What is Stochastic Oscillator indicator, the instructions of Stochastic Oscillator and how to use the Stochastic Oscillator indicator, the calculation of Stochastic Oscillator indicator and the Stochastic Oscillator indicator main parameters
Developed by George C. Lane in the late 1950s, the Stochastic Oscillator is a momentum indicator that shows the location of the close relative to the high-low range over a set number of periods. According to an interview with Lane, the Stochastic Oscillator "doesn’t follow price, it doesn’t follow volume or anything like that. It follows the speed or the momentum of price. As a rule, the momentum changes direction before price." As such, bullish and bearish divergences in the Stochastic Oscillator can be used to foreshadow reversals. This was the first, and most important, signal that Lane identified. Lane also used this oscillator to identify bull and bear set-ups to anticipate a future reversal. Because the Stochastic Oscillator is range bound, is also useful for identifying overbought and oversold levels.
The Stochastic Oscillator Technical Indicator compares where a security’s price closed relative to its price range over a given time period. The Stochastic Oscillator is displayed as two lines. The main line is called %K. The second line, called %D, is a Moving Average of %K. The %K line is usually displayed as a solid line and the %D line is usually displayed as a dotted line.
There are several ways to interpret a Stochastic Oscillator. Three popular methods include:
- Buy when the Oscillator (either %K or %D) falls below a specific level (e.g., 20) and then rises above that level. Sell when the Oscillator rises above a specific level (e.g., 80) and then falls below that level;
- Buy when the %K line rises above the %D line and sell when the %K line falls below the %D line;
- Look for divergences. For instance: where prices are making a series of new highs and the Stochastic Oscillator is failing to surpass its previous highs.
The Stochastic Oscillator has four variables:
- %K periods. This is the number of time periods used in the stochastic calculation;
- %K Slowing Periods. This value controls the internal smoothing of %K. A value of 1 is considered a fast stochastic; a value of 3 is considered a slow stochastic;
- %D periods. his is the number of time periods used when calculating a moving average of %K;
- %D method. The method (i.e., Exponential, Simple, Smoothed, or Weighted) that is used to calculate %D.
The formula for %K is:
%K = (CLOSE-LOW(%K))/(HIGH(%K)-LOW(%K))*100
- CLOSE — is today’s closing price;
- LOW(%K) — is the lowest low in %K periods;
- HIGH(%K) — is the highest high in %K periods.
The %D moving average is calculated according to the formula:
%D = SMA(%K, N)
- N — is the smoothing period;
- SMA — is the Simple Moving Average.
The Stochastic Oscillator measures the level of the close relative to the high-low range over a given period of time. Assume that the highest high equals 110, the lowest low equals 100 and the close equals 108. The high-low range is 10, which is the denominator in the %K formula. The close less the lowest low equals 8, which is the numerator. 8 divided by 10 equals .80 or 80%. Multiply this number by 100 to find %K %K would equal 30 if the close was at 103 (.30 x 100). The Stochastic Oscillator is above 50 when the close is in the upper half of the range and below 50 when the close is in the lower half. Low readings (below 20) indicate that price is near its low for the given time period. High readings (above 80) indicate that price is near its high for the given time period.
As a bound oscillator, the Stochastic Oscillator makes it easy to identify overbought and oversold levels. The oscillator ranges from zero to one hundred. No matter how fast a security advances or declines, the Stochastic Oscillator will always fluctuate within this range. Traditional settings use 80 as the overbought threshold and 20 as the oversold threshold. These levels can be adjusted to suit analytical needs and security characteristics. Readings above 80 for the 20-day Stochastic Oscillator would indicate that the underlying security was trading near the top of its 20-day high-low range. Readings below 20 occur when a security is trading at the low end of its high-low range.
It is important to note that overbought readings are not necessarily bearish. Securities can become overbought and remain overbought during a strong uptrend. Closing levels that are consistently near the top of the range indicate sustained buying pressure. In a similar vein, oversold readings are not necessarily bullish. Securities can also become oversold and remain oversold during a strong downtrend. Closing levels consistently near the bottom of the range indicate sustained selling pressure. It is, therefore, important to identify the bigger trend and trade in the direction of this trend. Look for occasional oversold readings in an uptrend and ignore frequent overbought readings. Similarly, look for occasional overbought readings in a strong downtrend and ignore frequent oversold readings.
Divergences form when a new high or low in price is not confirmed by the Stochastic Oscillator. A bullish divergence forms when price records a lower low, but the Stochastic Oscillator forms a higher low. This shows less downside momentum that could foreshadow a bullish reversal. A bearish divergence forms when price records a higher high, but the Stochastic Oscillator forms a lower high. This shows less upside momentum that could foreshadow a bearish reversal. Once a divergence takes hold, chartists should look for a confirmation to signal an actual reversal. A bearish divergence can be confirmed with a support break on the price chart or a Stochastic Oscillator break below 50, which is the centerline. A bullish divergence can be confirmed with a resistance break on the price chart or a Stochastic Oscillator break above 50.
50 is an important level to watch. The Stochastic Oscillator moves between zero and one hundred, which makes 50 the centerline. Think of it as the 50 yard line in football. The offense has a higher chance of scoring when it crosses the 50 yard line. The defense has an edge as long as it prevents the offense from crossing the 50 yard line. A Stochastic Oscillator cross above 50 signals that prices are trading in the upper half of their high-low range for the given look-back period. This suggests that the cup is half full. Conversely, a cross below 50 means prices are trading in the bottom half of the given look-back period. This suggests that the cup is half empty.
The below chart shows International Gaming Tech (IGT) with a bullish divergence in February-March 2010. Notice how the stock moved to a new low, but the Stochastic Oscillator formed a higher low. There are three steps to confirming this higher low. The first is a signal line cross and/or move back above 20. A signal line cross occurs when %K (black) crosses %D (red). This provides the earliest entry possible. The second is a move above 50, which puts prices in the upper half of the Stochastic range. The third is a resistance breakout on the price chart. Notice how the Stochastic Oscillator moved above 50 in late March and remained above 50 until late May.
The following chart shows Kohls (KSS) with a bearish divergence in April 2010. The stock moved to higher highs in early and late April, but the Stochastic Oscillator peaked in late March and formed lower highs. The signal line crosses and moves below 80 did not provide good early signals in this case because KSS kept moving higher. The Stochastic Oscillator moved below 50 for the second signal and the stock broke support for the third signal. As KSS shows, early signals are not always clean and simple. Signal line crosses, moves below 80 and moves above 20 are frequent and prone to whipsaw. Even after KSS broke support and the Stochastic Oscillator moved below 50, the stock bounced back above 57 and the Stochastic Oscillator bounced back above 50 before the stock continued sharply lower.
George Lane identified another form of divergence to predict bottoms or tops. A bull set-up is basically the inverse of a bullish divergence. The underlying security forms a lower high, but the Stochastic Oscillator forms a higher high. Even though the stock could not exceed its prior high, the higher high in the Stochastic Oscillator shows strengthening upside momentum. The next decline is then expected to result in a tradable bottom. The below chart shows Network Appliance (NTAP) with a bull set-up in June 2009. The stock formed a lower high as the Stochastic Oscillator forged a higher high. This higher high shows strength in upside momentum. Remember that this is a set-up, not a signal. The set-up foreshadows a tradable low in the near future. NTAP declined below its June low and the Stochastic Oscillator moved below 20 to become oversold. Traders could have acted when the Stochastic Oscillator moved above its signal line, above 20 or above 50. Alternatively, NTAP subsequently broke resistance with a strong move.
A bear set-up occurs when the security forms a higher low, but the Stochastic Oscillator forms a lower low. Even though the stock held above its prior low, the lower low in the Stochastic Oscillator shows increasing downside momentum. The next advance is expected to result in an important peak. The following chart shows Motorola (MOT) with a bear set-up in November 2009. The stock formed a higher low in late-November and early December, but the Stochastic Oscillator formed a lower low with a move below 20. This showed strong downside momentum. The subsequent bounce did not last long as the stock quickly peaked. Notice that the Stochastic Oscillator did not make it back above 80 and turned down below its signal line in mid December.
While momentum oscillators are best suited for trading ranges, they can also be used with securities that trend, provided the trend takes on a zigzag format. Pullbacks are part of uptrends that zigzag higher. Bounces are part of downtrends that zigzag lower. In this regard, the Stochastic Oscillator can be used to identify opportunities in harmony with the bigger trend.
The indicator can also be used to identify turns near support or resistance. Should a security trade near support with an oversold Stochastic Oscillator, look for a break above 20 to signal an upturn and successful support test. Conversely, should a security trade near resistance with an overbought Stochastic Oscillator, look for a break below 80 to signal a downturn and resistance failure.
The settings on the Stochastic Oscillator depend on personal preferences, trading style and timeframe. A shorter look-back period will produce a choppy oscillator with many overbought and oversold readings. A longer look-back period will provide a smoother oscillator with fewer overbought and oversold readings.
Like all technical indicators, it is important to use the Stochastic Oscillator in conjunction with other technical analysis tools. Volume, support/resistance and breakouts can be used to confirm or refute signals produced by the Stochastic Oscillator.
- Main(%K): %K line
- Signal(%D) : %D line
- %K period: %K line period, default is 5
- Slowing: Slowing value, default is 3
- MA method:
- Simple: Simple moving average
- Exponential: Exponential moving average
- Smoothed: Smoothed moving average
- Linear weighted: Linear weighted moving average
- Price field: Price field parameter
- Low/High: default option