SoFi student loan refi rates just dropped. Save even more and pay off debt faster. View your rate.

# What Is Exponential Moving Average (EMA)?

By Laurel Tincher · August 08, 2024 · 7 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.

An exponential moving average (EMA) is a commonly used average price calculation done for a specific time period that places more weight and importance on the most recent price data. Since it is weighted this way it reacts faster to recent price changes than a simple moving average (SMA) which is a type of average price calculation, which equally weights all data points within a time period.

Moving averages are technical analysis trading indicators used by traders to help them understand the direction, market trend, and strength of price movement of an asset. They measure the average price of a security by taking averages of the prices of the security over a specific period of time, and can be used to show traders the location of support and resistance levels. Read on to learn more about the meaning of EMA in stocks, the EMA formula, and how to calculate EMA.

Key Points

•   An exponential moving average (EMA) gives more weight to recent price data, making it a useful tool for traders to gauge market trends and price movements.

•   The formula for calculating EMA incorporates the current price, the previous EMA, and an exponential smoothing constant, allowing for dynamic adjustments based on market behavior.

•   Calculating EMA involves determining the simple moving average first, then applying a weighting multiplier, and finally using the EMA formula to derive values.

•   While EMAs can effectively indicate support and resistance levels, they have limitations, such as lagging indicators and the potential for false signals in flat markets.

•   Traders often use EMA alongside other indicators to enhance their analysis, helping them make informed decisions about entry and exit points in their trading strategies.

## What is EMA?

An EMA, exponentially weighted moving average, is a type of moving average (MA) used by traders to evaluate the potential trajectory of a financial security. Using the EMA calculation, the most recent price data has the greatest impact on the moving average, while older data has a lower impact. The previous EMA value is included in the calculation, so the current value includes all the price data.

As noted, it reacts faster to price changes than a simple moving average, which may be helpful to some investors.

## EMA Formula

The formula for calculating EMA is:

EMA = (K x (C – P)) + P

Where:

C = Current Price

P = Previous Period’s EMA (for the first period calculated the SMA is used)

K = Exponential Smoothing Constant (this applies appropriate weight to the most recent security price, using the number of periods specified in the moving average. The most common smoothing constant is 2, but the higher it is the more influence recent data points have on the EMA)

💡 Quick Tip: Are self-directed brokerage accounts cost efficient? They can be, because they offer the convenience of being able to buy stocks online without using a traditional full-service broker (and the typical broker fees).

### Get up to \$1,000 in stock when you fund a new Active Invest account.*

#### Access stock trading, options, auto investing, IRAs, and more. Get started in just a few minutes.

*Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least \$25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving \$1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

## How to Calculate EMA

Technical analysts follow three steps to calculating an EMA.

1.    Calculate the simple moving average (SMA) to find the initial EMA data point. The SMA is used as the previous period’s EMA for the first calculated data point of the EMA. To calculate the SMA of the last 20 days, a trader would add the amounts of the last 20 closing prices of the security and then divide that sum by 20.

2.    Calculate the weighting multiplier for the number of periods that will be used to calculate the EMA. The number of periods used for the EMA has a significant impact on the value of the weighting multiplier.

The formula for finding the weighting multiplier is:

EMA(current) = ((Price(current) – EMA (prev)) x Multiplier) + EMA(prev)

3.    Calculate the EMA using the formula described above.

Some traders also use the open, high, low, or median price instead of the closing price for the EMA calculation.

## Example of EMA

Taking the above into consideration and following the three steps to calculate EMA, here’s an example of how it might all come together.

Again, here’s the EMA formula: EMA = (K x (C – P)) + P

We’ll assume that the previous period’s EMA is 50, and that the current price is 60. We’ll also assume that our smoothing constant is 2, for simplicity’s sake.

So: EMA= (2 x (60 – 50)) + 50 = 70

## What Does EMA Show You?

An EMA follows prices more closely than a SMA since it puts more weight on recent data points. This is helpful for determining when to enter and exit trades. EMA is a lagging indicator that shows market trends and directions and the strength of price movements. It’s best used in trending markets.

By looking at past trends traders can gain an understanding of what might happen with a security’s price in the future, which may help them identify investment opportunities. Although past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

## Limitations of Using EMA

Although EMA is a very useful trading tool, it does have some constraints.

•   Spotting trends and directions using EMA is difficult in a flat market.

•   The EMA shows present market trends but is not a predictor of future trends and prices. It also doesn’t show exact highs and lows or precise entry and exit points.

•   The EMA can show false signals and can show more short term price changes that aren’t trading indicators.

•   Even though it is weighted toward recent prices, the EMA does rely on past price movements, so it is a lagging indicator. Because of this the optimal time to enter a trade may have already passed by the time the trend direction shows up in an EMA chart.

## How Investors Can Use EMA

Usually traders look at the direction the EMA is going in and they trade in the direction of the trend. In addition to spotting market trends and direction, EMA can also identify spot reversals that occur when a security is overbought or oversold.

The EMA is a fairly accurate tool because stock prices typically only stray so far from the average before returning to test the average, creating support or resistance and continuing to rise or fall. Even beginning investors can use EMA to spot trends and gain an understanding of what direction the market is heading.

Like other indicators, It’s best to use EMA in conjunction with other tools such as relative strength index (RSI) and moving average convergence divergence (MACD) to get a more comprehensive and accurate picture of the market. There are a few ways investors can use EMA:

Traders can use the EMA to discover and trade primary market trends. When the EMA rises this is a bullish indicator, a trader may buy when the stock price dips to hit the EMA line or just below it. When EMA goes down, a trader might sell their position when the stock price goes up to hit the EMA line or just above. If the stock has a closing price that crosses over the average line, the trader closes out their trade.

### Support and Resistance

EMA lines can track support and resistance levels, another useful way to track price movements and trends. If EMA goes up, this is a support indicator, while if it goes down this shows resistance to the security’s price movement.

Traders can set up fast and slow moving averages and then find buy and sell signals when the two lines cross each other.

💡 Quick Tip: The best stock trading app? That’s a personal preference, of course. Generally speaking, though, a great app is one with an intuitive interface and powerful features to help make trades quickly and easily.

## The Takeaway

EMA is a useful tool for both advanced and beginner traders to understand market trends and directions. It’s a technical indicator that evaluates a stock’s price trend with a greater emphasis on recent price levels.

Whether you’re planning to use in-depth technical analysis or not, a great way to get started building a portfolio is by opening an investment account on the SoFi Invest® stock trading app. It lets you research, track, buy and sell stocks, exchange-traded funds, and other assets right from your phone.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to \$1,000 in the stock of your choice.

## FAQ

### Which EMA is best?

Day traders often use 8- and 20-day EMA periods, while long-term investors use 50- and 200-day EMA. Indicators such as the moving average convergence divergence (MACD) and percentage price oscillator (PPO) use 12- and 26-day periods. If a security passes over a 200-day EMA this is a technical sign that a trend reversal has occurred.

### What’s the difference between EMA and SMA?

Both simple moving average and exponential moving average are used by traders to measure market trends. They both create a graphical line that smoothes out price fluctuations using calculated averages. But they weigh price data differently, and may have different sensitivities to price changes.

### What is 5 EMA and 20 EMA?

There are different EMAs referring to different time periods that can identify trends. In that sense, 5 EMA and 20 EMA refers to the 5-day and 20-day EMA, a shorter and longer-term EMA measure.

Photo credit: iStock/South_agency

SoFi Invest®

INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE

SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least \$25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving \$1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

SOIN0124043

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender