The Average Directional Movement Index (ADX) is a technical indicator that measures the strength of a trend. While the indicator itself doesn’t give an insight into the direction of the trend, the Directional Movement lines can be used to determine if the market moves up or down.
The ADX can return a value between 0 and 100. The usual threshold for a market to be considered as trending by the ADX is a value of 25 or above. Values between 25 and 50 signal a trending market, between 50 and 75 very strong trends and between 75 and 100 extremely strong trends.
The ADX Crossover Trading Strategy
A popular trading strategy to trade on the ADX is based on a crossover of the directional movement lines (+DI and -DI) which was developed directly by the indicator’s creator Mr. Wilder.
The trading strategy states that the first condition for a trade setup is that the ADX has a value of 25 of above, which indicates a trending market.
A buy order is triggered when +DI crosses above -DI, i.e. the underlying trend is an uptrend, while a sell signal is triggered when -DI crosses above +DI, i.e. the underlying trend is a downtrend.
Stop-losses are placed at the low of the current trading day, and the trade setup remain valid even if the directional movement lines cross again after the trade signal. Only a break of the current trading day’s low would lead the to the trade setup becoming invalid.
If the ADX remains above 25 or rises even higher, indicating that the strength of the underlying trend increases, then traders can put a trailing stop on the trade.
The following chart shows an example of the ADX crossover strategy on the daily EUR/USD pair.
The first cross of -DI above +DI didn’t send a sell signal because the ADX was below 25. The sell signal came with ADX crossing above 25, while the -DI was still above +DI. On the chart, the SL was put just above the day’s high.
The second signal was a buy signal, with the cross of +DI above -DI and the ADX above 25, signaling a strong trend. The stop-loss is placed just below the day’s low, indicated by the dotted line on the chart.
Finally, the third sell signal came with the cross of -DI above -DI and the ADX above 25. Again, the stop-loss is placed just above the day’s high.
While the ADX crossover strategy can also be applied to lower timeframes, you need to be aware that the increased market noise may create more false signals than on the higher timeframes. The following chart is a 5-minute chart with buy and sell signals based on the crossover strategy. Notice that we placed the stop-losses slightly different than in the previous example. In this case, stop-losses have been placed at the recent highs and lows of the price.
The first buy signal came with +DI crossing above -DI and ADX above 25. In the middle of the chart, you can notice the crosses of the directional movement lines (+DI and -DI) while the ADX was below 25. As ADX needs to be above 25, those crosses are not used as entry triggers based on the ADX crossover strategy.
After that we received a sell signal with -DI crossing above +DI and ADX above 25, which is followed by a buy signal when +DI crossed above -DI.
Using ADX for Trade Confirmations
Beside the ADX crossover strategy which is based on the crosses of +DI and -DI, traders can also use the ADX indicator to supplement other trading strategies. For example, you might want to use a trend-following strategy when ADX shows a strong trend (value above 25), or a trading strategy that is more suited for ranging markets in times when the ADX shows an absence of trends (value below 25).
Before You Trade
The Average Directional Movement Index is a versatile technical indicator that can be used as a stand-alone trading strategy, or in combination with other trading strategies. The ADX crossover strategy is based on the crossover of the directional movement lines (+DI and -DI) and an ADX reading of above 25. While it can be used across all timeframes, it usually returns the best results on higher ones.
As the ADX measures the strength of the underlying trend, trend-following traders can use it to filter flat and ranging markets and avoid trading during those times.