Oscillators

Oscillators

The oscillators are extremely useful in nontrending markets where prices fluctuate in a horizontal price band, or trading range, creating a market situation where most trend-following systems simply don’t work that well. The oscillators provides the technical trader with tool that can enable him or her to profit from these periodic sideways and trendless market environments.

The value of the oscillators are not limited to horizontal trading ranges, however. Used in conjunction with price charts during trending phases, the oscillators becomes an extremely valuable ally by alerting the trader to short term market extremes, commonly referred to as overbought or oversold conditions. The oscillator can also warn that a trend is losing momentum before that situation becomes evident in the price action itself. Oscillators can signal that a trend may be nearing completion by displaying certain divergences.

The oscillators are plotted along the bottom of the price chart and resemble a flat horizontal band. The oscillator band is basically flat while prices may be trending up and down or sideways. However the peaks and troughs in the oscillator coincide with the peaks and troughs on the price chart. Some oscillators have a midpoint value that divides the horizontal range into two halves, an upper and a lower. Depending on the formula used, this midpoint line is usually the zero line. Some oscillators also have upper and lower boundaries ranging 0 to 100.

As a general rule, when the oscillator reaches an extreme value in either the upper or lower end of the band, this suggests that the current price move may have gone too far too fast and is due for a correction or consolidation of some type. As another general rule, the trader should be buying when the oscillator line is in the lower end of the band and selling in the upper end. The crossing of the midpoint line is often used to generate buy and sell signals. We’ll see how these general rules are applied as we deal with the various types of oscillators.

Three most important uses for the oscillators

1-The oscillator is most useful when its value reaches an extreme reading near the upper or lower end of its boundaries. The market is said to be overbought when it is near the upper extreme and oversold when it is near the lower extreme. This warns that the price trend is overextended and vulnerable.

2-A divergence between the oscillator and the price action when the oscillator is in an extreme position is usually an important warning.

3-The crossing of the zero (or midpoint) line can give important trading signals in the direction of the price trend.

Momentum

The Momentum Technical Indicator measures the amount that a security’s price has changed over a given time span. It is the most basic application of oscillator analysis. It measures the velocity of price changes as opposed to the actual price levels themselves. The formula for momentum is:

                                                                      M = V – Vx

Where V is the latest closing price and Vx is the closing price x days ago.

There are basically two ways to use the Momentum indicator:

  • You can use the Momentum indicator as a trend-following oscillator similar to the macd. Buy when the indicator bottoms and turns up and sell when the indicator peaks and turns down. You may want to plot a short-term moving average of the indicator to determine when it is bottoming or peaking.

If the Momentum indicator reaches extremely high or low values (relative to its historical values), you should assume a continuation of the current trend. For example, if the Momentum indicator reaches extremely high values and then turns down, you should assume prices will probably go still higher. In either case, only trade after prices confirm the signal generated by the indicator (e.g., if prices peak and turn down, wait for prices to begin to fall before selling).

  • You can also use the Momentum indicator as a leading indicator. This method assumes that market tops are typically identified by a rapid price increase (when everyone expects prices to go higher) and that market bottoms typically end with rapid price declines (when everyone wants to get out). This is often the case, but it is also a broad generalization.

As a market peaks, the Momentum indicator will climb sharply and then fall off — diverging from the continued upward or sideways movement of the price. Similarly, at a market bottom, Momentum will drop sharply and then begin to climb well ahead of prices. Both of these situations result in divergences between the indicator and prices.

 

How to Use Stochastic

The Stochastic is another indicator that helps us determine where a trend might be ending.

By definition, a Stochastic is an oscillator that measures overbought and oversold conditions in the market. The 2 lines are similar to the MACD lines in the sense that one line is faster than the other.


How to Trade Using the Stochastic

As we said earlier, the Stochastic tells us when the market is overbought or oversold. The Stochastic is scaled from 0 to 100.

When the Stochastic lines are above 80 (the red dotted line in the chart above), then it means the market is overbought. When the Stochastic lines are below 20 (the blue dotted line), then it means that the market is oversold.

As a rule of thumb, we buy when the market is oversold, and we sell when the market is overbought.

Looking at the chart above, you can see that the Stochastic has been showing overbought conditions for quite some time. Based on this information, can you guess where the price might go?

If you said the price would drop, then you are absolutely correct! Because the market was overbought for such a long period of time, a reversal was bound to happen.

That is the basics of the Stochastic. Many traders use the Stochastic in different ways, but the main purpose of the indicator is to show us where the market conditions could be overbought or oversold.

Over time, you will learn to use the Stochastic to fit your own personal trading style.

Okay, let’s move on to RSI.

 

How to Use RSI (Relative Strength Index)

Relative Strength Index, or RSI, is similar to the stochastic in that it identifies overbought and oversold conditions in the market. It is also scaled from 0 to 100. Typically, readings below 30 indicate oversold, while readings over 70 indicate overbought.

How to Trade Using RSI

RSI can be used just like the stochastic. We can use it to pick potential tops and bottoms depending on whether the market is overbought or oversold.

Below is a 4-hour chart of EUR/USD.

EUR/USD had been dropping the week, falling about 400 pips over the course of two weeks.

On June 7, it was already trading below the 1.2000 handle. However, RSI dropped below 30, signalling that there might be no more sellers left in the market and that the move could be over. Price then reversed and headed back up over the next couple of weeks.

Determining the Trend using RSI

RSI is a very popular tool because it can also be used to confirm trend formations. If you think a trend is forming, take a quick look at the RSI and look at whether it is above or below 50.

If you are looking at a possible uptrend, then make sure the RSI is above 50. If you are looking at a possible downtrend, then make sure the RSI is below 50.

In the beginning of the chart above, we can see that a possible downtrend was forming. To avoid fake outs, we can wait for RSI to cross below 50 to confirm our trend. Sure enough, as RSI passes below 50, it is a good confirmation that a downtrend has actually formed.

How to Use ADX (Average Directional Index)

The Average Directional Index, or ADX for short, is another example of an oscillator. It fluctuates from 0 to 100, with readings below 20 indicating a weak trend and readings above 50 signaling a strong trend.

Unlike the stochastic, ADX doesn’t determine whether the trend is bullish or bearish. Rather, it merely measures the strength of the current trend. Because of that, ADX is typically used to identify whether the market is ranging or starting a new trend.

Take a look at these neat charts we’ve pulled up:


In this first example, ADX lingered below 20 from late September until early December. As you can see from the chart, EUR/CHF was stuck inside a range during that time. Beginning in January though, ADX started to climb above 50, signaling that a strong trend could be waiting in the wings.

And would you look at that! EUR/CHF broke below the bottom of the range and went on a strong downtrend. Ooh, that’d be around 400 pips in the bag.

Book it, baby!

Now, let’s look at this next example:

Just like in our first example, ADX hovered below 20 for quite a while. At that time, EUR/CHF was also ranging. Soon enough, ADX rose above 50 and EUR/CHF broke above the top of its range.

A strong uptrend took place. That’d be 300 pips, signed, sealed, and delivered!

Looks simple enough, right?

If there’s one problem with using ADX, it’s that it doesn’t exactly tell you whether it’s a buy or a sell. What it does tell you is whether it’d be okay to jump in an ongoing trend or not.

Once ADX starts dropping below 50 again, it could mean that the uptrend or downtrend is starting to weaken and that it might be a good time to lock in profits.

How to Trade Using ADX

One way to trade using ADX is to wait for breakouts first before deciding to go long or short. ADX can be used as confirmation whether the pair could possibly continue in its current trend or not.

Another way is to combine ADX with another indicator, particularly one that identifies whether the pair is headed downwards or upwards.

ADX can also be used to determine when one should close a trade early.

For instance, when ADX starts to slide below 50, it indicates that the current trend is losing steam. From then, the pair could possibly move sideways, so you might want to lock in those pips before that happens.

Ichimoku Kinko Hyo

Yes, you’re still in the right place. You’re still in the School of Pipsology and not in some Japanese pop fan girl site (although Huck may disagree with the rest of the FX-Men on that). No, “Ichimoku Kinko Hyo” ain’t Japanese for “May the pips be with you.” but it can help you grab those pips nonetheless.

Ichimoku Kinko Hyo (IKH) is an indicator that gauges future price momentum and determines future areas of support and resistance. Now that’s 3-in-1 for y’all! Also know that this indicator is mainly used on JPY pairs.

To add to your Japanese vocab, the word ichimoku translates to “a glance”, kinko means “equilibrium”, while hyo is Japanese for “chart.” Putting that all together, the phrase ichimoku kinko hyo stands for “a glance at a chart in equilibrium.” Huh, what does all that mean?

A chart might make things easier to explain…

 

Whoops. That didn’t help. A few more lines and this’ll resemble a seismograph.

Before you go off and call this gibberish, let’s try to find out what each of the lines is for.

Kijun Sen (blue line): Also called standard line or base line, this is calculated by averaging the highest high and the lowest low for the past 26 periods.

Tenkan Sen (red line): This is also known as the turning line and is derived by averaging the highest high and the lowest low for the past nine periods.

Chikou Span (green line): This is called the lagging line. It is today’s closing price plotted 26 periods behind.

Senkou Span (orange lines): The first Senkou line is calculated by averaging the Tenkan Sen and the Kijun Sen and plotted 26 periods ahead. The second Senkou line is determined by averaging the highest high and the lowest low for the past 52 periods and plotted 26 periods ahead.

Got it? Well, it’s not really necessary for you to memorize how each of the lines is computed. What’s more important is for you to know how to interpret these fancy lines.

How to Trade Using Ichimoku Kinyo Hyo

Let’s take a look at the Senkou span first.

If the price is above the Senkou span, the top line serves as the first support level while the bottom line serves as the second support level.

If the price is below the Senkou span, the bottom line forms the first resistance level while the top line is the second resistance level. Got it?

Meanwhile, the Kijun Sen acts as an indicator of future price movement. If the price is higher than the blue line, it could continue to climb higher. If the price is below the blue line, it could keep dropping.

The Tenkan Sen is an indicator of the market trend. If the red line is moving up or down, it indicates that the market is trending. If it moves horizontally, it signals that the market is ranging.

Lastly, if the Chikou Span or the green line crosses the price in the bottom-up direction, that’s a buy signal. If the green line crosses the price from the top-down, that’s a sell signal.

Here’s that line-filled chart once more, this time with the trade signals:

It sure looks complicated at first but this baby’s got support and resistance levels, crossovers, oscillators, and trend indicators all in one go! Amazing, right?

Okey dokey, we’ve already covered a smorgasbord of indicators. Let’s see how we can put all of what you just learned together…

Trading with Multiple Chart Indicators

Now that you know how some of the most common chart indicators work, you’re ready to get down and dirty with some examples. Better yet, let’s combine some of these indicators and see how their trade signals pan out.

In a perfect world, we could take just one of these indicators and trade strictly by what that indicator told us. The problem is that we DON’T live in a perfect world, and each of these indicators has imperfections.

That is why many traders combine different indicators together so that they can “screen” each other. They might have 3 different indicators and they won’t trade unless all 3 indicators give them the same signal.

In this first example, we’ve got the Bollinger bands and the Stochastic on EUR/USD’s 4-hour chart. Since the market seems to be ranging or moving sideways, we’d better watch out for the Bollinger bounce.

Check out that those sell signals from the Bollinger bands and the Stochastic. EUR/USD climbed until the top of the band, which usually acts as a resistance level.

At the same time, the Stochastic reached the overbought area, suggesting that the price could drop down soon.

And what happened next?

EUR/USD fell by around 300 pips and you would’ve made a hefty profit if you took that short trade.

Later on, the price made contact with the bottom of the band, which usually serves as a support level. This means that the pair could bounce up from there. With the Stochastic in the oversold area, it means we should go long.

If you took that trade, you would have gotten around 400 pips! Not bad!

Here’s another example, with the RSI and the MACD this time.

 

When the RSI reached the overbought area and gave a sell signal, the MACD soon followed with a downward crossover, which is also a sell signal. And, as you can see, the price did move downhill from there.

Hooray for multiple indicators!

Later on, the RSI dipped to the oversold region and gave a buy signal. A few hours after, the MACD made an upward crossover, which is also a buy signal. From there, the price made a steady climb. More pips for us, yipee!

You probably noticed in this example that the RSI gives signals ahead of the MACD. Because of the various properties and magic formulas for the technical indicators, some really do give early signals while others are a bit delayed.

You’ll learn more about this in sixth grade.

As you continue your journey as a trader, you will discover which indicators work best for you. We can tell you that we like using MACD, the Stochastic, and RSI, but you might have a different preference.

Every trader out there has tried to find the “magic combination” of indicators that will give them the right signals all the time, but the truth is that there is no such thing.

We urge you to study each indicator on its own until you know the tendencies of how it behaves relative to price movement, and then come up with your own combination that you understand and that fits your trading style.

Leading vs. Lagging Indicators

We’ve already covered a lot of tools that can help you analyze potential trending and range bound trade opportunities. Still doing great so far? Awesome! Let’s move on.

In this lesson, we’re going to streamline your use of these chart indicators.

We want you to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, so you’ll be able to determine which ones work for you and which ones don’t.

Let’s discuss some concepts first. There are two types of indicators: leading and lagging.

A leading indicator gives a signal before the new trend or reversal occurs.

A lagging indicator gives a signal after the trend has started and basically informs you “Hey buddy, pay attention, the trend has started and you’re missing the boat.”

You’re probably thinking, “Ooooh, I’m going to get rich with leading indicators!” since you would be able to profit from a new trend right at the start.

You’re right.

You would “catch” the entire trend every single time, IF the leading indicator was correct every single time. But it won’t be.

When you use leading indicators, you will experience a lot of fakeouts. Leading indicators are notorious for giving bogus signals which could “mislead” you.

Get it? Leading indicators that “mislead” you?

Haha. Man we’re so funny we even crack ourselves up.

The other option is to use lagging indicators, which aren’t as prone to bogus signals.

Lagging indicators only give signals after the price change is clearly forming a trend. The downside is that you’d be a little late in entering a position.

Often the biggest gains of a trend occur in the first few bars, so by using a lagging indicator you could potentially miss out on much of the profit. And that sucks.

It’s kinda like wearing bell-bottoms in the 1980s and thinking you’re so cool and hip with fashion….

For the purpose of this lesson, let’s broadly categorize all of our technical indicators into one of two categories:

  1. Leading indicators or oscillators
  2. Lagging, trend-following, or momentum indicators

While the two can be supportive of each other, they’re more likely to conflict with each other. We’re not saying that one or the other should be used exclusively, but you must understand the potential pitfalls of each.

 

How to Use Oscillators to Warn You of the End of a Trend

An oscillator is any object or data that moves back and forth between two points.

In other words, it’s an item that is going to always fall somewhere between point A and point B. Think of when you hit the oscillating switch on your electric fan.

Think of our technical indicators as either being “on” or “off”. More specifically, an oscillator will usually signal “buy” or “sell”, with the only exception being instances when the oscillator is not clearly at either end of the buy/sell range.

Does this sound familiar? It should!

The Stochastic, Parabolic SAR, and Relative Strength Index (RSI) are all oscillators. Each of these indicators is designed to signal a possible reversal, where the previous trend has run its course and the price is ready to change direction.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

We’ve slapped on all three oscillators on GBP/USD’s daily chart shown below. Remember when we discussed how to work the Stochastic, Parabolic SAR, and RSI?

If you don’t, we’re sending you back to fifth grade!

Anyway, as you can see on the chart, all three indicators gave buy signals towards the end of December. Taking that trade would’ve yielded around 400 pips in gains. Ka-ching!

 

Then, during the third week of January, the Stochastic, Parabolic SAR, and RSI all gave sell signals. And, judging from that long 3-month drop afterwards, you would’ve made a whole lot of pips if you took that short trade.

Around mid-April, all three oscillators gave another sell signal, after which the price made another sharp dive.

Now let’s take a look at the same leading oscillators messing up, just so you know these signals aren’t perfect.

In the chart below, you can see that the indicators could give conflicting signals.

For instance, the Parabolic SAR gave a sell signal in mid-February while the Stochastic showed the exact opposite signal. Which one should you follow?

Well, the RSI seems to be just as undecided as you are since it didn’t give any buy or sell signals at that time.

 

Looking at the chart above, you can quickly see that there were a lot of false signals popping up.

During the second week of April, both the Stochastic and the RSI gave sell signals while the Parabolic SAR didn’t give one. The price kept climbing from there and you could’ve lost a bunch of pips if you entered a short trade right away.

You would’ve had another loss around the middle of May if you acted on those buy signals from the Stochastic and RSI and simply ignored the sell signal from the Parabolic SAR.

What happened to such a good set of indicators?

The answer lies in the method of calculation for each one.

Stochastic is based on the high-to-low range of the time period (in this case, it’s hourly), yet doesn’t account for changes from one hour to the next.

The Relative Strength Index (RSI) uses the change from one closing price to the next.

Parabolic SAR has its own unique calculations that can further cause conflict.

That’s the nature of oscillators. They assume that a particular price movement always results in the same reversal. Of course, that’s hogwash.

While being aware of why a leading indicator may be wrong, there’s no way to avoid them.

If you’re getting mixed signals, you’re better off doing nothing than taking a “best guess”. If a chart doesn’t meet all your criteria, don’t force the trade!

Move on to the next one that does meet your criteria.