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What is the 'Moving Average Convergence Divergence - MACD'

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Introduction
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 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.

Note: MACD can be pronounced as either “Mac-Dee” or “M-A-C-D.”


Moving average convergence divergence ( 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.

BREAKING DOWN 'Moving Average Convergence Divergence - MACD'
Moving average convergence divergence ( MACD ) indicators can be interpreted using three different methods:

1. Crossovers - As shown in the chart above, 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. Many traders wait for a confirmed cross above the signal line before entering into a position to avoid getting getting "faked out" or entering into a position too early, as shown by the first arrow.

2. Divergence - When the security price diverges from the MACD , it signals the end of the current trend. For example, a stock price that is rising and a MACD indicator that is falling could mean that the rally is about to end. Conversely, if a stock price is falling and the MACD is rising, it could mean that a bullish reversal could occur in the near-term. Traders often use divergence in conjunction with other technical indicators to find opportunities.

3. Dramatic Rise - When the MACD rises dramatically - that is, the shorter moving average pulls away from the longer-term moving average - it is a signal that the security is overbought 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.

Traders also watch for a move above or below the zero line because this signals the position of the short-term average relative to the long-term average. When the MACD is above zero, the short-term average is above the long-term average, which signals upward momentum. The opposite is true when the MACD is below zero. As you can see from the chart above, the zero line often acts as an area of support and resistance for the indicator.

[ The MACD is one of the most used technical indicators, but there are many others that traders should be familiar with to maximize their performance. 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, and technical indicators that you need to identify and capitalizing on price trends in over five hours of on-demand video, exercises, and interactive content. ]



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