A:

The only difference between these two types of moving average is the sensitivity each one shows to changes in the data used in its calculation.

More specifically, the exponential moving average (EMA) gives a higher weighting to recent prices than the simple moving average (SMA) does, while the SMA assigns equal weighting to all values. The two averages are similar because they are interpreted in the same manner and are both commonly used by technical traders to smooth out price fluctuations.

The SMA is the most common type of average used by technical analysts and it is calculated by dividing the sum of a set of prices by the total number of prices found in the series. For example, a seven-period moving average can be calculated by adding the following seven prices together and then dividing the result by seven (the result is also known as an arithmetic mean average).

Example
Given the following series of prices:
$10, $11, $12, $16, $17, $19, $20
The SMA calculation would look like this:
$10+$11+$12+$16+$17+$19+$20 = $105
7-period SMA = $105/7 = 15

Since EMAs place a higher weighting on recent data than on older data, they are more reactive to the latest price changes than SMAs are, which makes the results from EMAs more timely and explains why the EMA is the preferred average among many traders. As you can see from the chart below, traders with a short-term perspective may not care about which average is used, since the difference between the two averages is usually a matter of mere cents. On the other hand, traders with a longer-term perspective should give more consideration to the average they use because the values can vary by a few dollars, which is enough of a price difference to ultimately prove influential on realized returns - especially when you are trading a large quantity of stock.

EMAvsSMA.gif

As with all technical indicators, there is no one type of average that a trader can use to guarantee success, but by using trial and error you can undoubtedly improve your comfort level with all types of indicators and, as a result, increase your odds of making wise trading decisions.

To learn more about moving averages, see Basics Of Moving Averages and Basics Of Weighted Moving Averages.

RELATED FAQS
  1. What is Fibonacci retracement, and where do the ratios that are used come from?

    Fibonacci retracement is a very popular tool among technical traders and is based on the key numbers identified by mathematician ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What are some of the most common technical indicators that back up Doji patterns?

    The doji candlestick is important enough that Steve Nison devotes an entire chapter to it in his definitive work on candlestick ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Tame Panic Selling with the Exhausted Selling Model

    The exhausted selling model is a pricing strategy used to identify and trade based off of the price floor of a security. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Point and Figure Charting Using Count Analysis

    Count analysis is a means of interpreting point and figure charts to measure vertical price movements. Technical analysts ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What assumptions are made when conducting a t-test?

    The common assumptions made when doing a t-test include those regarding the scale of measurement, random sampling, normality ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How are double exponential moving averages applied in technical analysis?

    Double exponential moving averages (DEMAS) are commonly used in technical analysis like any other moving average indicator ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Charts & Patterns

    How To Use Volume To Improve Your Trading

    The basic guidelines to analyzing volume may not apply in all situations, but overall, they can help direct entry and exit decisions.
  2. Trading Strategies

    4 Common Active Trading Strategies

    Active trading entails buying and selling securities with the intent of profiting from short-term price movements.
  3. Chart Advisor

    3 Charts That Suggest Now Is The Time To Invest In Real Estate (VNQ, SPG,PSA)

    Real estate assets have some of the strongest uptrends around. We'll take a look at three candidates poised for a move higher.
  4. Chart Advisor

    Stocks With More Upside Due to Bear Traps (TAP, SPY)

    A bear trap is a pattern that typically leads to at least a short-term rise in prices. Here are stocks exhibiting the pattern.
  5. Stock Analysis

    3 Risks U.S. Equities Face in 2016

    Find out why the probability of a U.S. stock bear market is increasing in 2016 and what the greatest risks are to the bull market that is almost 7 years old.
  6. Active Trading Fundamentals

    New Traders: Trade the Market in 5 Steps

    New traders shouldn’t throw money at securities without knowing why prices move. Follow these five steps to tilt the odds in your favor.
  7. Chart Advisor

    Watch For a Bounce in These Emerging Markets (BRF, PEK)

    While downtrends are clearly in control of the direction of many emerging market ETFs, short-term indicators suggest a bounce higher could be in the cards.
  8. Investing Basics

    Valuation Models: Apple’s Stock Analysis With CAPM

    The capital asset pricing model, or the CAPM, estimates the expected return of an asset based on the systematic risk of the asset’s return.
  9. Technical Indicators

    Basics Of Algorithmic Trading

    Algorithmic trading is the process of using computers for placing trades in order to generate profits at a speed and frequency that are beyond a person’s capability.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Will "FANG" Stocks Outperform in 2016?

    Facebook held the most bullish accumulation-distribution pattern into year’s end, telling investors to focus on this issue in 2016.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Golden Cross

    A crossover involving a security's short-term moving average ...
  2. Cup and Handle

    A pattern on bar charts resembling a cup with a handle. The cup ...
  3. Dead Cat Bounce

    A temporary recovery from a prolonged decline or bear market, ...
  4. Confirmation

    The use of an additional indicator or indicators to substantiate ...
  5. Fintech

    Fintech is a portmanteau of financial technology that describes ...
  6. Indicator

    Indicators are statistics used to measure current conditions ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  2. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  3. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  4. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  5. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
Trading Center