Steve Nison's Candlecharts.com and CandlechartsAcademy.com
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Its been 25 years since Steve Nison unveiled candlestick charting to US consumers. Not once in the past 25 years has Steve Nison ever shown through personal trading that his ideas are valid. In fact, modern trading software has allowed consumers to back test every single one of his mystical candlestick patterns, only to discover that they are no more or less predictive than the average carnival fortune teller.
Today’s Review is Steve Nison’s Candlecharts.com
Who is Steve Nison? Steve Nison is considered to be the first westerner to introduce the concept of candlestick charting to the western world. What I mean by western world is English speaking traders. His original book, “Japanese Candlestick Charting Techniques: A Contemporary Guide to the Ancient Investment Techniques of the Far East” was originally published way back in 1991. It was an immediate sensation. The basic story line is that ancient Japanese rice traders would use this form of chart making to interpret current prices, and that this interpretation would then predict future price movements. There is a bit of controversy over whom actually invented the idea and concepts behind Japanese candlestick charts, some say it was a samurai, others say it was a super secret and ancient society of Japanese mystics that lived high up on Mt. Fuji. And once a year, these mystics would journey down from their secret mountaintop lair, and then speculate on the price of rice. They would carry with them ancient rice paper scrolls with markings that non other than the mystics could interpret. Their interpretation of the secret symbols allowed them to control the price of rice, and if you know the Japanese, whomever controls the rice is are very powerful indeed.
Of course, all of this mystical and mythical rice trading samurai stuff is entertaining to read and contemplate. Us westerners, when we think of anything Japanese, we tend to think of something well engineered, and a society that is very old. If you search on the internet, where all of the truth in the world currently resides (that was supposed to be funny), you can find hundreds of variations on how candlestick trading came into existence. And whom actually introduced it to westerners. Steve Nison claims to be “the guy”, there are some other guys as well, that claim that Steve wasn’t the first guy, etc. But really, who cares whom was first? The real issue is whether any of this candlestick charting stuff is statistically valid.
All Things Japanese
How did Japanese candlestick charting become such a popular concept? All popular modern charting packages now include Japanese candlestick charting. This inclusion leads us to assume that it must be a valid idea simply because it is included as a standard charting feature. But why? And how did it become such a powerful concept? The Japanese candlestick, is really just a pop culture phenomenon that was born out of the 1980’s. Many of you reading this were perhaps not even born in the 1980’s, and many more were not even introduced to financial trading until the 2000’s. So what gives? Let me explain…during the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Japanese completely revolutionized industrial manufacturing. They introduced ancient concepts of group cooperation, lean and highly efficient manufacturing methods, as well as the concept of “kaizen” which means constant improvement by monitoring results. In short, they completely kicked our asses at making stuff. They made better cars, better radios, better TV’s, better toys, better everything. During this period, they completely kicked the Americans asses at manufacturing everything. After they kicked our asses at manufacturing, they began flexing their little Japanese muscles and began buying up real estate in the US. They went on a massive buying spree and began buying just about everything in sight. Rockefeller Center, major hotels, large swathes of commercial real estate. They were considered our superior, it become such a problem that during the late 1980’s a number of US politicians even wanted to limit the amount of real estate that Japanese nationals could purchase. And the real kicker was that the Japanese stock market was essentially doubling every 12 months, their economy was exploding while ours languished and our manufacturing base shrank.
All of this created a cultural phenomenon where anything Japanese was considered to be comparatively better than its American counterpart. American society became fascinated with all things Japanese. We craved to learn everything we could about the Japanese. In US universities, international business degrees that emphasized Japanese were highly popular. This fertile ground, during the 1970’s and 1980’s set the stage for other areas of Japanese culture and learning to take root. Some of these things include Karate, Japanese as a second language, Sushi Restaurants, Ninja’s, and yes…even candlestick charting for the financial markets.
Steve Nison caught a cultural wave at just the perfect moment. He rode that societal zeitgeist to its full effect. He published his first book in 1991 that allowed western traders to adopt a supposedly superior form of technical analysis that had been proven over hundreds of years of use by the samurai and the mystics. In short, he had impeccable timing.
After he published his first book, traders naturally wanted more. And they wanted a better and deeper understanding and practical application to modern markets. Steve Nison obliged them by next publishing, “Beyond Candlesticks: New Japanese Charting Techniques Revealed”. Released 1994. This book took things to the next level. What ever that means.
After 1994, the trading community of teachers, guru’s, advisories, software providers, etc. all caught onto the profits that Steve was banking. They quickly flooded the market with their own versions of Steve’s original book. All sorts of permutations of Steve’s concepts exploded onto the scene. All Steve could do was proclaim that he was the first, the original, and he was the best.
No Back Testing Software
Its important to note that during the release of Steve Nison’s books, and the ensuing avalanche of promoters looking to cash in on candlestick charting, there was no commercially viable back testing software available for the general public. There was no TradeStation, Ninja Trader, Multicharts, Trade Navigator, or any of the other 50+ trading platforms that now allow back testing of trading ideas. If modern back testing software were available at the time that Steve Nison released his books, then his ideas would of come under much closer scrutiny, and it would of happened quickly. Instead, the idea of Japanese candlesticks had instead been allowed to run free from scrutiny and establish itself as a valid and reliable trading concept. To date, there are literally hundreds of published books, articles, training courses, software, advisories, trading systems, ebooks, websites…all focusing on Japanese candlestick charting.
Diffusion Of Innovation
Most of my readers are not familiar with a scientific concept described as “Diffusion Of Innovation“, which was published back in 1962. The basic concept is that anytime something new and innovative is introduced into a culture, then the rate of that innovation and its practical application will quickly expand to a saturation level, and then the original concept begins to lose whatever benefit was enjoyed by the innovator and the early adopters.
In practical terms, the concept of Japanese candlesticks is now a very old concept, in terms of its introduction into our modern markets. Knowing that financial markets are highly efficient, we can assume that whatever the initial benefit that Japanese candlesticks had, should now be diffused and no longer contain much of a market edge.
Getting Closer To The Truth
Over the past 10 years, nearly every back testing software program now contains the ability to simply place an indicator onto a chart, and then quickly back test the indicator over various time frames. Specifically, over the past 5 years, we have now reached a critical level where most trading platforms have removed the programming aspect completely from the average user. In other words, a person no longer needs to learn C+, C#, .Net, Trade Station Easy Language, or Java in order to build a trading system. Ninja Trader has an add on vendor named Bloodhound that removes C+ altogether and will allow quick testing of every single chart pattern in the candlestick universe. But the absolute king of stupid simple trading platforms in Trade Navigator.
Trade Navigator has removed the confusing programming language altogether. If you can speak English, then you can write strategies. And since all of the Japanese candlesticks are easy to describe, then Trade Navigator is by far the easiest to use for back testing just about any idea.
In fact, all of Steve Nison’s candlestick trading ideas and patterns have already been programmed into Trade Navigator. You can read more about it here.
Many of my readers are not aware that I currently use only Trade Navigator because its stupid simple and I can program any idea for free, without having to learn a programming language and deal with third party vendors for support. I was actually able to build out all of Steve’s candlestick patterns in only a few hours.
Back Testing Steve Nison Candlestick Patterns
So what did I find? Well, actually not much. I found that the bullish candlestick patterns in the overall stock market were generally pretty good buy signals. However, the stock market has basically only gone up since 1852, and so all technical indicators have worked for buy signals, regardless of whatever form of analysis you had applied to a chart. You could of purchased the stock market every time your pet monkey took a crap, and it would of been as effective as a candlestick pattern. However, when applied individually to stocks, there is absolutely no edge whatsoever. In fact, I ran over 500,000 variations and permutations of Steve’s most bullish patterns, on individual stocks and it proved worthless. I couldnt even optimize my way into a winning strategy. Some of my favorites were the stocks that blew up post dot com bubble. Steve’s bullish patterns would of destroyed an account. Or some of the companies that blew up during the 2007-2008 financial crisis. In particular, I am still waiting for that bullish engulfing pattern to bail me out of that losing position in Washington Mutual, or Bear Stearns. What about intraday charts? Is there anything predictive about any of these patterns using a 5 minute, 15 minute, 3 minute, or tick chart? Nope. No edge. But of course, these are my results. And your results could be much different than my results.
What should you do? I recommend that you prove me wrong. Get your hands dirty. Grab your back testing platform, and start testing these ideas for yourself. You should not take my word for it. You should get your hands dirty and enjoy the satisfaction of uncovering that a concept is valid, or not valid. By testing your own ideas, it will set you free. Free from the non stop roller coaster of searching for the latest and the greatest indicator that someone sold you, and promised that this would be the last indicator package that you would ever need.
Empower yourself. If you have Tradestation and cannot understand Easy Language, and how to quickly test indicators and ideas…then dump it! If you are using Ninjatrader and you are tired of getting stuck attempting to backtest using C#…then dump it. I am not going to convince you to try one back testing software program over another, but I can tell you from experience that if you are not a programmer and you want to empower yourself, then look at the Trade Navigator platform. Its so stupid simple that one eyed orangutan can quickly back test an idea. Enough hammering you on learning to do your own research. Lets jump back to Steve Nison and the validity of his ideas.
What About Steve Nison?
Steve Nison has two websites. The Candlecharts.com website has been functioning and active since the year 2000. The CandlechartsAcademy.com website has been in operation since 2012. You will notice that on neither of these sites is any trading performance of Steve Nison. Sure, there is plenty of fancy stuff about how Steve lectured lots of big players: the Fed, the World Bank, Goldman Sachs, etc. But what does that really tell us? Nothing. It tells us nothing and it means absolutely nothing. It is nothing more than a red herring, a distraction to divert our attention to whether Steve Nison actually trades. Does he eat his own cooking? Has he ever been able to convert his knowledge of candlestick charts into a winning month or year? I was curious. And so I emailed him and asked.
Steve Nison responded with the usual nonsense that all long time guru’s seem to use. He replied that he does not reveal any personal trading information. That with his distinguished reputation he no longer needs to prove himself. He reminded me that he was the very first to introduce the Japanese charts to western traders. I responded that this was a great achievement…back in 1989. But hey, this is 2015. Things have changed. People want transparency. Do you even trade Steve? No answer. Do you even have a trading account Steve? No answer. In fact, the more you attempt to corner this guy, the more silent he becomes. He knew pretty quickly that I was not a buyer. Buyers don’t ask the uncomfortable questions. Buyers are expected to be stupid suckers, desperate for answers, quick to pull their credit card to make the purchase. Desperate to find someone, anyone to help them find the holy fountain of endless trading profits. Steve knows it doesn’t exist, and so do it, but most of you reading this are still wondering if it really exists.
Sometimes these trading characters really drive me nuts. How could anyone send any of these guys a penny without verifying that what they are offering has any sort of statistical edge, or offers any sort of trading advantage.
Wrapping Things Up
At least once a month, someone sends me an email requesting a review of Steve Nison and his candlesticks trading course. I usually just trash the request because to me, it is plainly obvious that this guy is nothing more than a full time, professional indicator salesman looking to dupe the unwashed and unsophisticated trader of a couple thousand bucks. But the requests keep slowly trickling in, like a very small leak in my roof, it is annoying at the least. My response to these requests is for prospective customers to email Steve directly and simply ask him to provide proof through personal trading statements that his candlestick patterns really work. Of course, he wont respond to such requests and has a list of creative diversions to distract. He loves to recommend that people watch video reviews on You Tube, and the written reviews from people over a 25 year marketing career. Its all pure marketing puffery and showbiz.
I want to wrap up this review with an appeal to my readers…get your hands dirty. Get a back testing platform and start testing whether things like candlestick charts actually have an edge. These patterns are ridiculously easy to program and test. I know the answer to the question of candle stick charts, but you need to discover the truth for yourself. By doing the hard work to discover the truth, it is going to open the next set of doors that will lead you to testing the next set of ideas that either work or do not work.
On A Personal Note
A lot of people ask me about my own trading. I can tell you from my own experience, that I did not turn the corner until I stopped listening to the guru’s, and learned to program trading ideas for myself. In fact, I currently spend an average of 2 hours each day programming different trading ideas. I never take a trade unless I can prove that the trade has some sort of a statistical advantage. If someone tells me that a stochastic works great with an ADX indicator, I stop and test the idea, checking it for validity. Every single trade that I make has to contain a statistical edge. Its the only way that I have been able to survive and make a living at this game. What are my patterns? Not a chance I would ever reveal my core patterns and strategies. That would be financial suicide.
However, what I can tell you is that if you learn to program and test trading strategies, you will begin to close off the doors that lead to failure. Doors like candlestick charting. You will test these ideas and discover they are worthless. Then you will test stochastics, and keltner channels, bollinger bands, and every other sort of idea that has been crammed into your head as a valid concept. By testing everything, and discarding ideas that are not valid, the truth will slowly begin to reveal itself. It doesn’t happen overnight, but once it does begin to happen…your entire world will change, and you will look at the potential of what you might one day become as something exciting and tangible.
Well that’s it for today. Yet another trading review of a crummy product. I am sure that this post is going to conjure up a bit of controversy. A lot of people use candlestick charts and firmly believe that they work, and that is OK. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if these same people that fervently defend candlestick charting were to take an honest assessment of their own trading results, they would find that candlestick charting has neither helped nor hurt.
Over the next few weeks, I will be doing a detailed review on the latest technical analysis fad known as “Order Flow”. I would consider “Order Flow” to be the Kim Kardashian of our current times. And I believe that my reviews of all of the operators in the order flow space are not going to like what I will be writing. But that will be another day.
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to leave your comments below. Even the haters will find a home here.