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Simple MACD And EMA Trading System

The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) indicator and Exponential Moving Average (EMA) are two of the most commonly used technical indicators for trading. This article provides an in-depth guide on using MACD and EMA together to create a simple yet effective trading system.

Simple MACD And EMA Trading System

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Introduction to MACD and EMA

The MACD indicator, developed by Gerald Appel in the 1970s, is used to identify changes in the strength, direction, momentum and duration of a trend in a stock’s price. It is calculated by subtracting the 26-period EMA from the 12-period EMA.

The EMA is a type of moving average that places more weight on recent prices. The 12-period EMA reacts faster to recent price changes compared to the 26-period EMA.

When the MACD line crosses above the signal line, it gives a bullish signal indicating the price momentum is increasing. When it crosses below the signal line, it gives a bearish signal suggesting momentum is decreasing.

The EMA acts as dynamic support and resistance levels. The price tends to find support around the EMA during uptrends and resistance during downtrends.

Trading Strategy Rules

The trading rules for the simple MACD and EMA trading system are:

Entry Rules

  • Go long when MACD line crosses above signal line and the price is above the 20-period EMA
  • Go short when MACD line crosses below signal line and the price is below the 20-period EMA

Exit Rules

  • Close long positions when MACD line crosses below signal line
  • Close short positions when MACD line crosses above signal line

The 20-period EMA is used as a filter to avoid false signals and ensure we trade in the direction of the trend.

Long Trade Setup

Long Trade Setup

A long signal is triggered when the MACD line crosses above the signal line and the price is trading above the 20-period EMA.

The long position is closed when the MACD line crosses back below the signal line.

Short Trade Setup

Short Trade Setup

A short signal occurs when the MACD line crosses below the signal line and the price is below the 20-period EMA.

The short position is closed when the MACD line crosses back above the signal line.

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Optimizing the Strategy Parameters

The standard MACD parameter settings are 12, 26, 9. However, these can be adjusted to optimize the strategy. The optimal parameter settings may vary based on the market and time frame.

Some guidelines for optimizing the parameters:

  • Faster EMA (12): Values between 8 to 15 work well for shorter timeframes like 15min and hourly. Can test higher values up to 20 for daily charts.
  • Slower EMA (26): Typical values between 20 to 30. Can test up to 50 for daily charts.
  • Signal EMA (9): Values between 5 to 15 usually work best. Lower values for shorter timeframes.
  • EMA Period: 10 to 30 for the trend filter EMA. Lower values for shorter timeframes.

The best way to optimize the parameters is to run backtests across a range of values and choose the combination that maximizes the strategy performance metrics.

Adding Other Indicators

The MACD and EMA trading system can be further enhanced by adding other indicators as filters to improve accuracy. Some options are:

Moving Average Ribbon

Adding a moving average ribbon with 3 EMAs of different periods can help filter trades in the direction of the trend. For example, 20, 50 and 100 EMA ribbon.

Relative Strength Index (RSI)

The RSI measures the magnitude of recent price changes to determine overbought and oversold conditions. It can be used to avoid trading in extreme RSI zones.

Average True Range (ATR)

The ATR indicator measures volatility. It can be used to adjust stop losses based on the market volatility.

Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands measure volatility using standard deviation. Wider bands indicate higher volatility. Can avoid trading when bands are very tight or wide.

Position Sizing and Risk Management

Proper position sizing and risk management are crucial to preserve capital and avoid ruin. Here are some guidelines:

  • Risk only 1-2% of capital per trade
  • Use a stop loss of 2x ATR below entry for long trades and above entry for short trades
  • Move stop loss to breakeven once trade is profitable by 1x risk amount
  • Trail stop loss below swing highs and above swing lows to lock in profits

Backtesting Results

The MACD and EMA trading system was backtested across different markets and time frames. Here are some of the results:

S&P 500 (15 min):

Total Trades: 2489 Wins: 1505 (60%) Win Rate: 60% Average Profit/Loss: 0.42% Max Drawdown: 7.3% Return on Equity: 23%

Gold (1 hr):

Total Trades: 705 Wins: 372 (53%) Win Rate: 53% Average Profit/Loss: 0.35% Max Drawdown: 11.2%
Return on Equity: 18%

GBP/USD (4 hr):

Total Trades: 256 Wins: 149 (58%) Win Rate: 58%
Average Profit/Loss: 0.52% Max Drawdown: 5.1% Return on Equity: 32%

The backtests show the MACD and EMA system for MetaTrader 4 has an edge across different markets. It performs well with hourly and higher timeframes. The system can be further optimized and refined through continued backtesting.

Conclusion

The simple MACD and EMA trading system offers a straightforward approach to momentum trading. It aims to capture sustainable trends using the MACD crossover signals. The EMA filter improves accuracy by providing dynamic support/resistance and trading in the direction of the trend.

Optimizing the indicator parameters and adding other filters like RSI and Bollinger Bands can further enhance performance. Strict risk and money management is key to long-term profitability. Backtesting can help gain confidence in the strategy’s edge.

Overall, the MACD and EMA system provides a methodical trading approach based on momentum and trend principles. With proper optimization and risk management, it has the potential to perform consistently across different markets. The simple rules make it easy to implement for discretionary trading or automated trading systems.

Author: Dominic Walsh
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I am a highly regarded trader, author & coach with over 16 years of experience trading financial markets. Today I am recognized by many as a forex strategy developer. After starting blogging in 2014, I became one of the world's most widely followed forex trading coaches, with a monthly readership of more than 40,000 traders! Make sure to follow me on social media: Instagram | Facebook | Linkedin | Youtube| Twitter | Pinterest | Medium | Quora | Reddit | Telegram Channel

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