How to Trade the MACD Formula and Examples

How to Trade the MACD: Formula and Examples

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In financial markets, understanding technical indicators is essential to a successful strategy. One such tool has gained wide popularity among professionals and beginners alike. MACD indicator is a powerful tool for trend analysis and decision-making in financial markets.

In this article, we will dive into the world of MACD, review its formula, and give examples of its use. You will learn how this indicator works, what signals it can provide, and what trading strategies you can build on its basis. It doesn’t depend on your experience level – whether you’re a beginner or an experienced trader. Knowledge of trading the MACD will give you a valuable advantage when making decisions in the financial markets.

This material will be a reliable guide for those seeking to understand and utilize this method in their trading strategy. Let’s begin our dive into the world of this powerful indicator and learn how it can help you achieve financial success.

MACD indicator is one of the most popular technical indicators in the world of financial markets. Gerald Appel developed it in the late 1970s, and has since become an integral part of the arsenal of traders and investors. It analyzes asset price movements and helps identify potential market entry and exit points. Let’s take a closer look at what MACD is. We will learn how it is constructed, how to interpret it, and what practical applications this indicator has.

MACD relies on two moving averages and the difference between them:

  • The fast (EMA) is the average price of an asset over a short period of time. 12 periods are usually used, but this value can vary depending on the trader’s preference.
  • A slow (EMA) is the average price of an asset over a more extended period of time. Here, 26 periods are most commonly used.
  • The signal line is an exponential moving average of the difference between the fast and slow EMA. It helps to smooth out MACD fluctuations and makes it smoother and easier to analyze. Usually, 9 periods are generally used for the signal line.

MACD Formula

MACD Formula

The MACD formula includes several steps to calculate its key components: fast line, slow line, and signal line. Let’s understand these steps.

  1. Calculating the exponential moving average (EMA) for the fast MACD line (EMA12):
    • Choose a time (usually 12 bars) for the MACD fast line.
    • Calculate the EMA for this period, starting from the earliest bar and moving towards the latest bar.
  2. Calculation of EMA for the MACD slow line (EMA26):
    • Choose a period (usually 26 bars) for the MACD slow line.
    • Calculate the EMA for this period, starting from the earliest bar and moving towards the latest bar.
  3. Calculation of the MACD fast line:
    • After calculating EMA12 and EMA26, subtract EMA26 from EMA12.
    • The resulting value represents the MACD fast line.
  4. Calculation of the Signal Line:
    • Choose a time period for the signal line (usually 9 bars).
    • Calculate the EMA for the MACD fast line using the chosen period.
    • This value will represent the MACD signal line.


MACD = 12-period EMA – 26-period EMA

  • Now that you have the MACD fast and signal lines, you can analyze the trend and make trading decisions. When the fast line crosses the signal line upwards, it can signal a possible buy. And when the fast line crosses the down signal line, it can signal a possible sale.

Different Types of MACD Strategies

Different Types of MACD Strategies

Using MACD indicator is a great solution for most cases in trading. There are several different trading strategies that people use to predict market movements. The MACD indicator, based on the difference between two moving averages and a smoothed signal line, allows you to identify crossovers and divergences, which are considered signals for the trader. Example strategies, such as the MACD crossover strategy, help you understand how you can put this indicator into practice. But, it is essential to remember that successful trading using MACD requires understanding the market. Individuals must consider market context, time horizon, and additional factors. These may include support and resistance levels, trading volume, and fundamental data.

Crossover Strategy

This is one of the most popular solutions based on the crossover of the trading the MACD line and the signal line. When the crosses above the signal line, it may signal a buy (bullish trend), and when the crosses below the signal line, it may signal a sell (bearish trend).

Histogram Divergence Strategy

Here, traders look for divergences between the MACD histogram and prices. If prices make a new high, and the MACD histogram fails to confirm this new high, it may indicate a potential trend reversal.

Centerline Crossover Strategy

This strategy uses the crossover of MACD with its centerline (zero line) as a signal for entry or exit. When the MACD crosses the centerline from above to below, it may signal a sell and vice versa.

Double Crossover Strategy

This strategy utilizes two lines: the fast and the slow MACD. Signals are generated when both lines cross each other. For example, if the fast MACD crosses the slow MACD from below to above, it might be a buy signal.

Trend Following Strategy

In this case, traders use the MACD to determine the overall market trend and enter trades in the direction of that trend. For instance, if the MACD is above the zero line, it may indicate a bullish trend, and traders may look for buying opportunities.

As you can see, there are several trading the MACD strategies. Unfortunately, it is impossible to choose the most effective one. Each of them is useful in some instances.

Drawbacks of MACD

It is a powerful tool for technical analysis and market decision-making, but it also has some drawbacks that are important to be aware of. Below, we will consider the following:

  • Lagging Indicator

One of the primary drawbacks of trading the MACD is its lagging nature. Since MACD bases on moving averages, it reacts to price changes with a delay. This means that MACD signals may come with a lag, and traders may miss out on part of the market’s movement.

  • False Signals

MACD can sometimes generate false signals, especially during sideways market movements. This can lead to unnecessary trades and losses.

  • Sensitivity to Parameters

MACD has two parameters – the fast and slow-moving averages. The choice of these parameters can affect the nature of the signals, and incorrect settings can result in unreliable results.

  • Not Suitable for All Markets and Timeframes

MACD may work well in specific markets and timeframes but is unsuitable for all situations. For example, in low-volatility markets, its signals may be less accurate.

  • Does Not Consider Trading Volume

MACD does not take into account trading volume, which can be an essential factor in market analysis. In some situations, volume can provide significant clues about price direction.

  • Inadequate for Predicting Sharp Changes

MACD often fails to predict sudden and unexpected market changes, such as news events or events that can impact prices.

  • Need for Additional Confirmation

It is advisable to use MACD in conjunction with other indicators or analysis methods to enhance signal reliability. Relying solely on MACD may not be sufficient for decision-making.

  • Dependent on Market Conditions

MACD may work well in specific market conditions and poorly in others. Traders should be prepared to adapt their strategies depending on the current market situation.

Trading the MACD is one of the best solutions. There are disadvantages, but they are insignificant and do not override the advantages of this method. Moreover, the combination with other solutions will bring even more benefits.

Example of a MACD Trading Strategy

Example of a MACD Trading Strategy

As an example of a trading strategy using the MACD indicator, let’s consider the crossover strategy, which is one of the most common and understandable. It is basing on the intersection of two lines – a fast line, a slow line – and a signal line. It suggests that when the fast MACD line crosses the slow one from bottom to top, it may signal the potential start of a bullish trend. A trader may then consider opening a buy position. Conversely, when the fast MACD line crosses the slow one from top to bottom, this may signal the potential start of a bearish (downtrend). In this case, a trader may consider opening a sell position.

Indicator Setup

At the outset, the trader sets up the MACD indicator, choosing periods for the fast and slow-moving averages as well as the period for the signal line. For example, one can use periods of 12, 26, and 9, respectively.

Crossover Analysis

The trader monitors the price chart and the MACD indicator. When the fast line crosses the slow MACD line from bottom to top, you can consider it a buy signal. When the line crosses the smoothed MACD line from top to bottom, it is considered a sell signal.


It’s a good practice to use additional tools or confirmation signals to validate the trade. Traders can consider support and resistance levels, candlestick patterns, and other factors.

Risk Management

Traders must also manage their risks. For example, set stop-loss levels and position size to reduce potential losses.

Exiting the Position 

Once a trader enters a position, they should monitor the market’s further development. Typically, exiting a position occurs upon the reverse crossover of the MACD lines or when a target profit level reached.

This is just one of the many trading the MACD strategies. Each trader can customize this indicator and adapt the strategy to their own style and market conditions. However, it is important to remember that no single strategy is a guarantee of success. Traders must conduct a thorough analysis and consider risks when making decisions.


Using the MACD indicator in trading is an essential and powerful tool for traders and investors. It provides information on price dynamics and helps to identify market trends. It also allows you to make informed decisions about entering and exiting trades. Also, no indicator guarantees 100% successful trades, and traders should always be ready for possible losses. Continuous learning, adapting the strategy, and analyzing the results will help to improve trading skills using MACD. It will also increase the chances of successful investing in the financial markets. Ultimately, trading the MACD requires experience and patience but can be a powerful tool for achieving financial goals.


The best way to trade MACD is by using it in combination with other technical indicators and analysis methods to confirm signals and consider the overall market context.

The numbers 12 and 26 in MACD settings are based on historical trading days in a month (12) and two months (26), aligning with standard market calendars.

Yes, professional traders often use MACD as part of their technical analysis toolkit. It provides valuable insights into market trends and potential reversals.

Yes, MACD strategies can be effective, but their success depends on various factors. These are market conditions, proper parameter settings and risk management.

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