Trend-Following Indicator
Moving averages smooth out a data series and make it easier to identify the direction of the trend. Because past price data is used to form moving averages, they are considered lagging, or trend following, indicators. Moving averages will not predict a change in trend, but rather follow behind the current trend. Therefore, they are best suited for trend identification and trend following purposes, not for prediction.
When to Use
Because moving averages follow the trend, they work best when a security is trending and are ineffective when a security moves in a trading range. With this in mind, investors and traders should first identify securities that display some trending characteristics before attempting to analyze with moving averages. This process does not have to be a scientific examination. Usually, a simple visual assessment of the price chart can determine if a security exhibits characteristics of trend.
In its simplest form, a security’s price can be doing only one of three things: trending up, trending down or trading in a range. An uptrend is established when a security forms a series of higher highs and higher lows. A downtrend is established when a security forms a series of lower lows and lower highs. A trading range is established if a security cannot establish an uptrend or downtrend. If a security is in a trading range, an uptrend is started when the upper boundary of the range is broken and a downtrend begins when the lower boundary is broken.

In the Ford example, it is evident that a stock can go through both trending and trading phases. The red circles indicate trading range phases that are interspersed among trending periods. It is sometimes difficult to determine when a trend will stop and a trading range will begin or when a trading range will stop and a trend will begin. The basic rules for trends and trading ranges laid out above can be applied to Ford. Notice the trading range periods, the breakouts (both up and down) and the trending periods. The moving average worked well in times of trend, but faired poorly in times of trading. Also note how the moving average lags behind the trend: it is always under the price during an uptrend and above the price during a downtrend. A 50-day simple moving average was used for this example. However, the number of periods is optional and much will depend on the characteristics of the security as well as an individual’s trading and investing style.
Courtesy Copyright .This content copyrights protected  Written by Arthur Hill.