What Is a Moving Average?

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A moving average (MA) is a widely used indicator in technical analysis that helps smooth out price action by filtering out the “noise” from random short-term price fluctuations. It is a trend-following, or lagging, indicator because it is based on past prices.

The two basic and commonly used moving averages are the simple moving average (SMA), which is the simple average of a security over a defined number of time periods, and the exponential moving average (EMA), which gives greater weight to more recent prices.

The most common applications of moving averages are to identify the trend direction and to determine support and resistance levels. While moving averages are useful enough on their own, they also form the basis for other technical indicators such as the moving average convergence divergence (MACD).