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Technical breakdown: Relative Strength Index (RSI)

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Momentum traders follow trends and look for stocks trading higher or lower on heavy volume. They’re not focused on fundamentals or news looking instead to profit from price action. Some momentum traders use the Relative Strength Index or RSI to compare the magnitude of a stock’s rise or fall over a specified time period. Here’s how this indicator is used:

Relative Strength Index (RSI) explained

The relative strength index quantifies the speed at which a stock’s price changes. Consequently, RSI provides traders with an idea of when a stock is overbought or oversold.

Generally, traders use the 70 and 30 levels in the RSI to determine whether a stock is overbought or oversold, respectively.

If the RSI falls below the 30 level, the stock is considered to be in oversold territory. Conversely, if the RSI rises above the 70 level, it indicates that the stock may be overbought.

Here’s an of the RSI in action on Facebook Inc. (FB):.

Source: TradingView

In this annotated chart, notice that FB found some support after the stock was in oversold territory. Thereafter, the stock and the RSI began to trend higher, ultimately becoming an indication that the stock was poised to reverse, after it formed a bottom and built momentum to the upside. That said, once the RSI rose significantly above 70, the stock hit some resistance and pulled back to the uptrend line, indicating there that another reversal in trend could be in the offing.

Final thoughts

The relative strength index can indicate reversals in trend, and can confirm when stocks are building momentum. Generally, you want to see the RSI trend higher between the 30 and 70 level, coupled with an uptrend in price, to indicate the stock is building momentum to the upside. The opposite is true when you’re looking for an indication of a stock picking up speed for a fall.


   Petra Hess runs PetraPicks.com. She is a technical swing trader and long-term investor in domestic and Canadian stocks and ETFs.

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