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Everything You Need to Know About the Oscillator of Moving Average (OsMA Indicator)

Reading time: 8 minutes

The oscillator of moving average (OsMA), also known as the moving average oscillator indicator, is a tool that attempts to identify whether a market is overbought or oversold. How so? By measuring how far an oscillator lies from its moving average. In this article we'll discuss the calculations behind the indicator, and how you can use the tool in MetaTrader 4.

Value indexes move upward

In the most generic sense, the oscillator of moving average is the difference between an oscillator and its smoothed version. More specifically, the values displayed by the OsMA indicator are most commonly derived from the MACD indicator. To further explain the moving average oscillator indicator, let's first take a quick look at what the MACD indicator actually consists of.

The MACD (or Moving Average Convergence/Divergence) is itself an oscillator. The main MACD line is the difference between a 12-period exponential moving average (EMA) and a 26-period EMA. The indicator also plots a signal line, which is a 9-period moving average of the MACD value. OsMA is the difference between these two key values of the MACD indicator. To be more exact, it is calculated as the difference between the MACD and the signal line value:

  • OsMA = MACD - signal

It's worth pointing out that you don't always have to use a MACD — you can in fact use any oscillator, applying a basic principle of calculating the OsMA as the difference between an oscillator and its smoothed average. Surprisingly, the most common form of OsMA uses a MACD. As this is the method utilised by MetaTrader 4, this is what we will primarily be focusing on.

Using OsMA Indicator in MetaTrader 4

The Moving Average Oscillator comes as one of the standard indicators bundled with the MetaTrader 4 platform. Remember, the MetaTrader 4 moving average oscillator deals exclusively with the MACD values. If you want an indicator that uses values from a different oscillator, you will have to make a custom OSMA indicator download. The standard indicators that come embedded with MetaTrader 4 are sorted into four basic groups in the platform's Navigator. These are:

The OsMA indicator is included in the 'Oscillators' folder being listed as 'Moving Average of Oscillator':

OsMA indicator navigation

Source: MetaTrader 4 - Setting the parameters for the OsMA indicator in MT4

Clicking on the indicator's name launches a dialogue window that allows you to set four basic parameters. Three of these are the periods over which the various averages will be calculated. The final choice, 'Apply to', defines the type of price value used for the calculations. The image above shows the various choices available, with the default method of 'Close' highlighted.

As you can see, the MetaTrader 4 moving average of oscillator uses a MACD, with a simple moving average (SMA) used for the signal line. The default values for the slow and fast EMAs are standard, and are used in the MACD construction. That is, the fast EMA is set as 12 periods, and the slow EMA, as 26 periods.

As we mentioned before, MACD is the difference between these two values:

  • MACD = fast EMA - slow EMA

OsMA then subtracts the signal line (the 9-period SMA of MACD) from this. The image below shows the default values for the OsMA, applied to an hourly EUR/USD chart:

OSMA values on hourly EUR/USD

Source: MetaTrader 4 - EUR/USD 1 Hour Chart with OsMA indicator applied - Data Range: May 8, 2017 - May 15, 2017 - Please Note: Past performance does not indicate future results, nor is it a reliable indicator of future performance.

You can find the OsMA values plotted beneath the main chart. What are we looking at exactly? Remember, OsMA is the difference between an MACD and a 9-period SMA of the MACD. The extreme peaks and troughs of the histogram mark those times when the MACD has diverged most heavily from its moving average. These are the times when you might expect a greater reversal probability. In addition, there are other trading clues that we can draw from the moving average of oscillator.

Trading with the OsMA Indicator

Generally put, increasing the OsMA values suggests buying pressure in the market, regardless of whether those values are above or below zero. Similarly, declining OsMA levels suggest selling pressure. Equally important, crossing the zero line is a further confirmation of the state of the market. A downward cross is bearish, whereas an upward cross is bullish.

Look out for divergence between the movement of the OsMA, and the movement of price. This is a key sign to help you judge how much conviction to have in a market move. For example, if the market is setting new highs, but the OsMA is failing to do so, or is dropping, we would suggest weakness in the trend. Finally, a change in the direction of the OsMA may indicate a trend change. If the OsMa indicator stops decreasing and instead starts to increase in value, it is more advantageous to be long rather than short.

Forex OsMA Indicator: Strengths and Weaknesses

One of the flaws of the OsMA indicator stems from its inherently heavy use of moving averages — similar to the MACD. This means that it is a lagging indicator. In volatile markets, this will likely hamper your ability to effectively use the indicator. In such conditions, the indicator tends to yield false signals. The indicator can consequently be more useful as a means of confirming shifts in trending conditions.

Please bear in mind that no single indicator can do everything on its own. Each of them will have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is simply unwise to rely solely on the OsMA indicator when making your trading decisions. Be smarter and combine the OsMA with another indicator (or even two), to try and mitigate its weaknesses.

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Another possibility for improving the effectiveness of the indicator is to look at multiple time frames. This will provide a better overview of what's going on. Sometimes, simply looking at one time frame may tell a certain story. In turn, looking at longer time frames can help you to understand how this story fits into the larger price patterns of the market.

One of the indicator's chief advantages is making it easy to visually identify likely oversold or overbought levels. Don't forget that one of the key skills when trading reversals in overbought or oversold conditions is managing your risk. Why? Because if the reversal fails to materialise, you will end up on the wrong side of a trending market. Thus, make sure to maintain a disciplined approach at all times and cut any losses in a timely manner.

The surest way to find out what works and what doesn't is to actually give it a try. Obviously, experimenting with real money can become expensive very quickly, which is why testing strategies with a demo trading account is so useful. This allows you to trade live market prices without taking on any unnecessary risk. We hope that this article about the OsMa indicator will give you some trading inspiration.

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This material does not contain and should not be construed as containing investment advice, investment recommendations, an offer of or solicitation for any transactions in financial instruments. Please note that such trading analysis is not a reliable indicator for any current or future performance, as circumstances may change over time. Before making any investment decisions, you should seek advice from independent financial advisors to ensure you understand the risks.

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