Evaluating the Advance/Decline Line Indicator

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 22, 2023

Many traders rely on a series of technical indicators to identify market trends. Among these is the advance/decline line, which can establish whether more stocks are rising than falling at a given time. 

This guide will introduce you to how you might use the advance/decline line indicator. If you want to learn more about investing, it never hurts to use an investment platform to assist in honing your strategy.

What Is the Advance/Decline (A/D) Line?

The advance/decline line (A/D line) is a type of breadth indicator. The line plots the difference between the day’s advancing and declining stocks. The A/D line can be positive or negative, depending on whether advances exceed declines or vice versa. 

What does the A/D line tell you? The line enables traders to determine whether more stocks are rising or falling over a given period, which is typically a key component of market sentiment.

Advance/Decline Line (ADL) vs. Arms Index (TRIN)

Some traders may be familiar with the Arms Index, also called the short-term trading index (TRIN). But this metric tells you a very different type of information than the advance/decline line does. 

The TRIN is typically used as a short-term indicator, highlighting the ratio of advancing stocks to the ratio of advancing volume. The A/D line, on the other hand, shows how many stocks are rising or falling over time and is usually a better long-term indicator.

How to Calculate the A/D Line

If you use the advance/decline line in your trading strategy, it helps to know the formula. You can calculate the A/D line as follows:

A/D = Net Advances + Previous Day’s A/D Value

Net advances refer to the difference between ascending and descending stocks. At the close of the trading day, you can subtract the number of stocks that finished lower on the day from the number of stocks that closed at a higher value.

Note that the A/D value is cumulative. This means that you’ll always add the current day’s value to the previous day’s value — or subtract the current day’s value if the A/D is negative. If you lack data from the previous day, you can use the value of the net advances as your A/D value.

Because the A/D value is cumulative, you’ll need to calculate the value daily, which can help you track stock market trends over time.

Interpreting the Advance/Decline Line

Once you can plot the A/D values (as calculated above), you may start to see a pattern emerge. You can interpret your A/D line by comparing it to the broader market index, which might help you forecast general price trends and overall market sentiment.

In a healthy market, both the market and the slope of your A/D line trends upward, indicating positive growth.

If the indexes are moving up, but your advance/decline line is trending downward, you’re experiencing bearish divergence. This indicates that the markets are declining in their breadth. It may also signal a possible reversal of direction.

What if the advance/decline line is sloping upward while the index moves lower? This is known as bullish divergence. This may indicate changing market sentiment, notably that fewer people are selling than buying.

Sometimes, the A/D line and the markets will both trend down together, though not necessarily at the same rate. When this happens, it’s a strong sign that prices could continue to decline in the near future.

How to Use the Advance/Decline Line

Traders can use the advance/decline strategy in a number of ways, all of which may have a direct bearing on their trading strategy.

1. Confirm Trend Strength

As outlined above, investors can compare the slope of the A/D line with common market indices to assist in identifying market trends and any possibility that the trend might reverse.

2. Confirm Market Tops

Because the A/D line is based on cumulative values, traders can use the data to evaluate long-term price trends. For instance, a decline in the rate of advancing stocks might indicate a potential market top, after which traders may anticipate a reversal of a market trend.

3. Identify Support/Resistance

The A/D line can help traders forecast when a downward stock trend might pause thanks to a concentration of demand. Alternatively, the line may help traders identify a possible pause in an uptrend due to a concentration of supply.

Possible Advantages of the A/D Line

The A/D line can offer several advantages, including:

  • Objectively measuring market sentiment
  • Offering long-term analysis

Traders can utilize the A/D line to perform technical analysis of the market to inform their investment decisions. 

Things to Consider with the A/D Line 

Limitations to using the A/D line include:

  • Some market indices include small stocks that fail or are delisted.
  • Some indices give large-cap companies extra weight, which influences the index.
  • The A/D line can’t account for unexpected market events that disrupt trends.

Basically, the A/D line is designed to give all stocks equal weight, but not every market index will do the same. The NASDAQ index, for example, commonly delists underperforming stocks, which can create discrepancies between the A/D line and the index.

Making Data-Informed Decisions

The A/D line can be an effective tool for measuring market trends and investor sentiment. Traders could find it beneficial becoming familiar with the measurement and its ability to provide long-term data on the market to influence their investment decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions


How can you calculate the advance/decline line?


The line is based on daily measures of the net advances or declines added to or subtracted from the previous day’s value.


How can you set up the advances/declines line?


Calculate each day’s A/D value, then plot these figures on a graph.


Is the advance/decline line a useful technical indicator?


It’s certainly among the most objective, though this can affect accuracy when the A/D line diverges from the trajectory of a market index.