The stochastic oscillator was presented by George Lane in 1950s. George Lane designed a number of indicators that withstood the test of time. These indicators rank high among most popular and are widely used. Lane's stochastic oscillator can warn of strength or weakness in the market ahead. As a momentum indicator, stochastic helps to find turning points within the scope of the most significant trends. To achieve better results, stochastic needs to be used in conjunction with trend analysis or trend following indicators.
The best technique is to use stochastic with trend analysis to time trades in the duration of the major trend. Stochastic indicates short-term price fluctuation within the major trend support and resistance levels. Using these two techniques in conjunction gives a number of excellent opportunities.
The basic assumption behind the indicator is that in an upward trend prices tend to close near the high of the day. In downward trend prices tend to close near their low. The stochastic oscillator is plotted as two lines, a fast line, called %K, and a slow line, called %D.
%K = 100 * (C - LN) / (HN - LN)
%K - fast stochastic
C - latest close price
HN - highest high for N periods
LN - lowest low for N periods
%D - is an 'n' periods simple moving average of %K
Usually n = 3 periods.
George Lane recommended a 14 period measurement. The number can be varied to change the sensitivity and the desired time frame. Period can represent days, weeks or months.
Lane's stochastic is a percentage indicator. It always stays between 0 and 100.
Market technicians use stochastic oscillators as a timing indicator for signals of a market reversal. There are three main signals generated by stochastic .
1. The level above 80% is considered as an overbought warning signal, and the level below 20% is used as an oversold warning signal. Thess signals should be considered only in conjunction with other factors. Lane recommended waiting when stochastic rises above 80% and sell when it falls below this level. For level below 20% Lane recommended waiting till it rises back above 20%.
The stochastic oscillator is very sensitive to the price movement and usually gives too many signals and to many whipsaws. One way to limit the sensitivity is using 5% and 95% level as more reliable. Some technicians prefer smoothing normal stochastic by 3-day simple moving average. The normal stochastic is sometimes referred as ?fast? to distinguish it from smoothed ?slow? stochastic. Some technicians believe that slow stochastic provides more accurate signals.
This technique is simple and elegant. Technical analysis software does all the calculations and makes analysis easier and available not only for professional traders, but even for average investors. You can find the complete list of S&P 500 oversold and overbought stocks by using the advanced technical analysis stock screener:
2. The second important signal generated by Lane's Stochastic is the crossover between the %D and %K lines. It is considered a buy signal, when the %K line rises above the %D line, and a sell signal, when the %K line falls below %D. To avoid whipsaws you can wait for crossover accruing within overbought/oversold area, or after a peak or bottom in the %D line.
3. The third and one of the most reliable signals is divergence between %D and the price. A bullish divergence occurs when price makes a series of lower lows, while %D makes a series of higher lows. A bearish divergence occurs when price makes a series of higher highs, while %D makes a series of lower highs. You can use the following links to see the list of S&P 500 members that currently have bullish or bearish divergence:
Now that we know the basics, we can discuss the advanced techniques. The most important and difficult question is when to apply Lane's Stochastic. The basic assumption of stochastic is a certain market cyclicity. The simple technique will present useful signals for intermediate top and bottom in trading market, but in strong trending market, stochastic is too sensitive to generate reliable signals. We would like to stress it again that stochastic oscillator is a momentum indicator. Momentum indicators help identify turning points, but it needs to be used in conjunction with trend following indicators or trend analysis.
The simplest and one of the most popular trends following indicator is a moving average. A lot of technicians use stochastic oscillator in conjunction with MACD - moving average converge/divergence indicator. MACD is a trend following indicator that can help to identify the direction of the major trend. Knowing the direction, you can use the stochastic signals to trade in the direction of the major trend.
Use the advanced technical analysis stock screener to find a list of oversold stocks that have a substantial long-term uptrend
Below is the list of overbought stocks that have been in a long-term downtrend
Using oscillators in conjunction with trend analysis and patterns recognition is probably one of the most profitable techniques devised for the experienced trader. Oversold/overbought conditions and stochastic divergence usually confirm termination patterns and give useful tips about when the current trend is about to change. The following link presents a list of oversold stocks with prices near the monthly support trend line for S&P 500 members
Below is the list of overbought stocks with prices near the monthly resistance trend line:
Trend support/resistance lines confirmed by oversold/overbought stochastic indicators and price divergence would present most reliable and accurate signals, and they often help to pick the bottom/top of the price trend.