Common technical indicators
The MA – or ‘simple moving average’ (SMA) – is an indicator used to identify the direction of a current price trend, without the interference of shorter-term price spikes. The MA indicator combines price points of a financial instrument over a specified time frame and divides it by the number of data points to present a single trend line.
The data used depends on the length of the MA. For example, a 200-day MA requires 200 days of data. By using the MA indicator, you can study levels of support and resistance and see previous price action (the history of the market). This means you can also determine possible future patterns.
Exponential moving average
EMA is another form of moving average. Unlike the SMA, it places a greater weight on recent data points, making data more responsive to new information. When used with other indicators, EMAs can help traders confirm significant market moves and gauge their legitimacy.
The most popular exponential moving averages are 12- and 26-day EMAs for short-term averages, whereas the 50- and 200-day EMAs are used as long-term trend indicators.
A stochastic oscillator is an indicator that compares a specific closing price of an asset to a range of its prices over time – showing momentum and trend strength. It uses a scale of 0 to 100. A reading below 20 generally represents an oversold market and a reading above 80 an overbought market. However, if a strong trend is present, a correction or rally will not necessarily ensue.
Moving average convergence divergence
MACD is an indicator that detects changes in momentum by comparing two moving averages. It can help traders identify possible buy and sell opportunities around support and resistance levels.
‘Convergence’ means that two moving averages are coming together, while ‘divergence’ means that they’re moving away from each other. If moving averages are converging, it means momentum is decreasing, whereas if the moving averages are diverging, momentum is increasing.
A Bollinger band is an indicator that provides a range within which the price of an asset typically trades. The width of the band increases and decreases to reflect recent volatility. The closer the bands are to each other – or the ‘narrower’ they are – the lower the perceived volatility of the financial instrument. The wider the bands, the higher the perceived volatility.
Bollinger bands are useful for recognising when an asset is trading outside of its usual levels, and are used mostly as a method to predict long-term price movements. When a price continually moves outside the upper parameters of the band, it could be overbought, and when it moves below the lower band, it could be oversold.
Relative strength index
RSI is mostly used to help traders identify momentum, market conditions and warning signals for dangerous price movements. RSI is expressed as a figure between 0 and 100. An asset around the 70 level is often considered overbought, while an asset at or near 30 is often considered oversold.
An overbought signal suggests that short-term gains may be reaching a point of maturity and assets may be in for a price correction. In contrast, an oversold signal could mean that short-term declines are reaching maturity and assets may be in for a rally.
Fibonacci retracement is an indicator that can pinpoint the degree to which a market will move against its current trend. A retracement is when the market experiences a temporary dip – it is also known as a pullback.
Traders who think the market is about to make a move often use Fibonacci retracement to confirm this. This is because it helps to identify possible levels of support and resistance, which could indicate an upward or downward trend. Because traders can identify levels of support and resistance with this indicator, it can help them decide where to apply stops and limits, or when to open and close their positions.