Indicators and oscilators

Computer analysis /Indicators and oscilators

Accumulation/distribution of volume (Volume Accumulation VA)


Chaikin`s indicator of accumulation/distribution was developed by two authors, M. Chaikin and D. Lambert. This indicator is alternative to the indicator OBV, as VA also takes into consideration the volume of tenders, however the distinctions of indicators are in the form of setting of prevailing bull or bear moods.


It is necessary to note that this indicator does not have a wide range of parameters, and it facilitates its use, for it is not necessary to test each value of the indicator for its efficiency.

The action of this indicator is based on the following quite logical preconditions. First, at trends, the closing price are about their extreme values: so at bull trend, the closing is closer to a ceiling price, and at bear trend the closing price is closer to a floor price. Secondly, at stabile trend, volumes of tenders, usually, exceed an average level. This implies that at bull trend VA will also raise, and its values will be positive, and at descending bear trend VA will decrease, getting negative values.

Application signals of the indicator VA will be confirming signals of trend growth- one-orientation of changes of the indicator and price at bull trend and divergence at bear trend, and also signals, which deny trend - bull divergence and bear coinciding of the indicator with the price diagram.

On Balance Volume


On Balance Volume (OBV) is a momentum indicator that relates volume to price change. On Balance Volume was developed by Joe Granville and originally presented in his book New Strategy of Daily Stock Market Timing for Maximum Profits.


On Balance Volume is a running total of volume. It shows if volume is flowing into or out of a security. When the security closes higher than the previous close, all of the day's volume is considered up-volume.

When the security closes lower than the previous close, all of the day's volume is considered down-volume.

A full explanation of OBV is beyond the scope of this book. If you would like further information on OBV analysis, I recommend that you read Granville's book, New Strategy of Daily Stock Market Timing for Maximum Profits.

The basic assumption, regarding OBV analysis, is that OBV changes precede price changes. The theory is that smart money can be seen flowing into the security by a rising OBV. When the public then moves into the security, both the security and the OBV will surge ahead.

If the security's price movement precedes OBV movement, a "non-confirmation" has occurred. Non-confirma-tions can occur at bull market tops (when the security rises without, or before, the OBV) or at bear market bottoms (when the security falls without, or before, the OBV).

The OBV is in a rising trend when each new peak is higher than the previous peak and each new trough is higher than the previous trough. Likewise, the OBV is in a falling trend when each successive peak is lower than the previous peak and each successive trough is lower than the previous trough. When the OBV is moving sideways and is not making successive highs and lows, it is in a doubtful trend.

Once a trend is established, it remains in force until it is broken. There are two ways in which the OBV trend can be broken. The first occurs when the trend changes from a rising trend to a falling trend, or from a falling trend to a rising trend.

The second way the OBV trend can be broken is if the trend changes to a doubtful trend and remains doubtful for more than three days. Thus, if the security changes from a rising trend to a doubtful trend and remains doubtful for only two days before changing back to a rising trend, the OBV is consid-ered to have always been in a rising trend.

When the OBV changes to a rising or falling trend, a "breakout" has occurred. Since OBV breakouts normally precede price breakouts, investors should buy long on OBV upside breakouts. Likewise, investors should sell short when the OBV makes a downside breakout. Positions should be held until the trend changes (as explain-ed in the preceding paragraph).

This method of analyzing On Balance Volume is designed for trading short-term cycles. According to Granville, investors must act quickly and decisively if they wish to profit from short-term OBV analysis.

Bollinger Bands


Bollinger Bands are similar to moving average envelopes. The difference between Bollinger Bands and envelopes is envelopes are plotted at a fixed percentage above and below a moving average, whereas Bollinger Bands are plotted at standard deviation levels above and below a moving average. Since standard deviation is a measure of volatility, the bands are self-adjusting: widening during volatile markets and contracting during calmer periods. Bollinger Bands were created by John Bollinger.


Bollinger Bands are usually displayed on top of security prices, but they can be displayed on an indicator. These comments refer to bands displayed on prices. As with moving average envelopes, the basic interpretation of Bollinger Bands is that prices tend to stay within the upper- and lower-band. The distinctive characteristic of Bollinger Bands is that the spacing between the bands varies based on the volatility of the prices. During periods of extreme price changes (i.e., high volatility), the bands widen to become more forgiving. During periods of stagnant pricing (i.e., low volatility), the bands narrow to contain prices.

Mr. Bollinger notes the following characteristics of Bollinger Bands.

  • Sharp price changes tend to occur after the bands tighten, as volatility lessens.
  • When prices move outside the bands, a continuation of the current trend is implied.
  • Bottoms and tops made outside the bands followed by bottoms and tops made inside the bands call for reversals in the trend.
  • A move that originates at one band tends to go all the way to the other band. This observation is useful when projecting price targets.

Directional system (ADX)


Directional system was developed by J. Wilder in the middle of 1970s as an addition to the system PARABOLIC SAR, and then it was advanced by a number of the analysts. ADX defines the tendency and shows, whether it moves quickly enough to follow it. ADX helps to take benefit, being still in the middle of important trends.


This indicator promotes searching of tendency force. If ADX raises, it means that the market tendency becomes stronger. At such times, it is desirable to conclude the bargains only in the direction of the tendency. When ADX falls, it means that the tendency is questionable. Signals submitted by oscillators (RSI, Momentum) are important in this case.

The meaning of the directional analysis is in the fact that it traces changes in mass optimism and pessimism, measuring ability of the bulls and bears to remove the prices beyond the limits of a price range of the previous day. If the today's best price is above yesterday's one, the market becomes more optimistic. And on the contrary, if the today's lowest price is below the yesterday's lowest one, it is possible to speak about changing of the market to pessimism.

The indicator of Demark (DeMarker)


The indicator of Demark is based on the comparison of the period maximum with the previous period maximum. The received maxima are summarized.


The indicator of Demark is intended for revealing the areas with high and low risk for purchase (sale). It registers the areas of price exhaustion, which usually coincide with price peaks and hollows. The indicator changes from 0 up to 1. When the indicator falls below 0.3, the turn of the prices upwards is expected. When the parameter of the indicator rises above 0.7, the turn of the prices downwards is expected



An envelope is comprised of two moving averages. One moving average is shifted upward and the second moving average is shifted downward.


Envelopes define the upper and lower boundaries of a security's normal trading range. A sell signal is generated when the security reaches the upper band whereas a buy signal is generated at the lower band. The optimum percentage shift depends on the volatility of the security--the more volatile, the larger the percentage.

The logic behind envelopes is that overzealous buyers and sellers push the price to the extremes (i.e., the upper and lower bands), at which point the prices often stabilize by moving to more realistic levels. This is similar to the interpretation of Bollinger Bands.



The Momentum indicator measures the amount that a security's price has changed over a given time span.


The interpretation of the Momentum indicator is identical to the interpretation of the Price ROC. Both indicators display the rate-of-change of a security's price. However, the Price ROC indicator displays the rate-of-change as a percentage whereas the Momentum indicator displays the rate-of-change as a ratio.

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 (this is the method I prefer). 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 (e.g., 9-period) 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



The Accumulation/Distribution is a momentum indicator that associates changes in price and volume. The indicator is based on the premise that the more volume that accompanies a price move, the more significant the price move.


The Accumulation/Distribution is really a variation of the more popular On Balance Volume indicator. Both of these indicators attempt to confirm changes in prices by comparing the volume associated with prices.

When the Accumulation/Distribution moves up, it shows that the security is being accumulated, as most of the volume is associated with upward price movement. When the indicator moves down, it shows that the security is being distributed, as most of the volume is associated with downward price movement. Divergences between the Accumulation/Distribution and the security's price imply a change is imminent. When a divergence does occur, prices usually change to confirm the Accumulation/Distribution. For example, if the indicator is moving up and the security's price is going down, prices will probably reverse.



The Directional Movement System helps determine if a security is "trending." It was developed by Welles Wilder and is explained in his book, New Concepts in Technical Trading Systems.


The basic Directional Movement trading system involves comparing the 14-day +DI ("Directional Indicator") and the 14-day -DI. This can be done by plotting the two indicators on top of each other or by subtracting the +DI from the -DI. Wilder suggests buying when the +DI rises above the -DI and selling when the +DI falls below the -DI.

Wilder qualifies these simple trading rules with the "extreme point rule." This rule is designed to prevent whipsaws and reduce the number of trades. The extreme point rule requires that on the day that the +DI and -DI cross, you note the "extreme point." When the +DI rises above the -DI, the extreme price is the high price on the day the lines cross. When the +DI falls below the -DI, the extreme price is the low price on the day the lines cross.

The extreme point is then used as a trigger point at which you should implement the trade. For example, after receiving a buy signal (the +DI rose above the -DI), you should then wait until the security's price rises above the extreme point (the high price on the day that the +DI and -DI lines crossed) before buying. If the price fails to rise above the extreme point, you should continue to hold your short position. In Wilder's book, he notes that this system works best on securities that have a high Commodity Selection Index. He says, "as a rule of thumb, the system will be profitable on commodities that have a CSI value above 25. When the CSI drops below 20, then do not use a trend-following system."



Volume is simply the number of shares (or contracts) traded during a specified time frame (e.g., hour, day, week, month, etc). The analysis of volume is a basic yet very important element of technical analysis. Volume provides clues as to the intensity of a given price move.


Low volume levels are characteristic of the indecisive expectations that typically occur during consolidation periods (i.e., periods where prices move sideways in a trading range). Low volume also often occurs during the indecisive period during market bottoms.

High volume levels are characteristic of market tops when there is a strong consensus that prices will move higher. High volume levels are also very common at the beginning of new trends (i.e., when prices break out of a trading range). Just before market bottoms, volume will often increase due to panic-driven selling.

Volume can help determine the health of an existing trend. A healthy up-trend should have higher volume on the upward legs of the trend, and lower volume on the downward (corrective) legs. A healthy downtrend usually has higher volume on the downward legs of the trend and lower volume on the upward (corrective) legs.

Relative Strength Index


The Relative Strength Index (RSI) is a popular oscillator. It was first introduced by Welles Wilder in an article in Commodities (now known as Futures) Magazine in June, 1978. Step-by-step instructions on calculating and interpreting the RSI are also provided in Mr. Wilder's book, New Concepts in Technical Trading Systems.

The name "Relative Strength Index" is slightly misleading as the RSI does not compare the relative strength of two securities, but rather the internal strength of a single security. A more appropriate name might be "Internal Strength Index." Relative strength charts that compare two market indices, which are often referred to as Comparative Relative Strength.


When Wilder introduced the RSI, he recommended using a 14-day RSI. Since then, the 9-day and 25-day RSIs have also gained popularity. Because you can vary the number of time periods in the RSI calculation, I suggest that you experiment to find the period that works best for you. (The fewer days used to calculate the RSI, the more volatile the indicator.)

The RSI is a price-following oscillator that ranges between 0 and 100. A popular method of analyzing the RSI is to look for a divergence in which the security is making a new high, but the RSI is failing to surpass its previous high. This divergence is an indication of an impending reversal. When the RSI then turns down and falls below its most recent trough, it is said to have completed a "failure swing." The failure swing is considered a confirmation of the impending reversal.

In Mr. Wilder's book, he discusses five uses of the RSI in analyzing commodity charts. These methods can be applied to other security types as well.

  • Tops and Bottoms. The RSI usually tops above 70 and bottoms below 30. It usually forms these tops and bottoms before the underlying price chart.
  • Chart Formations. The RSI often forms chart patterns such as head and shoulders (page 215) or triangles (page 216) that may or may not be visible on the price chart.
  • Failure Swings (also known as support or resistance penetrations or breakouts). This is where the RSI surpasses a previous high (peak) or falls below a recent low (trough).
  • Support and Resistance. The RSI shows, sometimes more clearly than price themselves, levels of support and resistance.
  • Divergences. As discussed above, divergences occur when the price makes a new high (or low) that is not confirmed by a new high (or low) in the RSI. Prices usually correct and move in the direction of the RSI.

OsMA (Oscillator Moving Average)


OsMA - generally, the difference between oscillator and smoothing of oscillator. In this case, the basic line of MACD is used as oscillator, and signal line of MACD as smoothing.


The signal for purchase is given, when OsMA stops falling and begins growing. The signal for sale is given, when OsMA ceases growing and begins falling. The divergence of the price and OsMA is a good signal.

PVI (Positive Volume Index)


The Positive Volume Index (PVI) focuses on days where the volume increased from the previous day. The premise being that the "crowd" takes positions on days when volume increases.


Interpretation of the PVI assumes that on days when volume increases, the crowd-following "uninformed" investors are in the market. Conversely, on days with decreased volume, the "smart money" is quietly taking positions. Thus, the PVI displays what the not-so-smart-money is doing. (The Negative Volume Index, displays what the smart money is doing.) Note, however, that the PVI is not a contrarian indicator. Even though the PVI is supposed to show what the not-so-smart-money is doing, it still trends in the same direction as prices.

Parabolic SAR


The Parabolic Time/Price System, developed by Welles Wilder, is used to set trailing price stops and is usually referred to as the "SAR" (stop-and-reversal). This indicator is explained thoroughly in Wilder's book, New Concepts in Technical Trading Systems.


The Parabolic SAR provides excellent exit points. You should close long positions when the price falls below the SAR and close short positions when the price rises above the SAR.

If you are long (i.e., the price is above the SAR), the SAR will move up every day, regardless of the direction the price is moving. The amount the SAR moves up depends on the amount that prices move.

Price Rate-Of-Change


The Price Rate-of-Change (ROC) indicator displays the difference between the current price and the price x-time periods ago. The difference can be displayed in either points or as a percentage. The Momentum indicator displays the same information, but expresses it as a ratio.


It is a well recognized phenomenon that security prices surge ahead and retract in a cyclical wave-like motion. This cyclical action is the result of the changing expectations as bulls and bears struggle to control prices.

The ROC displays the wave-like motion in an oscillator format by measuring the amount that prices have changed over a given time period. As prices increase, the ROC rises; as prices fall, the ROC falls. The greater the change in prices, the greater the change in the ROC.

The time period used to calculate the ROC may range from 1-day (which results in a volatile chart showing the daily price change) to 200-days (or longer). The most popular time periods are the 12- and 25-day ROC for short to intermediate-term trading. These time periods were popularized by Gerald Appel and Fred Hitschler in their book, Stock Market Trading Systems.

The 12-day ROC is an excellent short- to intermediate-term overbought/oversold indicator. The higher the ROC, the more overbought the security; the lower the ROC, the more likely a rally. However, as with all overbought/over-sold indicators, it is prudent to wait for the market to begin to correct (i.e., turn up or down) before placing your trade. A market that appears overbought may remain overbought for some time. In fact, extremely overbought/oversold readings usually imply a continuation of the current trend.

The 12-day ROC tends to be very cyclical, oscillating back and forth in a fairly regular cycle. Often, price changes can be anticipated by studying the previous cycles of the ROC and relating the previous cycles to the current market

Moving Average


A Moving Average is an indicator that shows the average value of a security's price over a period of time. When calculating a moving average, a mathematical analysis of the security's average value over a predetermined time period is made. As the security's price changes, its average price moves up or down.

There are five popular types of moving averages: simple (also referred to as arithmetic), exponential, triangular, variable, and weighted. Moving averages can be calculated on any data series including a security's open, high, low, close, volume, or another indicator. A moving average of another moving average is also common.

The only significant difference between the various types of moving averages is the weight assigned to the most recent data. Simple moving averages apply equal weight to the prices. Exponential and weighted averages apply more weight to recent prices. Triangular averages apply more weight to prices in the middle of the time period. And variable moving averages change the weighting based on the volatility of prices.


The most popular method of interpreting a moving average is to compare the relationship between a moving average of the security's price with the security's price itself. A buy signal is generated when the security's price rises above its moving average and a sell signal is generated when the security's price falls below its moving average. The following chart shows the Dow Jones Industrial Average ("DJIA") from 1970 through 1993.

Also displayed is a 15-month simple moving average. "Buy" arrows were drawn when the DJIA's close rose above its moving average; "sell" arrows were drawn when it closed below its moving average.

This type of moving average trading system is not intended to get you in at the exact bottom nor out at the exact top. Rather, it is designed to keep you in line with the security's price trend by buying shortly after the security's price bottoms and selling shortly after it tops.

The critical element in a moving average is the number of time periods used in calculating the average. When using hindsight, you can always find a moving average that would have been profitable (using a computer, I found that the optimum number of months in the preceding chart would have been 43). The key is to find a moving average that will be consistently profitable. The most popular moving average is the 39-week (or 200-day) moving average. This moving average has an excellent track record in timing the major (long-term) market cycles.

Moving averages can also be calculated and plotted on indicators. The i nterpretation of an indicator's moving average is similar to the interpretation of a security's moving average: when the indicator rises above its moving average, it signifies a continued upward movement by the indicator; when the indicator falls below its moving average, it signifies a continued downward movement by the indicator.

Indicators which are especially well-suited for use with moving average penetration systems include the MACD, Price ROC, Momentum, and Stochastics.

Some indicators, such as short-term Stochastics, fluctuate so erratically that it is difficult to tell what their trend really is. By erasing the indicator and then plotting a moving average of the indica-tor, you can see the general trend of the indicator rather than its day-to-day fluctuations.

Whipsaws can be reduced, at the expense of slightly later signals, by plotting a short-term moving average (e.g., 2-10 day) of oscillating indicators such as the 12-day ROC, Stochas-tics, or the RSI. For example, rather than selling when the Stochastic Oscillator falls below 80, you might sell only when a 5-period moving average of the Stochastic Oscillator falls below 80.

Median price


The Median Price indicator is simply the midpoint of each day's price. The Typical Price and Weighted Close are similar indicators.


The Median Price indicator provides a simple, single-line chart of the day's "average price." This average price is useful when you want a simpler view of prices.

Standard Deviation


Standard Deviation is a statistical measure of volatility. Standard Deviation is typically used as a component of other indicators, rather than as a stand-alone indicator. For example, Bollinger Bands are calculated by adding a security's Standard Deviation to a moving average.


High Standard Deviation values occur when the data item being analyzed (e.g., prices or an indicator) is changing dramatically. Similarly, low Standard Deviation values occur when prices are stable.

Many analysts feel that major tops are accompanied with high volatility as investors struggle with both euphoria and fear. Major bottoms are expected to be calmer as investors have few expectations of profits.

Stochastic Oscillator


Sto.chas.tic (sto kas'tik) adj. 2. Math. designating a process having an infinite progression of jointly distributed random variables. Webster's New World Dictionary

The Stochastic Oscillator compares where a security's price closed relative to its price range over a given time period.


The Stochastic Oscillator is displayed as two lines. The main line is called "%K." The second line, called "%D," is a moving average of %K. The %K line is usually displayed as a solid line and the %D line is usually displayed as a dotted line.

СThere are several ways to interpret a Stochastic Oscillator. Three popular methods include:

  1. Buy when the Oscillator (either %K or %D) falls below a specific level (e.g., 20) and then rises above that level. Sell when the Oscillator rises above a specific level (e.g., 80) and then falls below that level.
  2. Buy when the %K line rises above the %D line and sell when the %K line falls below the %D line.
  3. Look for divergences. For example, where prices are making a series of new highs and the Stochastic Oscillator is failing to surpass its previous highs.

Moving Average Convergence/Divergence (M A C D)


The MACD (Moving Average Convergence/Divergence) is a trend following momentum indicator that shows the relationship between two moving averages of prices. The MACD was developed by Gerald Appel, publisher of Systems and Forecasts.

The MACD is the difference between a 26-day and 12-day exponential moving average. A 9-day exponential moving average, called the "signal" (or "trigger") line is plotted on top of the MACD to show buy/sell opportunities. (Appel specifies exponential moving averages as percentages. Thus, he refers to these three moving averages as 7.5%, 15%, and 20% respectively.)


The MACD proves most effective in wide-swinging trading markets. There are three popular ways to use the MACD: crossovers, overbought/oversold conditions, and divergences.


The basic MACD trading rule is to sell when the MACD falls below its signal line. Similarly, a buy signal occurs when the MACD rises above its signal line. It is also popular to buy/sell when the MACD goes above/below zero.

Overbought/Oversold Conditions.

The MACD is also useful as an overbought/oversold indicator. When the shorter moving average pulls away dramatically from the longer moving average (i.e., the MACD rises), it is likely that the security price is overextending and will soon return to more realistic levels. MACD overbought and oversold conditions exist vary from security to security.


A indication that an end to the current trend may be near occurs when the MACD diverges from the security. A bearish divergence occurs when the MACD is making new lows while prices fail to reach new lows. A bullish divergence occurs when the MACD is making new highs while prices fail to reach new highs. Both of these divergences are most significant when they occur at relatively overbought/oversold levels.

Commodity Channel Index


The Commodity Channel Index (CCI) measures the variation of a security's price from its statistical mean. High values show that prices are unusually high compared to average prices whereas low values indicate that prices are unusually low. Contrary to its name, the CCI can be used effectively on any type of security, not just commodities. The CCI was developed by Donald Lambert.


There are two basic methods of interpreting the CCI: looking for divergences and as an overbought/oversold indicator.

  • A divergence occurs when the security's prices are making new highs while the CCI is failing to surpass its previous highs. This classic divergence is usually followed by a correction in the security's price.
  • The CCI typically oscillates between ±100. To use the CCI as an overbought/oversold indicator, readings above +100 imply an overbought condition (and a pending price correction) while readings below -100 imply an oversold condition (and a pending rally).

Williams %R


Williams' %R (pronounced "percent R") is a momentum indicator that measures overbought/oversold levels. Williams' %R was developed by Larry Williams.


The interpretation of Williams' %R is very similar to that of the Stochastic Oscillator except that %R is plotted upside-down and the Stochastic Oscillator has internal smoothing.

To display the Williams' %R indicator on an upside-down scale, it is usually plotted using negative values (e.g., -20%). For the purpose of analysis and discussion, simply ignore the negative symbols.

Readings in the range of 80 to 100% indicate that the security is oversold while readings in the 0 to 20% range suggest that it is overbought.

As with all overbought/oversold indicators, it is best to wait for the security's price to change direction before placing your trades. For example, if an overbought/oversold indicator (such as the Stochastic Oscillator or Williams' %R) is showing an overbought condition, it is wise to wait for the security's price to turn down before selling the security. (The MACD is a good indicator to monitor change in a security's price.) It is not unusual for overbought/oversold indicators to remain in an overbought/oversold condition for a long time period as the security's price continues to climb/fall. Selling simply because the security appears overbought may take you out of the security long before its price shows signs of deterioration.

An interesting phenomena of the %R indicator is its uncanny ability to anticipate a reversal in the underlying security's price. The indicator almost always forms a peak and turns down a few days before the security's price peaks and turns down. Likewise, %R usually creates a trough and turns up a few days before the security's price turns up.

*  This article has been prepared by the specialists of analytics department of the Company Larson & Holz IT Ltd., the data used has been taken from the book "Technical analysis from A to Z"  by Steven B.Achelis. All rights reserved.