The Parabolic SAR (Stop and Reverse) serves as a technical analysis indicator that enables traders to detect possible trend shifts and determine stop-loss thresholds. Developed by J. Welles Wilder Jr., a mechanical engineer turned trader, the Parabolic SAR was introduced in his 1978 book “New Concepts in Technical Trading Systems.” It was one of the first indicators to use a dynamic stop-loss level that adjusted to market conditions, which was revolutionary at the time.
Prior to the Parabolic SAR, traders used fixed stop-loss levels that did not change, regardless of market conditions. By using a parabolic curve to track price movements and set stop-loss levels, Wilder was able to provide traders with a way to set stop-loss levels that adjusted to market conditions, thereby reducing the risk of losses.
The Parabolic SAR has since become a popular indicator among traders and is used in a variety of markets, including stocks, forex, and commodities. Traders often use it in conjunction with other technical indicators to confirm signals and improve accuracy.
Overall, the Parabolic SAR is a testament to Wilder’s innovative thinking and his ability to develop technical indicators that continue to be widely used by traders today.
Looking for information on Parabolic SAR stock screener? Click here.
Computing the Parabolic SAR Indicator
To determine the Parabolic SAR, traders first identify the extreme point (EP) of the current trend, which is the highest high or lowest low of the trend. From there, the acceleration factor (AF) is calculated, beginning at 0.02 and increasing by 0.02 with each new EP. The Parabolic SAR value for the current period is then calculated using the following formula, which considers the asset’s price and time:
SARn+1 = SARn + α(EP - SARn)
- SARn+1 = the next period’s SAR value
- SARn = the current period’s SAR value
- α = the acceleration factor, which starts at 0.02 and increases by 0.02 each time a new extreme point is found
- EP = the extreme price, which is the highest high or lowest low of the current trend
The resulting value is plotted on the chart as a dot above or below the price, forming a series of dots that indicate potential reversal points. These dots can also be used to set trailing stop-loss orders, enabling traders to lock in profits and minimize losses.
In summary, the Parabolic SAR formula is a powerful tool that allows traders to track potential trend reversals and set stop-loss levels that adjust to market conditions. With its use of the extreme point and acceleration factor, the Parabolic SAR has become a widely used indicator in various markets, including stocks, forex, and commodities.
Interpreting the Parabolic SAR Indicator
The Parabolic SAR, a commonly used technical indicator, has the ability to spot potential trend reversals and establish stop-loss levels. It plots dots above or below the asset’s price, with dots below indicating a bullish signal and dots above indicating a bearish signal. The closer the dots are to the price, the higher the chance of a trend reversal. The Parabolic SAR can be used to set trailing stop-loss levels, which are used to limit losses in case the trend reverses.
One advantage of using the Parabolic SAR is that it can be combined with other technical indicators, such as moving averages, MACD, and RSI, to confirm signals and increase accuracy. However, it is important to note that no technical indicator is perfect, and traders should use sound risk management practices in conjunction with the Parabolic SAR.
When the dots appear above the asset’s price, it suggests a downtrend, and traders may want to consider selling or shorting the asset. Conversely, when the dots appear below the asset’s price, it suggests an uptrend, and traders may want to consider buying or going long on the asset. As the trend continues, the dots will move closer to the asset’s price, and the acceleration factor will increase, creating a trailing stop-loss order.
It is important to note that the Parabolic SAR can produce false signals during choppy or sideways markets and can be slow to react to sudden market changes, which may result in losses for traders. Nonetheless, the Parabolic SAR is a valuable tool for traders to identify potential trend reversals and set stop-loss levels.
How to use the Parabolic SAR Indicator?
To effectively use the Parabolic SAR in trading, it is recommended to follow these practical tips:
Use the Parabolic SAR in conjunction with other technical indicators
While the Parabolic SAR is a useful tool, it should not be used in isolation. Traders should also use other indicators such as moving averages, MACD, and RSI to confirm signals and improve accuracy.
Use the Parabolic SAR to set stop-loss levels
Traders can use the Parabolic SAR to set stop-loss levels, which are used to limit losses in case the trend reverses. For long positions, the stop-loss levels should be placed just below the Parabolic SAR dots, and for short positions, just above the dots.
Adjust the acceleration factor (AF) to suit market conditions
Traders should adjust the AF to suit market conditions. A higher AF will result in tighter stop-loss levels, but it can also result in more false signals.
Use the Parabolic SAR on longer time frames
The Parabolic SAR works best on longer time frames such as daily or weekly charts. Using it on shorter time frames such as 5-minute or 15-minute charts can result in more false signals.
Pay attention to market volatility
The Parabolic SAR works well in trending markets but can be less effective in choppy or sideways markets. In highly volatile markets, the Parabolic SAR can generate a large number of false signals, so traders may need to adjust their stop-loss levels or use other indicators to confirm signals. Therefore, it is important to take market volatility into account when using the Parabolic SAR and adjust its settings and use it in combination with other indicators as needed.
Incorporate sound risk management practices
Traders should always use sound risk management practices, such as setting stop-loss levels, using proper position sizing, and not risking more than 1-2% of their trading account on any single trade.
Practice and backtest
Traders should practice using the Parabolic SAR on a demo account and backtest it using historical data to see how it performs in different market conditions. This can help them develop a better understanding of the indicator and improve their trading skills.
In conclusion, while the Parabolic SAR is a useful indicator for traders, it should not be solely relied on to make trading decisions. Traders should use it in conjunction with other indicators and sound risk management practices to maximize profits and achieve success.
Welles Wilder on the Parabolic SAR Indicator
To effectively use the Parabolic SAR in trading, J. Welles Wilder Jr. recommended combining it with other technical indicators such as moving averages or momentum indicators. This helps confirm signals and avoid false signals.
Wilder stressed the importance of setting realistic profit targets and stop-loss levels based on Parabolic SAR readings and adjusting them to suit changing market conditions.
Wilder also cautioned traders against relying too heavily on any single indicator, including the Parabolic SAR. Instead, he advised using multiple indicators together to gain a comprehensive view of the market and make informed trading decisions.
While Wilder saw the Parabolic SAR as a valuable tool for traders, he believed it should be used in conjunction with other indicators and sound risk management practices. This approach helps minimize risk exposure and increase the chances of making profitable trades.
Advantages & Limitations of the Parabolic SAR Indicator
Here are some advantages and limitations to consider when using the Parabolic SAR in trading:
- Dynamic stop-loss levels: The Parabolic SAR adjusts stop-loss levels to market conditions, reducing the risk of losses.
- User-friendly: The Parabolic SAR is easy to understand and use, even for beginner traders.
- Identifies trends: The Parabolic SAR can help identify potential trends and trend reversals.
- Works well in trending markets: The Parabolic SAR generates accurate signals and helps traders maximize profits in trending markets.
- False signals: In situations where the market is choppy or highly volatile, the Parabolic SAR may produce misleading signals, which are not accurate.
- Lagging indicator: The Parabolic SAR can be lagging at times, as it is based on past price data and may not reflect current market conditions.
- Not suitable for all assets: The Parabolic SAR may not work well with low-volume assets or those heavily influenced by news events.
- Not effective on short time frames: The Parabolic SAR is designed for longer time frames, such as daily or weekly charts, and may produce more false signals and less accuracy on shorter time frames.
It’s important to remember that no single trading indicator is foolproof, and the Parabolic SAR is no exception. To increase their chances of success, traders should use the Parabolic SAR in combination with other technical indicators and sound risk management practices. By doing so, traders can minimize their risks and maximize their potential profits.
The Parabolic SAR is a technical indicator that can assist traders in identifying potential trends and trend reversals while also providing dynamic stop-loss levels to minimize risk. This user-friendly tool is particularly effective in trending markets, making it a valuable asset for traders.
While the Parabolic SAR is a useful tool for traders to identify potential trends and trend reversals and provide dynamic stop-loss levels to minimize losses, it is not foolproof. As with any trading indicator, there are limitations and it may generate false signals in certain market conditions. To achieve success and maximize profits, traders should use the Parabolic SAR in combination with other technical indicators and sound risk management practices. Before using the Parabolic SAR or any other trading tool, traders should carefully consider their individual trading goals and risk tolerance.
For examples of customizable Parabolic SAR factory scans that can be edited, modified, or revised, and subsequently scanned through ChartAlert’s native stock screener or technical analysis scanner, click here.