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Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD)

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a popular technical indicator that equips traders with a unique perspective on trends and momentum. Let's delve into how it works:


The Building Blocks:

At its core, the MACD utilizes two exponential moving averages (EMAs) of closing prices:

  • Fast EMA (12-period): This line reacts more quickly to price changes, reflecting shorter-term momentum.

  • Slow EMA (26-period): This line reacts more slowly, representing the longer-term trend.


The MACD Line:

The MACD line itself is the difference between the fast EMA and the slow EMA. It's plotted as a line on the chart, visually depicting the interaction between short-term and long-term price movements.


The Signal Line: A Smoothing Touch

The signal line, plotted as a second line on the chart, is essentially a 9-period simple moving average of the MACD line itself. This line acts like a filter, smoothing out the sometimes erratic fluctuations of the MACD line and offering a clearer view of the underlying trend.


The Histogram: A Visual Representation of the Difference

The MACD indicator can also be displayed as a histogram. This histogram is constructed by calculating the difference between the MACD line and the signal line. The bars on the histogram rise and fall visually representing the widening or narrowing gap between the two moving averages.


Interpreting the Signals:

By analyzing the interactions between these lines and the histogram, traders can glean valuable insights:

  • Crossovers: When the MACD line crosses above the signal line (bullish crossover), it can suggest a potential shift towards an uptrend. Conversely, a crossover below the signal line (bearish crossover) might indicate a weakening uptrend or a possible downtrend.

  • Divergence: Similar to RSI, MACD divergence occurs when the price movement contradicts the MACD line's movement. This can be a sign of a potential trend reversal.


If you look at the chart below, you can see that as the two moving averages separate, the histogram gets bigger. This is called divergence. On the other hand, as the histogram bars get closer, this means the moving averages get closer to each other, meaning they are converging and creating convergence.

This is how the oscillator gets its name Moving Average Convergence Divergence!


Using the MACD in Trading

The MACD is best used when there is a trend and it can give you buy and sell signals. The MACD indicator fluctuates over a zero line. It is the crossing of this line that generates buy and sell signals.


Bullish Market

When the MACD line is above zero, it means 12EMA is above 26EMA, and we can say the market is bullish. Buy signals are more profitable in an uptrend. Referring to the diagram, we can enter a buy position when the blue line (MACD) crosses its signal (orange line) from below and we can see that the trend is up.


Bearish Market

Sell signals of the MACD work best when the market is in a downtrend. When the MACD line is below zero, the 12 EMA is below 26EMA, we can say the market is considered bearish. We can enter a sell position when MACD crosses below its signal line from above and prices are moving down.

In the chart below, this happens when the MACD line (green line) crosses its signal line (red line) from above to move below it.

Also, when the MACD line is too far above the zero line we have an overbought condition. Likewise, when MACD is too far below the zero line, this suggests an oversold condition. Always determine the direction of the trend before entering a position. The MACD will help you time your entry.


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