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Trading 101

Trading 101: How to Trade using Momentum

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Momentum is an interesting concept.  When you relate it to people and those who trade the markets, momentum reflects the change in sentiment and the inertia of the price movements. When things are going well, the good times are rolling and when bad things start to appear, the sky can be falling.  People use the saying, “when it rains it pours” which means that when negative momentum accelerates, things can turn awful quickly.

Since human emotion is an important part of determining future price movements, measuring momentum is a tool that should be part of your trading arsenal. There are a number of good indicators that you can use to measure momentum and one of the best is the Moving Average Convergence Divergence Index (MACD).

The Development of the MACD Indicator

The MACD was developed by Gerald Appel in the late 1970’s. The initial MACD only included a portion of the index and histogram that is used by investors today.  Gerald’s goal was to determine momentum by evaluating the difference in two different moving averages.  By analyzing the difference in specific moving averages, you can visually see that when the difference is expanding, momentum is accelerating and when the difference is contracting momentum is decelerating.

What Does the MACD Calculate?

The formula that is used to calculate the MACD subtracts the 26-day exponential moving average from the 12-day exponential moving average, which is called the MACD index.  An exponential moving average differs from a standard moving average as it puts more weight on current prices and less weight on differed prices.

The second piece of the MACD is the signal line.  This is calculated by generating a 9-day exponential moving average of the MACD index

During the last 4-decades, analysts and traders have altered the index and signal line to fit their needs.  For example, if you wanted to capture short term momentum, you could change the index to the difference between the 5-day exponential moving average and the 13-day exponential moving average, and alter the signal line to be the 12-day moving average of the index.

Using the MACD

The chart above shows an MACD index as well as signal line, which is in the section below the price of WTI crude oil. Additionally, it shows the MACD histogram which was created nearly a decade after Appel initially introduced the MACD index by Thomas Aspray.  The MACD histogram measures the distance between the MACD Index and the MACD signal line and displays this number on a histogram.  The benefit of seeing this difference on a chart is that you can tell when the histogram is beginning to shift its trajectory.

There are a few ways that you can use the MACD to enhance your trading by evaluating momentum.  The most common way to use the MACD is finding crossover signals.  When the MACD index crosses above the MACD signal line, a buy momentum signal is generated. When the MACD index crosses below the MACD signal line, a sell momentum signal is generated.

In the chart of crude oil, the green arrow shows you an MACD crossover buy signal. It tells you when positive momentum is accelerating and prices are likely to continue to move higher. The red arrow in the chart describes a spot where negative momentum is accelerating and prices are likely to continue to move lower.

Since the histogram is the difference between the signal line and the index, the MACD histogram should move from negative to positive territory when a buy signal is generated (which occurred at the green arrow), and the MACD histogram should move from positive to negative territory when a sell signal is generated (which occurred at the red arrow).

One of the benefits of using the histogram is you can analyze the trajectory of momentum. Prior to the buy and sell signal, the MACD histogram started to show that momentum was accelerating.  In the case of the buy signal, positive momentum was beginning to accelerate and in the case of the sell signal, negative momentum started to accelerate.

Since there are no hard and fast rules on how you should use the MACD histogram in conjunction with the crossover signals, many use the histogram to anticipate a crossover, by analyzing its trajectory.

MACD Divergences

Another way you can measure momentum with the MACD is to determine divergences.  The term describes a scenario where prices and momentum are moving in the opposite direction.  An example can be seen in the same crude oil chart.

In the example above, the price crude oil is moving lower in May shown near the red arrow.  As prices continue to decline below the March lows, momentum begins to decelerate and does not hit a new lower low in tandem with prices.  You can see that the trend of the MACD histogram is moving upward (green arrow). When prices are moving lower, and momentum begins to decelerate, you have a situation where divergence is occurring.  This usually signifies that an asset price is ready to reverse course.

Summary

  • The Moving average convergence divergence (MACD) is a momentum index that is used to determine changes in momentum. The MACD index was introduced in the 1970’s and is calculated by subtracting the 26-day exponential moving average from the 12-day exponential moving average.
  • The MACD signal line is the 9-day exponential moving average of the MACD index.
  • Gerald Appel used exponential moving averages in the MACD calculation to weight current prices more than differed prices when determining current momentum.
  • One of the most popular ways to use the MACD is to evaluate crossover buy and crossover sell signals. When the MACD index crosses above the MACD signal line a buy signal is generated. When the MACD index crosses below the MACD signal line as sell signal is created.
  • In 1986 the MACD histogram was introduced by Thomas Aspray. The histogram reflects the difference between the MACD Index and the MACD signal line and displays this difference in a histogram format.
  • The histogram can be very helpful in confirming and anticipating an MACD crossover buy or sell signal.
  • The MACD crossover buy and sell signals are the most common way the MACD is used. An alternative method of judging momentum is to use the MACD to evaluate divergences. When prices are moving in the opposite direction of momentum, and momentum is decelerating, a reversal in price action is imminent.
Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsDavid Becker is a New York-based finance writer and capital markets analysis. With more than 25 years of experience in derivatives trading and risk analysis, David runs a consulting business that focuses on investment evaluation and personal finance. David has been published on high profile online and print media. He holds a B.A. in economics.




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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. tuth

    June 27, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    which indicator works fine with macd? i think psar is a good partner for it. what do you think? and how much do you wait for confirmation? 2 candle is ok?

  2. embersburnbrightly

    June 27, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Great article, very helpful to me, as someone still learning the ropes. Thank you!

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Trading 101

Trading 101: 4 Reliable Chart Patterns in Crypto Trading

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Graph

In our previous piece on chart patterns, we pointed out that the way to use patterns is to judge probabilities that a certain move will happen rather than to view them as some holy grail in the market (which unfortunately doesn’t exist to my knowledge).

Although they aren’t holy grails, chart patterns are some of the best tools we can use to trade the markets with a surprising degree of accuracy. For example, some estimate that a well-known pattern like the head & shoulders have an accuracy of more than 80% when it is complete. Very few indicators can match that!

In this article, we’ll go over the 4 best chart patterns to use in crypto trading, teach you how to spot them in the charts, and show you how to trade them.

1. Head & shoulders pattern

Since I already singled out the head & shoulders as the most accurate pattern, let’s start with this classic chart pattern that most people have heard about and probably have an idea what should look like.

head and shoulders

The head & shoulders pattern generally signals a reversal in the market, as it is essentially a failed attempt of a trend to move higher. As we know, an uptrend is defined as a series of higher highs and higher lows, but in the case of the head & shoulder, the last trend wave fails at making a higher high and higher low, and a new downtrend is initiated. The opposite pattern, known as an inverse head & shoulder, signals a shift from a downtrend to an uptrend.

Since the head & shoulder is so well-known by now, and the logic is based on simple trend trading, it is often considered to be the most reliable pattern in trading. It can often be easier to spot on a line chart as it can help you filter out all the clutter otherwise found on candlestick charts.

2. Bull flag

This is a continuation pattern and is also considered one of the most reliable bullish patterns we have. Sometimes also called a pennant or a wedge, these names all essentially refer to the same thing.

Bull flag

The bull flag is formed when price enters a consolidation phase following a strong uptrend. What really happens when price is consolidating is that the market is gathering momentum for the next burst up. It is a natural part of a trend where those who have been with the trend from the beginning are taking the opportunity to realize some of their profits, while new traders are entering the market and positioning themselves for the next run-up in prices.

3. Cup and handle

First introduced in William O’Neil’s book How to Make Money in Stocks, the cup and handle pattern is a bullish chart pattern that is very well-known in the stock market, but also appears to work well in other markets.

According to O’Neil, the pattern should span a period of 1 to 6 months in the stock market. In crypto, where everything moves faster, this period can safely be cut in half. For the pattern to be more reliable, we would ideally want to see a significant rise in trading volume near the end of the handle as price begins to rise. A buy order should be entered as price breaks above the high made by the right side of the cup.

The logic behind the pattern is the same as for the head & shoulder and trend waves: the cup represents the bottom in the market and the handle creates a higher low, which by definition means that an uptrend has started.

4. Rectangle

The rectangle is a similar pattern to the bull flag and trading channels, where price appears to be “stuck” between two imaginary lines on the chart. The more touches we have between these outer lines and the price, the more reliable the pattern is considered to be.

The rectangle is a trend continuation pattern, and often becomes a waiting game for traders since it is difficult to tell exactly when the price will break out of the pattern. However, the pattern is fairly reliable at predicting the direction price will break out in. The rectangle can be either bullish or bearish, depending on the direction of the preceding trend.

The pattern can be traded either by placing an order when price is close to the lower end of the rectangle with a stop just below the lower line and then waiting for price to break out. Alternatively, you can place a buy order just above the upper end of the rectangle in hopes of catching the trade as the price breaks out. The danger with the last option is that fake-outs where price spikes up just to fall back down do occur quite frequently. As always in trading, taking a slightly more conservative approach may serve you well over the long-term.

Featured image from Pixabay.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 37 rated postsFredrik Vold is an entrepreneur, financial writer, and technical analysis enthusiast. He has been working and traveling in Asia for several years, and is currently based out of Beijing, China. He closely follows stocks, forex and cryptocurrencies, and is always looking for the next great alternative investment opportunity.




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Trading 101

Lessons from The Turtle Traders

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turtle traders

For those of you who haven’t heard about the so-called turtle traders before, I’ll give you a brief recap here: “The turtles” were a group of laymen traders who were chosen more or less randomly to be coached by two of the pioneers in trend-following trading; Richard Dennis and William Eckhardt.

While Dennis, who had already made more than $100 million in the markets, were convinced that anyone could learn to trade, Eckhardt argued that Dennis was a gifted trader and that it would be extremely difficult for someone else to replicate his success. Unable to come to an agreement, the two men figured that the only way to settle the dispute would be to conduct an experiment where they would teach ordinary people their own trading system, and then measure the results.

As the story goes, the turtles became hugely successful, and Dennis was proven right.

Their story became known to world mainly through Michael Covel’s books Trend Following and The Complete Turtle Trader, where he shared some previously unknown details about the very simple trading strategies and methods used by “the turtles.”

Although the turtle experiment took place back in the early 1980s, the lessons learned from the experiment are as valid in today’s crypto market as they were in the commodities market Eckhardt and Dennis were trading in back then. In this post, I therefore wanted to share some of methods used by the turtles that can hopefully help you improve your own trading performance as well.

If you are interested in learning more about the methods the turtles used, I recommend reading Covel’s book to get the full story.

ATR as stop-loss

Using the Average True Range (ATR) indicator as a trailing stop-loss is something I learned from Covel’s book about trend following and that I’ve used successfully over the years, as I wrote about in another post about a trend following trading strategy.

Generally, the idea of using trailing stops in trading is that it allows you to ride the trend for longer, without taking on unnecessary risk. It is also in the very essence of trend following trading that traders should not try to predict where a trend will start or stop, but instead simply react to what the price is telling them. In this context, if the price breaks through the ATR line you have drawn up on the chart, it is telling you that the trend has ended and it is time to get out of the trade.

The ATR is calculated based on the volatility of the asset, which means that perfectly normal market movements will be classified as noise, and only extraordinary movements to either side will lead to price breaking through the ATR line.

TradingView has a very useful built-in indicator for using the ATR as a trailing stop called “ATR Stops.”

Maximum 2% risk on each trade

Since the turtles used the ATR as their stop-loss, the risk in terms of pips on each trade would naturally vary depending on the asset they traded. However, by adjusting their position size, they still managed to keep their risk at no more than 2% of their trading account on any one trade.

Pyramiding

Pyramiding is the concept of adding to a winning trade as time passes. This is pretty much the opposite of conventional value-based investing wisdom, where it is usually preached to buy low and sell high. The turtle traders, on the other hand, were not afraid to buy high and sell when things were moving against them (buy high, sell low).

The turtle traders usually didn’t move in with the full position size that their risk management allowed on the first order, but would instead spread out their orders and buy more as the trade moved in their favor. For example, they would enter an order with a position size that kept their risk at 0.5% of their capital as a trend started to form, and then enter new orders as the trend continued until they reached the 2% risk that their system allowed for.

This protected their downside if the trade moved against them from the start while at the same time enabled them to ride the trends until the end.

Reduce risk during losing streaks

The turtles were very aware of the emotional drawdown that follows a loss in the market, and they understood that because of this, losses tend to follow each other and create losing streaks from which traders sometimes never recover.

Because of this, Dennis and Eckhardt introduced a rule saying that if an account is down by 10%, the trader must adjust his risk as if he has lost 20%. With a smaller trading account left, the trader would then be forced to reduce his risk on each trade in order to stay within the maximum 2% risk allowed on each trade.

Not only did this save the turtle traders’ trading capital, but it saved their emotional capital as well.

Keep it simple

Lastly, it is important to remember that the exact trading system the turtles used was relatively simple and straightforward. Trend following trading is often like this, and it has been proven over and over again that simple and robust systems beats complicated strategies. As Richard Dennis was quoted as saying in the Market Wizards book:

“I always say that you could publish my trading rules in the newspaper and no one will follow them. The key is consistency and discipline. Almost anybody can make up a list of rules that are 80% as good as what we taught our people. What they couldn’t do is give them the confidence to stick with those rules even when things are going bad.”

Featured image from Pixabay.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 37 rated postsFredrik Vold is an entrepreneur, financial writer, and technical analysis enthusiast. He has been working and traveling in Asia for several years, and is currently based out of Beijing, China. He closely follows stocks, forex and cryptocurrencies, and is always looking for the next great alternative investment opportunity.




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Trading 101

Trading 101: Determining and Trading Trend Strength

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Trend-following trading remains the most popular approach to trading in the retail segment, both in crypto and other markets. However, before taking positions in the direction of a trend, it is crucial to determine if the trend is gaining or losing strength. As trend traders, we need to make sure we are only taking trades in trends that are building up, and not those that are fading.

While we have covered the basics of trend-following trading in the past, and also revealed several trend-following strategies, we will here focus on how you can determine if a trend is worth trading, using both systematic and discretionary tools.

Trend waves and pullbacks

Studying trend waves and pullbacks during a trend forms the basis of a discretionary approach to determining trend strength.

In a trending market, small pullbacks signal strength in the trend. If each pullback is getting increasingly smaller as the trend continues, we can say that the trend is picking up momentum. Another thing we often see in strong bullish trends in that the pullback is not really a pullback, but rather a sideways consolidation of the price. This indicates that bulls are strongly in control of the market, buying up even the smallest dip in prices.

On the other hand, as pullbacks get larger and occur more frequently, we can take it as a sign that the trend is losing momentum and the price may reverse into the opposite direction soon.

Moving Averages

Moving Averages are probably some of the best-known tools for trend traders, and for good reason. They are incredibly simple to use, and can provide powerful signals in almost all markets.

The most common way to determine trend strength with Moving Averages is to apply two Moving Average lines to the chart; one slower and one faster. For example, combining the 20 and 50 period Moving Averages is a common strategy among swing traders in both forex, stocks, and crypto (the lower the period setting of the Moving Average is, the faster it reacts to changes in the price).

In a strong uptrend, we should have the faster moving average staying consistently above the slower Moving Average. If the distance between the two moving average lines grows, it means that the trend is gaining momentum, and if the distance between them shrinks, the trend is losing momentum.

If the two lines cross over each other, this is often taken as a sign that the trend is about to reverse. Many successful trend-following strategies follow the simple logic of buying an asset when the faster Moving Average crosses over the slower one, and selling an asset when the slower Moving Average crosses over the faster one.

Price rejection

What we call rejection of higher or lower prices in technical analysis is most easily spotted using traditional candlestick charts and looking for long wicks sticking out either above or below the “body” of the candles, as in the screenshot below.

Price rejection

In this chart, we can clearly see that we had a strong bullish trend and that the price attempted to extent the trend further, but repeatedly got rejected by the market. After four attempts at going higher, this market lost all bullishness and went into an extended downtrend.

Relative Strength Index (RSI)

As the name implies, RSI is an indicator that measures strength. In just the same way as we define an uptrend in price as a series of higher lows and higher highs, the RSI line should also make higher lows and higher highs when the market is trending up. In non-trending (range-bound) markets, the RSI generally moves sideways and stays between readings of 30 and 70.

As trends come to an end, we sometimes see divergences between the trend of the RSI and the price itself. For example, price may be making a new higher high, while the RSI line fails at making a new high, or even makes a new lower high, as we have two examples of in the screenshot below:

RSI divergence

Average Directional Index (ADX)

This is the classic trend indicator that many traders still use. The indicator consists of a red line and a green line and it basically says that a green line above a red line means we are in an uptrend. In the opposite case, a red line above a green line would mean that we are in a downtrend. If the two lines are close together it means that the market is not clearly trending, but rather stuck in a range.

Trend-following strategies sometimes make use of the ADX indicator in combination with Moving Averages to find strong price trends to ride. The ADX could then help determine the strength of the trend while for example cross-overs of two Moving Averages could serve as entry and exit points.

Which one should you use?

Perhaps unfortunately, which specific indicator to use in your trend-following trading really comes down to personal preferences. There is no right or wrong indicator to use, nor is there any right or wrong way to combine indicators and create your own trading strategy.

That said, most traders try to avoid combining indicators that are measuring the same thing. For example, ADX, Moving Averages and MACD are all considered trend indicators, while RSI and Stochastic are considered momentum indicators. In other words, you could combine Moving Averages and RSI, but should avoid combining Moving Averages and ADX with each other.

Experimentation is also fine, but instead of trying to learn how to use lots of different indicators, a better strategy is generally to use a few and become an expert at them. They are all powerful in their own way, it just comes down to the trader to master them.

Featured image from Pixabay.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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4.3 stars on average, based on 37 rated postsFredrik Vold is an entrepreneur, financial writer, and technical analysis enthusiast. He has been working and traveling in Asia for several years, and is currently based out of Beijing, China. He closely follows stocks, forex and cryptocurrencies, and is always looking for the next great alternative investment opportunity.




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