When divergences between price and momentum indicators (roc, rsi & macd)arise, it can lead to some very profitable, high probability trades.
These set-ups are counter trend tactics, and as such, one must employ a hard stop in the event that the trend reasserts itself and you are on the wrong side. Contrast this tactic with the principle: “Trends have a higher probability of continuation than reversal.”
When you play for a momentum divergence trade, you are always playing for a target closer to the price the divergences commenced and playing for a possible shift in buying/selling pressure. Before attempting any such trade, I suggest researching further on this potentially profitable topic.
Some of the most popular Oscillators/indicators for uncovering price divergences include the MACD, stochastic, RSI, Ultimate Oscillator, rate of change, etc. You have to discover which indicator works best for you. Indicators are used as ‘training wheels’ until you can develop an intuitive sense of determining where the buying and selling pressure (momentum of the move) are diverging with the price action. This process takes time, yet indicators can help highlight these conditions. There is no perfect indicator to do this. I am using a fast MACD oscillator in my chart example. You can also spot divergences in other momentum oscillators.
Momentum precedes price in that a slowing of momentum indicates that a possible change in price is yet to come. Do not get caught in the trap of searching for momentum divergences all over the chart. Examine them at the (possible) end of mature trends for greater probability. Again, we are not seeking the end of a trend move (reversal), but just a retest and a small target. In fact, we are playing for a simple retracement swing against the direction of the prevailing trend. This illustration may help:
We are in a mature uptrend and price is continuing higher. A situation develops where the buyers are becoming less aggressive in their momentum (force of buying pressure) and momentum is declining while price is not.
Of importance to note (and the reason behind the divergence in the oscillator) is also price based. Note the steep rise of the previous swing up (creating heightened oscillator/indicator readings) and then the more gradual rise of the second swing up (creating a lower peak in the mathematical oscillator). This sets up the divergence while the reason for it is declining momentum.
If momentum precedes price, then in this case, a decline in momentum forecasts a decline in price as the most probable swing play. If buyers are less aggressive to raise their offers, then it won’t take much effort for price to fall and those who own the stock will begin to sell.
This chart highlights momentum divergences finally reversing the trend:
Divergences are difficult to quantify for a mechanical system, so this is one area discretionary traders may have an edge over programmers.
I did want to highlight another point through the use of various time-frames. Divergences and momentum concepts are valid across all time frames.
There are a few factors to be aware of when identifying momentum divergence plays:
• Momentum divergences are invalidated (and nonexistent) in range bound, consolidating markets
• Only look for momentum divergences in the context of a mature trend (however short the time-frame)
• Momentum divergences work best after a “three-impulse” pattern in a trend( That is two impulse moves followed with a consolidation/pause/sideays move with a final impulse move)
• Momentum divergences are to be played for a target (price correction) commensurate with the time cycle it is noticed and NOT in the higher time cycle.
• The best divergences resemble “double-top” or “double-bottom” chart patterns.
• Keep a stop in the market close to the last pivot point in the event that the strong trend reasserts itself and causes great losses.
• Exit divergence trades which do not resolve within a time parameter.
. Trading momentum divergences is a complex strategy and should only be attempted after repeated exposure and internalization of the price behavior that sets up the pattern.