Moving Average MA: Purpose, Uses, Formula, and Examples


Start putting your knowledge into practice with a live or demo account. Moving averages can be combined with other indicators such as Bollinger Bands® and Stochastics to help add further confirmation to your trading strategies. Though EMAs are also weighted toward the most recent prices, the rate of decrease between one price and its preceding price is not entirely consistent. Investing using moving average, or any technique requires an investment account with a stockbroker.

  1. Each of these indicators has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it is important to test out different MA indicators to see which one works best for your particular trading strategy.
  2. A moving average simplifies price data by smoothing it out and creating one flowing line.
  3. For instance, per the example above, an 18.18% multiplier is applied to the most recent price data for a 10-period EMA.
  4. Traders should not confuse the Smoothed Moving Average for the Simple Moving Average (SMA), which analyzes price data with equal weight in its calculation.

However, a moving average alone is not a really reliable and strong indicator. Therefore, MAs are constantly used in combination to spot bullish and bearish crossover signals. Conversely, when the price drops below that moving average, it signals a potential reversal based on that MA.

Understanding a Moving Average (MA)

One major problem is that, if the price action becomes choppy, the price may swing back and forth, generating multiple trend reversals or trade signals. When this occurs, it’s best to step aside or utilize another indicator to help clarify the trend. The same thing can occur with MA crossovers when the MAs get “tangled up” for a period of time, triggering multiple losing trades. Lag is the time it takes for a moving average to signal a potential reversal. Recall that, as a general guideline, when the price is above a moving average, the trend is considered up.

This makes the EMA more sensitive to the current trends in the market and is useful when determining trend direction. It is imperative however, that the trader realizes the inherent shortcomings in these signals. This is a system that is created by what are the risks from investing in early stage companies combining not just one but two lagging indicators. Both of these indicators react only to what has already happened and are not designed to make predictions. While in a strong trend, this system or a similar one can actually be quite valuable.

Therefore, if the smoothing factor is increased, more recent figures influence the EMA more significantly. 3) If there is a natural disaster or other major event that disrupts the normal flow of market activity, this can also impact the MA indicator. If you’re looking to get ahead of the competition, you need to know about the MA indicator. This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about this essential tool. Can toggle the visibility of the MA as well as the visibility of a price line showing the actual current value of the MA.

Uses of moving averages

A moving average is a statistic that captures the average change in a data series over time. In finance, moving averages are often used by technical analysts to keep track of price trends for specific securities. An upward trend in a moving average might signify an upswing in the price or momentum of a security, while a downward trend would be seen as a sign of decline. The exponential moving average gives more weight to recent prices in an attempt to make them more responsive to new information. To calculate an EMA, the simple moving average (SMA) over a particular period is calculated first. In a strong bullish trend market, for example, you might want to wait to see if price breaks through the 50-period EMA not only on the 4-hour and daily charts but also the weekly one.

What Are Moving Averages Used for?

Each trader must decide what moving average is better for their particular strategy. For example, many shorter-term traders use EMAs because they want to be alerted as quickly as possible of any price movements the other way. Longer-term traders, on the other hand, tend to prefer SMAs because they’re not in a rush to act and can be less actively engaged in their trades. The moving average can be used to determine support and resistance levels once a trader has placed a trade.

Different time frames can all be plugged into the equations used to calculate moving averages, and as long as those time frames are consistent with the trading strategy, the data can be useful. However, moving averages should never be used in isolation for traders who solely trade off technical analysis due to their lagging nature. Instead, they should be utilized in conjunction with other technical indicators. In summary, the Moving Average is a common indicator used by traders to determine trends in the market. Many traders use more than one Moving Average at a time as this gives a more holistic view of the market. Moving averages are often used to determine market entries as well as support and resistance levels.

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For example, an MA with a long time frame will react much slower to price changes than an MA with a short lookback period. The 20-day moving average may be of analytical benefit to a shorter-term trader since it follows the price more closely and, as such, produces less lag than the longer-term moving average. Because moving averages by nature are lagging indicators, getting the readings up to speed is important. The EMA gives more weight to the most recent prices, thereby aligning the average closer to current prices. Short-term traders typically rely on the 12- or 26-day EMA, while the ever-popular 50-day and 200-day EMA is used by long-term investors.

There are a few different types of Moving Averages which all take the same basic premise and add a variation. Most notable are the Simple Moving Average (SMA), the Exponential Moving Average (EMA) and the Weighted Moving Average (WMA). The MA indicator is a tool that traders use to help them make decisions about when to buy and sell assets.

A rising moving average indicates that the security is in an uptrend, while a declining moving average indicates that it is in a downtrend. Traders should not confuse the Smoothed Moving Average for the Simple Moving Average (SMA), which analyzes price data with equal weight in its calculation. The Simple Moving Average also removes the oldest price data as new price is added in its place. The two Moving Averages may sound similar, but they behave quite differently and confusing them could prove detrimental to a trade. It’s important for traders to remember that the Smoothed Moving Average is a function of weight in connection with price, or length of the average.

Generally, the trend is considered up when the price is above a moving average. Typical moving average lengths are 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200, but they can also be any variety of lengths. Depending on the trader’s time horizon (the amount of time an investment is held until it’s needed), such lengths may be applied to any chart time frame (e.g., one minute, daily, weekly). The time frame or length chosen for a moving average, i.e., the lookback period, can significantly affect its effectiveness.

Another fairly basic use for Moving Averages is identifying areas of support and resistance. Generally speaking, Moving averages can provide support in an uptrend and also they can provide resistance in a downtrend. While this can work for shorter term periods (20 days or less), the support and resistance provided by Moving Averages, can become even more readily apparent in longer term situations. Moving averages are widely used in technical analysis, a branch of investing that seeks to understand and profit from the price movement patterns of securities and indices. Generally, technical analysts will use moving averages to detect whether a change in momentum is occurring for a security, such as if there is a sudden downward move in a security’s price. Other times, they will use moving averages to confirm their suspicions that a change might be underway.


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