What Is The MACD In Trading?

What Is The MACD In Trading?

Technical indicators play an integral role in many trading strategies. Indicators give traders the ability to analyze trading data on price charts to make decisions in accordance with the generated signals. 

The MACD, short for Moving Average Convergence Divergence, is a commonly used technical indicator that consists of the MACD line and a signal line.

Traders use this indicator to look at the crossovers and divergences of the two lines to generate buy and sell signals and act on them wherever applicable. 

The indicator was developed by Gerald Appel in the late 1970s and quickly became a popular indicator among forex and stock traders. 

The relationship between the signal and MACD lines is the core concept behind the MACD indicator, and both lines are represented by exponential moving averages of different periods. 

If you are a beginner trader and would like to know more about what the MACD indicator is and how it is used in trading, this Investfox guide can help. 

How The MACD Indicator Works

As already mentioned, the MACD indicator consists of two lines, the signal line and the MACD line. 

Here’s how each of the lines typically work:

  • MACD Line (the fast line): This is the difference between a short-term Exponential Moving Average (EMA) and a longer-term EMA. The most common configuration is to use a 12-period EMA and a 26-period EMA
  • Signal Line (the slow line): This is a 9-period EMA of the MACD line. It is plotted on top of the MACD line to serve as a trigger for buy and sell signals

Additionally, the MACD indicator often includes a histogram, which represents the difference between the MACD line and the signal line.

The indicator is typically plotted below the price chart of an instrument and shows crossover and divergence patterns between the two lines to generate signals. 

Interpretation Of The MACD

Here’s how traders typically interpret the signals generated by the MACD:

  • Crossovers: When the MACD line crosses above the signal line, it generates a bullish signal, suggesting that it might be a good time to buy. Conversely, when the MACD line crosses below the signal line, it generates a bearish signal, indicating a potential sell opportunity
  • Divergence: Traders also look for divergence between the MACD and the price of the security. For example, if the price of the asset is making new highs, but the MACD is not confirming those highs, it could be a sign that the current trend is losing momentum
  • Histogram: The histogram represents the difference between the MACD line and the signal line. Positive values indicate bullish momentum, while negative values suggest bearish momentum

It is important to note that relying solely on the MACD to generate accurate signals is typically not enough over the long term. Traders typically use additional indicators with the MACD, such as Bollinger Bands and the Relative Strength Index (RSI). 

MACD Example 

To better understand how the MACD indicator works in practice, we can look at an example of the indicator plotted below the price chart of Apple Inc stock (AAPL):

macd apple.png

As we can see, the MACD and signal lines show convergences during periods of major price movements of the chart. As the MACD is a commonly-followed indicator, traders can anticipate some price movements with this method, as there is a high degree of correlation between the movements of the MACD and the price chart. 

When the histogram turns green, the price is likely to climb, and fall when the histogram turns red. When the MACD and signal lines converge, this can be seen as a buy signal, while divergences show sell signals. 

Key Takeaways From What Is The MACD In Trading

  • The Moving Average Convergence Divergence, or MACD, is a popular technical indicator used by traders
  • The indicator consists of two exponential moving averages, a single line, and the MACD line. When the two lines form crossovers and divergences, the indicator generates buy and sell signals, respectively
  • The MACD is typically used in conjunction with other indicators, such as the RSI and Bollinger Bands to generate more reliable buy and sell signals
  • The indicator is plotted below the price chart and includes a histogram that shows the probability of a crossover or divergence between the signal and MACD lines
  • The MACD line is a fast-moving EMA, while the signal line follows behind as a slow-moving EMA. When the lines form a crossover, a buy signal is generated. When the lines diverge, this is a sell signal 

FAQ On The MACD Indicator

What is the MACD indicator?

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a momentum indicator in technical analysis. It consists of a fast and slow Exponential Moving Average (EMA) relationship, generating signals through crossovers and histogram analysis to identify potential trend reversals and strength.

Is MACD a reliable indicator?

The MACD is widely used and considered reliable by many traders for identifying trends and momentum. However, like any indicator, it's not foolproof, and traders often use it in conjunction with other tools for more comprehensive technical analysis.

How do traders use the MACD?

Traders use the MACD indicator to identify potential trend reversals and gauge the strength of price movements. Crossovers between the MACD line and signal line signal buying or selling opportunities, while divergence and histogram analysis provide additional insights into market momentum.