A Breakdown of Moving Average (MA)

Article Summary

Moving Averages (MA) are widely used in technical analysis to identify trends and potential trading opportunities. MAs smooth out fluctuations in price and provide a clear visual representation of price trends. There are different types of MAs, including simple moving averages and exponential moving averages, that can be used depending on your trading style and the timeframe you’re looking at. MAs can be used in combination with other technical indicators to confirm trading signals and increase the probability of success. Whether you’re trading stocks, currencies, commodities, or cryptocurrencies, Moving Averages are an essential tool for traders and investors who want to make informed decisions about when to enter and exit trades.

What is moving average (MA)?

Moving Average (MA) is a mathematical calculation that is used to analyze the price of a security over a period of time. MA is a lagging indicator, which means that it is based on past price data and does not predict future price movements. It is a trend-following indicator that helps traders and investors identify the direction of the trend and the strength of the trend.

There are two types of Moving Averages: Simple Moving Average (SMA) and Exponential Moving Average (EMA). SMA is a basic arithmetic mean of the price over a specified period of time, while EMA gives more weight to recent prices and less weight to older prices.

The key components of Moving Average are period, price, and calculation. Period is the number of time periods used to calculate the Moving Average, price is the type of price used in the calculation (such as closing price or average price), and calculation is the mathematical formula used to calculate the Moving Average.

Purpose of moving average (MA)

Moving Average is used in financial analysis to identify trends, support and resistance levels, and potential entry and exit points in financial markets. It helps traders and investors make informed decisions based on the price movement of a security. The benefits of using Moving Average in analysis include:

• Providing a visual representation of the trend direction and strength
• Smoothing out the price fluctuations to reduce noise and false signals
• Identifying potential support and resistance levels
• Helping traders and investors identify potential entry and exit points
• Providing a basis for other technical analysis tools, such as Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) and Bollinger Bands.

It is important to select appropriate Moving Average parameters that are suitable for the specific security being analyzed. The parameters include the period, price, and type of Moving Average (SMA or EMA).

Formula for moving average (MA)

The formula for Moving Average (MA) depends on the type of Moving Average being used. Here, we will look at the formula for Simple Moving Average (SMA) and Exponential Moving Average (EMA).

Simple moving average (SMA)

The formula for Simple Moving Average (SMA) is:

SMA = (Sum of prices for n periods) / n

Where:

• n is the number of periods
• Sum of prices is the total of the closing prices for the specified number of periods

For example, if you want to calculate the 10-day Simple Moving Average of a security’s closing price, you would add up the closing prices for the last 10 days and divide the total by 10.

Exponential moving average (EMA)

The formula for Exponential Moving Average (EMA) is:

EMA = (Price x Multiplier) + (EMA(previous) x (1 – Multiplier))

Where:

• Price is the current price
• Multiplier is the smoothing factor, which is calculated based on the specified number of periods
• EMA(previous) is the previous period’s EMA value

For example, if you want to calculate the 10-day Exponential Moving Average of a security’s closing price, you would first calculate the Multiplier using the formula:

Multiplier = 2 / (n + 1)

Where:

• n is the number of periods

If n is 10, then the Multiplier would be:

Multiplier = 2 / (10 + 1) = 0.1818

Next, you would calculate the initial EMA using the first closing price and the Multiplier:

EMA(1) = Price(1)

Next, you would calculate the EMA for subsequent periods using the formula:

EMA(current) = (Price(current) x Multiplier) + (EMA(previous) x (1 – Multiplier))

For example, if the closing prices for the last 10 days were:

Day 1: 50

Day 2: 55

Day 3: 60

Day 4: 55

Day 5: 50

Day 6: 45

Day 7: 40

Day 8: 45

Day 9: 50

Day 10: 55

And we want to calculate the 10-day Exponential Moving Average using the closing prices, then we would first calculate the Multiplier:

Multiplier = 2 / (10 + 1) = 0.1818

Next, we would calculate the initial EMA using the first closing price and the Multiplier:

EMA(1) = 50

Next, we would calculate the EMA for subsequent periods using the formula:

EMA(2) = (55 x 0.1818) + (50 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 51.82

EMA(3) = (60 x 0.1818) + (51.82 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 54.28

EMA(4) = (55 x 0.1818) + (54.28 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 54.13

EMA(5) = (50 x 0.1818) + (54.13 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 52.15

EMA(6) = (45 x 0.1818) + (52.15 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 48.32

EMA(7) = (40 x 0.1818) + (48.32 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 43.91

EMA(8) = (45 x 0.1818) + (43.91 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 44.73

EMA(9) = (50 x 0.1818) + (44.73 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 47.05

EMA(10) = (55 x 0.1818) + (47.05 x (1 – 0.1818)) = 50.24

Examples of moving average (MA)

Moving Average (MA) can be applied to any financial instrument that has a price, such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies. Here are some examples of how Moving Average can be used:

• Trend identification: A Moving Average can help identify the direction of the trend. When the price is above the Moving Average, it is considered a bullish trend, and when the price is below the Moving Average, it is considered a bearish trend. Traders and investors can use Moving Average crossovers (when the price crosses above or below the Moving Average) to identify potential entry and exit points.
• Support and resistance levels: Moving Averages can also help identify potential support and resistance levels. When the price approaches a Moving Average, it can act as a support or resistance level. Traders and investors can use Moving Averages to identify these levels and make trading decisions accordingly.
• Momentum: Moving Averages can also be used to identify momentum in the market. For example, a shorter-term Moving Average (such as a 20-day MA) crossing above a longer-term Moving Average (such as a 50-day MA) can indicate a bullish momentum, while a shorter-term Moving Average crossing below a longer-term Moving Average can indicate a bearish momentum.

Here are some examples of Moving Averages in action:

• Simple Moving Average (SMA) example: Let’s say you want to calculate the 50-day Simple Moving Average of a stock. You would take the sum of the closing prices for the last 50 days and divide it by 50 to get the SMA. If the current stock price is above the 50-day SMA, it could be considered a bullish signal, while if it is below the 50-day SMA, it could be considered a bearish signal.
• Exponential Moving Average (EMA) example: Let’s say you want to calculate the 20-day Exponential Moving Average of a currency pair. You would first calculate the Multiplier using the formula:

Multiplier = 2 / (n + 1)

Where:

• n is the number of periods

If n is 20, then the Multiplier would be:

Multiplier = 2 / (20 + 1) = 0.0952

Next, you would calculate the initial EMA using the first closing price and the Multiplier:

EMA(1) = Price(1)

Next, you would calculate the EMA for subsequent periods using the formula:

EMA(current) = (Price(current) x Multiplier) + (EMA(previous) x (1 – Multiplier))

If the closing prices for the last 20 days were:

Day 1: 1.2000

Day 2: 1.2100

Day 3: 1.2150

Day 4: 1.2200

Day 5: 1.2250

Day 6: 1.2300

Day 7: 1.2350

Day 8: 1.2400

Day 9: 1.2450

Day 10: 1.2500

Day 11: 1.2550

Day 12: 1.2600

Day 13: 1.2650

Day 14: 1.2700

Day 15: 1.2750

Day 16: 1.2800

Day 17: 1.2850

Day 18: 1.2900

Day 19: 1.2950

Day 20: 1.3000

Then, you would first calculate the Multiplier:

Multiplier = 2 / (20 + 1) = 0.0952

Next, you would calculate the initial EMA using the first closing price and the Multiplier:

EMA(1) = 1.2000

Next, you would calculate the EMA for subsequent periods using the formula:

EMA(2) = (1.2100 x 0.0952) + (1.2000 x (1 – 0.0952)) = 1.2018

EMA(3) = (1.2150 x 0.0952) + (1.2018 x (1 – 0.0952)) = 1.2044

Moving Averages (MA) are widely used in technical analysis by traders and investors to identify trends and potential trading opportunities. There are different types of Moving Averages, but they all share the same basic purpose: to smooth out fluctuations in price and identify the underlying trend.

Moving Averages are one of the most popular technical indicators for a reason. By providing a clear visual representation of price trends, they help traders and investors make informed decisions about when to enter and exit trades. If you’re interested in incorporating Moving Averages into your trading strategy, be sure to experiment with different types of MAs and timeframes to see what works best for you.

FAQs:

How do I choose the right Moving Average?

The choice of Moving Average depends on your trading style and the timeframe you’re looking at. Shorter-term Moving Averages (such as 20-day MAs) are more sensitive to price movements and can help identify short-term trends, while longer-term Moving Averages (such as 50-day or 200-day MAs) are better suited for identifying long-term trends.

Can Moving Averages be used in conjunction with other technical indicators?

Absolutely. Moving Averages can be used in combination with other technical indicators, such as Relative Strength Index (RSI) or Bollinger Bands, to confirm trading signals and increase the probability of success.

Can Moving Averages be used in any market?

Yes, Moving Averages can be used in any market, including stocks, currencies, commodities, and cryptocurrencies.

Key takeaways

• Moving Averages are widely used in technical analysis to identify trends and potential trading opportunities.
• Different types of Moving Averages can be used depending on your trading style and the timeframe you’re looking at.
• Moving Averages can be used in combination with other technical indicators to confirm trading signals and increase the probability of success.
• Moving Averages can be used in any market.
View Article Sources
1. Moving Average – Wolfram
2. Smoothing Data with Moving Averages – Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
3. Using moving averages to gauge market trends – Britannica Money