Gauge overall trend. Moving averages display a smoothed out line of the overall trend. The longer the term of the moving average, the smoother the line will be. In order to gauge the strength of a trend in a market, plot the 10, 20, 50 and 200 day SMA’s. In an uptrend, the shorter term averages should be above the longer term ones, and the current price should be above the 10 day SMA. A trader’s bias in this case should be to the upside, looking for opportunities to buy when the price moves lower rather than taking a short position.
Confirmation of price action. Traders should look at candlestick patterns and other indicators to see what is really going on in the market at the time. They should use their analysis to see if the price action achieves the targets implied through their analysis.
Crossovers. When a shorter moving average crosses a longer one (i.e. if the 20 day EMA crossed below the 200 day EMA), this may be seen as an indication that the pair will move in the direction of the shorter MA (so, in the aforementioned example, it would move down). Accordingly, should the short EMA crosses back above the longer EMA (i.e. the 20 day EMA crossed above the 200 day EMA), this may be viewed as a possible change in the trend (so, in the aforementioned example, it would move up). Historically, moving average crossovers tend to ‘lag’ the current market action. The reason being is that the moving averages give us an ‘average’ price over a given period of time. Therefore the moving averages tend to reflect the market’s action, only after at least some time has past. As the short moving average crosses over and above the longer moving average, this can be interpreted as a change in trend to the upside. The opposite also holds true, as the short moving average crosses down and below the long moving average, a new downtrend may emerge in the near future. Moving average crossovers tend to generate more reliable results in a trending market that tends to accomplish either new highs or new lows. In a range bound market environment, the moving averages may cross one another many times, and may tend to give us false trading signals. It is important for this reason, that we first identify the market as either trending or range bound.