Market Momentum

What Is Market Momentum?

Momentum is the rate of acceleration of a security's price—that is, the speed at which the price is changing. Market momentum refers to the aggregate rate of acceleration for the broader market as a whole.

Market momentum can be used as a measure of overall market sentiment that can support buying and selling with and against market trends. It is one of several indicators that can help an investor to follow price trends.

Key Takeaways

  • Market momentum refers to the capacity for a broad market price trend to sustain itself into the future.
  • Market momentum can continue in an upward or downward trend, which can be confirmed by changes in trading volume and by using one of several technical indicators.
  • Momentum trading involves buying the market when it is rising and selling after it has peaked.
  • Momentum trading describes a herding strategy, following others; but price trends are never guaranteed in the future.

Generally, market momentum can be defined from the following equation:

M = V V x where: V = The latest price V x = The closing price  x  number of days ago \begin{aligned} &M = V - V_x\\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &V = \text{The latest price}\\ &V_x = \text{The closing price }x\text{ number of days ago}\\ \end{aligned} M=VVxwhere:V=The latest priceVx=The closing price x number of days ago

This equation can lead to the drawing of a trendline with varying periods used in the calculation.

Understanding Market Momentum

Positive momentum can indicate a potential bullish trend while negative momentum can indicate a bearish trend. Broadly, momentum can be measured across both asset classes and individual securities, with market momentum, in particular, referring to the overall market.

Momentum trading is a strategy that seeks to capitalize on the momentum to enter a trend as it is picking up steam. In equities, broad market increases in corporate profits can help to create positive price momentum. In fixed income, falling interest rates can be a catalyst for price momentum.

Investors can use momentum as a trading technique that seeks to profit off the herding behavior of market psychology. Rather than "buy low, sell high," momentum trading follows a strategy of "buy high, sell higher." Once a momentum trader sees acceleration in a stock's price, earnings, or revenues, the trader will often take a long or short position in the stock in the hope that its momentum will continue in either an upward or downward direction. This strategy relies on short-term movements in a stock's price rather than fundamental value.

Technicians typically use a 10-day time frame when measuring market momentum. In the chart below, momentum is plotted for the price movements of the S&P 500 Index, which is an excellent indicator of the trend for the overall stock market. Please note that for illustrative purposes, the chart below is only the momentum for the S&P and excludes the prices from the index. Without looking at the price of the S&P and only using momentum, we can see that it's likely the S&P index rallied in tandem with the spikes above zero on the momentum indicator below. Conversely, it's likely the index fell on the large downward moves below zero.

Momentum Example for the S&P 500
Momentum Example for the S&P 500.


In individual securities, market momentum for a particular stock can be driven by several factors. Positive momentum can be the result of increasing revenue, earnings, or sales. Positive momentum can also be influenced by a reduction in a company’s debt obligations and an increase in its projected cash flow.

Market Momentum Indicators

Investors and technical traders can follow several indicators to gauge market momentum.

Market Momentum Indexes

Market momentum indexes provide momentum indicators for various market sectors. MSCI and FTSE Russell are two companies that have introduced momentum indexes.

The MSCI momentum indexes are part of the company’s factor index series. Momentum indexes include the MSCI USA Momentum Index and the MSCI World Index. The indexes base their methodology on a momentum score.

FTSE Russell also manages the Russell 1000 Momentum Focused Factor Index which was introduced in 2015. With the launch of this index, State Street Global Advisors also launched the SPDR Russell 1000 Momentum Focus ETF (ONEO), which is a passive ETF that tracks the Index.

Momentum Indicators

In technical analysis, momentum can be a very profitable indicator to follow for trading signals on individual securities. Below are some of the popular momentum indicators technical analysts follow.

Moving average (MA) is among the simplest ways to follow momentum. The moving average is an average of a security's price over a specified period of time. Higher moving average trendlines signal positive momentum while descending moving average trendlines signal negative momentum. To add to that, moving average convergence divergence (MACD) is calculated using an exponential moving average.

Volume weighted average price (VWAP) is another widely-used momentum indicator. The VWAP allows a trader to follow how a price is trending in relation to its volume. Significant increases in the VWAP can be a strong bullish signal while significant decreases can be a strong bearish signal. It is calculated as:

V W A P = T S × P T S where: T S = Total Shares Bought P = Share Price \begin{aligned} &VWAP = \dfrac{TS \times P}{TS} \\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &TS = \text{Total Shares Bought}\\ &P = \text{Share Price}\\ \end{aligned} VWAP=TSTS×Pwhere:TS=Total Shares BoughtP=Share Price

Positive and Negative Volume Indexes (PVI and NVI) are another tool that has been developed to provide an indicator for how volume is affecting price. They are calculated from the following:

P V I = P r e v i o u s   P V I + ( T C Y C Y C × P r e v i o u s   P V I ) where: T C = Today’s Closing Price Y C = Yesterday’s Closing Price \begin{aligned} &PVI = Previous~PVI + \\ &(\dfrac{TC - YC}{YC} \times Previous~PVI)\\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &TC = \text{Today's Closing Price}\\ &YC = \text{Yesterday's Closing Price}\\ \end{aligned} PVI=Previous PVI+(YCTCYC×Previous PVI)where:TC=Today’s Closing PriceYC=Yesterday’s Closing Price

N V I = P r e v i o u s   N V I + ( T C Y C Y C × P r e v i o u s   N V I ) \begin{aligned} &NVI = Previous~NVI + \\ &(\dfrac{TC-YC}{YC} \times Previous~NVI)\\ \end{aligned} NVI=Previous NVI+(YCTCYC×Previous NVI)

Relative Strength Index (RSI) is intended to provide a momentum indicator through the evaluation of how a price is changing in relation to the speed and amount of change occurring over a specified timeframe. It is calculated using the following formula:

R S I = 100 100 ( 1 + R S ) where: R S = Average Up Period Gains throughout a Specified Time Frame Average Loss from Down Periods over a Specified Time Frame \begin{aligned} &RSI = 100 - \dfrac{100} {(1+RS)} \\ &\textbf{where:}\\ &RS = \\ &\dfrac{\text{\small Average Up Period Gains throughout a Specified Time Frame}}{\text{\small Average Loss from Down Periods over a Specified Time Frame}}\\ \end{aligned} RSI=100(1+RS)100where:RS=Average Loss from Down Periods over a Specified Time FrameAverage Up Period Gains throughout a Specified Time Frame

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  1. Morgan Stanley Capital International. "MSCI World Momentum Index (USD)," Pages 1-3.

  2. FTSE Russell. "FTSE Global Factor Index Series."

  3. Morgan Stanley Capital International. "MSCI World Momentum Index (USD)," Page 1.

  4. State Street Global Advisors. "SPDR Russell 1000 Momentum Focus ETF."

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