What is the VIX Volatility Index? How Investors Can Use It

What Is the VIX Volatility Index? How Investors Can Use It

The Cboe Global Markets Volatility Index, known as the VIX for short, is a tool used to measure implied volatility in the market. In simple terms, the VIX index tells investors how professional investors feel about the market at any given time.

This can be helpful for gauging and assessing risk in order to capitalize on anticipated market movements. Depending on which way the VIX is trending, it may throw off buy or sell signals to investors.

The volatility index is sometimes referred to as the “fear index” or “fear gauge” because traders rely on it as an indicator of the fearfulness of sentiment surrounding the market. While not a crystal ball, understanding the VIX and how it works can provide a useful predictor of investor behavior.

What Is the VIX Index?

The VIX Index is a real-time calculation designed to measure expected volatility in the U.S. stock market. One of the most recognized barometers of fluctuations in financial markets, the VIX measures how much volatility investing experts expect to see in the market over the next 30 days. This measurement reflects real-time quotes of S&P 500 Index (SPX) call option and put option prices.

Stock volatility represents the up and down price movements of various financial instruments that occur over a set period of time. The larger and more frequent price swings, the higher the volatility.

Implied volatility reflects market sentiment and which way it expects a security or financial instrument’s price to move.


💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

How Does the VIX Work?

The VIX Index is a forward-looking trend indicator used to quantify expectations for future volatility. Cboe designed the index to estimate expected volatility by aggregating weighted prices of S&P 500 Index puts and calls over a wide range of strike prices.

In options trading, the strike price represents the price at which a trader can exercise an option. Call options give an investor the right to buy shares of an underlying security; put options give them the right to sell shares of an underlying security.

The Cboe Options Exchange (Cboe Options) calculates the VIX Index using standard SPX options and weekly SPX options listed on the exchange. Standard SPX options expire on the third Friday of every month. Weekly SPX options expire on all other Fridays. VIX index calculations include:

•   SPX options with Friday expirations

•   SPX options with more than 23 days and less than 37 days to their Friday expiration

The index weights these options to establish a constant-maturity, 30-day measure of the amount of volatility the S&P 500 Index is likely to produce. The VIX index works differently from the Black Scholes model, which estimates theoretical value for derivatives and other financial instruments based on a number of factors, including volatility, time, and the price of underlying assets.

The VIX is one of seven inputs used by CNN to determine its Fear and Greed Index.

What Does the VIX Tell You?

In securities trading, the VIX index is a measure of market sentiment. The volatility index has a negative correlation with stock market returns. If the VIX moves up that means investor fear is on the rise. The S&P 500 tends to see price drops in that scenario as investors may begin to sell off securities to hedge against expanded volatility that may be on the horizon.

On the other hand, when the VIX declines, that could signal a decline in investor fear as well. In that situation, the S&P may be experiencing lower levels of volatility and higher prices as investors buy and sell with confidence. This doesn’t necessarily mean that prices will remain high, however, as volatility is fluid and can increase or decrease sharply due to changing market conditions.

The volatility index can be read as a chart, with each day’s reading plotted out. Generally, a reading of 0 to 12 represents low volatility in the markets, while a range of 13 to 19 is normal volatility.

Once the VIX reaches 20 or above, that means you can typically expect volatility to be higher over the coming 30 days. For perspective, the VIX notched a 52-week high of 34.88 and a 52-week low of 12.73 as of August 11, 2023.

Example of VIX in Action

The beginning of 2020 saw a gradual rise in the level of concern surrounding the coronavirus and its potential to become a public health crisis. As more cases appeared in the United States, the financial markets began to react. The VIX index, which had hovered around 20 or below since January 2019, began to climb in the third week of February. By March 16, it had reached a peak of 82.69 and the Dow Jones had dropped 12.93%.

After the market crashed, the VIX began to slowly decline. By early November 2021, the volatility index was once again implying volatility on par with pre-pandemic levels, measuring 18.58 as of November 24.


💡 Quick Tip: When you’re actively investing in stocks, it’s important to ask what types of fees you might have to pay. For example, brokers may charge a flat fee for trading stocks, or require some commission for every trade. Taking the time to manage investment costs can be beneficial over the long term.

How Investors Can Trade the VIX

Investors interested in trading the VIX index have a few options for doing so. Cboe offers both VIX options and VIX futures as a starting point.

VIX options are not exactly the same as traditional stock options. They trade nearly 24 hours a day, five days a week during extended trading hours. Investors can trade a call option or put option to make speculative investments based on anticipated volatility in the markets.

Cboe introduced VIX futures in 2004 to allow investors to trade a liquid volatility product using the VIX index as a guide. The difference between options and futures lies largely in the execution.

With options trading, the investor has the right but not the obligation to buy or sell a particular investment. A futures contract, on the other hand, requires the buyer to purchase shares and the seller to sell them at an agreed-upon price.

With VIX options or VIX futures, you’re making investments based on what you expect to happen in the markets based on how the volatility index is trending. Options and futures are speculative investments that carry more risk than some other types of investments. If you’re looking for another way to trade the VIX, you might look to VIX exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or volatility ETFs instead.

Volatility ETFs

Exchange-traded funds hold a basket of securities but they trade on an exchange like a stock. VIX ETFs and volatility ETFs often hold futures contracts or track the movements of a volatility index.

Choosing volatility or VIX ETFs in lieu of trading VIX options or VIX futures directly doesn’t eliminate risk. But it can help you to spread the risk out over a diverse group of investments. If you’re already trading stocks and other securities through an online brokerage account, VIX or volatility ETFs may be included as an investment option.

The Takeaway

The volatility index or VIX is a highly useful tool for measuring market sentiment. While it’s impossible to predict exactly which way the market will move, the VIX index can help with interpreting implied volatility when making investment decisions.

That’s information you can use whether you’re trading options or less risky investments such as stocks or ETFs.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


Photo credit: iStock/dolgachov

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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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What Is a Volatility Smile?

What Is a Volatility Smile?

A volatility smile is a common graphic visualization of the strike prices and the implied volatility of options with the same underlying asset and expiration date. Understanding an implied volatility smile can help traders make decisions about their portfolio or certain securities.

Volatility Smile Definition

Implied volatility smiles involve the plotting of strike prices and implied volatility of a bunch of different options on a graph with levels of implied volatility and different strike prices along its axes. Each of the options plotted share the same underlying asset and expiration date. On a graph, they appear in a U shape (or a smile).

The volatility smile is a graphical pattern that shows that implied volatility for the options in question increases as they move away from the current stock or asset price.

Recommended: A Guide to Options Trading

What Do Volatility Smiles Indicate?

When plotted out, volatility smiles illustrate different levels of implied volatility at different strike prices. So, at strike price X, the level of implied volatility would be Y, and so on. At an extremely basic level, the “smile” appearing on a chart could be an indication that the market is anticipating certain conditions in the future.

The appearance of a volatility smile could also indicate that demand is higher for options that are “in the money” or “out of the money” than it is for those that are “at the money.”


💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

Understanding Volatility Smiles, and How to Use Them

A volatility smile can have an effect on options prices. If a trader is considering buying or selling a new option, the chart can help the trader understand the likely pricing of that option, given its strike price and how the market values volatility at a given time. Some options (like those related to currency) have a higher likelihood of producing a volatility smile, and some options will never produce one.

Volatility Smiles and Skews and Smirks

It’s not all smiles when it comes to volatility. There are also volatility skews and volatility smirks in the mix, too.

Volatility Skew

A volatility skew, as seen on a graph, is the difference of measured implied volatility between different options at different strike prices. Basically, a skew appears when there’s a difference in implied volatility between options that are out-of-the-money, at-the-money, and in-the-money. In effect, different options would then trade at different prices.

That means a volatility smile is actually one form of a skew.

Volatility Smirk

Volatility smirks are another form of skew, except rather than having a symmetrical “U” shape, a smirk has a slope to one side.

Instead of a straight line on a graph that would indicate no difference in volatility between the in-the-money, out-of-the-money, and at-the-money options, a smirk shows three different measures of volatility depending on where in “the money” the option lands. This is different from a volatility smile in that a smile indicates that in-the-money and out-of-the-money options are at similar, if not equal, levels of implied volatility.

A smirk is commonly seen when plotting the volatility skew of equity options, where implied volatility is higher on options with lower strikes. One explanation for this phenomenon is that traders favor downside protection, and so purchase put options to compensate for risk.


💡 Quick Tip: Options can be a cost-efficient way to place certain trades, because you typically purchase options contracts, not the underlying security. That said, options trading can be risky, and best done by those who are not entirely new to investing.

Volatility Smile Limitations

An important thing for traders to remember about volatility smiles and skews is that they are theoretical, and reality may not necessarily line up with what’s being portrayed on a graph. In other words, it’s not a fool-proof way to get a read on current market conditions.

Also, not all types of options will showcase smirks or smiles, and for those that do, those smirks or smiles may not always be so clearly defined. A volatility smile may not look like a clear-cut semi-circle — depending on the factors at play, it can look like a much rougher grin than some traders expect.

Volatility Smiles and the Black-Scholes Model

The Black-Scholes Model is a formula that takes several assumptions and inputs — strike prices, expiration dates, price of the underlying asset, interest rates, and volatility — and helps traders calculate the chances of an option expiring in-the-money. It’s a tool to help measure risk, including tail risks.

While popular with many traders for years, it fails to predict volatility smiles — exposing a flaw in its underlying assumptions. Because of that, the Black-Scholes Model may not be as accurate or reliable as previously thought for calculating volatility and corresponding options values.

The Takeaway

Experienced options traders may use volatility smiles as one tool to evaluate the price and risk of a specific asset. They’re typically used by more experienced traders who have advanced tools to help plot securities and who are comfortable trading options and other derivatives.

However, you don’t need such advanced tools to start building a portfolio. It’s possible to begin investing for your future goals without using complicated models or processes.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


Photo credit: iStock/zakokor

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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.

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.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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Simple Moving Average (SMA): What Is a Simple Moving Average?

Simple Moving Average (SMA): Definition & How to Use It

Simple moving averages are one of the indicators that investors use in technical analysis to help them choose stocks. They’re the average of a range of the prices of a stock over a given time period.

Here’s how to calculate simple moving averages, what they represent, and how to use the information they provide.

What Is Simple Moving Average (SMA)?

A simple moving average is the average price of a stock, often its closing price, over a specific period of time. It’s called “moving” because stock prices always change. As a result, charts that track SMA move forward as each new data point is plotted. Investors use simple moving averages and other technical indicators to help them get an idea of the direction a stock price is moving based on previous prices.

While simple moving averages can give investors a sense of what could happen in the future, they have limitations. That’s because simple moving averages reflect past data, so they only represent past trends.


💡 Quick Tip: Look for an online brokerage with low trading commissions as well as no account minimum. Higher fees can cut into investment returns over time.

Formula for Simple Moving Average

To calculate a simple moving average, Investors take the average closing price of a financial security and divide it by a set number of periods.

The formulas is as follows:

SMA = (P1 + P2 + P3…+ Pn)/n

P is price and n is the number of periods.

Let’s take a look at an example of stock price over a period of 10 days.

Day (n)

Closing price (P)

1 $40
2 $42
3 $47
4 $51
5 $46
6 $44
7 $40
8 $38
9 $37
10 $36

To arrive at the simple moving average, first total the closing prices and divide by the number of periods.

SMA = (40 + 42 + 47 + 51 + 46 + 44 + 40 + 38 + 37 + 36)/10 = 421/10 = $42.10

On day 11, if an investor wants to continue looking at a 10-day average, they would drop the first data point in the list above and add the closing price from the eleventh day, shifting the moving average forward by one data point. They would continue to do this for each subsequent day, and in this way, the average continues to move.

What Does SMA Show You?

Analysts often plot simple moving averages as a line on a chart of individual data points. The line helps smooth out movement, making it easier to identify trends. If the line representing the SMA is moving up, then the price of the stock is trending up. Conversely, if the SMA is moving down, prices are also trending downward.

For long-term trends investors typically look at SMA over 200 days, while intermediate trends may focus on a 50-day period. Short-term trends typically use fewer than 50 data points.

Longer-term SMAs can help smooth out stock volatility, but they also have the biggest lag when compared to current prices.

What Are Crossover Signals?

Investors may chart two SMAs — one relatively short and the other long — to generate crossover signals, points when the lines cross, which can help identify moments to buy or sell a stock.

When the shorter moving average crosses above the longer moving average, it is known as a “golden cross.” This is a bullish signal that tells investors that stock prices are trending in the upward direction. On the other hand, a bearish “death cross” occurs when the shorter moving average crosses below the longer moving average. This is a signal that prices are trending down.

What Are Price Crossovers?

Price crossovers are another signal investors may generate to help them identify moments to buy and sell. When a stock’s prices crosses over the moving average, it generates a bullish signal, and it generates a bearish signal when stock prices crosses under the moving average.

One Step Behind

Though analysts use SMAs to identify trends, they are still lagging indicators. SMAs reflect events that have already taken place, making it a “trend following” metric. In other words, they’ll always be a step behind what is happening in real time. As a result, SMAs do not predict future prices, but they can provide investors with some insight into where prices may be going.


💡 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).

SMA vs Other Moving Averages

There are other moving averages investors may use when performing technical analysis on a stock. These help investors flesh out recent trends in stock price movement, but they also tend to be a bit more complicated to calculate.

SMA vs Weighted Moving Average

Like SMAs, weighted moving averages (WMAs) help establish the direction in which a stock price is likely moving. However, they put more emphasis on recent prices than SMAs.

Investors calculate a WMA by multiplying each data point by a weighting factor. That gives more weight to recent data and less weight to data farther in the past. The sum of the weighting must add up to 1, or 100%. Simple moving averages, on the other hand, assign an equal weight to each data point.

The formula for WMAs is:

WMA = Price1 x n + Price2 x (n-1) +…Pricen/[n x (n+1)]/2

Where n is the time period.

SMA vs Exponential Moving Average

An exponential moving average (EMA) also gives more weight to more recent prices. However, unlike WMAs, the rate increase between one price and the next is not consistent — it is exponential. Analysts typically use EMAs over a shorter period of time, making them more sensitive to price movements than SMAs are.

The formula for EMA is:

EMA = K x (Current Price – Previous EMA) + Previous EMA

K = 2/(n+1)

n = The selected time period.

For first-time EMA calculations, previous EMA is equal to SMA, an average of all prices over a number of periods, “n”.

Which Moving Average Is Better?

Each moving average has its own place in an investor’s tool belt. Investors may use WMAs and EMAs — which emphasize recent data — if they are worried that lags in data will reduce responsiveness. Some investors believe that the exponential weight given by EMAs makes them a better indicator of price trends than WMAs and SMAs.

Some more complicated indicators require a simple moving average as one input for calculations.

The Takeaway

If you’re just starting out as an investor, it can be hard to know which stocks to buy and when to buy them. Technical analysis strategies, such as moving averages, can help narrow your search and clue you in to potentially advantageous times to buy or sell.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


Photo credit: iStock/SrdjanPav

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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.

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.

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What Is the Ebitda Formula?

EBITDA is an acronym that stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. The EBITDA formula is a common way for companies to assess their performance. By looking at earnings without deducting taxes, interest, or other expenses, it’s easier to assess business results and compare them to other companies in the same industry.

The EBITDA formula can also be useful for investors. When investing in the stock market, it’s important to research companies before buying shares of their stock, and EBITDA is a basic measure of profitability that can help investors gauge an organization’s performance.

What Is EBITDA, and How Is EBITDA calculated?

The EBITDA formula is a way of considering a company’s net income — without deducting costs like interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. The idea is to create a more apples-to-apples view of how different companies’ perform. Two similar companies in the same industry could have very different tax rates or different capital structures (which can impact debt, and therefore interest paid), making it hard to compare one to the other.

By not deducting certain expenses that aren’t related to performance, EBITDA helps level the playing field and help investors evaluate companies.

EBITDA is also relatively easy to calculate. The information can be found on a company’s balance sheet and income statement. Here’s a quick breakdown of each letter of the acronym, and why it matters in the EBITDA formula:

Earnings

Earnings are a company’s net income over a specific period of time like a fiscal year or a quarter. This number can be found on the company’s income statement; it’s essentially the bottom line, after subtracting all expenses from total revenue.

Interest

This refers to any interest that the company pays on loans and debts. In some cases interest might include interest income, in which case you’d use the total interest amount (interest income – interest paid). Interest is added back to total earnings in the EBITDA formula because the amount of interest paid depends on the types of loans and funding a company has. This number can muddy the waters, when trying to compare two companies that might have very different financing situations.

Taxes

Federal, state, and local taxes are also added back because tax rates depend on where a company is based geographically, and where they conduct business. Thus, taxes aren’t something that a company has much control over, so they aren’t an indicator of performance.

Depreciation & Amortization

Depreciation calculates the decreasing value of tangible physical assets or capital expenditures over time (e.g., equipment, vehicles, buildings, etc.). Amortization is a way to account for the expenses of non-tangible assets like intellectual property, like patents and copyrights.

Depreciation and amortization are added back to earnings because they are non-cash expenses. As such, they don’t necessarily reflect on a company’s overall performance or profitability.


💡 Quick Tip: Before opening any investment account, consider what level of risk you are comfortable with. If you’re not sure, start with more conservative investments, and then adjust your portfolio as you learn more.

EBITDA Formula and Calculation

EBITDA can be calculated simply by adding a company’s interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization to net income. Another method is to add a company’s operating income — or Earnings Before Interest and Taxes (EBIT) to its non-cash expenses of depreciation and amortization.

Earnings, or net income, can be calculated as follows:

Net income = Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold – Expenses

How to calculate EBITDA

EBITDA = Net Income + Taxes + Interest Expense + Depreciation & Amortization

Or

EBITDA = Operating income (EBIT) + Depreciation & Amortization

For example, if a company has $4,500,000 in revenue and $500,000 in expenses, their operating income (EBIT) is $4,000,000.

If the company’s assets have depreciated by $100,000 and they have an amortization amount of $75,000, the calculation would be as follows:

EBITDA = $4,000,000 (EBIT) + $100,000 (D) + $75,000 (A)

EBITDA = $4,175,000

It’s possible for EBITDA to be negative if a company has significant losses within a particular quarter or year.

A more specific EBITDA formula is LTM EBITDA, or Last Twelve Months EBITDA, also called Trailing Twelve Months EBITDA (TTM). This calculation finds EBITDA for only the past year.

How Does EBITDA Differ From Other Measurements of Income?

There are a number of different ways to view an organization’s income, each with their pros and cons. Depending on which lens you use, or which formula, one metric can provide insights into a company’s performance that another won’t. Here are a few common measurements of company income:

•   Cash Flow is an analysis of the amount of money coming into a business versus the amount of money going out. Because of timing issues with sales, you can be profitable without being cash flow positive and vice versa.

•   EBIT is also known as operating income, as discussed above. EBIT adds back the expenses related to interest and taxes, but keeps deductions for depreciation and amortization to give a clearer picture of a company’s earnings inclusive of actual operating costs.

•   EBT is another variation on EBIT. It allows for interest expenses, but eliminates the impact of taxes — since a company’s tax burden has nothing to do with its performance.

•   Net Income appears at the bottom of an income statement, after subtracting all business expenses (including interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) from total revenue.

•   Revenue is also called gross income. It specifically refers to the money a company earns from sales. As such, it’s really only a window into one aspect of the business’s performance.

Understanding company performance can be a complex endeavor, and it’s best to use a combination of metrics that are most meaningful for that company or industry.

Why Is EBITDA Important?

The EBITDA formula is useful because it provides a view of company profitability, without the impact of capital expenditures and financing. By using the EBITDA formula, analysts can compare companies within an industry and investors can quickly use a technical analysis to evaluate companies they might want to invest in.

In that way, EBITDA can also be a tool used by financial advisors to help their clients make investment decisions.

It’s also useful for business owners to calculate their EBITDA each year to see how their company is performing. This is especially important if they are looking to take out a loan or seek investment. Business owners can use the EBITDA formula to gain insight into operating performance, how their company stands in relation to others in the same industry, and the company’s ability to meet its obligations and grow.

What Makes a Good EBITDA?

EBITDA is a measure of a company’s performance, so higher EBITDA is better than lower EBITDA when comparing two or more organizations in the same sector. This is important, because companies that vary in size or operate in different sectors can, of course, also vary widely in their financial performance. So one way to determine whether a company has “good” EBIDTA is to compare it to others of a similar size in the same industry.

Here are two other ways to gauge whether a company’s EBIDTA is good or not.

The EBITDA Coverage Ratio

To add more helpful information to the EBITDA calculation, the EBITDA Coverage Ratio compares EBITDA to debt and lease payments.

The EBITDA coverage ratio calculates a company’s ability to pay off lease payments, debts, and other liabilities.

The calculation for the EBITDA coverage ratio is:

EBITDA Coverage Ratio = (EBITDA + Lease Payments) / (Interest Payments + Principal Payments + Lease Payments)

A ratio equal to or greater than 1 indicates that a company will have a better ability to pay off liabilities. If the ratio is lower, a company may not be able to pay off its debts. The higher the ratio, the more solvent a company is. The current average coverage ratio is 2.


💡 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).

EBITDA Margins

Another EBITDA calculation investors can do to learn about a company’s performance is the EBITDA Margin calculation. This formula compares annual cash profits to sales. It’s a useful indicator to find out if a company’s EBITDA is ‘good’ or not. The EBITDA Margin calculation is:

EBITDA Margin = EBITDA / Total Revenue

The resulting number is a percentage that shows what portion of revenue was able to be converted into profit within a year. The higher this percentage is, the better a company is performing because it means their expenses aren’t eating into their profits. In general, an EBITDA margin of 60% or higher is considered a good number.

Downsides of the EBITDA Formula

Although the EBITDA formula is a useful tool for investors, it also has some drawbacks. For example: EBIDTA is considered a “non-GAAP” measure, meaning it doesn’t fall under generally accepted accounting principles (a set of rules issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board and procedures commonly followed by many businesses). This also means that the way EBIDTA is calculated isn’t wholly standardized.

Thus, companies also may not include the same information in each report, and they aren’t required to record all information that may be relevant to the equation. For these reasons, it’s best to calculate EBITDA along with other types of evaluations, such as net income and debt payments.

Companies with a low net income may use the EBITDA formula to make themselves look better since the EBITDA number will likely be higher than their income.

Or, because EBITDA tends to obscure the impact of debt and capital investments, a company that’s spending heavily on development costs, or has incurred a lot of debt, may look more robust than it is.

Also, the formula doesn’t work well with certain types of companies, such as companies that have a need to constantly upgrade their equipment.

The Takeaway

Comparing companies you may want to invest in can take a lot of time and technical analysis. If you’re choosing your first stocks, the amount of information and choices can be overwhelming.

EBITDA is one measure of company performance that can be useful, because it takes net income and then removes certain factors that can be confounding: interest paid or earned; federal, state, and local taxes; the impact of capital depreciation and amortization.

For investors interested in learning more about specific companies and building a stock portfolio, opening an online brokerage account can be a good way to get started with investing.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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.

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.

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Relative Strength Index (RSI) Explained

Relative Strength Index (RSI) Explained

Relative Strength Index, or RSI, is a momentum indicator used to measure a stock’s price relative to itself and its past performance. Developed by technical analyst J. Welles Wilder, the Relative Strength Index focuses purely on individual stock price movements to identify trading trends for a specific security, based on the speed and direction of those price changes.

RSI allows swing investors to compare the price of something to itself, without factoring in the performance of other stocks or the market as a whole. Investors use RSI to pinpoint positive or negative divergences in price for a security or to determine whether a stock is overbought or oversold.

The RSI indicator is useful in technical analysis, which revolves around finding trends in stock movements to determine optimal entry and exit points. Understanding what the Relative Strength Index measures and how it works is central to a technical trading strategy.

What Is RSI in Stocks?

The Relative Strength Index is a rate of change or momentum oscillator that tracks stock price movements. You can visualize it as a line graph that moves up or down, based on a stock’s price at any given time. The Relative Strength Index operates on a scale from 0-100. Where the RSI indicator is within this range can suggest whether a stock has reached an overbought level or if it’s oversold.

RSI is not the same thing as Relative Strength analysis. When using a Relative Strength Comparison (RSC), you’re comparing two securities or market indexes to one another to measure their relative performance.


💡 Quick Tip: Investment fees are assessed in different ways, including trading costs, account management fees, and possibly broker commissions. When you set up an investment account, be sure to get the exact breakdown of your “all-in costs” so you know what you’re paying.

How Does the RSI Indicator Work?

The Relative Strength Index operates on a range from 0-100. As stock prices fluctuate over time, the index can move up or down accordingly. Traders typically use the RSI to track price movements over 14 periods (i.e. trading days), though some may use shorter or longer windows of time.

When the RSI indicator reaches 70 or above, it could mean the underlying asset being measured is overbought. An RSI reading of 30 or below, on the other hand, suggests that the asset is oversold. The length of time a stock remains in overbought or oversold territory depends largely on the strength of the underlying trend that’s driving price movements.

The Relative Strength Index can throw off different patterns, depending on whether stocks are in a bull market or bear market. Investors compare the movements of the RSI indicator with actual price movements to determine whether a defined pricing trend actually exists and, if so, in which direction it might be heading. Analyzing moving averages for the stock can help determine the presence of a clear pricing trend.

Recommended: 5 Bullish Indicators for a Stock

RSI Formula

Here’s what the Relative Strength Index formula looks like:

RSI = 100 – (100 / (1 + RS))

In this formula, RS represents the ratio of the moving average of the tracking period’s gains divided by the absolute value of the moving average of the tracking period’s losses.

Here’s another way you might see the Relative Strength Index formula displayed:

RSI = 100 – [100 / ( 1 + (Average of Upward Price Change / Average of Downward Price Change ) ) ]

The RSI formula assumes that you’re able to follow a stock’s pricing changes over your desired tracking period. More importantly than that, however, is knowing how to make sense of Relative Strength Index calculations, which investors often display via a stock oscillator.

Interpreting RSI Results

Reading the Relative Strength Index isn’t that difficult when you understand how the different ranges work. Depending on where the RSI indicator is for a particular stock or market index, it can tell you whether the market is bullish or bearish. You can also use the RSI, along with other technical analysis indicators, to determine the best time to buy or sell.

Above 70

An RSI reading of 70 or higher could indicate that a stock is overbought and that its price might move back down. This could happen through a reversal of the current price movement trend or as part of a broader correction. It’s not unusual for stocks to have an RSI in this range during bull market environments when prices are rising. If you believe that the stock’s price has reached or is approaching an unsustainable level, an RSI of 70 or higher could suggest it’s time to exit.

Below 30

When a stock’s RSI reading is 30 or below, it typically means that it’s oversold or undervalued by the broader market. This could signal a buying opportunity for value investors but it could also indicate the market is turning bearish. It’s more common to see RSI readings of 30 or below during downtrends when stock prices may be in decline across the board.

40 to 90 Range

During bull markets, it’s not uncommon to see the Relative Strength Index for a stock linger somewhere in the 40 to 90 range. It’s less common to see the RSI dip to 30 or below when prices are steadily moving up. An RSI reading of 40 to 50, roughly the middle of the 0-100 scale can indicate support for an upward trend.

10 to 60 Range

In bear markets, or those filled with fear, uncertainty, and doubt, it’s more common to see the Relative Strength Index hover somewhere in the 10 to 60 range. It’s not unusual for stocks to reach 30 or below when the market is already in a downward trend. The middle point of the RSI can act as a support point, though the range shifts slightly to between 50 and 60.

Common RSI Indicators

Relative Strength Index indicators can help investors spot pricing trends. That includes identifying up and down trends, as well as sideways trends when pricing levels consolidate. The reliability of these indicators often hinges on the current phase of a stock or the market as a whole. When reading RSI indicators, it’s important to understand divergence and swing rejections.

Divergence

A divergence represents a variation or disagreement between the movement of the RSI indicator and the price movements on a stock chart. For example, a bullish divergence means the indicator is making higher lows while the price movement is establishing lower lows. This type of divergence can hint at increasing bullish momentum with a particular stock or the greater market.

A bearish divergence, on the other hand, happens when the indicator is making lower highs while prices are establishing higher highs. This could indicate that investor sentiment is becoming less bullish.

Swing Rejections

A swing rejection is a specific trading technique that involves analyzing RSI movements when pushing above 30 or below 70. Swing rejections can be bullish in nature or bearish.

For example, a bullish swing rejection has four parts or steps:

•   RSI is at an oversold level

•   RSI moves above 30

•   A dip is recorded without rating as oversold

•   RSI passes its recent high

Meanwhile, a bearish swing rejection also has four parts or steps:

•   RSI reaches an overbought level

•   RSI drops below 70

•   RSI hits new highs without dropping back to overbought levels

•   RSI passes recent lows

Swing rejections make it possible to utilize divergence indicators to spot bullish or bearish trends in their earliest stages.


💡 Quick Tip: How to manage potential risk factors in a self-directed investment account? Doing your research and employing strategies like dollar-cost averaging and diversification may help mitigate financial risk when trading stocks.

Is RSI a Good Indicator to Use?

Yes, in certain circumstances. Relative Strength Index can be a good indicator to use in technical analysis, as it can make it easier to detect when a stock or the broader market is overbought or oversold. Understanding how to interpret RSI and its correlation to price movements could help you spot buy or sell signals and detect bull market or bear market trends.

That said, RSI also has some limitations. For example, the RSI can produce false positives or false negatives when bullish or bearish trends don’t align with the way a stock’s price is moving. Like other technical analysis indicators, it’s not an exact way to gauge the market’s momentum. So if stocks are hovering somewhere in the 40 to 60 range, it may be difficult to decipher whether the mood is bearish or bullish.

When using RSI, it’s helpful to incorporate other technical analysis indicators to create a comprehensive picture of the market. Exponential moving average (EMA), for example, is a type of moving average that uses the weighted average of recent pricing data to draw conclusions about the market.

Traders often use RSI in conjunction with other trend indicators, such as the Moving Average Convergence Divergence, the Stochastic Oscillator, or the Volume-Weighted Average Price.

RSI vs MACD

Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) is a technical analysis indicator that investors may use alongside RSI. This indicator can help them determine when to buy or sell, based on the correlation between two moving averages for the same security.

Specifically, it requires looking at a 12-period moving average and a 26-period moving average. To find the MACD line, you’d subtract the 26-period from the 12-period, resulting in a main line. The next step is creating a trigger line, which is the nine-period exponential moving average of the main line. The interactions between these two lines can generate trading signals.

For example, when prices are strongly trending in a similar direction the main line and trigger line tend to move further apart. When prices are consolidating, the lines move closer together. If the main line crosses the trigger line from below, that can produce a buy signal. If the main line crosses the trigger line from above, that can be construed as a signal to sell.

While RSI and MACD are both trend indicators, there are some differences. Relative Strength Index measures the distance between pricing highs and lows. So you’re looking at the average gain or loss for a security over time, which again usually means 14 periods. The MACD, on the other hand, focuses on the relationship between moving averages for a security. It’s a trend-following signal that, like RSI, can indicate momentum.

RSI vs Stochastic Oscillator

The stochastic oscillator is a momentum indicator for technical analysis that shows where a stock’s closing price is relative to its high/low pricing range over a set period of time. The stochastic oscillator can also be used to track pricing for a market index.

Central to the use of the stochastic oscillator is the idea that as a stock’s price increases, the closing price inches closer to the highest point over time. When the stock’s price decreases, the closing price lands closer to the lowest low. Investors use this indicator to determine entry and exit points when making trades.

However, investors interpret RSI and stochastic oscillator readings differently. For example, with a stochastic oscillator, a reading of 20 or below generally means a stock is oversold, versus the 30 or below range for RSI readings. When used together, Relative Strength Index and stochastic oscillators can help with timing trades to maximize profit potential while minimizing the risk of losses.

Can You Use RSI to Time the Crypto Market?

Stocks are not the only asset class for which investors use the RSI. Investors also use the Relative Strength Index to assess conditions in the crypto markets and whether it’s time to sell or continue to HODL.

Cryptocurrency traders may use RSI to gauge momentum for individual currencies. Again, they’re looking at the highs and lows to get a sense of which way prices are moving at any given time. The RSI indicator can help with choosing when to buy or sell, based on previous price movements.

The same rules apply to crypto that apply to stocks: An RSI reading of 70 or above means overbought while a reading of 30 or below means oversold. Likewise, a reading above 50 signals a bullish trend while a reading below 50 can signal a bearish trend. Investors can also use a bearish divergence or bullish divergence to spot a pullback or an upward push.

As with stocks, however, it’s important to remember that RSI is not 100% accurate.

Recommended: Crypto Technical Analysis: What It Is & How to Do One

The Takeaway

RSI can be used to pinpoint positive or negative divergences in price for a stock or to determine whether it’s overbought or oversold. If you’re interested in technical analysis and trending trading, RSI can be a useful metric for making investment decisions.

The RSI is just one tool that you can use to devise a strategy for your portfolio. There are other less technical tools you can use as well when you’re starting to build a portfolio.

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).


Invest with as little as $5 with a SoFi Active Investing account.


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.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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