What is momentum trading?
Momentum trading is a strategy in which you open trades only in the direction of strong price trends, capitalizing on the continuous price action and exiting before a reversal.
A momentum trader does not necessarily concern themselves with where a trend ends and begins, but instead focuses on opportunities from the main body of the trend. In this mindset, traders may “buy high, and sell higher.”
While momentum trading follows short-term trends, it should not be confused with trend trading, which refers to longer-term trades. Trend trading, or trend following, applies to macro asset classes only and ignores the short-term fundamentals many momentum traders watch closely.
Momentum in trading is the ability of a market to maintain its price direction, increasing and then decreasing in momentum as the price trend grows, slows, and eventually reverses. Trends in price action can be sparked by fundamental events like earnings reports or world news, or they can be caused by herd mentality like the GameStop short squeeze of 2021.
Does momentum trading work?
Momentum trading works if you believe in sustained market trends. A quick glance across a few charts usually reveals that they do indeed exist – upward price swings can last several days or weeks, and a short squeeze can draw on for an even longer period.
However, there are no guarantees that a trend will continue. Trading momentum leaves you at risk of reversals and price corrections. The strategy requires close attention to your trades, as a stalled price can cause selloffs that quickly snowball.
While momentum trading may seem to favor short-term traders, it can also be a long-term strategy. Position trading is often used to refer to long-term momentum trading while swing trading is used for short-term momentum and day trading, while not always based on momentum, denotes even shorter terms. Momentum trading can work for all trading styles if you use proper indicators and stick to your strategy.
How to use momentum indicators for trading
Momentum trading is largely based on pure price action and not fundamental elements of why the price is moving in one direction or another. Thus, it is best to use technical analysis and momentum indicators when implementing momentum trading strategies.
Here are a few indicators to consider.
The Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) indicator is one of the most popular indicators, not just for momentum trading but for any technical analysis-based strategy. The MACD uses three exponential moving averages to identify price movements. The difference between these averages is shown in a histogram, whose movement can show whether a trend is strengthening or weakening.
However, moving averages always lag behind price action, so momentum trades are best off using the MACD to find suitable entry points—since they enter after the trend starts anyways—but may want to use a different indicator when determining an exit.
Relative Strength Index (RSI)
Another oscillator, the Relative Strength Index may be the most popular indicator for momentum trading. The indicator is bound between zero and 100 and compares the average number of days a security has closed up versus down to signal if a market is overbought or oversold.
When the RSI line passes above 80 or under 20, the market is indicated as overbought or oversold, respectively. This might indicate that the end of a trend is near and momentum traders should close their positions.
The stochastic oscillatoris a leading indicator, which means it can be used to predict price movements, making it perfect for exiting momentum trades. The indicator consists of an indicator line that oscillates between zero and 100 which compares the day’s close to a 14-day average, and a signal line representing a five-day average of the indicator line.
Like the MACD, when the stochastic oscillator rises above 80 or below 20 the market is indicated to be overbought or oversold. But the stochastic oscillator goes one step further. When the indicator and signal line crossover in the overbought or oversold regions, traders take it as a direct signal that the price is going to reverse and to buy or sell accordingly.
How to trade momentum in forex
High volatility and volume are two crucial elements for momentum trading. Luckily, the forex market is far more volatile than the stock market and experiences a lot more volume. Please be aware that trading during times of extreme volatility can be risky and not suitable for all investors. Trends in the forex market are triggered by several factors.
Central bank policy may create strong trends in forex. Reports like the Consumer Price Index and central bank meeting notes may send currency pairs into a trend if they signal something new to traders.
Other significant economic data and global news events may also trigger forex price trends. Consumer consumption, trade deficits, and other macroeconomic data are all news events with the potential to move markets.