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The concept behind the MACD is fairly straightforward. Essentially, it calculates the difference between an instrument's day and day exponential moving averages EMA. In the calculation of their values, both moving averages use the closing prices of whatever period is measured. If prices are rising, the histogram grows larger as the speed of the price movement accelerates, and contracts as price movement decelerates.
The same principle works in reverse as prices are falling. The chart below is a good example of a MACD histogram in action:. The MACD histogram is the main reason why so many traders rely on this indicator to measure momentum because it responds to the speed of price movement. Indeed, most traders use the MACD indicator more frequently to gauge the strength of the price move than to determine the direction of a trend.
As we mentioned earlier, trading divergence is a classic way in which the MACD histogram is used. One of the most common setups is to find chart points at which price makes a new swing high or a new swing low , but the MACD histogram does not, indicating a divergence between price and momentum. The chart below illustrates a typical divergence trade:.
Using a divergence signal as a forecasting tool is questionable. Prices frequently burst higher, or lower, as market makers trigger stops to match the supply and demand in the order flow. The chart below demonstrates a typical divergence fakeout , which has frustrated scores of traders over the years:. One of the reasons traders often lose with this setup is that they enter a trade on a signal from the MACD indicator but exit it based on the move in price.
Since the MACD histogram is a derivative of price and is not price itself, this approach is, in effect, the trading version of mixing apples and oranges. To resolve the inconsistency between entry and exit , a trader can use the MACD histogram for both trade entry and trade exit signals. To do, so a trader may take a partial short position the entry. The trader then would exit the trade only if the high of the MACD histogram exceeds its previous swing high.
If, on the other hand, the MACD histogram does not generate a new swing high, the trader then adds to their initial position, continually achieving a higher average price for the short. Currency traders are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this strategy, because the larger the position, the larger the potential gains once the price reverses.
In the forex FX market, you can implement this strategy with any size of the position and not have to worry about influencing price. Traders can execute transactions as large as , units or as little as 1, units for the same typical spread of points in the major pairs. In effect, this strategy requires a trader to average up as prices temporarily move against them.
This is typically not considered a good strategy. Many trading books have derisively dubbed such a technique as " adding to your losers. However, in this case, the trader has a logical reason for doing so: The MACD histogram has shown divergence, which indicates that momentum is waning and price may soon turn.
In effect, the trader is trying to call the bluff between the seeming strength of immediate price action and the MACD readings that hint at weakness ahead. Still, a well-prepared trader using the advantages of fixed costs in FX, by properly averaging up the trade, can withstand the temporary drawdowns until price turns in their favor. The chart below illustrates this strategy in action:. Like life, trading is rarely black and white. Some rules that traders agree on blindly, such as never adding to a loser, can be successfully broken to achieve extraordinary profits.
However, a logical, methodical approach for violating these important money management rules needs to be established before attempting to capture gains. In the case of the MACD histogram, trading the indicator instead of the price offers a new way to trade an old idea: divergence. Divergences form when the MACD heads in one direction while price movement is in the other direction.
In the black circle, we have price break lower, pierce the channel, and then we get a cross up. This cross shows momentum to the upside while price is making a lower low and is known as positive divergence. Entry can be a buy stop over the red candle, green candle, or a break of the small trading range. Targets will be the middle channel line and the upper Keltner band. Trend reversals can often start from this condition so having a trading plan that includes some type of trailing stop method may be worthwhile.
As will all technical indicators, you want to test as part of an overall trading plan that includes:. The values of 12, 26 and 9 are the typical settings used with the MACD. Other values can be substituted depending on your trading style and goals. You may also want to experiment, as with any moving averages, consolidation plays when the 2 lines of the MACD converge. When this happens, price is usually in a range setting up a possible break out trade.
Indicators will react more to faster price changes and can give more false signals. Using a moving average can be useful when looking for pullbacks after MACD makes a new momentum high or low. Also consider using price structure zones of support and resistance as well as Keltner Channels. I have found the MACD to be reliable when looking at negative and positive divergence plays.
Price action always dictates if I take a trade and not the indicator itself. In this article, you are going to learn: How to determine the momentum trend using the 2 line cross How to read momentum using the fast line The benefits of multiple time frame analysis Always remember that a trading indicator is a derivative of price and will have some lag to current price action. MACD Settings The MACD default setting are: 12, 26, 9 which represents the values for: The lookback periods for the fast line 12 The lookback period for the slow line 26 Signal EMA 9 As with any trading indicator , I always start with the input parameters that were set out by the developer and later determine if I will change the values.
What is the signal line? Momentum Oscillator When you see a signal line crossover of the faster MACD line over the signal line, we see a change in the direction of momentum. There are traders that will use the shift in momentum as the direction they want to trade in. Trend Direction The signal line crossing the zero line is often used for trend direction.
Bearish crossover — Fast MACD line crosses from above to below the slow line Bullish crossover — Fast line crosses from below to above the slow line Knowing that we measure trend and momentum, you may already see how we can use the MACD to actually trade with when we use both the MACD line and the signal line to alert us to a possible change in the market we are trading. If price gaps through support, we would not take the trade.
Keltner channels would show a market that is extended and prime for a retrace We look for a piercing of the upper or lower Keltner channel to show extension MACD can show loss of momentum or divergences Keltner is set to 20 periods with a 2. What Is a Divergence? Divergences form when the MACD heads in one direction while price movement is in the other direction In the black circle, we have price break lower, pierce the channel, and then we get a cross up.
We want to trade the reversal as this is our buy trading signal. Is the MACD good for day trading?
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Learn how forex traders use MACD to find new trends. This technical indicator is a tool that's used to identify moving averages that are indicating a. Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a trend-following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between two. MACD is included in MetaTrader default indicator kit, so you don't need to download it. Go to “Insert”, find “Indicators” and then “Oscillators” – and you will.