The Wave Principle is unparalleled in providing an overall perspective on the position of the market most of the time. Most important to individuals, portfolio managers and investment corporations is that the Wave Principle often indicates in advance the relative magnitude of the next period of market progress or regress. Living in harmony with those trends can make the difference between success and failure in financial affairs.
Despite the fact that many analysts do not treat it as such, the Wave Principle is by all means an objective study, or as Collins put it, "a disciplined form of technical analysis." Bolton used to say that one of the hardest things he had to learn was to believe what he saw. If the analyst does not believe what he sees, he is likely to read into his analysis what he thinks should be there for some other reason. At this point, his count becomes subjective. Subjective analysis is dangerous and destroys the value of any market approach.
What the Wave Principle provides is an objective means of assessing the relative probabilities of possible future paths for the market. At any time, two or more valid wave interpretations are usually acceptable by the rules of the Wave Principle. The rules are highly specific and keep the number of valid alternatives to a minimum. Among the valid alternatives, the analyst will generally regard as preferred the interpretation that satisfies the largest number of guidelines, and so on. As a result, competent analysts applying the rules and guidelines of the Wave Principle objectively should usually agree on the order of probabilities for various possible outcomes at any particular time. That order can usually be stated with certainty. Let no one assume, however, that certainty about the order of probabilities is the same as certainty about one specific outcome. Under only the rarest of circumstances does the analyst ever know exactly what the market is going to do. One must understand and accept that even an approach that can identify high odds for a fairly specific outcome will be wrong some of the time. Of course, such a result is a far better performance than any other approach to market forecasting provides.
Using Elliott, it is often possible to make money even when you are in error. For instance, after a minor low that you erroneously consider of major importance, you may recognize at a higher level that the market is vulnerable again to new lows. A clear-cut three-wave rally following the minor low rather than the necessary five gives the signal, since a three-wave rally is the sign of an upward correction. Thus, what happens after the turning point often helps confirm or refute the assumed status of the low or high, well in advance of danger.
Even if the market allows no such graceful exit, the Wave Principle still offers exceptional value. Most other approaches to market analysis, whether fundamental, technical or cyclical, have no good way of forcing a change of opinion if you are wrong. The Wave Principle, in contrast, provides a built-in objective method for changing your mind. Since Elliott wave analysis is based upon price patterns, a pattern identified as having been completed is either over or it isn't. If the market changes direction, the analyst has caught the turn. If the market moves beyond what the apparently completed pattern allows, the conclusion is wrong, and any funds at risk can be reclaimed immediately. Investors using the Wave Principle can prepare themselves psychologically for such outcomes through the continual updating of the second best interpretation, sometimes called the "alternate count." Because applying the Wave Principle is an exercise in probability, the ongoing maintenance of alternative wave counts is an essential part of investing with it. In the event that the market violates the expected scenario, the alternate count immediately becomes the investor's new preferred count. If you're thrown by your horse, it's useful to land right atop another.
Of course, there are often times when, despite a rigorous analysis, the question may arise as to how a developing move is to be counted, or perhaps classified as to degree. When there is no clearly preferred interpretation, the analyst must wait until the count resolves itself, in other words, to "sweep it under the rug until the air clears," as Bolton suggested. Almost always, subsequent moves will clarify the status of previous waves by revealing their position in the pattern of the next higher degree. When subsequent waves clarify the picture, the probability that a turning point is at hand can suddenly and excitingly rise to nearly 100%.