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Moving Average Convergence-Divergence (MACD)

Introduction

MACD is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between two moving averages of prices.

The MACD is calculated by subtracting the 26-day exponential moving average (EMA) from the 12-day EMA. A nine-day EMA of the MACD, called the "signal line", is then plotted on top of the MACD, functioning as a trigger for buy and sell signals.

MACD was developed by Gerald Appel in the late seventies, MACD indicator is one of the simplest and most effective momentum indicators available. The MACD turns two trend-following indicators, moving averages, into a momentum oscillator by subtracting the longer moving average from the shorter moving average. As a result, the MACD offers the best of both worlds: trend following and momentum. The MACD fluctuates above and below the zero line as the moving averages converge, cross and diverge. Traders can look for signal line crossovers, centerline crossovers and divergences to generate signals. Because the MACD is unbounded, it is not particularly useful for identifying overbought and oversold levels.

As its name implies, the MACD is all about the convergence and divergence of the two moving averages. Convergence occurs when the moving averages move towards each other. Divergence occurs when the moving averages move away from each other. The shorter moving average (12-day) is faster and responsible for most MACD movements. The longer moving average (26-day) is slower and less reactive to price changes in the underlying security.

Signal Line Crossovers

Signal line crossovers are the most common MACD signals. The signal line is a 9-day EMA of the MACD Line. As a moving average of the indicator, it trails the MACD and makes it easier to spot MACD turns. A bullish crossover occurs when the MACD turns up and crosses above the signal line. A bearish crossover occurs when the MACD turns down and crosses below the signal line. Crossovers can last a few days or a few weeks, it all depends on the strength of the move.

Centerline Crossovers

Centerline crossovers are the next most common MACD signals. A bullish centerline crossover occurs when the MACD Line moves above the zero line to turn positive. This happens when the 12-day EMA of the underlying security moves above the 26-day EMA. A bearish centerline crossover occurs when the MACD moves below the zero line to turn negative. This happens when the 12-day EMA moves below the 26-day EMA.

Divergences

Divergences form when the MACD diverges from the price action of the underlying security. A bullish divergence forms when a security records a lower low and the MACD forms a higher low. The lower low in the security affirms the current downtrend, but the higher low in the MACD shows less downside momentum. Despite less downside momentum, downside momentum is still outpacing upside momentum as long as the MACD remains in negative territory. Slowing downside momentum can sometimes foreshadow a trend reversal or a sizable rally.

Formula

MACD = (12-day EMA - 26-day EMA)
Signal Line = 9-day EMA of MACD Line
MACD Histogram = MACD Line - Signal Line

Advantage

MACD lines follow trends, so any time of trending sees very good results from using MACD as opposed to very choppy trending times, when it will likely cause for erroneous entry calls. It is especially good for determining when to enter a market.

Sample Calculation

Technical chart for MACD

Technical Indicators

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