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What is the Best Moving Average for Swing Trading?

Moving averages are among the most commonly used technical indicators by traders, especially swing traders. But with so many types and timeframes to choose from, it can be confusing to figure out the best-moving average for swing trading.

Best Moving Average for Swing Trading

In this blog, we'll delve into the types of moving averages, explore their strengths and weaknesses, and identify the best ones for your swing trading strategy.

By the end, you'll have a clearer understanding of moving averages and how to use them to maximize your trading success.

What is a Moving Average?

A moving average (MA) is a technical indicator that smooths out price data to identify trends and potential reversal points. It calculates the average closing price over a specified number of periods. This helps traders see the general direction of the price movement by reducing the "noise" of short-term price fluctuations.

There are different types of moving averages, but the two most common are:

  • Simple Moving Average (SMA): This is the arithmetic mean of the closing prices over a certain period. If you're calculating a 20-day SMA, you add up the closing prices of the past 20 days and divide the total by 20.

  • Exponential Moving Average (EMA): This type gives more weight to recent prices, making it more responsive to current price movements. This characteristic makes the EMA preferable for shorter-term trading.

Why Use Moving Averages?

Moving averages can help swing traders in several ways:

  • Trend Identification: Moving averages help you identify the trend direction by smoothing out price movements. They can clearly show if a market is in an uptrend, downtrend, or range.

  • Support and Resistance: They often act as support or resistance levels. Prices frequently bounce off the moving average line, providing potential entry or exit points.

  • Signal Generation: Crossovers between different moving averages or between the moving average and the price can signal potential buy or sell points.

Choosing the Best Moving Average for Swing Trading

Choosing the best moving average depends on your trading style and the market conditions. Here are some commonly used MAs:

20-Day Moving Average

The 20-day MA is popular among swing traders because it balances responsiveness with stability. It's responsive enough to reflect short-term market shifts but isn't so sensitive that it frequently gives false signals. The 20-day MA is widely used to identify the short-term trend and potential reversal points.

50-Day Moving Average

The 50-day MA is often used for intermediate-term trends. It’s a good indicator of general market direction and can serve as a solid support or resistance level. Traders often use it in conjunction with shorter MAs to generate crossover signals.

100-Day Moving Average

This MA serves as a medium-term indicator and is slower than the 50-day MA. It's less sensitive to price changes, so it can help identify more significant trends and reduce noise. It’s useful in confirming the direction of longer-term trends.

200-Day Moving Average

The 200-day MA is widely considered a major indicator of long-term market trends. It's one of the most-followed moving averages by both retail and institutional investors. While it lags significantly compared to shorter MAs, it provides a solid indication of the market's overall trend and serves as a psychological support or resistance level.

A trading chart showing multiple moving averages of different periods for comparison.

Moving Average Crossover Strategies

Crossovers are one of the most straightforward trading strategies involving moving averages. Two common crossover strategies are:

Golden Cross and Death Cross

These terms refer to crossovers between the 50-day and 200-day moving averages:

  • Golden Cross: This occurs when a short-term moving average (usually the 50-day MA) crosses above a long-term moving average (typically the 200-day MA). It signals a bullish market trend.

  • Death Cross: This occurs when the 50-day MA crosses below the 200-day MA. It signals a bearish trend.

Short-Term Crossover Strategies

In shorter timeframes, traders can use faster crossovers for quicker signals:

  • 5-Day and 20-Day EMA Crossover: This is often used for swift entry and exit points. The 5-day EMA crossing above the 20-day EMA signals a potential buying opportunity and vice versa.

  • 13-Day and 50-Day SMA Crossover: A cross of the 13-day SMA above the 50-day SMA indicates a bullish signal.

Combining Moving Averages with Other Indicators

Moving averages work even better when combined with other technical indicators, such as:

RSI (Relative Strength Index)

RSI helps identify overbought or oversold conditions. If a moving average crossover aligns with an RSI reading indicating oversold conditions, it could strengthen a buy signal.

MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence)

MACD combines two EMAs to detect changes in momentum. It provides valuable confirmation when used with moving average crossovers.

Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands add upper and lower bands around a moving average, indicating volatility. A moving average breakout above the upper band could suggest strong momentum.


While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, the 20-day moving average is frequently cited as the best for swing trading. It's responsive enough to capture short-term price movements yet stable enough to minimize false signals.

However, the best-moving average ultimately depends on your trading style, risk tolerance, and the specific market you're trading.

For a more comprehensive strategy, consider combining multiple moving averages of different timeframes or using them alongside other technical indicators like RSI or MACD.

By understanding the nuances of different moving averages and adapting your strategy accordingly, you'll be better positioned to identify high-probability trading opportunities and maximize your swing trading success.

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