Motive waves subdivide into five waves with certain characteristics and always move in the same direction as the trend of one larger degree. They are straightforward and relatively easy to recognize and interpret.
Within motive waves, wave 2 never retraces more than 100% of wave 1, and wave 4 never retraces more than 100% of wave 3. Wave 3, moreover, always travels beyond the end of wave 1. The goal of an impulse is to make progress, and these rules of formation assure that it will.
Elliott further discovered that in price terms, wave 3 is often the longest and never the shortest among waves 1, 3 and 5. As long as wave 3 undergoes a greater percentage movement than either wave 1 or 5, this rule is satisfied. It almost always holds on an arithmetic basis as well. There are two types of motive waves: impulses and diagonal triangles.
The most common motive wave is an impulse. In an impulse, wave 4 does not enter the territory of (i.e., “overlap”) wave 1. This rule holds for all non-leveraged cash basis markets. Futures markets, with their extreme leverage, can induce short term price extremes that would not occur in cash markets. Even so, overlapping is usually confined to daily and intraday price fluctuations and even then is extremely rare. In addition, the actionary subwaves (1, 3 and 5) of an impulse are themselves motive, and subwave 3 is specifically an impulse. Figures 2, 3 and 4 all depict impulses in the 1, 3, 5, A and C wave positions.
As detailed in the preceding four paragraphs, there are only a few simple rules for interpreting impulses properly. A rule is so called because it governs all waves to which it applies. Typical, yet not inevitable, characteristics of waves are called guidelines, which are discussed in an upcoming section. A rule should never be disregarded. In many years of practice with countless patterns, the authors have found but one instance above Subminuette degree when all other rules and guidelines combined to suggest that a rule was broken. Analysts who routinely break any of the rules detailed in this section are practicing some form of analysis other than that guided by the Wave Principle. These rules have great practical utility in correct counting, which we will explore further in discussing extensions.
Most impulses contain what Elliott called an extension. Extensions are elongated impulses with exaggerated subdivisions. The vast majority of impulse waves do contain an extension in one and only one of their three impulsive subwaves (1, 3 or 5). The diagrams in Figure 4, illustrating extensions, will clarify this point.
Often the third wave of an extended third wave is an extension, producing a profile such as shown in Figure 5.
A truncated fifth wave does not move beyond the end of the third. It can usually be verified by noting that the presumed fifth wave contains the necessary five subwaves, as illustrated in Figures 6 and 7.
Truncation gives warning of underlying weakness or strength in the market. In application, a truncated fifth wave will often cut short an expected target. This annoyance is counterbalanced by its clear implications for persistence in the new direction of trend.
DIAGONAL TRIANGLES (WEDGES)
A diagonal triangle is an impulsive pattern, yet not an impulse, as it has one or two corrective characteristics. Diagonal triangles substitute for impulses at specific locations in the wave structure. They are the only five-wave structures in the direction of the main trend within which wave four almost always moves into the price territory of (i.e., overlaps) wave one. On rare occasions, a diagonal triangle may end in a truncation, although in our experience, such truncations occur only by the slimmest of margins.
An ending diagonal is a special type of wave that occurs primarily in the fifth wave position at times when the preceding move has gone “too far too fast,” as Elliott put it. A very small percentage of ending diagonals appear in the C wave position of A-B- C formations. In double or triple threes (see next section), they appear only as the final “C” wave. In all cases, they are found at the termination points of larger patterns, indicating exhaustion of the larger movement.
Ending diagonals take a wedge shape within two converging lines, with each subwave, including waves 1, 3 and 5, subdividing into a “three,” which is otherwise a corrective wave phenomenon. The ending diagonal is illustrated in Figures 8 and 9 and shown in its typical position in larger impulse waves.
When diagonal triangles occur in the fifth or C wave position, they take the 3-3-3-3-3 shape that Elliott described. However, it has recently come to light that a variation on this pattern occasionally appears in the first wave position of impulses and in the A wave position of zigzags. The characteristic overlapping of waves one and four and the convergence of boundary lines into a wedge shape remain as in the ending diagonal triangle. However, the subdivisions are different, tracing out a 5-3-5, or 5-3-5-3-5 pattern. The structure of this formation (see Figure 10) does fit the spirit of the Wave Principle in that the five-wave subdivisions in the direction of the larger trend communicate a “continuation” message as opposed to the “termination” implication of the three-wave subdivisions in the ending diagonal. This pattern must be noted because the analyst could mistake it for a far more common development, a series of first and second waves, as illustrated in Figure 5.
The main key to recognizing this pattern is the decided slowing of momentum in the fifth subwave relative to the third. By contrast, in developing first and second waves, phenomena such as short term speed of movement and breadth (i.e., the number of stocks or subindexes participating) often expands.
Markets move against the trend of one greater degree only with a seeming struggle. Resistance from the larger trend appears to prevent a correction from developing a full impulsive structure. The struggle between the two oppositely trending degrees generally makes corrective waves less clearly identifiable than impulsive waves, which always flow with comparative ease in the direction of the one larger trend. As another result of the conflict between trends, corrective waves are quite a bit more varied than impulsive waves.
Corrective patterns fall into four main categories:
Zigzags (5-3-5; includes three variations: single, double, triple);
Flats (3-3-5; includes three variations: regular, expanded, running);
Triangles (3-3-3-3-3; four types: ascending, descending, contracting, expanding);
Double threes and triple threes (combined structures).
A single zigzag in a bull market is a simple three-wave declining pattern labeled A-B-C and subdividing 5-3-5. The top of wave B is noticeably lower than the start of wave A, as illustrated in Figures 11 and 12.
Occasionally zigzags will occur twice, or at most, three times in succession, particularly when the first zigzag falls short of a normal target. In these cases, each zigzag is separated by an intervening “three” (labeled X), producing what is called a double zigzag (see Figure 13) or triple zigzag. The zigzags are labeled W and Y (and Z, if a triple)
A flat correction differs from a zigzag in that the subwave sequence is 3-3-5, as shown in Figures 14 and 15. Since the first actionary wave, wave A, lacks sufficient downward force to unfold into a full five waves as it does in a zigzag, the B wave reaction seems to inherit this lack of countertrend pressure and, not surprisingly, terminates near the start of wave A. Wave C, in turn, generally terminates just slightly beyond the end of wave A rather than significantly beyond as in zigzags.
Flat corrections usually retrace less of preceding impulse waves than do zigzags. They participate in periods involving a strong larger trend and thus virtually always precede or follow extensions. The more powerful the underlying trend, the briefer the flat tends to be. Within impulses, fourth waves frequently sport flats, while second waves rarely do.
Three types of 3-3-5 corrections have been identified by differences in their overall shape. In a regular flat correction, wave B terminates about at the level of the beginning of wave A, and wave C terminates a slight bit past the end of wave A, as we have shown in Figures 14 and 15. Far more common, however, is the variety called an expanded flat, which contains a price extreme beyond that of the preceding impulse wave. In expanded flats, wave B of the 3-3-5 pattern terminates beyond the starting level of wave A, and wave C ends more substantially beyond the ending level of wave A, as shown in Figures 16 and 17.
In a rare variation on the 3-3-5 pattern, which we call a running flat, wave B terminates well beyond the beginning of wave A as in an expanded flat, but wave C fails to travel its full distance, falling short of the level at which wave A ended. There are hardly any examples of this type of correction in the price record.
Triangles are overlapping five wave affairs that subdivide 3-3-3-3-3. They appear to reflect a balance of forces, causing a sideways movement that is usually associated with decreasing volume and volatility. Triangles fall into four main categories as illustrated in Figure 18. These illustrations depict the first three types as taking place within the area of preceding price action, in what may be termed regular triangles. However, it is quite common, particularly in contracting triangles, for wave b to exceed the start of wave a in what may be termed a running triangle, as shown in Figure 19.
COMBINATIONS (DOUBLE AND TRIPLE THREES)
Elliott called sideways combinations of corrective patterns “double threes” and “triple threes.” While a single three is any zigzag or flat, a triangle is an allowable final component of such combinations and in this context is called a “three.” A double or triple three, then, is a combination of simpler types of corrections, including the various types of zigzags, flats and triangles. Their occurrence appears to be the flat correction’s way of extending sideways action. As with double and triple zigzags, each simple corrective pattern is labeled W, Y and Z. The reactionary waves, labeled X, can take the shape of any corrective pattern but are most commonly zigzags. Figures 20 and 21 show two examples of double threes.