6) “A” waves — During “A” waves of bear markets, the investment world is generally convinced that this reaction is just a pullback pursuant to the next leg of advance. The public surges to the buy side despite the first really technically damaging cracks in individual stock patterns. The “A” wave sets the tone for the “B” wave to follow. A five-wave A indicates a zigzag for wave B, while a three-wave A indicates a flat or triangle.
7) “B” waves — “B” waves are phonies. They are sucker plays, bull traps, speculators’ paradise, orgies of odd-lotter mentality or expressions of dumb institutional complacency (or both). They often involve a focus on a narrow list of stocks, are often “unconfirmed” (Dow Theory is covered in Lesson 28) by other averages, are rarely technically strong, and are virtually always doomed to complete retracement by wave C. If the analyst can easily say to himself, “There is something wrong with this market,” chances are it’s a “B” wave. “X” waves and “D” waves in expanding triangles, both of which are corrective wave advances,
have the same characteristics. Several examples will suffice to illustrate the point.
— The upward correction of 1930 was wave B within the 1929-1932 A-B-C zigzag decline. Robert Rhea describes the emotional climate well in his opus, The Story of the Averages (1934):
…many observers took it to be a bull market signal. I can remember having shorted stocks early in December, 1929, after having completed a satisfactory short position in October. When the slow but steady advance of January and February carried above [the previous high], I became panicky and covered at considerable loss. …I forgot that the rally might normally be expected to retrace possibly 66 percent or more of the 1929 downswing. Nearly everyone was proclaiming a new bull market. Services were extremely bullish, and the upside volume was running higher than at the peak in 1929.
— The 1961-1962 rise was wave (b) in an (a)-(b)-(c) expanded flat correction. At the top in early 1962, stocks were selling at unheard of price/earnings multiples that had not been seen up to that time and have not been seen since. Cumulative breadth had already peaked along with the top of the third wave in 1959.
— The rise from 1966 to 1968 was wave [B]* in a corrective pattern of Cycle degree. Emotionalism had gripped the public and “cheapies” were skyrocketing in the speculative fever, unlike the orderly and usually fundamentally justifiable participation of the secondaries within first and third waves. The Dow Industrials struggled unconvincingly higher throughout the advance and finally refused to confirm the phenomenal new highs in the secondary indexes.
— In 1977, the Dow Jones Transportation Average climbed to new highs in a “B” wave, miserably unconfirmed by the Industrials. Airlines and truckers were sluggish. Only the coal-carrying rails were participating as part of the energy play. Thus, breadth within the index was conspicuously lacking, confirming again that good breadth is generally a property of impulse waves, not corrections.
As a general observation, “B” waves of Intermediate degree and lower usually show a diminution of volume, while “B” waves of Primary degree and greater can display volume heavier than that which accompanied the preceding bull market, usually indicating wide public participation.
8) “C” waves — Declining “C” waves are usually devastating in their destruction. They are third waves and have most of the properties of third waves. It is during this decline that there is virtually no place to hide except cash. The illusions held throughout waves A and B tend to evaporate and fear takes over. “C” waves are persistent and broad. 1930-1932 was a “C” wave. 1962 was a “C” wave. 1969-1970 and 1973-1974 can be classified as “C” waves. Advancing “C” waves within upward corrections in larger bear markets are just as dynamic and can be mistaken for the start of a new upswing, especially since they unfold in five waves. The October 1973 rally (see Figure 1-37), for instance, was a “C” wave in an inverted expanded flat correction.
9) “D” waves — “D” waves in all but expanding triangles are often accompanied by increased volume. This is true probably because “D” waves in non-expanding triangles are hybrids, part corrective, yet having some characteristics of first waves since they follow “C” waves and are not fully retraced. “D” waves, being advances within corrective waves, are as phony as “B” waves. The rise from 1970 to 1973 was wave [D] within the large wave IV of Cycle degree. The “one-decision” complacency that characterized the attitude of the average institutional fund manager at the time is well documented. The area of participation again was narrow, this time the “nifty fifty” growth and glamour issues. Breadth, as well as the Transportation Average, topped early, in 1972, and refused to confirm the extremely high multiples bestowed upon the favorite fifty. Washington was inflating at full steam to sustain the illusory prosperity during the entire advance in preparation for the election. As with the preceding wave [B], “phony” was an apt description.
10) “E” waves — “E” waves in triangles appear to most market observers to be the dramatic kickoff of a new downtrend after a top has been built. They almost always are accompanied by strongly supportive news. That, in conjunction with the tendency of “E” waves to stage a false breakdown through the triangle boundary line, intensifies the bearish conviction of market participants at precisely the time that they should be preparing for a substantial move in the opposite direction. Thus, “E” waves, being ending waves, are attended by a psychology as emotional as that of fifth waves.