How to Trade - Book Review - Jeremy Du Plessis, The Definitive Guide to Point and Figure

For the uninitiated, Point and Figure charting is the only charting method that analyzes price without the noise of time. The noise amplification of time in other forms of charting - Candlesticks, Heikin Ashi and OHLC is visually disruptive as you toggle between daily, minute, weekly and monthly charts.

This visual confusion is removed with Point and Figure charts. They are binary in their construction - either there is a buy/sell signal or buy/sell pattern or there is not. It is in this style of clear-cut clarity that Jeremy du Plessis writes his book.

Jeremy trained as an automotive engineer, then studied as an economist, but gave both up to become a Technical Analyst. He founded Indexia Research in 1983 and pioneered the firm's development of PC-based Technical Analysis. In 2002, he led the merger of Indexia with Updata plc, where he is currently the Head of Technical Analysis and software design. While most of the clients of Updata are institutional clients, namely European and US commercial and investment banks, the Point & Figure methods he teaches in the book are universal and relevant for retail trading purposes. He is a Fellow of the Society of Technical Analysts (FSTA) in the UK, and a member of the American Market Technicians Association (MTA). The MTA awarded him the designation of Chartered Market Technician (CMT).

The engineering precision coupled with the factual economic rationale forms the solid cornerstones of this almanac on P&F methods. With 456+ pages and over 300 charts in full color, the book is aptly sub-titled "A Comprehensive Guide to the Theory and Practical Use of the Point and Figure Charting Method."

Jeremy is the alternative and consummate "financial engineer". He avoids heavy economic jargon and Fundamental Analysis is dismissed early on in the book, referred to as the "F" word. What he needs to say is effectively captured in the way he visually communicates through the charts.

There are adequate reader reviews on Amazon and Google Book Search, to help you decide if you will get the book. For those who have just started or are about to read the book, I've summarized the core concepts in the larger and essential chapters to help you get through them quicker.

The number on the right of the title of the chapter is the number of pages contained within that chapter. It is not the page number. The percentages represent how much each chapter makes up of the 456 pages in total, excluding appendices.

Introduction to Technical Analysis. 14, 3.07%.

1. Introduction to Point and Figure Charts. 26, 5.70%.

2. Characteristics and Construction. 62, 13.60%.

3. Understanding Point and Figure Charts. 92, 20.18%.

4. Projecting Price Targets. 66, 14.47%.

5. Analysing Point and Figure Charts. 64, 14.04%.

6. Point and Figure Charts of Indicators. 18, 3.95%.

7. Optimisation of Point and Figure Charts. 24, 5.26%.

8. Point and Figure's Contribution to Market Breadth. 22, 4.82%.

9. Advanced Point and Figure Techniques. 38, 8.33%.

10. Chart Examples. 20, 4.39%.

11. Conclusion. 6, 1.32%.

12. References and Further Reading. 4, 0.88%.

Focus on chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 and 9, which makes up about 71% of the book. These chapters are relevant for practical trading purposes. Here are the key points for these focus chapters, which I'm summarizing from a retail trader's perspective.

2. Characteristics and Construction. This chapters deals with the logic for chart constructions using Xs and Os, Up and Down moves, Xs and Os called boxes, Box size, Reversal Size, Variable Sensitivity, Gaps, Price on Y-axis but no time on X-axis, Two-dimensional charts, No Volume, Demand and Supply and Naming Point and Figure charts.

Chapter 2 covers the foundational attributes for building Point and Figure charts. What is covered here, that is glossed over in most P&F books, is the added emphasis on varying the sensitivity of charts by changing the box size and reversal size. Gaps are eliminated and do not feature in the charts at all. Volume is already embedded in the Reversal counts of the P&F chart, without having to graph volume separately. There is no need to fuss with reconciling price against volume-based studies. P&F chart construction excludes time altogether. Unlike time-based charts (e.g. Candlesticks/Heikin Ashi/OHLC, etc.), where a minute/day/week/month chart results in different views causing visual confusion.

The sub-section on 1-box, 2-box, 3-box and 5-box reversal charts is what makes this chapter different. Most literature on the subject concentrates on 3-box sizing with token treatment of other box sizes. This where Jeremy's depth of experience becomes evident. 34 pages are dedicated to the effects of raising price sensitivity (1-box reversal and 2-box reversal) for intra-day/day trading purposes versus lowering price sensitivity (5-box reversal) for trading multi-month positions or highly volatile products. A 3-box reversal chart is the default and is more relevant for trading positions held for weeks going a month. It is applicable to the majority of Indexes/ETFs. Practical reasons are given for changing the reversal count, which adjusts the weighting given to the prevailing column and the underlying's statistical volatility. This affects the intensity of price continuing or discontinuing along its trend.

3. Understanding Point and Figure Charts. The topics covered include: Point and Figure Signals, The strength of the pattern, differences between 1-box and 3-box patterns, Traps, Broadening Patterns, Bullish and Bearish Patterns that reverse, Poles, Congestion Analysis, Signals with the trend or against the trend, Trend lines on Point and Figure charts. 

Clear illustrations are given on demand pushing price up a column of Xs, whereas supply pushes price down in a column of Os. Thorough examples are given of how patterns vary according to the reversal size used. There are binary rules to ignore or trade buy/sell signals that are part of a larger, more complex pattern and patterns that can trap the untrained eye into a trade that should have been avoided in the first place. 45° degree Bullish Support and Bearish Resistance Trend Lines are used to remove subjectivity if a certain price level qualifies as Support or Resistance. Congestion Analysis looks at the width of patterns, where the area taken up by a pattern determines the strength of price advancing or declining that signals potential trade entries or exits.

4. Projecting Price Targets. P&F price targets are established on vertical and horizontal box counts. This section deals with Counts on 1-box reversal charts, Counts on 3-box reversal charts, Nearest counts must be achieved first, Clustering of counts, Negating a count, Opposing counts, Combining counts with trend lines, Unfulfilled counts, Improbable and impossible counts, a Good counter or Bad counter, Counts of log scale charts and Risk to Reward ratios.

Estimating a price target with P&F charts is not subjective but a clearly computed forecast based on box counts. Each box is sized as an identical square without exception. As box sizes are uniform, the counts identify unambiguous targets. They target may not be 100% accurate every time but they are unambiguous. Establishing the vertical and horizontal count of Price Targets is necessary to determine the intensity of strength and weakness in price trends. There is a uniqueness in using 3-box reversal charts, which enables both vertical and horizontal counts to assess the viability of a price target. Whereas, a 1-box reversal chart is limited to horizontal counts only. The more counts that cluster around a particular price target, the stronger the target is. 

What is distinct about Jeremy's contribution to this topic is the addition of Fibonacci retracement analysis to conventional P&F methods.

5. Analysing Point and Figure Charts.   This chapter integrates the foundational techniques covered in chapters 2, 3 and 4 with practical trading examples. The emphasis is on application and covers these topics: Reversal Size, Choosing the correct box size, Choosing the data series, Log scale charts, Analysis of 1-box, 2-box and 3-box reversal charts, Stops in Point and Figure analysis and Early entry points.

Changing the box size affects the time horizon, not to be confused with time frame, as P&F charts exclude units of time (day/week/month/year). The smaller the box size, the shorter the time horizon, e.g. 1-box reversal charts suit intra-day trades versus 3-box reversal charts are geared for trades lasting 30-60 days. All trends lines are standardized to one standard of a 45° degree line. This is not a rigid but consistent methodology and is possible as variability in time as discreet variable has been removed from the charts altogether. Trend lines are the most important element of any P&F chart and must be given first priority above buy/sell signals. The more complex a Bullish/Bearish pattern becomes the more significant it becomes. To validate trades to avoid, enter or and exit continually assess the price target, trend lines and vertical count of a column's height and horizontal count of row's width.

9. Advanced Point and Figure Techniques. This chapter is what sets this body of work apart from other P&F literature. It covers how to use moving averages on Point and Figure charts, the need to differentiate between moving averages on a 1-box reversal chart versus a 3-box reversal chart, using the Parabolic stop and reverse (SAR) Indicator on a P&F chart and the Overbought/Oversold analysis on P&F charts with Bollinger Bands.

The moving averages are a straightforward confirmation to accept or reject a Point and Figure buy or sell signal. The Parabolic SAR pinpoints trends to qualify a P&F buy/sell signal as one to avoid or take for trade entry. With Bollinger Bands, there is a further refinement of the methodology on Squeeze points - statistical volatility contraction/expansion is considered significant where the column length between bands is equal to or less than the previous squeeze.

Jeremy is the first to pioneer the combination of Point & Figure methods with Moving Averages, the Parabolic SAR and Bollinger Bands.
In conclusion, Jeremy du Plessis revives a revered ancient craft of pure price analysis to transform demand/supply analytics into relevant trading practices for current market conditions. It is the depth of his insights that gives you the foresight to thoroughly understand why charting price using only P&F methods is conclusive, without the need for other forms of charting.