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What are Moving Averages?

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

What are Moving Averages?

Moving averages are one of the most popular and widely used technical indicators in trading. They help traders to identify trends, spot potential trend reversals, and define areas of support and resistance. In this article, we will discuss what moving averages are, the different types, and how to use them effectively in trading.

Types of Moving Averages

There are two main types of moving averages:

  1. Simple Moving Average (SMA): The SMA is calculated by adding the closing prices of a security over a specified period and then dividing the sum by the number of periods. This type of moving average gives equal weight to all data points, making it less responsive to recent price changes.

  2. Exponential Moving Average (EMA): The EMA gives more weight to recent price data, making it more responsive to price changes. This can be advantageous for traders who want to identify short-term trends and react quickly to changes in the market.

Calculating Moving Averages

Simple Moving Average Calculation:

To calculate the SMA, follow these steps:

a. Add the closing prices of the security for the specified period (e.g., 20 days).

b. Divide the sum by the number of periods.

Exponential Moving Average Calculation:

To calculate the EMA, use the following formula:

EMA = (Current Price - Previous EMA) * (2 / (N + 1)) + Previous EMA


  • Current Price is the closing price of the security

  • Previous EMA is the EMA of the previous period

  • N is the number of periods

How to use Moving Averages in Trading

  1. Identifying Trends: Moving averages can help traders identify the direction of a trend. When the price is above the moving average, it indicates an uptrend, and when it's below the moving average, it suggests a downtrend.

  2. Support and Resistance: Moving averages can act as dynamic support and resistance levels. In an uptrend, the moving average may provide a level of support where the price could bounce back up. In a downtrend, the moving average may act as resistance, making it difficult for the price to rise above it.

  3. Moving Average Crossovers: A moving average crossover occurs when a shorter-term moving average crosses above or below a longer-term moving average. This can signal a potential trend change and provide a trading opportunity.

What are the Best Moving Average Timeframes

  1. Short-term Moving Averages: These include 5, 10, or 20-day moving averages, which are more sensitive to price fluctuations and can help identify short-term trends.

  2. Medium-term Moving Averages: Medium-term moving averages, such as the 50 or 100-day moving averages, can provide insights into intermediate-term trends.

  3. Long-term Moving Averages: Long-term moving averages, like the 200-day moving average, are used to determine the primary trend of a security or market.

EMA vs SMA: Pros and Cons

  • EMA Pros: More responsive to recent price changes, better for short-term traders, and better at identifying trend reversals.

  • EMA Cons: More prone to false signals due to increased sensitivity to price fluctuations.

  • SMA Pros: Less prone to false signals and easier to understand for beginners.

  • SMA Cons: Less responsive to recent price changes and slower to identify trend reversals.

What is the Best Moving Average Strategy?

Here are some common moving average strategies;

  1. Moving Average Crossover Strategy: This strategy involves using two moving averages (one shorter-term and one longer-term) to generate buy and sell signals. A buy signal is generated when the shorter-term moving average crosses above the longer-term moving average, indicating a potential uptrend. A sell signal is generated when the shorter-term moving average crosses below the longer-term moving average, indicating a potential downtrend.

  2. Moving Average Ribbon Strategy: This strategy involves using multiple moving averages with different timeframes to identify trend strength and potential reversals. When all moving averages are aligned in an upward direction, it indicates a strong uptrend. Conversely, when all moving averages are aligned in a downward direction, it suggests a strong downtrend. A potential reversal may occur when the moving averages begin to converge or cross.

Tips for Using Moving Averages

  • Combine moving averages with other technical indicators to increase the accuracy of your trading signals.

  • Experiment with different timeframes to find the moving averages that work best for your trading style and goals.

  • Remember that moving averages are lagging indicators, so they may not always accurately predict future price movements.

Limitations and Pitfalls of Moving Averages

  • Moving averages can produce false signals, especially during periods of sideways or range-bound market conditions.

  • They are lagging indicators, which means they may not always provide timely signals.

  • Different traders may use different timeframes, leading to varying signals and interpretations.


Moving averages are versatile and widely used technical indicators that can help traders identify trends, support and resistance levels, and potential trend reversals. By understanding the differences between SMA and EMA, as well as incorporating other technical indicators and strategies, traders can enhance their decision-making process and improve their trading performance. If you want to learn about other indicators, click here.


What is the difference between SMA and EMA?

SMA gives equal weight to all data points, while EMA gives more weight to recent price data, making it more responsive to price changes.

How do I choose the right moving average timeframe?

The right time frame depends on your trading style and objectives. Short-term traders may prefer shorter timeframes, while longer-term investors may opt for longer timeframes.

Can I use moving averages for stocks, commodities, crypto, and forex?

Yes, moving averages can be applied to any financial instrument, including stocks, commodities, and forex.

Are moving averages foolproof?

No, moving averages can produce false signals, and they are lagging indicators. Combining them with other technical indicators and strategies can improve their accuracy.

Should I rely solely on moving averages for my trading decisions?

It's best to use moving averages in conjunction with other technical indicators and strategies to make more informed trading decisions.


About the Author

Spitty, the founder of Spitfire Traders, is a full-time crypto, forex, and stock trader with years of experience under his belt. His passion for trading led him to develop a successful career, and now, he is dedicated to sharing his knowledge with others as an educator. Spitty is a firm believer in confluence trading, focusing on technical analysis without relying on fundamentals or news events. He also steers clear of indicators and breakout strategies, emphasising the importance of price action and risk management.

As a seasoned trader, Spitty is committed to helping his students become consistently profitable full-time traders. Through Spitfire Traders, he offers a comprehensive course and mentorship program, providing the necessary tools and guidance for aspiring traders to succeed in the markets. With a no-nonsense approach to trading and a keen eye for spotting valuable opportunities, Spitty continues to inspire and support the next generation of traders on their journey towards financial freedom.


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