What Is MACD Indicator? Everything You Need To Know

MACD is a dual-purpose indicator which is useful in multiple stock market trading strategies. Learn more with this comprehensive read.

What Is MACD Indicator? Everything You Need To Know


In the ever-evolving world of financial markets, traders and investors constantly seek tools to provide valuable insights into price trends and potential opportunities. The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) indicator is an indispensable tool. Loved by technical analysts and traders alike, the MACD offers a unique perspective on price momentum, crossovers, and potential turning points.

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) indicator combines two trend-following indicators so that it doubles as a trend-following indicator and a short-term price momentum indicator. This article will delve into the fundamentals of the MACD indicator, shedding light on its components, interpretation, and practical applications in trading and investing.

What Is MACD Indicator?

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) indicator compares two different moving averages of a stock’s price. MACD is an analysis tool that indicates the trend and direction of a stock in the near term—informing whether it is a good time to buy or sell a stock.

How To Interpret MACD Indicator?

The MACD indicator helps traders understand the relationship between two Exponential Moving Averages (EMAs): the 12-period EMA and the 26-period EMA.

MACD Line: This line is obtained by subtracting the 26-period EMA from the 12-period EMA. It shows the difference between these two moving averages.

Signal Line: The signal line is the nine-period EMA of the MACD line.

MACD Histogram: Obtained by subtracting the signal line from the MACD line.

The MACD indicator offers valuable insights for traders in the following ways:

  • When the MACD line is above 0, it's a positive sign, indicating that a stock's price is rising or gaining positive momentum.
  • Conversely, when the MACD line dips below 0, it's a negative signal, suggesting a downward movement in stock prices or negative momentum.
  • When the 12-day and 26-day exponential moving averages come close together, it indicates a lack of momentum in either direction, and the MACD will hover around 0.
  • To gauge short-term momentum, traders look at how far apart the MACD and signal lines are.

MACD Formula

The MACD line, signal line and histogram are calculated as follows:

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

Signal Line = 9-period EMA of MACD Line

MACD Histogram = MACD Line - Signal Line

Advantages of Using MACD Indicator

The MACD indicator has a lot of potential benefits for traders:

  • Clear Trend Identification: The MACD indicator is a trend-spotter, making it easy to understand if the market is bullish or bearish.
  • Versatility for Different Timeframes: The MACD indicator adapts to different trading timeframes, whether one is a day trader or a long-term investor.
  • Provides Both Momentum and Trend Information: The MACD indicator combines momentum and trend insights instead of just focusing on a single aspect.
  • Simplicity in Interpretation: MACD signals are straightforward, making them accessible to traders at any level.

Pitfalls In Using MACD Indicator

While the MACD is a valuable tool, it comes with its own set of limitations. Primarily, you should avoid sole reliance on this indicator. Instead, you should use it along with other technical indicators, fundamental analysis, and risk management for efficient trading.

There are some common mistakes traders make while using the MACD indicator. Some of them are discussed below:

  • Overtrading: Frequent MACD signals can lead to too much trading, resulting in higher costs and potential losses.
  • Chasing Signals: One should not merely trade on signals without gaining proper knowledge about market context and news events.
  • Ignoring Divergence: Failure to detect divergence signals where the MACD and price move differently can lead to missed opportunities or false signals.
  • Emotional Trading: Letting your emotions drive your trading decisions rather than sticking to a well-thought-out strategy can lead to trouble when using the MACD.

Trading Strategies Centered Around MACD

In this section, we delve deeper into the dual nature and use cases of the MACD indicator. After briefly examining how the indicator functions as a trend-following and momentum indicator, we’ll look into specific strategies employed by traders using MACD.

MACD as a trend-following indicator

Traders often use the MACD indicator to catch momentum and use it for maximum gain. By paying attention to the MACD histogram and its relationship with the zero line, you can gauge the strength of the prevailing trend.

MACD as a momentum indicator

The MACD histogram, which measures the gap between the MACD line and the signal line, can help identify shifts in market momentum. When the histogram changes quickly, it signals robust momentum, while a slowdown may indicate a potential trend reversal.

Listed below are some of the most common strategies employed by traders who use MACD:

1. Signal line crossover :

The signal-line crossover strategy is one of the simplest and most effective trading techniques. This user-friendly strategy provides clear entry and exit points based on the MACD's signals.

  • Buy Signal: When the MACD line crosses above the signal line, it indicates a go-ahead to go long or buy.
  • Sell Signal: Conversely, when the MACD line crosses below the signal line, it's a red flag signalling a potential exit or short-sell opportunity.

2. Centerline crossover :

The centerline crossover strategy involves the zero line (centerline) of the MACD histogram. The strategy spots longer-term trends.

  • Bullish Signal: When the MACD crosses above the zero line, it suggests potential upward momentum.
  • Bearish Signal: If the MACD dips below the zero line, it indicates potential downward momentum.

3. Divergence

Divergence occurs when the price moves in one direction while the MACD indicator moves in another. Divergence anticipates trend reversals and helps identify entry and exit points.

  • Bullish Divergence: This happens when the price forms lower lows, but the MACD forms higher lows. It hints at a potential trend reversal from bearish to bullish.
  • Bearish Divergence: This type of divergence occurs when the price forms higher highs while the MACD forms lower highs– suggesting a possible shift from bullish to bearish.

4. MACD Signal line crossover paired with histogram

Traders often make their moves when the MACD line crosses the signal line and the histogram changes direction. Using the MACD as a signal generator can help one make well-timed decisions in the market.

  • Entry Signals: When the MACD line crosses above the signal line, and the histogram turns positive, it suggests bullish momentum and potential for price growth. This is a cue to consider entering a long position.
  • Exit Signals: Conversely, if the MACD line crosses below the signal line and the histogram turns negative, it indicates bearish momentum and a potential downturn. This is a sign of exiting your position or considering a short trade.

5. MACD as a confirmation tool

The MACD indicator can used to confirm the authenticity of other technical analysis tools. For example, if a bullish MACD crossover backs a trendline breakout, it adds confidence to the breakout's validity. This aspect of the MACD helps you navigate false signals and avoid jumping into trades prematurely.

Combining Indicators

Combining the MACD indicator with other technical analysis tools can prove to be a winning strategy. Common combinations include MACD and the Relative Strength Index (RSI) or MACD and the Stochastic Oscillator. These pairings provide a more comprehensive view of market conditions and help filter out false signals.


While MACD is a versatile indicator that measures both trend and momentum. In contrast, the RSI focuses solely on momentum. It calculates the magnitude of recent gains and losses, giving you a value between 0 and 100. The MACD offers a broader perspective, while the RSI focuses on momentum levels.

Limitations Of MACD Indicator

While the MACD has its strengths, it's also essential to understand its limitations.

  • Lagging Nature: The MACD, like all indicators based on moving averages, tends to lag behind actual price movements. It may generate signals after a price change has already occurred, potentially leading to missed opportunities.
  • Sideways Markets: In choppy or sideways markets, the MACD can produce false signals as it struggles to provide clear direction.
  • Overreliance: Relying solely on the MACD without considering other factors, such as fundamental analysis or market sentiment, can lead to poor trading decisions.


The Moving Average Convergence Divergence indicator’s ability to spot trends, assess momentum, and offer clear entry and exit signals makes it a fundamental tool in technical analysis for traders.

However, traders must be aware of common limitations, combine this tool with other indicators, and always consider the broader market context before making any trading decision. By incorporating the MACD into your trading strategy and constantly refining your approach, you can get one step closer to success in trading.

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