Understanding MACD: A Key Trend-Following Indicator in Trading

by | Apr 17, 2024 | 0 comments

Understanding MACD: A Key Indicator for Traders

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD), is a momentum indicator that is widely used by traders to follow trends. It’s one of the most effective ones out there. In this blog post I’ll be diving deeper into the specific granulars about it, explaining its components, how it’s calculated, and how it can be used in trading strategies.

What is MACD?

It is a tool that figures out changes in trend strength, direction, momentum, and duration of a stock’s price. Created by Gerald Appel in the 70’s, this simple yet effective momentum tracker uses two moving averages along with a histogram all together to provide signals further informing you about your stock’s price trip.

Components of MACD:

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a comprehensive tool used in technical analysis to gauge the momentum and direction of a market trend. Its effectiveness lies in its components, each playing a pivotal role in providing traders with actionable insights. Let’s dive deeper into the components of MACD to understand how they work together to inform trading decisions.

1. MACD Line: The Heart Of The Indicator And Where It All Begins

This line serves as an indication on what your stock’s momentem looks like price wise. The line is calculated by subtracting the 26-period Exponential Moving Average from the 12-period Exponential Moving Average. This difference captures short-term and long-term momentem well enough so you know which direction it’s headed towards.

MACD Line = 12-period EMA−26-period EMA

It might seem like alot but it’s really not just remember if it moves above zero, it’s a buy. If it moves below zero, sell.

2. Signal Line: It’s The Smoother Upper

This line is meant to act as a smoother for the MACD Line and will help you identify potential buy and sell signals. It’s calculated at 9-period EMA of the MACD Line. Though this component might seem like all it does is smooth, it’s smoothing out fluctuations so that turns in trends become easier to see.

  • When the MACD Line crosses above the Signal Line, it’s considered a bullish signal, suggesting that it might be a good time to buy.
  • When the MACD Line crosses below the Signal Line, it’s considered a bearish signal, indicating a potential selling point.

3. MACD Histogram: A Visual Representation Of Something Complex

The histogram tells you where your stock stands price wise. You’ll find this representation by subtracting the Singal Line from the MACD line.

MACD Histogram=MACD Line−Signal Line

This quick visual indication will let you know if your stock has bullish or bearish momentum along with its strength. If it goes above zero bar wise then there’s strong bullish momentum, if below there’s strong bearish momentum

  • Positive Histogram: MACD Line is above Signal Line, indicates bullish momentum.
  • Negative Histogram: MACD Line is below Signal Line, indicates bearish momentum.

How does it work?

These components all interact to give you a dynamic view of the market’s momentum and trend direction. For example, a trader might look for the MACD line crossing above the signal line (a bullish signal) along with the histogram moving from negative to positive which would reinforce an upward trend.

On the other hand, divergences between the histogram and price action could suggest a potential reversal in trend. If price hits a new high but the histogram reaches lower highs, there may be weakening momentum towards an upcoming bearish reversal.

Read Also: Investment Portfolio: Significance of Ownership Extent

MACD calculation

You’ll find that calculating this indicator is fairly straight forward:

  1. Calculate 12-period EMA of security’s price
  2. Calculate 26-period EMA of security’s price
  3. Subtract 26-period EMA from 12-period EMA to get MACD Line
  4. Calculate 9-period EMA of MACD Line which will be Signal Line
  5. MACD Histogram = MACD – Signal

Understanding signals

  • Bullish Signal: When it crosses above Signal it shows increasing upward momentum and suggests buying opportunity.
  • Bearish Signal: When it crosses below Signal it shows increasing downward momentum and suggests selling opportunity.

Using in trading strategies

This indicator also has many different uses within strategies:

1. Identify Trend Changes

One of its main features allows you to identify potential changes in stock trends by looking at crossovers between its lines.

  • Bullish crossover: when it crosses above signal line
  • Bearish crossover: when it crosses below signal line

However these patterns are not enough on their own so looking for others while keeping the stock’s overall trend in mind can help ensure accuracy.

2. Divergence

It divergence occurs when its direction breaks away from the price’s direction. Essentially indicating that the current trend may be weakening and expected to reverse:

  • Bullish Divergence: When price hits new low but MACD forms new higher low.
  • Bearish Divergence: When price hits new high but MACD forms lower high.

3. Momentum

The histogram is best for determining momentum in a trend. For any stock where it’s above zero, upward momentum is growing and when below zero, downward momentum is growing.



  • Simple: Very easy to understand and interpret making it viable for all traders regardless of experience level.
  • Versatile: Can be used on different time frames and markets such as stocks, forex, and commodities.


  • Lagging Indicator: MACD uses moving averages so it reacts to changes in prices rather than predicting them.
  • False Signals: Like any other indicator, they can produce false signals too especially in volatile or sideways trending markets.

Read Also: Understanding Stocks: The Building Blocks of the Indian Stock Market


The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a super helpful tool for traders that want to figure out if something is moving forward or not. It can also help you decide when you should buy and sell certain things by looking at the price trends of securities but like every tool it isn’t perfect. You can get plenty of use out of MACD so long as you know how to pair it with other tech tools and develop a good trading strategy. It takes practice and experience to learn how to use MACD effectively, but once you do it’s all uphill from there.


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