Golden Cross vs. Death Cross: What’s the Difference?

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Golden Cross vs. Death Cross: An Overview

The use of statistical analysis to make trading decisions is the core of technical analysis. Technical analysts use a ton of data, often in the form of charts, to analyze stocks and markets. At times, the trend lines on these charts curve and cross in ways that form shapes, often given funny names like “cup with handle,” “head and shoulders,” and “double top.” Technical traders learn to recognize these common patterns and what they might portend for the future performance of a stock or market.

golden cross and a death cross are exact opposites. A golden cross indicates a long-term bull market going forward, while a death cross signals a long-term bear market. Both refer to the solid confirmation of a long-term trend by the occurrence of a short-term moving average crossing over a major long-term moving average.

Key Takeaways

  • A golden cross suggests a long-term bull market going forward, while a death cross suggests a long-term bear market.
  • Either crossover is considered more significant when accompanied by high trading volume.
  • Once the crossover occurs, the long-term moving average is considered a major support level (in the case of the golden cross) or resistance level (in the instance of the death cross) for the market from that point forward.
  • Either cross may occur as a signal of a trend change, but they more frequently occur as a strong confirmation of a change in trend that has already taken place.
  • Traders use both death crosses and golden crosses to help determine when to enter and exit an asset.

Golden Cross

The golden cross occurs when a short-term moving average crosses over a major long-term moving average to the upside and is interpreted by analysts and traders as signaling a definitive upward turn in a market. Basically, the short-term average trends up faster than the long-term average, until they cross.

There are three stages to a golden cross:

  • A downtrend that eventually ends as selling is depleted
  • A second stage where the shorter moving average crosses up through the longer moving average
  • Finally, the continuing uptrend, hopefully leading to higher prices

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021


Death Cross

Conversely, a similar downside moving average crossover constitutes the death cross and is understood to signal a decisive downturn in a market. The death cross occurs when the short-term average trends down and crosses the long-term average, basically going in the opposite direction of the golden cross.

Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2021


Special Considerations

There is some variation of opinion as to precisely what constitutes this meaningful moving average crossover. Some analysts define it as a crossover of the 100-day moving average by the 50-day moving average; others define it as the crossover of the 200-day average by the 50-day average.

Analysts also watch for the crossover occurring on lower time frame charts as confirmation of a strong, ongoing trend. Regardless of variations in the precise definition or the time frame applied, the term always refers to a short-term moving average crossing over a major long-term moving average.

How Do You Calculate a Golden Cross?

A golden cross occurs on a stock chart when the 50-day moving average moves up towards the 200-day moving average and crosses it. This is noted as a bullish scenario and indicates a buy signal with the expectation that the upward trend will continue.

Is a Death Cross a Good Time To Buy?

A death cross signals a bearish market or asset and can be a good time to buy. Many investors purchase assets when the value of those assets has dropped, but with the expectation that the value will go up again in the future, based on their analysis. There can be many reasons why an asset drops in price, however, that doesn’t necessarily signal a weak asset, but possibly a weak environment. Once the environment corrects, an asset can go up in value. If you manage to buy it on a dip, then you may see a return on your investment.

What Timeframe Is Best for a Golden Cross?

Golden crosses can be analyzed under many different time frames depending on the trader and what is being analyzed. Day traders typically use smaller time frames, such as five minutes or 10 minutes, whereas swing traders use longer time frames, such as five hours or 10 hours.

The Bottom Line

Golden crosses and death crosses are used in trading and are a form of technical analysis. A golden cross signals a bull market and a death cross signals a bear market. Both of these are determined by the confirmation of a long-term trend from the occurrence of a short-term moving average crossing over a major long-term moving average. Both crosses help traders in making investment decisions, particularly knowing when to enter and exit a trade.

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