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MACD: A Lagging and Momentum Technical Indicator: Part I

Technical analysis is as much an art as it is a science. No one parameter, by itself, will allow us to make our buy/sell decisions. However, when all the indicators are used together, they paint a picture that is critical to maximizing our covered call success. A review of these indicators periodically can be a valuable reminder as to the significance and importance of these tools. One of the most simple and reliable of these parameters is the Moving Average Convergence Divergence, or MACD.


MACD is one of the most basic and effective “momentum” indicators that also serves as a trend-following indicator. So let’s call the MACD a trend-following momentum indicator. Momentum is defined as the rate of acceleration of a stock’s price and trend in an upward or downward direction. The MACD is formed by subtracting a longer-term exponential moving average (EMA) from a shorter-term EMA (which are trend following indicators). The resulting plot forms a line that oscillates above and below zero without any upper or lower limits.   So what does the MACD tell us?  In short, MACD gives us prior notice before two EMAs cross.  This notice can be used to discern bullish (buy) and bearish (sell) signals, as described in detail below.

MACD Formula (common example):

The stock’s 26-d EMA is subtracted from its 12-d EMA. The resulting line created by these price points is called the MACD. A 9-d EMA of the MACD itself is also plotted and acts as a “trigger line.” A 9-day EMA is used so we can get a quick reading on the potential changing momentum of an equity’s price. The subtraction of the trigger line from the MACD itself is the basis for the MACD Histogram, an even quicker indicator than the MACD ( to be detailed in next week’s blog). Let’s look at a chart (bottom quarter) which depicts these parameters:


The black arrow shows the MACD itself (black line); the red arrow shows the trigger line (red line); and the blue arrow points to the MACD Histogram (light blue bars). Note how the MACD oscillates above and below the zero line, which is also known as the “centerline.”

MACD- Bullish Signals

There are three types of bullish signals that can be detected from the MACD: (1) positive divergence; (2) bullish moving average crossover; and (3) bullish centerline crossover.

1- Positive Divergence– the MACD begins to advance while the security itself remains in a downtrend (Figure below):

Note how the green MACD trend lines are positive (below the green arrow on left), while the actual price of the security is in a downtrend , as evidenced by the downward sloping  (negative) red trend lines, which corresponds with a downward sloping 20-d EMA (blue line) . The green arrow also indicates a positive MACD histogram (blue bars are above zero).

2- Bullish moving average crossover (Figure below) – the actual MACD moves above its 9-d EMA (the trigger line).

MACD- Bullish Moving Average Crossover

Note how the red arrows depict the MACD (black line) crossing above the trigger line (red line), with the histogram (light blue bars) turning positive. The price of the stock then skyrockets (long red arrow). Whenever the MACD itself crosses the trigger (9-d EMA) the histogram will be positive (discussed next week).

3- Bullish Centerline Crossover (Figure below) – the MACD moves above the zero line (centerline) and into positive territory. This can be used as a confirmation of the positive divergence and bullish moving average crossover rather than choosing any one of the three.

Bullish Centerline Crossover

As the MACD (black line) moves above the zero line (red arrows), the stock heads north (blue arrows). Using a combination of these bullish signals can produce a more meaningful signal than using just one. I favor the MACD Histogram by itself as it is an earlier indicator of a price change and easily viewed on a chart. The three just described can serve as confirmation when evaluating stocks in more detail.

MACD- Bearish Signals

  • Negative Divergence- MACD declines as security moves sideways or up.
  • Bearish Moving Average Crossover- MACD declines below its 9-d EMA.
  • Bearish Centerline Crossover- MACD moves below zero into negative territory.

Utilizing a combination of the three bearish signals above will provide a more reliable indicator of a negative price change in the equity. Once again, when it comes to MACD I generally view the histogram which I will discuss in a future article.

Advantages of MACD (black line):

  • It is a reliable indicator that should be used in conjunction with other indicators (moving averages, the stochastic oscillator and volume)
  • Incorporates both trend and momentum into one indicator
  • Using exponential moving averages eliminates some of the lag found in simple MAs
  • Foreshadows moves in the underlying security

Let’s take a look at a bullish MACD picture for a stock currently on our Premium Stock List: CRZO:

Technical analysis for covered call writing

CRZO: bullish MACD chart

Note that this bullish MACD indicator is also on high volume strengthening the sigificance of this parameter.

All technical indicators should be used in conjuntion with other technical indicators as well as fundamental analysis and common sesnse principles.

Next live seminar:

Chicago: Saturday October 9, 2013

DePaul University Center

8th Floor

Room 8005

Market tone:

With treasury borrowing authority extended to February 7th and the funding of our government guaranteed through January 15th, the markets relaxed a bit…at least for now. Because of the recent shutdown, most economic reports that normally would have come out this week, didn’t:

  • The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book described our economic expansion as “modest to moderate”
  • This assessment did not include the impact of the shutdown which will be incorporated in the next report

For the week, the S&P 500 rose by 2.4% for a year-to-date return of 24%, including dividends.


IBD: Confirmed uptrend

BCI: Moderately bullish, favoring out-of-the-money strikes 3-to-2.

Yours from the great state of California,

Alan (




About Alan Ellman

Alan Ellman loves options trading so much he has written four top selling books on the topic of selling covered calls, one about put-selling and a sixth book about long-term investing. Alan is a national speaker for The Money Show, The Stock Traders Expo and the American Association of Individual Investors. He also writes financial columns for both US and International publications along with his own award-winning blog.. He is a retired dentist, a personal fitness trainer, successful real estate investor, but he is known mostly for his practical and successful stock option strategies.

8 Responses to “MACD: A Lagging and Momentum Technical Indicator: Part I”

  1. Alan Ellman October 19, 2013 8:44 am


    I am currently in Los Angeles hosting a seminar and will return to NY late Sunday. I’ll catch up with emails during the week. I will also have some news about my upcoming 4th book “Stock Investing For Students”


  2. Barry October 19, 2013 3:06 pm

    Premium Members,

    This week’s Weekly Stock Screen And Watch List has been uploaded to The Blue Collar Investor premium member site and is available for download in the “Reports” section. Look for the report dated 10-18-13.

    Also, be sure to check out the latest BCI Training Videos and “Ask Alan” segments. You can view them at The Blue Collar YouTube Channel. For your convenience, the link to the BCI YouTube Channel is:

    Since we are in Earnings Season, be sure to read Alan’s article, “Constructing Your Covered Call Portfolio During Earnings Season”. You can access it at:

    Barry and The BCI Team

  3. Steve Z October 20, 2013 3:50 pm

    Alan, thanks for an excellent review of the MACD oscillator.

    I know the MACD was developed in the 70s and is probably the most widely used oscillator. I believe the stochastics oscillator was developed in the 50s and is probably the second most widely used. However, dozens (hundreds?) have been developed since that time with much better and vastly more data to support their development.

    I too use the MACD (& STO) just because I don’t know for sure of a better one(s). I understand the concept of “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but I have sincere doubts that it/they could still really the best one(s) available to us.



    • Alan Ellman October 22, 2013 6:44 am


      You probably gave the best answer to your inquiry within the framework of your question…”if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Although MACD was developed much earlier, I made the decision to incorporate it into the BCI methodology in the 1990s. I was also considering RSI (compares the magnitude of recent gains to recent losses in an attempt to determine overbought and oversold similar to MACD) where overbought was @ 70% and oversold @ 30%. Both are excellent momentum indicators but I slightly favored MACD and the histogram in particular as it represents the difference between the MACD and it’s 9-d exponential moving average. I’ll be writing an article on the histogram in the near future.

      Keep in mind that technical analysis represents only 1 aspect of our cc writing selections with fundamental analysis, common sense principles and strike selection also playing key roles. Furthermore, MACD is but one of four technical parameters used. That being said, I and so many BCIers have had outstanding success using this combination of factors and although I am always open to improving on our methodology I have not found a technical parameter that appears to be superior to the ones we already use.

      One final point: I take no issue with those who may prefer other indicators as long as trend-identifying indicators, momentum indicators and volume are included.


  4. Jeff October 22, 2013 10:11 am


    You recently had a video about spinoffs. Where can we obtain information about spinoffs and mergers. Do we just call our broker?

    Thanks for your good work.

    Jeff (new premium member)

  5. Alan Ellman October 23, 2013 5:37 pm

    Premium members:

    This week’s 6-page report of top-performing ETFs and analysis of ALL Select Sector Components has been uploaded to your premium site. The report also lists Top-performing ETFs with Weekly options.

    For your convenience, here is the link to login to the premium site:

    NOT A PREMIUM MEMBER? Check out this link:

    Alan and the BCI team

    (We have also uploaded the 3rd quarter High Dividend Yield Stocks with LEAPS Report)

  6. Paul November 8, 2013 8:02 am

    Looking forward to Part 2!