Loading the player...

What is a 'Death Cross'

The death cross is a chart pattern indicating the potential for a major selloff. The death cross appears on a chart when a stock’s short-term moving average crosses below its long-term moving average.

Breaking Down 'Death Cross'

The death cross indicator has proven an accurate predictor of the most severe bear markets of the past century: 1929, 1938, 1974 and 2008. Investors who got out of the stock market at the start of these bear markets avoided large losses that were as high as 90% in the 1930s. Because a death cross is a long-term indicator, as opposed to many short-term chart patterns such as the doji, it carries more weight for investors concerned about locking in gains before a new bear market gets underway. An increase in volume typically accompanies the appearance of the death cross.

The death cross name derives from the X-shape created when the short-term moving average descends below the long-term moving average. Historically, the pattern precedes a prolonged downturn for both the long-term and short-term moving averages. The death cross is a signal that short-term momentum in a stock or stock index is slowing, but the death cross is not always a reliable indicator that a bull market is about to end. There have been many times when a death cross appeared, such as in the summer of 2016, when it proved to be a false indicator. Those who got out of stocks during the summer of 2016 missed the sizable stock market gains that followed throughout 2017. The 2016 death star example was in fact occurring during a technical correction of around 10%, which is oftentimes seen as a buy opportunity known as buying on the dip.

Looking back over the most punishing bear markets of the past century, it seems the death cross holds up best once the market has already lost 20% of its value. In those instances, investors who fled stocks minimized their losses. But for smaller corrections of less than 20%, the temporary appearance of the death cross may be reflecting losses already booked, and thus indicates a buying opportunity.

The Death Cross and the Golden Cross

The opposite of the death cross occurs with the appearance of the golden cross, when the short-term moving average of a stock or index moves above the long-term moving average. Many investors view this pattern as a bullish indicator. The golden cross pattern typically shows up after a prolonged downtrend has run out of momentum. As is true with the death cross, investors should confirm the trend reversal after several days or weeks of price movement in the new direction. Much of the process of investing by following patterns is self-fulfilling behavior, as trading volumes increase with the attention of more investors who are driven in part by an increase in financial news stories abut a particular stock or the movement of an index.

RELATED TERMS
  1. Cross Currency

    A cross currency is a currency rate that is quoted and transacted ...
  2. Opening Cross

    Opening cross is a method used by Nasdaq to determine the opening ...
  3. Additional Death Benefit

    The amount that is paid to the beneficiary of a life insurance ...
  4. Guaranteed Earning Increase Death ...

    A guaranteed earning increase death benefit is a type of option ...
  5. Cross Hedge

    A cross hedge is used to manage risk by investing in two positively ...
  6. Global Crossing

    Global Crossing is a company that filed for bankruptcy protection ...
Related Articles
  1. Tech

    Bitcoin Extremely Close to 'Death Cross' Chart Pattern

    Chart analysts are increasingly scrutinizing bitcoin, and they're finding a strong bearish signal.
  2. Managing Wealth

    Life Insurance With an Increasing Death Benefit

    The pros and cons of increasing death benefit life insurance policies versus levelized death benefit policies.
  3. Trading

    Facebook CEO Faces Congress With Stock Near 'Death Cross'

    Facebook is not a bargain, with a P/E ratio of 29.14. The daily chart is close to showing a "death cross," while its weekly chart is negative.
  4. Trading

    Micron Reports Showing a Potential 'Death Cross'

    Micron stock is too cheap to ignore heading into earnings with a P/E ratio of just 3.70 but with a potential "death cross" and a negative weekly chart.
  5. Investing

    Allergan Is Setting Up Nicely for a Possible Move

    Allergan shares are setting up for nicely for a possible move higher.
  6. Trading

    Trend Trading: The 4 Most Common Indicators

    Learn about the top indicators and tools trend traders use to establish when trends exist and find entry and exit points.
  7. Trading

    MACD: A Primer

    Learn to trade in the direction of short-term momentum.
RELATED FAQS
  1. Why is accidental life insurance so inexpensive?

    Accidental life insurance is an inexpensive way of obtaining life insurance coverage for yourself or someone else in your ... Read Answer >>
  2. What happens to my Locked-In Retirement Account (LIRA) balance when I die?

    Understand that in the event of your death, Locked-In Retirement Account death benefits will be transferred to your partner, ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center