Exponential Moving Average Strategy: 6 Steps to Success

The exponential moving average is the oldest form of technical analysis. It is one of the most popular trading indicators used by thousands of traders. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn a simple moving average strategy. So, make sure to use what you learn to turn your trading around and become a successful, long-term trader!

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Delving deeper into the EMA strategy, we’ll uncover its versatility and efficacy in various market conditions. This guide not only illuminates the fundamentals of the EMA strategy but also provides practical insights to harness its potential fully.

Whether you are new to trading or seeking to refine your techniques, the insights shared here about the moving average strategy will be a valuable addition to your trading arsenal, aiding you in making more informed and strategic trading decisions.

Moving Average Indicator and Strategy

Ema Trading Strategy
Ema logo

A moving average can be a very effective indicator. Many traders use exponential moving averages, an effective type of moving average indicator, to trade in a variety of markets. An exponential moving average strategy, or EMA strategy, is used to identify the predominant trend in the market. It can also provide the support and resistance level to execute your trade.

Our team at Trading Strategy Guides has already covered the topic of trend-following systems. You can review the trend here: MACD trend following strategy. You can also learn the basics of support and resistance here: Support and resistance zones.

Make sure you go through the recommended articles if you want to better understand how the market works. Building a foundation of understanding will help you dramatically improve your outcomes as a trader.

The EMA Strategy is a universal trading strategy that works in all markets. This includes stocks, indices, Forex, currencies, and the crypto-currencies market, like the virtual currency Bitcoin. If the strategy works on any type of market, it works for any time frame. In simple terms, you can trade with it on your preferred chart.

Let’s first examine what a moving average is and the moving average formula. After that, we will dive into some of the key rules.

Exponential Moving Average Formula Explained

The EMA is a line on the price chart that uses a mathematical formula to smooth out the price action. It shows the average price over a certain period of time. Moreover, the EMA formula puts more weight on the recent price. This means it’s more reliable because it reacts faster to the latest changes in price data.

Ema Indicator Mt4 Example
Exponential moving average 1

A moving average tries to reduce the confusion and noise of everyday price action. It smooths the price, reveals the trend, and even sometimes reveals patterns that you can’t see. The average is also more reliable and accurate in forecasting future changes in the market price.

Defining An Uptrend Above 50-Ema
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There are three steps for the exponential moving average formula and calculating the EMA. The formula uses a simple moving average SMA as the starting point for the EMA value. To calculate the SMA, take the sum of the number of time periods and divide by 20.

We need a multiplier that makes the moving average put more focus on the most recent price. The moving average formula brings all these values together. They make up the moving average.

How To Calculate the Exponential Moving Average

The exponential moving average formula below is for a 20-day EMA:

Initial SMA = 20-period sum / 20

Multiplier = (2 / (Time periods + 1) ) = (2 / (20 + 1) ) = 0.0952(9.52%)

EMA = {Close – EMA(previous day)} x multiplier + EMA(previous day).

The general rule is that we’re in an uptrend if the price trades above the moving average. We should expect higher prices as long as we stay above the exponential moving average. Conversely, if we’re trading below, we’re in a downtrend. As long as we trade below the moving average, we should expect lower prices.

Uptrends And Downtrends When Using The Ema Indicator
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Before we go any further, we always recommend writing down the trading rules on a piece of paper. This exercise will step up your learning curve, and you’ll become a better trader.

Let’s get started…

Exponential Moving Average Strategy (Trading Steps for a Sell Trade)

Our EMA strategy is comprised of two elements. The first degree to capture a new trend is to use two exponential moving averages as an entry filter. We automate the strategy by using one moving average with a longer period and one with a shorter period. This removes any form of subjectivity from our trading process.

Step #1: Plot on Your Chart the 20 and 50 EMA.

The first step is to set up our charts properly with the right moving averages. We can identify the EMA crossover at a later stage. This strategy uses the 20 and 50-period EMA.

Most standard trading platforms come with default moving average indicators. Locating the EMA either on your MT4 platform or Tradingview should not be a problem.

Plot On Your Chart The 20 And 50 Ema
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Now, we’re set to look more closely at the price structure. This brings us to the next step of this 20 and 50 EMA trading strategy.

Step #2: Wait for the EMA Crossover and for the Price to Trade above the 20 and 50 EMA.

The second rule of this moving average strategy is the need for the price to trade above both 20 and 50 EMA. Also, we need to wait for the EMA crossover, which will add weight to the bullish case. We refer to the EMA crossover for a buy trade when the 50-EMA crosses above the 50-EMA.

Waiting For The Price To Trade Above The Ema
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By looking at the EMA crossover, we create automatic buy and sell signals.

Since the market is prone to false breakouts, we need more evidence than a simple EMA crossover. At this stage, we don’t know if the bullish sentiment is strong enough to push the price further after we buy to make a profit.

To avoid the false breakout, we added a new confluence to support our view. This brings us to the next step of the strategy.

Step #3: Wait for the Zone Between 20 and 50 EMA to Be Tested at Least Twice, Then Look for Buying Opportunities.

The conviction behind this moving average strategy relies on multiple factors. After the EMA crossover happened, we need to exercise more patience. We will wait for two successive and successful retests of the zone between the 20 and 50 EMA.

Furthermore, the two successful retests of the zone between 20 and 50 EMA give the market enough time to develop a trend. Always remember that no price is too high to buy in trading or too low to sell.

Looking For Buying Opportunities Using The Ema
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Note: When we refer to the “zone between 20 and 50 EMA,” we actually don’t mean that the price needs to trade in the space between the two moving averages.

We just wanted to cover the whole price spectrum between the two EMAs. This is because the price will only briefly touch the shorter moving average (20-EMA), but this is still a successful retest.

Now, we still need to define where exactly we are going to buy. This brings us to the next step of the strategy.

Step #4: Buy at the Market When We Retest the Zone Between 20 and 50 EMA for the Third Time.

If the price successfully retests the zone between 20 and 50 EMA for the third time, we go ahead and buy at the market price. We now have enough evidence that the bullish momentum is strong to continue pushing this market higher.

Entering A Buying Order After Retesting The Zone Between 20 And 50 Ema
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Now, we still need to define where to place our protective stop loss and where to take profits. This brings us to the next step of the strategy.

Step #5: Place the Protective Stop Loss 20 Pips below the 50 EMA.

After the EMA crossover happened and after we had two successive retests, we knew the trend was up. The trend remains intact as long as we trade above both exponential moving averages.

In this regard, we place our protective stop loss 20 pips below the 50 EMA. We added a buffer of 20 pips because we understand we’re not living in a perfect world. The market is prone to false breakouts.

Placing A Protective Stop Loss
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The last part of our EMA strategy is the exit strategy. It is based again on the exponential moving average.

Step #6: Take Profit Once We Break and Close below the 50-EMA.

In this particular case, we don’t use the same exit technique as our entry method, which was based on the EMA crossover.

If we waited for the EMA crossover to happen on the other side, we would have given back some of the potential profits. We need to consider the fact that the exponential moving averages are a lagging indicator.

The exponential moving average formula used to plot our EMAs allows us to still take profits right at the time the market is about to reverse.

Taking Profit Using The Ema Indicator
Exponential moving average 9

Note: The above was an example of a BUY trade. Use the same rules but in reverse for a SELL trade. However, because the market goes down much faster, we sell on the first retest of the zone between 20 and 50 after the EMA crossover happened.

In the figure below, you can see an actual SELL trade example using our strategy.

A Sell Trade Example Strategy
Exponential moving average 10

Summary: EMA Trading Strategy

This 20 and 50 EMA trading strategy is a classic example of how to construct a simple EMA crossover system. With this exponential moving average system, we’re not trying to predict the market. We’re trying to react to the current market condition, which is a much better way to trade.

The advantage of our EMA indicator strategy stands in the exponential moving average formula. It plots a much smoother EMA that gives better entries and exits.

We understand there are different trading styles. If following term trends are not for you, try reading our best short-term trading strategy. It reveals a short-term trading trick used by institutional traders.

Thank you for reading!

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions about the exponential moving average strategy!

Exponential Moving Average Strategy Video

Feel free to watch Tim Black teaching this strategy!

Exponential Moving Average Strategy Video

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39 Comments

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  1. Thanks for your practical and simple explanation with chart that is very important for learning but you haven’t mentioned about Time Frame and best Pairs also the best time of market for this kind of trading.
    Wish You Best

  2. After EMA20/EMA50 crossover… if the price breaks through the lower end of the zone past EMA50… then what conditions must exist to make this a valid pattern again? Does the price need to break up through EMA20 and then successfully test twice? or is the pattern invalid until the next crossover?

  3. In your first example you wait for 2 retests before you enter into the bullish position. In your second example you entered in on the first retest. Is there a reason for that? Thank you for clear explanation and charts!

    • No two trades will be or look the same. The strategy can only show you so much you ultimately have to decide when to pull the trigger. In the second example that would have been the ideal time to get in. Thanks for the comment!

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