McGinley Dynamic Indicator

The McGinley Indicator aids traders by providing adaptive smoothing of price data, reducing lag during trends, and minimizing false signals during sideways markets; it assists in confirming trends and identifying potential entry and exit points, thereby enhancing the accuracy of trading decisions

10 minutes

  1. Introduction
  2. Computing the McGinley Indicator
  3. Understanding the McGinley Indicator in technical analysis
  4. John R. McGinley’s suggestions on how to use the McGinley Indicator
  5. How to use the McGinley Indicator in trading?
  6. Advantages & Limitations of the McGinley Indicator


The McGinley Indicator, a creation of market technician and trader John R. McGinley, is a powerful tool in the arsenal of traders and investors for analyzing financial markets. Unlike traditional moving averages, this indicator offers a smoother and more adaptive moving average.

In this post, we will explore how to compute the McGinley Indicator, why it holds significance in technical analysis, John R. McGinley’s insights on its effective use in trading, practical applications, and its advantages and limitations.

Looking for information on McGinley Indicator stock screener? Click here.


To calculate the McGinley Indicator (MG), use the following formula:

McGinley Indicator = MG(previous) + (Price - MG(previous)) / (N * ((Price / MG(previous)) ^ 4))

Breaking down the components:

  • MG(previous): Represents the prior value of the McGinley Indicator, with the first value typically mirroring the initial chosen price (e.g., closing price) for the specified period.
  • Price: Denotes the current asset price, often the closing price, but other price points (open, high, low) can also be utilized.
  • N: Acts as the smoothing period, an adjustable parameter accommodating your trading strategy. Common values range between 6 and 30 periods.

The formula is iterative, continuously calculating the new McGinley Indicator value based on the previous value and the current price. Its main objective is to enhance responsiveness during robust trends while reducing sensitivity in choppy or sideways markets.

Given its complexity, many traders opt for trading platforms or charting softwares, like ChartAlert, offering the McGinley Indicator as an integrated technical analysis tool for ease of application.


The McGinley Indicator’s significance in technical analysis stems from several key factors:

Adaptive Nature and Smoothing

Distinguishing itself from traditional moving averages like the Simple Moving Average (SMA) and the Exponential Moving Average (EMA), the McGinley Indicator dynamically adapts to market conditions. This adaptability translates to more prompt responses during strong trends and smoother transitions during consolidation phases, reducing lag and improving trend identification.

Enhanced Smoothness and Noise Reduction

Renowned for its exceptionally smooth curve, the McGinley Indicator excels at minimizing false signals and noise within price data. This feature is invaluable for traders seeking precise trend identification.

John McGinley’s Expertise

As the brainchild of John R. McGinley, a respected market technician, the indicator carries credibility, built upon his extensive experience and reputation.


While effective at smoothing price data, the McGinley Indicator may lag behind significant trend changes. Thus, it is advisable to complement it with other technical analysis tools and robust risk management strategies.

In summary, the McGinley Indicator plays a vital role in technical analysis by providing a unique approach to price data smoothing and trend detection. It aids traders in reducing noise, filtering out false signals, and adapting to evolving market conditions, making it an invaluable tool for informed decision-making. Nevertheless, like all technical analysis tools, it should be employed alongside complementary indicators and analysis methods for comprehensive market assessment.

Dialog to customize the McGinley Dynamic Indicator


McGinley(20) plotted along side SMA(20), EMA(20), SuperTrend and RS-Ratio/RS-Momentum indicators for purposes of comparison

John R. McGinley’s creation of the McGinley Indicator addressed the limitations of traditional moving averages, making it an essential tool in trading. Although his writings on the subject are not extensive, he did offer valuable insights based on his experience as a market technician. Here are key principles reflecting his thoughts on effectively using the McGinley Indicator:

Identifying Trends

John McGinley emphasized the McGinley Indicator’s potency in discerning and validating market trends. It assists traders in distinguishing between bullish and bearish phases, with intersection points between the indicator and the price serving as crucial signals for potential trend reversals or continuations.


A primary function of the McGinley Indicator is identifying crossovers with the price chart. A bullish crossover (indicator crosses above price) signifies an uptrend, while a bearish crossover (indicator crosses below price) suggests a potential downtrend. These crossovers are vital signals for entering or exiting trades and are frequently used alongside other moving averages.

Avoiding Whipsaws

McGinley designed this indicator to minimize whipsaws in sideways or consolidating markets, reducing false signals and enhancing trading stability. Its smooth representation of price data prevents frequent whipsaws, fostering emotional stability in traders.

Setting Smoothing Period

The smoothing period (N) is customizable, allowing traders to tailor it to their trading style and timeframes. Shorter periods yield agile signals but may be susceptible to market noise, while longer periods provide smoother signals but can lag during significant trend shifts. Exploring various N values helps traders find the best fit for their strategy.

Risk Management

The versatile McGinley Indicator serves as dynamic support and resistance, making it valuable for trade management. Implementing effective risk management strategies, such as setting stop-loss orders, determining position sizes, and managing portfolio risk, is crucial when using this indicator.

Also see: Stop Loss . . . and its importance in trading – Some ways of setting up stop loss levels – How to set up stop loss and take profit levels in trading

Combining with Other Indicators

Traders often combine the McGinley Indicator with other technical tools like trendlines, support and resistance levels, or additional moving averages to build comprehensive trading strategies.

Continuous Learning

McGinley’s approach to technical analysis emphasized ongoing learning and adaptation. Traders should continually refine their strategies and incorporate new information as it becomes available.

It’s important to note that successful trading depends on individual preferences, risk tolerance, and overall trading strategies. Traders should conduct thorough research, backtesting, and practice before incorporating the McGinley Indicator or any other technical analysis tool into their trading activities.


Effectively utilizing the McGinley Indicator in trading involves the following steps:

Trend Confirmation

Employ the McGinley Indicator primarily for confirming trends. Look for instances where the indicator aligns with other trend identification methods like price patterns, trendlines, or fundamental analysis.


Pay close attention to crossovers between the McGinley Indicator and the price chart. A bullish crossover (indicator crosses above price) can signal long positions, while a bearish crossover (indicator crosses below price) may suggest short opportunities.

Adjust Smoothing Period (N)

Experiment with different values for the smoothing period (N) to match your trading timeframe and risk tolerance. Shorter periods (e.g., 10 or 14) suit short-term traders, while longer periods (e.g., 20 or 30) are ideal for long-term investors.

Combine with Other Indicators

Enhance your trading strategy by combining the McGinley Indicator with other technical indicators or tools, such as support and resistance levels or Fibonacci retracement levels, to gain a more comprehensive perspective.

Risk Management

Implement sound risk management practices. Set stop-loss orders to limit potential losses and determine position sizes based on your risk tolerance and trading account size. The McGinley Indicator can help identify potential entry and exit points, but effective risk management is essential for capital preservation.

Also see: Stop Loss . . . and its importance in trading – Some ways of setting up stop loss levels – How to set up stop loss and take profit levels in trading

Avoid Overtrading

Resist the urge to overtrade based solely on the McGinley Indicator’s crossovers. Incorporate it into a well-defined trading plan and execute trades only when multiple indicators and factors  align.

Backtesting and Practice

Before trading with real funds, conduct thorough backtesting using historical data. This enables you to understand how the McGinley Indicator performs in various market conditions and refine your approach.

Stay Informed and Adaptable

Keep abreast of market news, events, and economic data that could impact your trading positions. Be prepared to adapt your strategy if market conditions change significantly.

Continuous Learning

Trading skills improve with continuous learning. Markets evolve, and successful traders adapt and refine their strategies over time. Consider joining trading communities, reading books, and attending seminars to expand your knowledge.

Psychological Discipline

Maintain emotional discipline. Stick to your trading strategy and ensure that your decisions are not swayed by fear or greed. Trading psychology plays a critical role in long-term success.

Remember that no trading indicator is infallible, and there are no guarantees in trading. The McGinley Indicator is a valuable tool, but it should be used in conjunction with a comprehensive trading plan that includes risk management and continuous self-improvement. Additionally, consider paper trading or trading with a small account when implementing a new strategy to gain experience without risking significant capital.


Here are some advantages and limitations of using the McGinley Indicator in trading.


  • Adaptive Smoothing: The McGinley Indicator’s adaptive nature allows it to respond promptly to changing market conditions, reducing lag during strong trends and providing timely signals for entry and exit points.
  • Reduced Whipsaws: Designed to minimize false signals during sideways or consolidating markets, the indicator helps traders avoid unprofitable whipsaws and enhances the accuracy of trading decisions.
  • Trend Confirmation: Effective for confirming trends, crossovers with the price chart provide clear signals for traders to align their positions with the prevailing trend.


  • Lack of Preset Standards: Unlike widely recognized moving averages like the Simple Moving Average (SMA) or Exponential Moving Average (EMA), the McGinley Indicator lacks preset standard values. Traders must select the smoothing period (N) based on their preferences, leading to variability in its application.
  • Subjectivity: The indicator’s effectiveness may vary among traders due to subjectivity in selecting the smoothing period and interpreting signals. This subjectivity can result in inconsistent results.
  • Not a Standalone Solution: While valuable for trend confirmation, the McGinley Indicator should not be used in isolation. Relying solely on this indicator may lead to missed opportunities or false signals. Traders should incorporate it into a comprehensive trading strategy that includes other technical indicators and analysis methods.

As with any trading tool, it’s essential for traders to understand both the advantages and limitations of the McGinley Indicator. Using it in conjunction with proper risk management and a well-defined trading plan is crucial. Additionally, gaining experience with the indicator in various market conditions through backtesting and live trading can help traders determine its suitability for their specific trading goals.

The McGinley Indicator is a valuable tool for traders looking to enhance their technical analysis. With its adaptive smoothing, reduced whipsaws, and effectiveness in confirming trends, it offers a practical way to improve the accuracy of trading decisions. When used in conjunction with a well-defined trading strategy and proper risk management, the McGinley Indicator can help traders identify potential entry and exit points in various market conditions.

Trading involves a high level of risk and is not suitable for everyone. The McGinley Indicator, like any trading tool, has its limitations and may not always produce accurate signals. It should not be used in isolation, and traders should conduct thorough research, backtesting, and practice before implementing it in live trading. Additionally, past performance is not indicative of future results, and there are no guarantees of profit in the financial markets. It is essential to consider your risk tolerance and seek professional financial advice if necessary before engaging in trading activities.

For examples of customizable McGinley Indicator factory scans that can be edited, modified, or revised, and subsequently scanned through ChartAlert’s native stock screener or technical analysis scanner, click here.