retracement levels again.

The idea behind a complex wave pattern is that it has multiple simple ones. And, in between, an intervening wave forms.

This intervening, or connecting wave, is key for correct labeling. Because complex corrections form often, connecting waves appear everywhere.

Elliott had a special letter for them: x. The x-wave is the link between two simple corrections.

Or, three. But, like any Forex wave analysis shows, a complex correction can’t have more than two intervening waves.

To define a complex correction, we can safely say that it has two or three simple corrections, connected with one or two x-waves.

The X-Wave’s Role in a Wave Pattern

The x-wave, or the intervening wave, deserves special treatment. It forms so often, we can’t simply just mention it and move on.

That’s a special reason for that. Elliott used its nature to classify complex corrections.

And, this time too, Fibonacci comes to help. But, with some changes.

The process of identifying a complex correction as an Elliott Wave trader has several steps. First, it must not start with a triangle.

Therefore, at the start of any complex correction is either a flat or a zigzag. Second, the flat or zigzag mustn’t be confirmed as simple corrections.

Price action that follows tells us if that’s the case or not.

Third, traders look at the 61.8% retracement. But, this time, the level refers to the entire first correction.

Finally, if the first correction is a flat, they measure it from its start until its end and find the 61.8%. That’s the level to interpret the x-wave.

Coming back to the x-wave, it is always corrective. Of course, the usual caveat applies here too: either a simple or a complex correction appears.

The Elliott Wave rule uses the 61.8% retracement mentioned above. When the x-wave gets beyond, the complex correction has a large x-wave.

If not, it has a small x-wave. As such, the complex corrections were divided again.

And, the intervening x-wave holds the key.

The Most Common Complex Corrections for the Elliottwave Trader

The concept of a complex correction scares many. But it shouldn’t.

Elliott Wave Theory has clear rules on the subject. And, they form quite often on the Forex market.

Because of that, an Elliott Wave forecast most likely will have at least one complex correction. And out of all the possibilities out there, some of them form most of the times.

As a rule of thumb, complex corrections with a small x-wave form more often. And out of these ones, double and triple combinations appear some eighty percent of the times.

Therefore, it is important to understand what makes a double and a triple combination. Moreover, how do they look like?

Before anything, expect both to end with a triangle. And to start with a flat or a zigzag.

Elliott Wave Forex Signals

Check the image above. It shows both a double and a triple combination.

While it looks like a complicated pattern, let’s step back and analyze it. You’ll see it’s quite easy to understand the logic behind it.

First, the double combination. It starts with a flat, as the first simple correction.

Next, a small x-wave appears. One that doesn’t retrace beyond 61.8% of the first flat.

And it ends with a triangle. Hence, two simple corrections connected by a small x-wave.

Finally, the triple combination has the same Elliott Wave rules. Only that, instead of one x-wave, the pattern has two.

No matter the market complexity, a pattern has maximum two x-waves. Keep this in mind as an important rule for any wave pattern

Elliott Wave Theory These Days

Nowadays, trading changed. Only if you look back a couple of decades ago, and it changed dramatically.

Firstly, retail traders didn’t have access to the interbank market. Secondly, there were no PCs (Personal Computers) or the Internet.

Finally, trading execution changed. Today, over eighty percent of all trades are automatic.

Over eighty percent of the entries/exits are not made by humans. That’s something to consider.

Why? Well, patterns change because of different execution.

A double top or bottom won’t look the same anymore as it did before. Or, a head and shoulders pattern.

In fact, classic technical analysis patterns as we know them start to disappear. They do form, but algos spot them and run the stops until they get invalidated.

So much with technical analysis, right? Wrong.

Elliott Wave is a fabulous concept. That’s especially true when the analysis considers historical prices. And, has a top/down approach to trading.

This means it starts from the bigger time frames and ends with the lower ones. Because of algorithmic trading, the hourly and even the four-hour time frames don’t filter the market noise.


While it is presented as a simple concept, the Elliott Wave Theory is complex. So complex that it requires a lot of time and dedication.

But, with hard work comes to the results. Any wave pattern presented here is just that: a wave pattern. There are so many of them part of this theory that this article would have been too long.

What matters is that the most important parts were covered. But the logical process, the one that stands behind Elliott Wave power, is more complex.

Small details and tips and tricks are the norm.

While the rules are not broken, they get to “bend” from time to time. Yet, the theory outlives its times.

Almost a century ago, one person sat down and laid all these rules. One single person.

To put the Elliott Wave Theory into perspective, here on Capital Properties FX we predicted the outcome of the most important events in 2016: Brexit and the U.S. Presidential election.

Because this is what Elliott Wave does. It allows you to corner a market.

It all starts with a simple question: is a move corrective or impulsive? Then, the answer to this question leads to another one, and another one, and so on…until there’s no more option for the price action.

From time to time, the Elliott Wave Theory allows for a market to be cornered. When this happens, the outcome blows anyone’s mind.

Moreover, Elliott Wave traders should favor some wave patterns more than the others. That’s specifically true when the analysis integrates the time element.