Lagging Indicator

DEFINITION of 'Lagging Indicator'

1. A measurable economic factor that changes after the economy has already begun to follow a particular pattern or trend.

2. A technical indicator that trails the price action of an underlying asset, and is used by traders to generate transaction signals or to confirm the strength of a given trend. Since these indicators lag the price of the asset, a significant move will generally occur before the indicator is able to provide a signal.

BREAKING DOWN 'Lagging Indicator'

1. Lagging indicators confirm long-term trends, but they do not predict them. Some examples are unemployment, corporate profits and labor cost per unit of output. Interest rates are another good lagging indicator; rates change after severe market changes.

2. An example of a lagging indicator is a moving average crossover, because it occurs after a certain price move has already happened. Technical traders use a short-term average crossing above a long-term average as confirmation when placing buy orders since it suggests an increase in momentum. The drawback of using this method is that a significant move may have already occurred, resulting in the trader entering a position too late.

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