Yes they do. Whatever approach we use, we only know two out of three things about price: Where it is now and where it has been before. We do not know where it will be next. If we only look at the current price without any reference to any historical data at all then it tells us nothing at all, it is just a number.
All our trading approaches rely on a degree of rationality in price movements. E.g. when a move starts up it generally continues in the same direction for an uncertain time and distance, or when price has bounced at a certain level it it likely to bounce again from approximately the same level again in the future. And so on.
However, price movements and cycles are not identical and repetitions of past patterns are never precise. Therefore whatever approach we adopt it is never an exact science, rather it is more like an artistic impression of what might probably/possibly play out based on what we have witnessed before.
I think this is mainly due to the fact that people do not often bother to understarnd what an indicator is actually doing, how it is constructed, what it is showing us, and what are its strengths and limitations.
The fact that they are “lagging” is not a problem - it is their purpose. They are generally comparative instruments - comparing the present with where we were before. Price movements are not smooth and unidirectional, they zigzag, breathe up and down, pause now and again and sometimes suddenly spike up or down, etc.The purpose of indicators is generally to identify amidst all the seeming price “chaos” the underlying core direction and strength of the price movement, e.g. are we seeing trends or ranges or pullbacks or reversals, etc.
The problems with indicators result from the fact that they are built on rigid mathematical formulas. Therefore what they project is purely a calculated output from evolving price input. This means they can only produce the same result if the input is the same.
This would be fine if all price “waves” were identical in speed, distance and direction. If they were then we could then “curve-fit” any indicator to this “standard” price action profile and it would simply repeat perfectly ad infinitum… but that is not the case!
Every trend, range, and cycle is unique and can be extremely different every time. This characteristic means that the input to the indicator can be very different but we expect its mathematical model to churn out the same result - but it cannot do that with the same set of pre-set operating parameters.
A typical example is a moving average. If it is set to, say, a 20-period formula then it will work fine as long as the periods move by similar amounts and at a similar pace. But if, for example, the price suddenly drops a huge distance during one period, the mathematics of the MA caculation cannot react fast enough to track the movement in the same way - and we moan that it is useless because it is lagging, therefore sluggish.
But the principle purpose of an MA is to identify whether there is an underlying trend and whether it is continuing or exhausting, etc amidst all the up and down price periods.
BY understanding its purpose and its working environment, and its limitations due to its structure, we can “read” what the indicator is telling us and recognise cicumstances where it will not function as normal.
So indicators are not “bad” by definition, they are just limited in their scope due to their mechanical mathematical data crunching.
Traders who use multiple indicators are, in fact, trying to overcome this limitation by using different types of indicators to monitor different characteristics in the price movements. e.g. direction, overbought/sold, volatility, typical average price ranges, etc. Engineering a set of such indicators can produce an effective trading model for identifying quality set-ups and increasing the probability of profit.
Personally, I only find value in a few MA’s on my chart, the rest is just based on “eyeballing” candles and levels and over various timeframes and a big dose of “commonsense” assessment of the general trading environment (e.g. national holidays, major data releases, central bank meetings etc). But trading is a very personal activity and each trader needs to experiment and find what works and what is superfluous. Every indicator/technique should have its own, clear purpose and the trader needs to understand how, why and when they work - and also when they don’t.