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Famous stock trader Marc Chaikin created the Chaikin Money Flow (CMF) indicator to determine the buying and selling pressure for a financial asset over a set period. This useful indicator gives traders insight into whether money flows into or out of a security, allowing them to gauge overall market sentiment.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about the Chaikin Money Flow indicator—how it’s calculated, how to interpret signals, and its benefits and drawbacks.


What is the Chaikin money flow indicator?

The Chaikin Money Flow Indicator (CMF) is a technical analysis tool that measures buying and selling pressure over a defined period—usually 20 or 21 days.

The theory behind the indicator is that securities reaching new highs reflect strong money flow and buying pressure, while securities reaching new lows reflect weak money flow and prevalence of sellers.

As with other momentum indicators, traders often use the Chaikin Money Flow to confirm the overall trend or reveal any divergences with price action. Divergences indicate a potential trend reversal. For example, if the price reaches a new high, but the CMF prints a lower high, sellers are stepping in even as the rally continues. This bearish divergence suggests downside momentum is building.


What is the formula for the Chaikin money flow indicator?

The Chaikin Money Flow indicator is calculated for each period as follows:

CMF = [(Close – Low) – (High – Close)] / (High – Low) * Volume


Close = Closing price of the security for that period

High = The highest price traded during the period

Low = The lowest price traded during the period

Volume = The volume traded over the period

To break this down step-by-step:

  1. Subtract the low of the period from the closing price
  2. Subtract the closing price from the high price of the period
  3. Sum the results of steps 1 and 2
  4. Divide the sum by the total price range for the period (high minus low)
  5. Multiply the result by the volume for the period

The final output will oscillate between 1 and -1, with values closer to the extremes indicating stronger buying or selling pressure. A higher positive number reflects accumulation, while a lower negative number reflects distribution.

The above calculation is completed for each period using the specified input values over that timeframe. The default periods used for the CMF indicator are 20 or 21 days.

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How to interpret Chaikin money flow signals

When interpreting the Chaikin money flow indicator, traders generally look for these types of signals:

  • Crossovers - Bullish when CMF crosses above zero and bearish when crossing below zero. Indicates a potential change in the direction of money flow.
  • Divergences - For example, when the price reaches a new high, but CMF prints a lower high. Suggests underlying weakness in the trend.
  • Overbought/Oversold - Readings over +0.5 or under -0.5 suggest an asset is overbought or oversold, respectively.
  • Trend confirmation - When the Chaikin money flow indicator aligns with the prevailing price trend, it confirms that trend.

Traders often combine CMF with other technical indicators, especially price-based ones like moving averages. Using multiple indicators together creates a more robust system and heightened confidence in trade signals.

For example, aligning CMF with a price oscillator like MACD allows a trader to gauge momentum and money flow. Bullish crossovers on both indicators indicate firm upside conviction.

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How reliable is the Chaikin money flow indicator?

The Chaikin money flow indicator has some notable strengths but also potential limitations that traders should keep in mind. Understanding both allows you to apply the indicator more effectively.

Advantages of using Chaikin money flow


forex market data and a stack of coins in the background


Unlike pure price-based indicators, the Chaikin money flow indicator combines price and volume activity into its formulation. This gives it an edge in assessing the conviction behind price movements.

The indicator also stands out in its ability to generate early warning signals through bullish or bearish divergences. As we know, the divergence between an indicator and price can foreshadow a trend reversal.

Finally, the Chaikin money flow indicator simplifies the interpretation of buying and selling pressure using an intuitive scale from 1 to -1. There’s no second-guessing—you immediately know if the CMF reflects accumulation or distribution.

Limitations to consider

However, similar to other technical indicators, the Chaikin money flow is still based on historical data, so it suffers from being a lagging indicator.

Like other momentum oscillators, the indicator is also open to some interpretation. Overbought or oversold readings often mark trend pauses rather than reversals.


A declining line graph of the forex market


Finally, chaotic market conditions near turning points can generate head fakes and false signals. The Chaikin money flow indicator may whip back and forth during extended consolidations or low-volume environments.

So, while an invaluable tool, the Chaikin should not be relied on as a standalone system. Use it to confirm price action and other indicators. Combining analysis techniques creates robust trading signals to exploit prevailing market conditions.

Here’s an interesting read for you: 5 common trading mistakes to avoid


In conclusion,

The Chaikin money flow indicator gives traders a precise method to gauge buying and selling pressure. By comparing closing prices to the period’s price range, quantified by volume, the CMF formula produces an oscillator that fluctuates between 1 and -1.

Values above zero confirm an uptrend, while readings below zero affirm a downtrend. Traders gain perspective into emerging trends and potential reversals by combining CMF signals with price action analysis. Just remember volume confirms the conviction behind any asset price movement!

Hopefully, this introduction to the Chaikin money flow indicator paves the way for you to explore further using the market breadth and volume indicators as part of a holistic trading approach. The Chaikin Money Flow delivers an edge worth learning, so be sure to practice applying it across any markets you trade actively!

Speaking of applying the Chaikin money flow indicator in live market conditions, you may try it on a demo account offered by

Opening a demo account can allow you to test drive CMF analysis effectively and build confidence before putting real money on the line. When ready, you can then transition to a live account, knowing you have already optimized the integration of this useful indicator.


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“When considering “CFDs” for trading and price predictions, remember that trading CFDs involves a significant risk and could result in capital loss. Past performance is not indicative of any future results. This information is provided for informative purposes only and should not be considered investment advice.”

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