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Moving Average Convergence Divergence – MACD
What Is Moving Average Convergence Divergence – MACD?
Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between two moving averages of a security’s price. The MACD is calculated by subtracting the 26-period Exponential Moving Average (EMA) from the 12-period EMA.
The result of that calculation is the MACD line. A nine-day EMA of the MACD called the «signal line,» is then plotted on top of the MACD line, which can function as a trigger for buy and sell signals. Traders may buy the security when the MACD crosses above its signal line and sell — or short — the security when the MACD crosses below the signal line. Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) indicators can be interpreted in several ways, but the more common methods are crossovers, divergences, and rapid rises/falls.
Moving Average Convergence Divergence — MACD
The Formula for MACD:
MACD is calculated by subtracting the long-term EMA (26 periods) from the short-term EMA (12 periods). An exponential moving average (EMA) is a type of moving average (MA) that places a greater weight and significance on the most recent data points. The exponential moving average is also referred to as the exponentially weighted moving average. An exponentially weighted moving average reacts more significantly to recent price changes than a simple moving average (SMA), which applies an equal weight to all observations in the period.
- MACD is calculated by subtracting the 26-period EMA from the 12-period EMA.
- MACD triggers technical signals when it crosses above (to buy) or below (to sell) its signal line.
- The speed of crossovers is also taken as a signal of a market is overbought or oversold.
- MACD helps investors understand whether the bullish or bearish movement in the price is strengthening or weakening.
Learning From MACD
The MACD has a positive value whenever the 12-period EMA (blue) is above the 26-period EMA (red) and a negative value when the 12-period EMA is below the 26-period EMA. The more distant the MACD is above or below its baseline indicates that the distance between the two EMAs is growing. In the following chart, you can see how the two EMAs applied to the price chart correspond to the MACD (blue) crossing above or below its baseline (red dashed) in the indicator below the price chart.
MACD is often displayed with a histogram (see the chart below) which graphs the distance between the MACD and its signal line. If the MACD is above the signal line, the histogram will be above the MACD’s baseline. If the MACD is below its signal line, the histogram will be below the MACD’s baseline. Traders use the MACD’s histogram to identify when bullish or bearish momentum is high.
MACD vs. Relative Strength
The relative strength indicator (RSI) aims to signal whether a market is considered to be overbought or oversold in relation to recent price levels. The RSI is an oscillator that calculates average price gains and losses over a given period of time; the default time period is 14 periods with values bounded from 0 to 100.
MACD measures the relationship between two EMAs, while the RSI measures price change in relation to recent price highs and lows. These two indicators are often used together to provide analysts a more complete technical picture of a market.
These indicators both measure momentum in a market, but, because they measure different factors, they sometimes give contrary indications. For example, the RSI may show a reading above 70 for a sustained period of time, indicating a market is overextended to the buy side in relation to recent prices, while the MACD indicates the market is still increasing in buying momentum. Either indicator may signal an upcoming trend change by showing divergence from price (price continues higher while the indicator turns lower, or vice versa).
Limitations of MACD
One of the main problems with divergence is that it can often signal a possible reversal but then no actual reversal actually happens – it produces a false positive. The other problem is that divergence doesn’t forecast all reversals. In other words, it predicts too many reversals that don’t occur and not enough real price reversals.
«False positive» divergence often occurs when the price of an asset moves sideways, such as in a range or triangle pattern following a trend. A slowdown in the momentum — sideways movement or slow trending movement — of the price will cause the MACD to pull away from its prior extremes and gravitate toward the zero lines even in the absence of a true reversal.
Additional MACD Resources
Are you interested in using MACD for your trades? Check out our own primer on the MACD and Spotting Trend Reversals with MACD for more information.
If you’d like to learn about more indicators, Investopedia’s Technical Analysis Course provides a comprehensive introduction to the subject. You’ll learn basic and advanced technical analysis, chart reading skills, technical indicators you need to identify, and how to capitalize on price trends in over five hours of on-demand video, exercises, and interactive content.
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Example of MACD Crossovers
As shown on the following chart, when the MACD falls below the signal line, it is a bearish signal which indicates that it may be time to sell. Conversely, when the MACD rises above the signal line, the indicator gives a bullish signal, which suggests that the price of the asset is likely to experience upward momentum. Some traders wait for a confirmed cross above the signal line before entering a position to reduce the chances of being «faked out» and entering a position too early.
Crossovers are more reliable when they conform to the prevailing trend. If the MACD crosses above its signal line following a brief correction within a longer-term uptrend, it qualifies as bullish confirmation.
If the MACD crosses below its signal line following a brief move higher within a longer-term downtrend, traders would consider that a bearish confirmation.
Example of Divergence
When the MACD forms highs or lows that diverge from the corresponding highs and lows on the price, it is called a divergence. A bullish divergence appears when the MACD forms two rising lows that correspond with two falling lows on the price. This is a valid bullish signal when the long-term trend is still positive. Some traders will look for bullish divergences even when the long-term trend is negative because they can signal a change in the trend, although this technique is less reliable.
When the MACD forms a series of two falling highs that correspond with two rising highs on the price, a bearish divergence has been formed. A bearish divergence that appears during a long-term bearish trend is considered confirmation that the trend is likely to continue. Some traders will watch for bearish divergences during long-term bullish trends because they can signal weakness in the trend. However, it is not as reliable as a bearish divergence during a bearish trend.
Example of Rapid Rises or Falls
When the MACD rises or falls rapidly (the shorter-term moving average pulls away from the longer-term moving average), it is a signal that the security is overbought or oversold and will soon return to normal levels. Traders will often combine this analysis with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) or other technical indicators to verify overbought or oversold conditions.
It is not uncommon for investors to use the MACD’s histogram the same way they may use the MACD itself. Positive or negative crossovers, divergences, and rapid rises or falls can be identified on the histogram as well. Some experience is needed before deciding which is best in any given situation because there are timing differences between signals on the MACD and its histogram.
Индикатор MACD (Moving Average Convergence/Divergence)
Технический Индикатор Схождение/Расхождение Скользящих Средних (Moving Average Convergence/Divergence, MACD) — это следующий за тенденцией динамический индикатор. Он показывает соотношение между двумя скользящими средними цены.
Технический Индикатор MACD строится как разность между двумя экспоненциальными скользящими средними (EMA) с периодами в 12 и 26. Чтобы четко обозначить благоприятные моменты для покупки или продажи, на график MACD наносится так называемая сигнальная линия — 9-периодное скользящее среднее индикатора.
MACD наиболее эффективен в условиях, когда рынок колеблется с большой амплитудой в торговом коридоре. Чаще всего используемые сигналы MACD — пересечения, состояния перекупленности/перепроданности и расхождения.
Основное правило торговли с помощью MACD построено на пересечениях индикатора со своей сигнальной линией: когда Moving Average Convergence/Divergence опускается ниже сигнальной линии — следует продавать, а когда поднимается выше сигнальной линии — покупать. В качестве сигналов к покупке/продаже также используются пересечения MACD нулевой линии вверх/вниз.
Moving Average Convergence/Divergence также весьма ценен как индикатор перекупленности/перепроданности. Когда короткое скользящее среднее поднимается существенно выше длинного (т.е. MACD растет), это означает, что цена рассматриваемого инструмента, скорее всего, слишком завышена и скоро вернется к более реалистичному уровню.
Когда между MACD и ценой образуется расхождение, это означает возможность скорого окончания текущей тенденции. Бычье расхождение возникает тогда, когда MACD достигает новых максимумов, а цене не удается их достичь. Медвежье расхождение образуется, когда индикатор достигает новых минимумов, а цена — нет. Оба вида расхождений наиболее значимы, если они формируются в областях перекупленности/перепроданности.
Вы можете проверить торговые сигналы данного индикатора, создав советник при помощи MQL5 Wizard.
Технический индикатор Moving Average Convergence/Divergence определяется путем вычитания 26-периодного экспоненциального скользящего среднего из 12-периодного. Затем на график MACD пунктиром наносится его 9-периодное простое скользящее среднее, которое выполняет роль сигнальной линии.
MACD = EMA(CLOSE, 12) — EMA(CLOSE, 26)
SIGNAL = SMA(MACD, 9)
EMA — экспоненциальное скользящее среднее;
SMA — простое скользящее среднее;
SIGNAL — сигнальная линия индикатора.
MACD (Moving Average Convergence/Divergence Oscillator)
Table of Contents
MACD (Moving Average Convergence/Divergence Oscillator)
Developed by Gerald Appel in the late seventies, the Moving Average Convergence/Divergence oscillator (MACD) 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 one. 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.
Note: MACD can be pronounced as either “Mac-Dee” or “M-A-C-D.”
Here is an example chart with the MACD indicator in the lower panel:
The MACD line is the 12-day Exponential Moving Average (EMA) less the 26-day EMA. Closing prices are used for these moving averages. A 9-day EMA of the MACD line is plotted with the indicator to act as a signal line and identify turns. The MACD Histogram represents the difference between MACD and its 9-day EMA, the signal line. The histogram is positive when the MACD line is above its signal line and negative when the MACD line is below its signal line.
The values of 12, 26 and 9 are the typical settings used with the MACD, though other values can be substituted depending on your trading style and goals.
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.
The MACD line oscillates above and below the zero line, which is also known as the centerline. These crossovers signal that the 12-day EMA has crossed the 26-day EMA. The direction, of course, depends on the direction of the moving average cross. Positive MACD indicates that the 12-day EMA is above the 26-day EMA. Positive values increase as the shorter EMA diverges further from the longer EMA. This means upside momentum is increasing. Negative MACD values indicate that the 12-day EMA is below the 26-day EMA. Negative values increase as the shorter EMA diverges further below the longer EMA. This means downside momentum is increasing.
In the example above, the yellow area shows the MACD line in negative territory as the 12-day EMA trades below the 26-day EMA. The initial cross occurred at the end of September (black arrow) and the MACD moved further into negative territory as the 12-day EMA diverged further from the 26-day EMA. The orange area highlights a period of positive MACD values, which is when the 12-day EMA was above the 26-day EMA. Notice that the MACD line remained below 1 during this period (red dotted line). This means the distance between the 12-day EMA and 26-day EMA was less than 1 point, which is not a big difference.
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, depending on the strength of the move.
Due diligence is required before relying on these common signals. Signal line crossovers at positive or negative extremes should be viewed with caution. Even though the MACD does not have upper and lower limits, chartists can estimate historical extremes with a simple visual assessment. It takes a strong move in the underlying security to push momentum to an extreme. Even though the move may continue, momentum is likely to slow and this will usually produce a signal line crossover at the extremities. Volatility in the underlying security can also increase the number of crossovers.
The chart below shows IBM with its 12-day EMA (green), 26-day EMA (red) and the 12,26,9 MACD in the indicator window. There were eight signal line crossovers in six months: four up and four down. There were some good signals and some bad signals. The yellow area highlights a period when the MACD line surged above 2 to reach a positive extreme. There were two bearish signal line crossovers in April and May, but IBM continued trending higher. Even though upward momentum slowed after the surge, it was still stronger than downside momentum in April-May. The third bearish signal line crossover in May resulted in a good signal.
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.
Centerline crossovers can last a few days or a few months, depending on the strength of the trend. The MACD will remain positive as long as there is a sustained uptrend. The MACD will remain negative when there is a sustained downtrend. The next chart shows Pulte Homes (PHM) with at least four centerline crosses in nine months. The resulting signals worked well because strong trends emerged with these centerline crossovers.
Below is a chart of Cummins Inc (CMI) with seven centerline crossovers in five months. In contrast to Pulte Homes, these signals would have resulted in numerous whipsaws because strong trends did not materialize after the crossovers.
The next chart shows 3M (MMM) with a bullish centerline crossover in late March 2009 and a bearish centerline crossover in early February 2020. This signal lasted 10 months. In other words, the 12-day EMA was above the 26-day EMA for 10 months. This was one strong trend.
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 decreasing, 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.
The next chart shows Google (GOOG) with a bullish divergence in October-November 2008. First, notice that we are using closing prices to identify the divergence. The MACD’s moving averages are based on closing prices and we should consider closing prices in the security as well. Second, notice that there were clear reaction lows (troughs) as both Google and its MACD line bounced in October and late November. Third, notice that the MACD formed a higher low as Google formed a lower low in November. The MACD turned up with a bullish divergence and a signal line crossover in early December. Google confirmed a reversal with a resistance breakout.
A bearish divergence forms when a security records a higher high and the MACD line forms a lower high. The higher high in the security is normal for an uptrend, but the lower high in the MACD shows less upside momentum. Even though upside momentum may be less, upside momentum is still outpacing downside momentum as long as the MACD is positive. Waning upward momentum can sometimes foreshadow a trend reversal or sizable decline.
Below we see Gamestop (GME) with a large bearish divergence from August to October. The stock forged a higher high above 28, but the MACD line fell short of its prior high and formed a lower high. The subsequent signal line crossover and support break in the MACD were bearish. On the price chart, notice how broken support turned into resistance on the throwback bounce in November (red dotted line). This throwback provided a second chance to sell or sell short.
Divergences should be taken with caution. Bearish divergences are commonplace in a strong uptrend, while bullish divergences occur often in a strong downtrend. Yes, you read that right. Uptrends often start with a strong advance that produces a surge in upside momentum (MACD). Even though the uptrend continues, it continues at a slower pace that causes the MACD to decline from its highs. Upside momentum may not be as strong, but it will continue to outpace downside momentum as long as the MACD line is above zero. The opposite occurs at the beginning of a strong downtrend.
The next chart shows the S&P 500 ETF (SPY) with four bearish divergences from August to November 2009. Despite less upside momentum, the ETF continued higher because the uptrend was strong. Notice how SPY continued its series of higher highs and higher lows. Remember, upside momentum is stronger than downside momentum as long as the MACD is positive. The MACD (momentum) may have been less positive (strong) as the advance extended, but it was still largely positive.
The MACD indicator is special because it brings together momentum and trend in one indicator. This unique blend of trend and momentum can be applied to daily, weekly or monthly charts. The standard setting for MACD is the difference between the 12- and 26-period EMAs. Chartists looking for more sensitivity may try a shorter short-term moving average and a longer long-term moving average. MACD(5,35,5) is more sensitive than MACD(12,26,9) and might be better suited for weekly charts. Chartists looking for less sensitivity may consider lengthening the moving averages. A less sensitive MACD will still oscillate above/below zero, but the centerline crossovers and signal line crossovers will be less frequent.
The MACD is not particularly good for identifying overbought and oversold levels. Even though it is possible to identify levels that are historically overbought or oversold, the MACD does not have any upper or lower limits to bind its movement. During sharp moves, the MACD can continue to over-extend beyond its historical extremes.
Finally, remember that the MACD line is calculated using the actual difference between two moving averages. This means MACD values are dependent on the price of the underlying security. The MACD values for a $20 stocks may range from -1.5 to 1.5, while the MACD values for a $100 may range from -10 to +10. It is not possible to compare MACD values for a group of securities with varying prices. If you want to compare momentum readings, you should use the Percentage Price Oscillator (PPO), instead of the MACD.
Using with SharpCharts
The MACD can be set as an indicator above, below or behind a security’s price plot. Placing the MACD “behind” the price plot makes it easy to compare momentum movements with price movements. Once the indicator is chosen from the drop-down menu, the default parameter setting appears: (12,26,9). These parameters can be adjusted to increase or decrease sensitivity. The MACD Histogram appears with the indicator or can be added as a separate indicator. Setting the signal line to 1 or leaving it blank, i.e. (12,26,1) or (12,26), will remove the MACD Histogram and the signal line. A separate signal line, without the histogram, can be added by choosing “Exp. Moving Avg” from the Advanced Options Overlays menu.
Click here for a live chart of the MACD indicator.
Here are some sample scans that StockCharts members can use to scan for various MACD signals:
MACD Bullish Signal Line Cross
This scan reveals stocks that are trading above their 200-day moving average and have a bullish signal line crossover in MACD. Notice that MACD is required to be negative to ensure this upturn occurs after a pullback. This scan is just meant as a starter for further refinement.
MACD Bearish Signal Line Cross
This scan reveals stocks that are trading below their 200-day moving average and have a bearish signal line crossover in MACD. Notice that MACD is required to be positive to ensure this downturn occurs after a bounce. This scan is just meant as a starter for further refinement.
For more details on the syntax to use for MACD scans, please see our Scan Syntax Reference in the Support Center.
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