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Are you a novice investor looking to navigate the complex world of stock trading? Or perhaps you're a seasoned trader seeking a new strategy to enhance your portfolio's performance. In either case, mastering the art of using moving averages can be a game-changer in your investment journey. Utilizing moving averages as part of your stock buying strategy can provide valuable insights into market trends, helping you make informed decisions and potentially boost your returns.

This article will delve into the fascinating world of moving averages and their application in stock trading. Whether you're aiming for short-term gains or long-term growth, understanding how to effectively use moving averages can give you an edge in the competitive landscape of stock investing. So, buckle up as we embark on an enlightening exploration of harnessing moving averages to optimize your stock-buying endeavors!

What is a Moving Average?

The moving average (MA) is a straightforward tool used in technical analysis to reduce the impact of price fluctuations by calculating a continuously updated average price. This calculation is based on a designated time frame, such as 10 days, 20 minutes, or 30 weeks, chosen by the trader. Incorporating a moving average into your trading strategy offers benefits and allows for flexibility in selecting the most suitable type of moving average.

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Why Use a Moving Average?

Utilizing a moving average can effectively reduce the impact of market noise on a price chart. By observing the direction of the moving average, one can gain a basic understanding of the price movement. An upward angle indicates an overall upward price movement, while a downward angle suggests an overall downward trend. Conversely, a sideways angle often indicates that the price is within a range. Additionally, a moving average can serve as either support or resistance. 

In an uptrend, moving averages such as the 50-day, 100-day, or 200-day may function as support levels, providing a floor for prices to bounce off of. Conversely, in a downtrend, these same moving averages may act as resistance levels where prices hit and subsequently decline again.

The moving average does not always dictate the price movement. It is possible for the price to either breach or halt and reverse before reaching it. In general, when the price is higher than a moving average, it suggests an upward trend; conversely, when the price is lower than a moving average, it indicates a downward trend. However, varying lengths of moving averages can result in conflicting indications of uptrends and downtrends.

How to Use a Moving Average to Buy Stocks?

1. Calculate the Moving Average: Choose a time period (e.g., 50 days) and calculate the average closing price of the stock over that period.

2. Monitor the Stock Price: Keep track of the stock's daily closing prices.

3. Identify Crossovers: Watch for instances where the stock price crosses above or below the moving average line.

4. Buy Signal: A crossover with the stock price rising above the moving average can be a buy signal, indicating potential upward momentum.

5. Confirmation: Consider other indicators or factors to confirm the buy signal before making a decision to purchase stocks.

Types of Moving Averages

There are various methods for calculating a moving average. For example, a five-day Simple Moving Average (SMA) involves summing up the five most recent daily closing prices and dividing by five to create a new average each day. These averages are then connected to form a continuous line. 

Another widely used type is the Exponential Moving Average (EMA), which applies greater weight to recent prices, resulting in quicker reactions to price changes compared to SMA. 

Charting software and trading platforms handle these calculations automatically, eliminating the need for manual math.

It's important to note that neither type of moving average is inherently superior; an EMA may outperform an SMA in certain market conditions, while at other times, an SMA may be more effective. Additionally, the chosen time frame for a moving average will significantly impact its effectiveness regardless of type.

Moving Average Length

Moving averages are commonly used in various lengths such as 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. These lengths can be applied to different chart time frames like one minute, daily, or weekly based on the trader's time horizon. The chosen time frame for a moving average, known as the look-back period, significantly impacts its effectiveness. 

A shorter look-back period results in a moving average that reacts more quickly to price changes compared to a longer look-back period. For instance, in the illustration below, the 20-day moving average closely mirrors the actual price movements while the 100-day moving average lags behind.

The 20-day moving average is advantageous for short-term traders as it closely tracks the price, resulting in less delay compared to longer-term moving averages. On the other hand, a 100-day moving average is more beneficial for long-term traders. Lag refers to the time it takes for a moving average to indicate a potential reversal. It's important to remember that generally when the price is above a moving average, the trend is considered upward. 

Therefore, when the price falls below that moving average, it indicates a potential reversal based on that particular moving average. A 20-day moving average will generate many more reversal signals than a 100-day moving average. Moving averages can have varying lengths such as 15, 28, or 89. Adjusting the length of the moving average to provide more accurate signals based on historical data can improve future signals significantly.

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Moving Average Trading Strategies Crossovers

Moving averages are a key component of crossover strategies. 

The first type involves price crossovers, where the price intersects with a moving average to indicate a potential change in trend. Another approach is to use two different moving averages on a chart: one long-term and one short-term. A buy signal occurs when the short-term moving average crosses above the long-term moving average, signaling an upward shift in trend, known as a golden cross. 

Conversely, a sell signal occurs when the short-term moving average crosses below the long-term moving average, indicating a downward shift in trend, referred to as a death cross.

Moving Average Disadvantages

Moving averages are derived from historical data and do not have any predictive qualities. As a result, the use of moving averages can yield random outcomes.

Occasionally, the market appears to acknowledge support, resistance, and trade signals provided by moving averages, while at other times it disregards these indicators.

A significant challenge arises when price movements become erratic, leading to frequent trend reversals or trade signals. During such periods, it is advisable to either step back or employ an alternative indicator to clarify the prevailing trend.

Similar issues can arise with moving average crossovers when the moving averages become entangled for a prolonged period, resulting in numerous unsuccessful trades. While moving averages perform effectively in strong trending scenarios, they are less reliable in choppy or ranging conditions. Temporarily addressing this issue can be achieved by adjusting the time frame; however, regardless of the chosen time frame for the moving average(s), these challenges are likely to surface at some point.


Utilizing a moving average involves smoothing out price data to create a single continuous line, making it easier to identify trends. Exponential moving averages are more responsive to price fluctuations compared to simple moving averages, which can be advantageous in some situations but may also lead to false signals. Shorter look-back periods, such as 20 days, result in faster responses to price changes than longer look-back periods like 200 days. Moving average crossovers are widely used for both entry and exit points, and these averages can also indicate potential support or resistance levels. 

Despite the appearance of predictiveness, moving averages are solely based on historical data and represent the average price over a specific time frame. To engage in investing with moving averages or any other method, an investment account with a stockbroker is required. Investopedia's compilation of the best online brokers is an excellent starting point for identifying the most suitable broker for your needs.

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