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Using Technical Indicators: Stochastics & RSI

by martinchandra

A good understanding of the basic tenets of technical analysis can vastly improve one 's trading skills.

When using technical analysis, price is the primary tool. Simply put, "everything is already in the rate." However, technical analysis involves a bit more than simply staring at price charts hoping to find a "yellow brick road" to a bonanza payday. Along with various methods of plotting price action on charts by using bars, candlesticks, and Xs and Os on point and figure charts, market technicians also employ many technical studies that help them to delve deeper into the data. By using these studies in conjunction with their price charts, traders are able to build much stronger cases to buy, sell or remain on the sidelines than they could by simply looking at price charts alone.

Here are descriptions of some of the more widely used and time-tested studies that technicians keep in their toolboxes:


Stochastic studies, or oscillators, are another useful tool for monitoring the expected sustainability of a trend. They provide a trader with information about the closing price in the current trading period relative to the prior performance of the instrument being analyzed.

Stochastics are measured and represented by two different lines, %K and %D and are plotted on a scale ranging from 0 to 100. Indications above 80 represent strong upward movement while level indications below 20 represent strong downward movements. The mathematics behind the studies are not as important as knowing what the stochastics are telling you. The %K line is the faster, more sensitive indicator while the %D line takes more time to turn. When the %K line crosses over the %D line, this could be an indication that a market is about to reverse course. Stochastic studies are not useful in choppy, sideways markets. At times when prices are fluctuating in a narrow range, the %K and %D lines might be crossing many different times and will be telling you nothing more than the market is moving sideways.

Stochastics are most useful in measuring the strength of a trend and as augurs of a coming reversal in prices. When prices are making new highs or lows and your stochastics are doing the same, you can be reasonably certain that the trend will continue. On the other hand, many traders finds that the best trading opportunity comes when their stochastic indicator is flattening out or moving in the opposite direction of prices. When these divergences occur, it 's time to book profits and/or to establish a position in the opposite direction of the prior trend.

As should always be the case when using any technical tool, do not act on the first signal you see. Wait at least one or two trading sessions for confirmation of what the study is indicating before you commit to a position.

Relative Strength Index (RSI)

RSI measures the momentum of price movements. It is also plotted on a scale ranging from 0 to 100. Traders will tend to look at RSI readings over 80 as an indicator of a market that is overbought or susceptible to a downturn, and readings under 20 as a market that is oversold or ready to turn higher.

This logic therefore implies that prices cannot rise or fall forever and that by using an RSI study, one can determine with a reasonable degree of certainty when a reversal will come about. However, be very wary of trading on RSI studies alone. In many instances, an RSI can remain at very lofty or sunken levels for quite a while without prices reversing course. At these times, the RSI is simply telling you that a market is quite strong or quite weak and shows no signs of changing course.

RSI studies can be adjusted to whatever time sensitivity a trader feels necessary for his or her particular style. For instance, a 5-day RSI will be very sensitive and will tend to give many more signals, not all of them sustainable, than say a 21-day RSI, which will tend to be less choppy. As with other studies, try a variety of time periods for the currency that you are trading based on your trading style. Longer term, position type traders, will tend to find that shorter time frames used for an RSI (or any other study for that matter) will give too many signals and will result in over-trading. On the other hand, shorter time frames will probably be ideal for day-traders trying to capture many shorter-term price fluctuations.

As with stochastics, look for divergences between prices and the RSI. If your RSI turns up in a slumping market or turns down during a bull run, this could be a good indication that a reversal is just around the corner. Wait for confirmation before you act on divergent indications from your RSI studies.

One final word of advice: Don't get too caught up in the mathematics involved in putting together each study. It is much more important to understand how and why studies can and should be manipulated based on the time periods and sensitivities that you determine are ideal for the currency you are trading.

These ideal levels can only be determined after applying several different parameters to each study until the charts and studies begin to reveal the "details behind the details."

About the Author

Martin Chandra is a full-time investor.

Article Source: Content for Reprint

1 comment:

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