Dow’s Principle of Three Market Movements – What It Means in the Context of Crypto Trading

If you’re an advanced trader, you already know that leveraging time-tested principles from traditional markets can provide a significant edge. This is where Dow's Principle of Three Market Movements can come into play – a cornerstone of technical analysis that remains as relevant today as it was over a century ago. 

But what does this principle mean in the volatile, fast-paced world of crypto trading? 

Read below to learn more about the intricacies of Dow's theory and explore how understanding the three distinct market movements can transform your crypto trading strategy from good to exceptional. Whether you're riding the waves of Bitcoin's surges or navigating the depths of altcoin corrections, this timeless wisdom will equip you with the insights needed to thrive in the dynamic crypto market. 

What is The Principle of Three Market Movements

One of the foundational principles of technical analysis is the concept that "The Market Has Three Movements." This principle, which originates from the Dow Theory, provides a framework for understanding market trends and making predictions about future market behavior.

Dow Theory rests on several assumptions, including the idea that markets reflect all available information and that prices move in identifiable trends and patterns that can be leveraged for predictive purposes.

Here’s the rundown of the three market movements:

1. Primary Trends

Primary trends are the long-term movements of the market, lasting from several months to several years. They represent the overall direction of the market and can be either bullish (upward) or bearish (downward).

Characteristics of primary trends:

  • Duration: from several months to several years.
  • Magnitude: represents substantial changes in asset prices.
  • Market sentiment: influenced by macroeconomic factors, major political events, and significant changes in market sentiment.

How to apply it:

You can use a combination of fundamental analysis and long-term technical indicators to identify the primary trends in the crypto market. Fundamental analysis might include factors such as technological advancements in blockchain, regulatory developments, and macroeconomic trends affecting digital currencies.


A notable recent example of a primary trend is Bitcoin’s bull run from late 2020 to early 2021. Bitcoin's price surged from around $10,000 in September 2020 to nearly $65,000 by April 2021, fueled by institutional adoption, inflation concerns, and growing mainstream acceptance.

2. Secondary Trends

Secondary trends, also known as corrective trends, are shorter-term movements that occur within primary trends. They typically last from a few weeks to a few months and move in the primary trend’s opposite direction.

Characteristics of secondary trends:

  • Duration: from a few weeks to a few months.
  • Magnitude: represents partial retracements of the primary trend's movement.
  • Market sentiment: often caused by profit-taking, market corrections, or temporary shifts in sentiment.

How to apply it:

If you want to spot secondary trends, you can use technical analysis tools such as Fibonacci retracements, moving averages, and trendlines. These tools help identify potential reversal points where the market might correct before continuing in the primary trend’s direction.




In the crypto market, a notable secondary trend occurred in early 2021. After reaching its all-time high in April, Bitcoin's price corrected by more than 50%, dropping to around $30,000 by July 2021. This correction was influenced by regulatory crackdowns in China and environmental concerns over Bitcoin mining. Despite this correction, the primary bull trend remained intact, and Bitcoin's price later recovered.

3. Minor Trends

Minor trends are the short-term fluctuations within secondary trends, typically lasting from a few days to a few weeks. These movements are often considered market noise and can be influenced by daily news events, technical factors, or short-term trading activities.

Characteristics of minor trends:

  • Duration: from a few days to a few weeks.
  • Magnitude: smaller in scale compared to primary and secondary trends.
  • Market sentiment: influenced by day-to-day news, technical indicators, and market speculation.

How to apply it:

Particularly helpful for day trading, you can use a range of technical indicators like RSI (Relative Strength Index), MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence), and candlestick patterns to identify and exploit minor trends. These tools help you make quick decisions based on short-term price movements.


In the cryptocurrency market, minor trends are particularly pronounced due to the high volatility. For example, during Bitcoin's correction phase in early 2021, there were multiple minor trends where Bitcoin's price would rally for a few days before resuming its downward movement. These minor trends provided opportunities for day traders and swing traders to capitalize on short-term price movements.

Understanding these three trends is vital for crypto traders, as the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies can often lead to rapid changes in market conditions. If you can recognize which trend is currently in play, you can adjust your strategies accordingly.

For instance, during a primary uptrend, you might focus on long-term investment strategies, buying during secondary downtrends (corrections), and selling when the price peaks. Conversely, in a primary downtrend, you might look for short-selling opportunities or wait for a trend reversal before entering long positions.

Integrating the Three Market Movements in Crypto Trading

Understanding the three market movements allows traders to develop strategies that align with the overall market direction. 

For example:

  • Long-term investors – focus on primary trends to make decisions about entering or exiting the market.
  • Swing traders – capitalize on secondary trends by identifying temporary reversals within the primary trend.
  • Day traders – exploit minor trends for short-term gains, often using technical analysis tools to identify entry and exit points.

Risk Management – recognizing the different market movements helps you implement better risk management practices. For instance:

  1. primary trends: you can set long-term stop-loss orders to protect against major market reversals.
  2. secondary trends: you can use trailing stops to lock in profits during corrective phases.
  3. minor trends: day traders can set tight stop-loss orders to minimize losses from short-term volatility.


The principle that the market has three movements provides a framework for understanding market behavior over different time horizons. By categorizing market movements into primary, secondary, and minor trends, you can develop more effective strategies, enhance risk management, and improve your overall trading performance. 

However, keep in mind to apply this Dow theory’s principle along with other analytical methods, so you can enhance your ability to forecast market trends and make more informed trading decisions.