Looking at the graph above, we can see that when the price surpasses the SMA line, the prices often trend upward for some time. However, when the price intersects and falls below the SMA line, we see a downtrend in prices for a bit as well. Compared with Day 10’s closing price of $24, the 5-day SMA of $18.60 was a lot closer than the 10-day SMA of $14.90.

SMA is often compared to EMA, which is the exponential moving average. The difference is that EMA places greater emphasis on recent prices, while SMA places equal weight on all data points. The two averages are similar because they are interpreted in the same manner and are both commonly used by technical traders to smooth out price fluctuations. Instead of the usual single moving average in a MA crossover system, the trader combines two moving averages. This leads us to a significant conclusion about the moving averages. Moving averages works brilliantly when there is a trend and fails to perform when the stock moves sideways.

As a result, they are considered lagging indicators of future price action. Moving averages help traders identify trends in price fluctuations by eliminating external noise. There are a variety of ways to calculate moving averages, each depending on the goal of the trader and what they are ultimately trying to achieve. Furthermore, choosing the period of the moving average is a key component in the results a trader will receive.

Other times, they will use moving averages to confirm their suspicions that a change might be underway. Moving averages are one of the core indicators in technical analysis, and there are a variety of different versions. The average is called “moving” because it is plotted on the chart bar by bar, forming a line that moves along the chart as the average value changes.

The time frame or length you choose for a moving average, also called the “look back period,” can play a big role in how effective it is. Moving average strategies are also popular and can be tailored to any time frame, suiting both long-term investors and short-term traders. The chart above uses two moving averages, one long-term (50-day, shown by the orange line) and the other shorter-term (15-day, shown by the yellow line). This is the same Google chart shown in the first chart, but with the two moving averages to illustrate the difference between the two lengths. When the price crosses below a moving average, it suggests that the bears are in control of the price action and that the asset will likely continue its move lower.

Please do notice how the crossover system keeps the trader away from the 3 unprofitable trades. One longer-term and one shorter-term moving average—for example, 20 and 50 periods—can be added to a chart simultaneously. When the 20-period moving average crosses above the 50 line, it indicates that short-term price momentum is moving to the upside. When the 20-period moving average crosses below the 50 line, it suggests that the short-term price momentum is moving to the downside. Some charts include the SMA, along with an exponential moving average (EMA).

Simple Moving Average (SMA) Calculator

Typically, the cross of a stock’s 50-day above its 200-day moving average is a major signal that the stock has begun an uptrend. Conversely, when a stock’s 50-day crosses below the 200-day moving average, this can signal a new downtrend and is often referred to as the death cross. Analysts use the moving average to examine support and resistance by evaluating the movements of an asset’s price.

  • Moving averages can also identify a level of support or resistance for the security or act as a simple entry or exit signal.
  • If a stock price is above the SMA, and if the SMA is moving upward, then there may be a stronger likelihood that there’s an uptrend—but it’s not guaranteed.
  • The moving average can be used to identify buying and selling opportunities with its own merit.
  • Each trader must decide which MA is better for his or her particular strategy.
  • In general, moving averages smooth price data that can otherwise be visually noisy.

The EMA works by weighting the difference between the current period’s price and the previous EMA and adding the result to the previous EMA. The shorter the period, the more weight applied to the most recent price. As a general guideline, if the price is above a moving average, the trend is up. However, moving averages can have different lengths (discussed shortly), so one MA may indicate an uptrend while another MA indicates a downtrend. A moving average helps cut down the amount of noise on a price chart. Look at the direction of the moving average to get a basic idea of which way the price is moving.

Shorter-term traders may watch an 8- and 20-period MA, for example. The 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-day moving averages are often used to spot near-term trend changes. Changes in direction by these shorter-term moving averages are watched as possible early clues to longer-term trend changes. Crossovers of the 50-day moving average with either the 10-day or 20-day moving average are regarded as significant.

Simple Moving Average (SMA) Explained

In financial markets, analysts and investors use the SMA indicator to determine buy and sell signals for securities. The SMA helps to identify support and resistance prices to obtain signals best online brokerage on where to enter or exit a trade. When a trader has assessed their time horizon, the next step is to use the trend to determine when it might make sense to enter or exit a trade.

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They sometimes give competing signals that leave you unsure of whether to act. In the next lesson, we will show you what we mean, and also introduce you to another type of moving average to avoid this problem. SMA is simply the mean, or average, of the stock price values over the specified period.

Most Commonly-Used Periods in Creating Moving Average (MA) Lines

The type of moving average and measurement period used determine the strategies a trader implements. No matter how long or short of a moving average you are looking to plot, the basic calculations remain the same. So, for example, a 200-day moving average is the closing price for 200 days summed together and then divided by 200.

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There are advantages to using a moving average in your trading, as well as options on what type of moving average to use. Moving averages are technical indicators that investors often use in the stock market. A moving average (MA) represents the sum of the closing prices of a security over a specific number of periods, which is then divided by the total number of periods. A moving average is depicted as a line chart that is superimposed over a stock’s price action.

What Is a Good Moving Average Period to Use?

The SMA crossover technique can potentially help traders avoid false signals and whipsaw moves. For longer-term periods, watch the 50- and 100-day, or 100- and 200-day moving averages for longer-term direction. For example, using the 100- and 200-day moving averages, if the 100-day moving average crosses below the 200-day average, it’s called the death cross. A 100-day moving average that crosses above a 200-day moving average is called the golden cross and indicates that the price has been rising and may continue to do so.

J.B. Maverick is an active trader, commodity futures broker, and stock market analyst 17+ years of experience, in addition to 10+ years of experience as a finance writer and book editor. The price may run through it slightly or stop and reverse prior to reaching it. We introduce people to the world of trading currencies, both fiat and crypto, through our non-drowsy educational content and tools. We’re also a community of traders that support each other on our daily trading journey. The SMAs in this chart show you the overall sentiment of the market at this point in time. Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader.

Another popular, albeit slightly more complex, analytical use is to compare a pair of simple moving averages with each covering different time frames. If a shorter-term simple moving average is above a longer-term average, an uptrend is expected. On the other hand, if the long-term average is above a shorter-term average then a downtrend might be the expected outcome. For example, this is how you would calculate the simple moving average of a security with the following closing prices over a 15-day period.

  • Some technical analysis tools include moving averages, oscillators, and trendlines.
  • Many people (including economists) believe that markets are efficient—that is, that current market prices already reflect all available information.
  • Investing using moving average, or any technique requires an investment account with a stockbroker.
  • Looking at the graph above, we can see that when the price surpasses the SMA line, the prices often trend upward for some time.
  • It is called a “moving” average because it is continually recalculated based on the latest price data.

We have all learnt about averages in school, moving average is just an extension of that. Moving averages are trend indicators and are frequently used due to their simplicity and effectiveness. Before we learn moving averages, let us have a quick recap on how averages are calculated.

This is considered a bearish signal, indicating that further losses are in store. The golden cross occurs when a short-term SMA breaks above a long-term SMA. Reinforced by high trading volumes, this can signal further gains are in store.

If you rarely hold a stock for more than 10 trading days, for example, the 20- or even 10-day SMA may give you good insights into how a stock’s price has been moving recently. If you’re more of a “position” trader—that is, someone willing to hold a stock for up to a year—the 200-day SMA is going to give you a better sense of a stock’s long-term price pattern. The main difference between the two technical indicators is the sensitivity that they place on price changes.


To create an SMA crossover system, start by choosing a time horizon. For example, an intermediate-term approach could include 20-day and 50-day moving averages. When the shorter average (the 20-day MA in this case) crosses above the longer average, that often signals a stronger likelihood of an uptrend. A simple moving average is customizable because it can be calculated for different numbers of time periods. In the above example, the calculation of the moving average is based on the closing prices.