What Is a Moving Average Crossover

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Contributor, Benzinga
October 13, 2023

Traders use technical analysis indicators to determine the trend in a stock’s price. The moving average (MA) crossover is a popular resource that helps traders speculate price fluctuations more accurately by relying on historical data and patterns. Understanding how MA crossovers work can potentially improve your trading and help long-term investors.

What Are MAs?

A MA crossover is an advanced version of a MA. Before traders can understand crossovers, it’s important to understand the underlying concept of MAs. MA lines calculate the average price of a security across multiple trading days. 

For instance, a 5-day MA line for August 20 will use closing prices from August 15-19 to calculate an average. The August 21 figure will come from closing prices from August 16-20.

Using past data over longer intervals smooths out volatility and provides a better gauge of the stock’s recent direction. Short-term traders typically rely on 5-day MA, while most long-term investors commonly use 50-day and 200-day MAs.

The exponential moving average (EMA) is like the MA, but it puts more emphasis on recent prices. Emphasizing recent prices makes the EMA more volatile than the MA. It can react more quickly to price movements than the MA.

MA Crossover Explained 

Understanding MAs makes it easier to comprehend the MA crossover. One MA line comes in contact with the stock chart or another MA line. These interactions reveal bullish or bearish sentiment in the stock market and can help identify short-term movements. Here are some ways a crossover can occur:

  • The MA is below the stock price. The MA rises as the stock price falls. The two cross each other and continue with their divergence. The MA continues going up while the stock price falls, which is a bearish signal.
  • The MA starts above the stock price, but the stock rises in value and surpasses the MA. Traders interpret the stock price rising above MA as a bullish signal.

2 Ways to Use Moving Average Crossovers in Trading

MA crossovers combined with other technical indicators can help people trade stocks with more confidence. Traders can use several strategies in conjunction with MA crossovers, but if you use the MA crossover technique, you may want to pay attention to golden crosses and death crosses. Both of these indicators involve a short-term MA and a long-term MA. An often-used setup is a chart showing the 50-day and 200-day MAs. Crossovers between these two MAs can help you forecast on the possible future direction of stock prices.

The Golden Cross

The golden cross is a bullish indicator that occurs when a short-term MA exceeds a long-term MA. When a 50-day MA has a higher value than a 200-day MA, investors may identify it as a bullish signal. This technical indicator demonstrates strengthening short-term price movement.

The Death Cross

The death cross is a bearish indicator where a long-term MA overtakes a short-term MA. A long-term MA can only overtake a short-term MA if seller pressure accelerates. The death cross can indicate more pain ahead as more investors rush for the exits. This indication can give a trader the opportunity to leave a position in case prices get worse.

Advantages of the Moving Average Crossover Strategy

The MA crossover strategy helps traders discover trends and entry points. However, crossovers aren’t the only indicators. You can discover support and resistance points by analyzing how a stock price reacts when it gets closer to the MA line. If the stock goes in the opposite direction instead of crossing the line, you can interpret it as a line of support or resistance.

The MA crossover strategy is a time-tested technical indicator that can help you make more informed decisions. This approach helps traders better interpret of short-term volatility and lets you keep a wider time horizon in mind. While moving averages do not ensure profits, they may increase the probability of pulling out a successful trade rather than taking a blind approach to entering positions.

Technical analysis helps investors and traders detect patterns, but some strategies are more complicated than others. Moving averages are typically easier to obtain and comprehend. The MA crossover strategy can be a beginner-friendly resource that many pros might use for their trades.

Disadvantages of the MA Crossover Strategy 

The MA crossover trading strategy, like any other, is not perfect. Price fluctuations can quickly change the dynamic of a MA crossover strategy. Using the crossover strategy as a gauge during range bound conditions and sideways market is usually more challenging. . The MA crossover strategy alongside other technical strategies may help increase your probability of success.

The MA crossover strategy may become less reliable with major news items on deck. A Federal Reserve announcement or economic report will likely impact the stock market’s outlook, while an earnings report will impact a stock’s fundamentals. A stock can form a golden cross before earnings, but that does not guarantee the company will beat expectations and continue to rise. A moving average crossover strategy may not be as helpful when significant events are on the horizon, but it can help you identify potential buying or selling opportunities after the market reacts to the news.

Traders who use the MA crossover strategy have to look at historical trends. Some traders stretch their charts to several years to track previous breakouts and lines of resistance. This additional work adds complexity to each trade. However, this learning curve gets more manageable if you frequently trade the same stocks since you may become familiar with their past performances and chart patterns.

Keep in mind that past performance does not indicate or guarantee future results.

Incorporating the MA Crossover into a Trading Strategy 

The MA crossover strategy is a popular choice for many traders. Seeing how MAs interact with each other and the stock price can help traders make more informed decisions. Crossovers may alert traders on upcoming trends in the stock market so they can adjust their portfolios accordingly. Traders may want to combine MA crossovers with other technical indicators and fundamental analysis. Since MA crossovers are typically easier to understand than other indicators, traders can incorporate them sooner and add other insights into the mix after mastering this strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is MA crossover a useful strategy?


The MA crossover is a useful trading strategy as it captures current market sentiment. Investors  shouldn’t rely on a single indicator. Instead, they may want to combine other strategies in conjunction with MA crossovers.


What is a bullish MA crossover?


A golden cross and the stock price exceeding an MA are bullish crossovers.


Which time frame should be considered for a MA crossover?


Many shorter term traders use a 20-day MA while longer term nvestors use 50-day and 200-day MAs. 

About Marc Guberti

Marc Guberti is an investing writer passionate about helping people learn more about money management, investing and finance. He has more than 10 years of writing experience focused on finance and digital marketing. His work has been published in U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, InvestorPlace and other publications.