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This is my rambling description of Ian McAvity, CMT, from a very personal perspective. Ian didn't ask me to do this, certainly hasn't paid me to do it and hasn't even approved of it. Any errors, mistakes and omissions are entirely and totally my fault.
John Carder, CMT
Topline Investment Graphics
|Wall Street Uncut interview
“Are All Bubbles Alike?”
I first started reading Ian McAvity’s newsletter, DELIBERATIONS on World Markets, in the late 1970s. I think I saw one of his marvelous, hand-drawn charts in Richard Russell’s Dow Theory Letters, and that led to my subscription. Ian’s timely advice helped me to profitably navigate the gold and gold stock bull market of the 1970s.
Perhaps more importantly, he was one of the few who were able to follow that performance with a timely call for a stock bull market in 1982. I’ll never forget the interview with Louis Rukeyser on PBS’ Wall $treet Week in 1982, in which Ian repeated his newsletter advice to “Buy the four Gs in the Dow” – General Electric, General Foods, General Motors and Goodyear Tire. His selection of those four was based on their “superior relative strength”. At the time, few investors even recognized the term relative strength, much less understood how to use the tool. He explained that “Their summer lows were above their March lows, while the market made a lower low.” That concise description of why these four stocks exhibited superior relative strength is typical of Ian’s writings. He doesn’t just tell you to “Keep It Simple”, he practices it. Whenever I’ve strayed from that advice, I’ve paid the price in the market. It’s hard to believe, given today’s environment, but most investors didn’t want to hear about blue chip stocks in 1982. I followed Ian’s advice, and recall that Phillip Morris bought out General Foods shares for twice what I paid for them.
When I was a total novice at technical analysis, I wrote Ian regarding his pioneering work with the Coppock Guide*. Ian generously responded with copies of his worksheets and recommended that I read Edwards & Magee’s Technical Analysis of Stock Trends. I had no idea what that was, but I ordered it, read it and loved it. Today it is considered one of the core texts in the study of technical analysis, and is one of the three “main books of study” for the Level 1 Chartered Market Technician exam of the Market Technicians Association.
I finally met Ian at the Market Technicians Association Seminar at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale Arizona, (1985?). I’m proud to call him a friend today. I couldn’t begin to list all that I have learned from him about technical analysis, initially through his writings in Deliberations.
If I had to pick one concept that he taught me (and Ian, please forgive me if I don’t state this as well as you would), it would probably be that “A market is a market is a market.” It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at a chart of Japanese stocks in the 1980s, or gold in the 1970s or US stocks in the 1920s. You’re looking at a bubble. Buyers and sellers in any market are human, and have always been subject to the emotions of fear and greed. Their behavior, as a crowd, tends to look the same across both centuries and markets.
Recognizing behavior patterns like bubbles after the fact is easy.
A good technical analyst is more likely to recognize the behavior as it is happening.
There are two qualities of great technical analysts that I’ve identified over the years.
One is the ability to realize when to ignore certain indicators, and when not to.
Many investors have lost fortunes thinking that “This time is different.” A few have made fortunes when they realized that it really was different this time.
The other is the ability to admit that they’re wrong, quickly and completely, and reverse their position.
Admitting a mistake, and reversing your position is difficult for anyone. To do it in print, to paying subscribers, is very tough on the ego. We’ve all seen newsletter writers cling stubbornly to a mistaken market opinion. While it may protect an analyst’s delicate ego in the short run, it hurts the analysis and is of no value to subscribers.
Over the years, I’ve seen Ian do both, and watched in amazement. Don’t misunderstand. Ian doesn’t have a perfect record — no analyst with any significant track record has been perfect. Even after more than twenty years, when I read Deliberations, I expect to learn something. Often it’s a chart study, sometimes it’s an unusual interpretation, but it’s never the conventional wisdom.
"Ian McAvity...he is one of the best technical analysts around."
Fear, Greed and the End
of the Rainbow
During the 1960s Ian was a world-class squash champion. In 1969, he played on the doubles team that was Canadian National Doubles Champion and was ranked number one for several years.
One of his less widely known accomplishments was the role he played in helping to break down the South African apartheid (color barrier) policy in sports. US champion, Arthur Ashe had broken the barrier a few years earlier in Tennis.
As part of his retirement from amateur squash competition, Ian arranged to travel to South Africa with the Pakistani born North American professional champion, Sharif Khan, for a series of tournaments organized to demonstrate the breaking of Apartheid in squash in 1972, to enable the International Federation to hold the World Championship in South Africa the following year.
The tour was a great success, and South Africa hosted the World Championships the next year. Unfortunately, one month prior to that event, the Canadian Government learned that a Canadian team was planning to attend, and after many threats, the team was withdrawn at the last minute.
A Canadian enabled the event, but the Canadian government, and the Canadian Squash Association withdrew the team; prompting Ian to denounce the act (which got a lot more publicity in South Africa than in Canada), and he withdrew from any further involvement with the game, in protest of selling out an amateur sport to government coercion.
Ian is an avid golfer and an active expert skier, and he even managed to drag my sorry butt out onto the slopes after an eleven year hiatus (thank you!).
One of the pleasures of reading Deliberations is Ian's unique view of the world. He's not afraid to pull his punches, both in his writing and speaking. Best of all, you find yourself laughing — and that means you'll remember what you're learning.
He has been the featured speaker at investment conferences, and technical analyst societies in Canada, the USA, Britain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark and South Africa. When a conference organizer needs a speaker to ensure that the seats will be filled at the first presentation on a Saturday morning, Ian is typically their first choice. It's not only a valuable presentation, but a funny one that gets everyone's motor running.
The first section describes his abilities as a technical analyst. I'm going to mention a few specific achievements. By no means is this a comprehensive list.
One of my most
prized possessions is my worn copy of his "chartbook". It's long
out of print, but it is full of his hand-drawn charts, including Coppock
Curves of many markets. I am still amazed that he calculated all of them by
hand, typed the words on an IBM Selectric, and laid it all out with his
Xerox machine, glue stick and eXacto knife.
Coppock Curves are an excellent example of keeping it simple. E.S.C. Coppock designed them to identify reversals from emotional extremes, and that's just what they do, rarely generating whipsaws at extremes.
Click here for a thorough description of the Coppock Guide.