3 key elements of the MACD explained in details

MACD indicator explained

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence, MACD in short, is an indicator that helps to identify the trend and its strength, and the likelihood of the trend reversal. It has three components. The MACD line, the signal line, and the MACD histogram. In spoken language, it is pronounced as MAKDI, instead of spelling each letter separately.

Elements of MACD indicator
Elements of the MACD indicator

The first component: the MACD line

This line represents the distance between two Exponential Moving Averages, one with a period of 12 and the other 26. Whenever the MACD reaches the zero level, there is no difference between EMAs.

MACD line crosses zero line when EMA 12 crosses over EMA 26
The MACD line crosses zero lines when the EMA 12 crosses over the EMA 26

When the gap between two EMAs occurs, the MACD line runs away from the zero lines. The bigger the difference, the further the MACD line goes.

MACD is getting closer to zero line when EMA 12 and EMA 26 are getting closer
The MACD is getting closer to the zero lines when the EMA 12 and the EMA 26 are getting closer

The second component: the signal line

This is nothing more like a smooth MACD. With default settings, it is calculated from the 9 previous periods’ average value.

Signal line of MACD indicator
The signal line of the MACD indicator

The signal line is a slow version of the MACD line. It is a slow-motion moving average that is periodically intersected by the faster MACD.

The third component: the MACD histogram

The MACD histogram illustrates how far are the MACD and the signal lines from each other. When they cross, there are no visible bars. Otherwise, the bars are getting longer when the MACD line and its average (the signal line) increase the distance between them. The other thing is that the bars change polarity. There will form above the zero levels when the price is going up, and they will form below zero when the price falls.

MACD histogram shows the difference between MACD line and its average (signal line)
The MACD histogram shows the difference between the MACD line and its average (the signal line)
Most common MACD settings
Most common MACD settings

The configuration of the MACD indicator

To set the MACD indicator-up you have to click on the indicators feature and scroll the list down. The MACD will be among oscillators. By clicking the pen icon in the indicator’s window you can adjust its settings. You can modify the color and the thickness of all three oscillator components. Moreover, there is a setting to change the period of the MACD line and the signal line.

The general interpretation

The basic rule is to observe two lines of the indicator and the points where they cross each other. When the signal line cuts the MACD line on the way up, it suggests the prices will increase. In the opposite situation, when the signal line cuts the MACD line on the way down, you can expect the prices to fall.

This is the general interpretation of the MACD indicator. It is simple, yet efficient. And this is its greatest advantage. You may be also interested in reading the guide about strategy which combines MACD, EMA, and Parabolic SAR.

How to read MACD indicator
How to read the MACD indicator

I recommend trading with the MACD on the free Olymp Trade practice account. Once you get hold of it and feel like you can take the risk, you can move to the real account.

Do not hesitate to share your experience with us. You will find the comments section below.

Wish you good luck!

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Bart Bregman

Full time day trading, and helping out with Olymp Trade wiki in my spare time to create an awesome platform for beginners. I'm a digital nomad that travels the world while working from everywhere!

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