What Does Confirmation Mean?

In technical analysis, confirmation refers to the use of an additional indicator or indicators to substantiate a trend suggested by one indicator. Since technical indicators are not perfect predictors of future price movements, a trader often feels more secure deciding to act on a signal if more than one indicator is sending the same signal. If different indicators send conflicting signals, this is known as divergence.

In securities trading, a confirmation may also refer to a fill, providing the details of an executed trade.

Key Takeaways

  • Confirmation can refer to either a broker's written acknowledgment of trade completion or else the use of an additional technical indicator to substantiate a trend suggested by one indicator.
  • Two different technical indicators, such as volume or moving averages, help establish the prevalence of a trend for traders.
  • Confirmation of trends can be susceptible to confirmation bias.

Understanding Confirmation in Technical Analysis

Confirmation can also refer to a broker's written acknowledgment that they have completed a trade. These can be in electronic or paper form, and record information such as the date, price, commission, fees, and settlement terms of the trade. Brokers typically send a confirmation within one week of the trade's completion.

Technical indicators fall into four broad categories: trend, momentum, volatility, and volume. When seeking confirmation for a trade signal provided by one indicator, it is usually best to look to an indicator from a different category. Otherwise, the same or similar inputs are counted multiple times, giving the illusion of confirmation when in fact little new information has been taken into account. 

Confirmation is best met if one or more indicators from multiple categories are present:

Confirmation Example Using Indicators

Suppose a trader notices a golden cross, which occurs when the 50-day moving average crosses above the 200-day moving average. This is a signal to buy the stock, based on a trend indicator (the moving averages). Because this signal alone does not guarantee higher prices, the trader might seek confirmation from a different type of indicator.

In this case, a high trading volume would reinforce the buy signal, while lower volumes might make the trader reconsider taking a position in the stock. The OBV indicator would, therefore, be a logical choice to confirm the trade: a rising OBV would confirm the golden cross' bullish signal, while a flat or falling OBV would suggest that the price is nearing a top. 

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Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021

Confirmation Bias

When seeking confirmation for a signal, investors should always be wary of confirmation bias, the psychological tendency to set greater store by the information that agrees with preconceived notions and to discard information that clashes with those notions.

Of course, different sources of information always send conflicting messages to some extent, but traders should take care not to discount mixed signals.

Trade Confirmations

When an order is placed in securities markets and it is executed, the broker or exchange will provide a trade confirmation to the trader or investor. Also known as confirms or fills, trade confirmations report the trade's details (see the sample image below) and serve as proof that the order has been executed in all or in part.

Trade confirmations are maintained by a broker on behalf of customers, and these are compiled at the end of each year for tax purposes in order to compute cost basis and capital gains or losses.

Brokerage Trade Confirmation Example
Brokerage Trade Confirmation Example.