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Stochastic: What’s it Really Showing You?

Updated: Jun 13, 2019


Ever heard the expression “getting ahead of the curve?” In trading, this cliche perfectly reflects what every trader wishes they could consistently do. In addition to fundamental analysis, you might turn to charts to forecast price moves. A big part of using charts to make sense of the markets are indicators, but are they really any good? Many traders turn to the Stochastic indicator to check overbought or oversold levels, so just what insights does Stochastic analysis really offer, and how can you use these insights to determine when to open a position?

Here’s an overview of this popular indicator, why you might be struggling to use it, and some top tips that will help you avoid misinterpreting market moves.

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Overbought and oversold

The terms overbought and oversold describe a period where there has been significant movement in price without much pullback or reversion. Simply put, a rise or fall that doesn’t deviate far from the trend line.

What goes up...! You know the saying. Price trends can’t last forever. They eventually reverse, and trading close to that point of reversal is one way you can maximize your profits. In traditional technical analysis, traders expect overbought or oversold currency pairs to reverse, but that’s not always the case and it can be quite an expensive realization. To constantly set your trades based on the Stochastic indicator will yield mixed and likely disappointing results.


How to read the Stochastic

If you’ve already signed up with Exness, then you have access to a trading platform and a risk-free demo account. This is the perfect way to get familiar with any of the free and paid indicators available. Open up your platform and go to the Navigator pane on the left. Scroll down and then drag the Stochastic folder to the chart. A section will appear below the price chart with two lines tracing along, above, and below a central range.

The concept is fairly simple. The lower horizontal line represents a value of 20. The upper horizontal line is 80. Whenever the tracing line breaches 80, it indicates a possible overbought status, and traders expect a price correction. Likewise, if the lines cross below the 20-mark, it signals a possible oversold status, and a reversal might be imminent.



In the above EURUSD example, a downtrend started on May 19 and crossed the 20-line on May 22 [yellow]. Traders using the Stochastic indicator would normally take this as a sign of overbought, and they would set a buy order with the expectations of a reversal. They would consequently be very pleased with the rise that followed.

Just five days later, Stochastic indicated another oversold status [blue], but traders clicking the buy buttonprobably lost whatever profits they’d achieved the previous week. So, what’s going on?

Indicators are not fortune-tellers

FX News does not recommend using the Stochastic indicator as a stand-alone forecasting strategy. Indicators are best used to confirm theories, not to create them. Having said that, Stochastic is one of the best indicators a trader can use, but you might consider adding a little common sense to the mix.

In the yellow example above, you can see that the price line and the Stochastic lines match rather well in the days preceding the oversold signal—and continue to do so after the fact. The perfect example of how a Stochastic indicator can forecast a reversal!

The blue example a few days later shows a clear divergence. The Stochastic line falls dramatically in a complete reversal from overbought to oversold, but the price line barely moves in comparison. Consider that a warning sign! Another common indicator is that the reversal usually comes when the rise or fall happens in a short period of time. Watch out for steep peaks and valleys that accompany the overbought/oversold range.




Top trading tips for advanced traders

Although we’ve used a price line to better illustrate the price moves in the chart image, FX News suggests using candlesticks when performing chart analysis. Moreover, Stochastic’s default %K period and slowing is set at 5,3,3, but cautious traders usually use higher numbers. On the top menu, go to Insert > Indicators > Oscillators > Stochastic Oscillator and set to 15,5,5. You can run both settings at the same time to see the differences. Certain settings may work better for certain pairs, so play around with the levels before committing to one.

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