Heads, shoulders, highs and lows: Is technical analysis real? : The Indicator from Planet Money Technical analysis, or finding patterns in stock charts to predict future price movements, is like cloud watching: You can see pretty much anything if you squint hard enough. Even a vomiting camel.

For sponsor-free episodes of The Indicator from Planet Money, subscribe to Planet Money+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org.

Reading the stock market tea leaves

Reading the stock market tea leaves

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1140785284/1140855993" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Philippe Gomez/AFP via Getty Images
A woman is sillouetted against a screen showing the falling Hang Seng index at a trading house in Hong Kong on October 22, 2008. Hong Kong share prices closed 5.2 percent down, dragged by Citic Pacific after its earlier warning that it was facing a potentially huge foreign exchange loss, dealers said. AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE LOPEZ
Philippe Gomez/AFP via Getty Images

The "head and shoulders." The "Ichimoku cloud." The "death cross." Technical analysts see these patterns in stock price charts and use them to decide future trades. Economic literature has long held that technical analysis is a poor predictor of a stock or a bond's performance, but plenty of traders and popular media outlets still use it daily.

Today, we talk to one trader who has built a career on analyzing stock charts, as well as a skeptic whose fake chart pattern, the "vomiting camel," has taken on a life of its own.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Newsletter.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, PocketCasts and NPR One.

For sponsor-free episodes of The Indicator from Planet Money, subscribe to Planet Money+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org.