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ADX DMI: What It Is, Formula, and How to Calculate

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Written by Timothy Sykes
Updated 5/16/2024 13 min read

The Average Directional Index (ADX) and the Directional Movement Index (DMI) are two pivotal tools in technical analysis that help traders understand momentum and direction in market trends. While often used together, they serve distinct purposes: ADX quantifies the strength of a trend, and DMI determines its direction. This article explores these indicators, providing insight into their calculation, application, and interpretation.

Read this article to learn how to harness the ADX and DMI’s practical applications in various market conditions.

I’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is the Average Directional Index (ADX)?
  • What are the primary components of the ADX?
  • Is ADX a reliable indicator for trading?
  • In which scenarios does ADX perform well?
  • How do you calculate DMI?
  • What constitutes a “good” ADX value?
  • What do DMI readings indicate?
  • What are the limitations of using DMI?

Let’s get to the content!

What Is the Average Directional Index (ADX)?

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Developed by J. Welles Wilder, the ADX is part of the Directional Movement System that includes the DMI, which itself consists of two lines: the Positive Directional Indicator (+DI) and the Negative Directional Indicator (-DI). The ADX measures the strength of a trend but does not indicate its direction. It is a smoothed average of the range’s expansion over a given period and is used to determine whether the market is in a trading or non-trading condition.

Components of the ADX include:

  • +DI: Reflects a positive or upward trend direction.
  • -DI: Indicates a negative or downward trend direction.
  • ADX Line: Represents the strength of the trend regardless of its direction.

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Is ADX a Good Indicator?

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The ADX is highly regarded for its ability to measure the strength of a trend. An ADX reading above 25 typically indicates a strong trend, providing traders with the confidence to pursue trend-following strategies.

Scenarios where ADX performs well:

  • In strongly trending markets, whether bull or bear.
  • In environments where distinguishing between trending and non-trending conditions is crucial to strategy deployment.

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The Average Directional Index (ADX) Formula

The significance of the ADX formula lies in its ability to filter and confirm the trades based on the trend’s strength. A higher ADX value generally points to a stronger trend, which can aid in decision-making processes.

Steps to calculate the ADX include:

  1. Calculate the True Range, +DI, and -DI.
  2. Smooth these initial calculations using an exponential moving average.
  3. Divide the smoothed +DI and -DI by the True Range to find the DX.
  4. Smooth the DX to find the ADX.

How to Calculate Wilder’s DMI (ADX)

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The DMI component of Wilder’s system is critical for identifying the direction of price movements. It uses +DI and -DI to show how price moves upward or downward, respectively.

Steps to calculate Wilder’s DMI include:

  1. Determine high, low, and close differences to compute directional movement (+DM and -DM).
  2. Calculate the True Range and normalize DMs over this range.
  3. Smooth these normalized values to obtain +DI and -DI.
  4. Use these to calculate the DX and then smooth it to produce the ADX.

What Is a Good Average Directional Index?

Defining a “good” ADX value helps traders identify strong trends to follow. The ADX is non-directional; it solely measures the strength of the trend.

Typical ADX ranges and what they signify:

  • 0-25: Weak or no trend.
  • 25-50: Strong trend.
  • 50-75: Very strong trend.
  • 75-100: Extremely strong trend.

What Does Wilder’s DMI (ADX) Indicate?

The DMI helps determine the direction of price movements, while the ADX quantifies how strong the trend is, irrespective of its direction.

Specific signals provided by DMI and ADX:

  • When +DI crosses above -DI, and ADX is above 25, expect a strong upward trend.
  • Conversely, when -DI crosses above +DI, and ADX remains high, a strong downward trend is likely.

How to Use DMI and ADX in Trading

Using DMI alongside ADX provides a comprehensive view of both the strength and direction of market trends, which is essential for crafting effective trading strategies.

Crafting a nuanced trading strategy often involves more than just understanding trend strength and direction; it’s also about grasping the nuances of market signals. Candlestick patterns, for instance, can provide actionable insights that complement the data from ADX and DMI. Integrating these patterns into your analysis can offer a more rounded perspective on entry and exit points.

Learn to read these patterns effectively by checking out our candlestick cheat sheet.

DI Crossovers

DI crossovers are crucial events that signal potential trend changes. These are particularly significant when confirmed by a high ADX value.

Steps to interpret DI crossovers:

  • Recognize the crossover event between +DI and -DI.
  • Confirm the trend’s strength with an ADX reading above 25.
  • Consider these signals in your trading plan to align with strong trends.

DI Contractions and Expansions

The contraction and expansion of the distance between +DI and -DI can indicate forthcoming changes in volatility and trend strength.

How to utilize DI movements:

  • A narrowing gap suggests decreasing trend strength and possible consolidation.
  • An expanding gap indicates increasing trend strength and potential breakout or breakdown.

Trend Strength and Direction

The combination of ADX and DMI not only shows trend direction but also helps assess its strength, guiding traders on whether to enter or exit trades.

Trend Direction and Crossovers

Using ADX in conjunction with DI lines aids in understanding both the trend’s momentum and its probable direction, enhancing the strategic deployment of trades.

Limitations of Using Wilder’s DMI (ADX)

Despite its utility, the ADX system is not without limitations, particularly in sideways markets where it can produce signals that may lead to misinterpretation.

Common pitfalls include:

  • Over-reliance on ADX in non-trending markets.
  • Misinterpretation of DI crossovers without corresponding ADX support.

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Key Takeaways

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  • ADX measures trend strength, while DMI indicates trend direction.
  • Properly used, ADX and DMI enhance understanding and execution of market strategies.
  • Combining these tools with other technical indicators can provide a more rounded analysis.

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How Can ADX DMI Improve My Trading Strategy?

Incorporating both ADX and DMI into your trading strategy enhances your ability to assess trends accurately. ADX quantifies the strength of a trend, letting you know when it’s robust enough to trust, while DMI provides insights into the trend’s direction. This dual approach allows for more strategic decision-making, enabling traders to enter and exit trades based on confirmed trends rather than speculative movements. Utilizing ADX to confirm the strength of movements indicated by DMI’s +DI and -DI crossovers can substantially refine your trading tactics.

Can ADX DMI Predict Market Reversals?

While ADX and DMI are excellent for assessing trend strength and direction, they are not primarily designed to predict market reversals on their own. ADX can help indicate when a trend is weakening, which may precede a reversal, but it doesn’t specifically signal a reversal. DMI’s +DI and -DI crossovers can suggest potential entry and exit points, which might coincide with trend reversals. However, for more accurate predictions, these indicators should be used in conjunction with other technical analysis tools that are specifically aimed at identifying reversals, such as oscillators or candlestick patterns.

How Do I Set the Optimal Parameters for ADX DMI?

Setting the optimal parameters for ADX and DMI depends on your trading style and the specific market conditions you are operating in. Generally, a 14-period setting is used for both indicators, providing a balance between sensitivity and reliability. However, traders may choose to adjust this setting to make the indicators more or less sensitive based on their trading timeframe or the volatility of the market they are trading. Experimenting with different settings in a demo environment is a wise approach to determine the most effective parameters for your needs.

What Is the Best Indicator to Use With ADX?

When using ADX, incorporating additional indicators can provide a more comprehensive view of market conditions. The Relative Strength Index (RSI) and the Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) are beneficial complements. RSI can help confirm the momentum signals provided by ADX and DMI, indicating whether the market is overbought or oversold. MACD can offer additional confirmation of trend changes and strength, aligning well with the signals from ADX and DMI. Using these indicators together can lead to a robust, multi-faceted analytical approach, reducing the likelihood of false signals and enhancing overall trading strategy effectiveness.

How Do Trendlines Indicate Price Chart Movement?

Trendlines are essential tools in technical analysis, acting as visual representations of support and resistance on a price chart. By connecting the lows and highs on a chart, trendlines help traders identify potential areas where price momentum may pause or reverse, providing insights into trend movement and aiding in the execution of strategic trades using movement indicators.

What Role Do Movement Indicators Play in Analyzing Market Behavior?

Movement indicators, such as the ADX (Average Directional Index) and DMI (Directional Movement Indicator), are critical for evaluating the strength and direction of market trends. They quantify price momentum and trend movement, helping traders discern strong trends from weak ones. Integrating these with a price chart can significantly enhance the decision-making process in trading by highlighting potential entry and exit points.

Can Price Momentum Be Predicted Using Trendlines on a Chart?

Price momentum often correlates with the direction and slope of trendlines on a price chart. By analyzing these trendlines, traders can predict potential price movements and adjust their strategies accordingly. This method integrates the study of chart patterns, trend movement, and movement indicators to optimize trading approaches in volatile markets.

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Timothy Sykes

Tim Sykes is a penny stock trader and teacher who became a self-made millionaire by the age of 22 by trading $12,415 of bar mitzvah money. After becoming disenchanted with the hedge fund world, he established the Tim Sykes Trading Challenge to teach aspiring traders how to follow his trading strategies. He’s been featured in a variety of media outlets including CNN, Larry King, Steve Harvey, Forbes, Men’s Journal, and more. He’s also an active philanthropist and environmental activist, a co-founder of Karmagawa, and has donated millions of dollars to charity. Read More

* Results are not typical and will vary from person to person. Making money trading stocks takes time, dedication, and hard work. There are inherent risks involved with investing in the stock market, including the loss of your investment. Past performance in the market is not indicative of future results. Any investment is at your own risk. See Terms of Service here

The available research on day trading suggests that most active traders lose money. Fees and overtrading are major contributors to these losses.

A 2000 study called “Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors” evaluated 66,465 U.S. households that held stocks from 1991 to 1996. The households that traded most averaged an 11.4% annual return during a period where the overall market gained 17.9%. These lower returns were attributed to overconfidence.

A 2014 paper (revised 2019) titled “Learning Fast or Slow?” analyzed the complete transaction history of the Taiwan Stock Exchange between 1992 and 2006. It looked at the ongoing performance of day traders in this sample, and found that 97% of day traders can expect to lose money from trading, and more than 90% of all day trading volume can be traced to investors who predictably lose money. Additionally, it tied the behavior of gamblers and drivers who get more speeding tickets to overtrading, and cited studies showing that legalized gambling has an inverse effect on trading volume.

A 2019 research study (revised 2020) called “Day Trading for a Living?” observed 19,646 Brazilian futures contract traders who started day trading from 2013 to 2015, and recorded two years of their trading activity. The study authors found that 97% of traders with more than 300 days actively trading lost money, and only 1.1% earned more than the Brazilian minimum wage ($16 USD per day). They hypothesized that the greater returns shown in previous studies did not differentiate between frequent day traders and those who traded rarely, and that more frequent trading activity decreases the chance of profitability.

These studies show the wide variance of the available data on day trading profitability. One thing that seems clear from the research is that most day traders lose money .

Millionaire Media 66 W Flagler St. Ste. 900 Miami, FL 33130 United States (888) 878-3621 This is for information purposes only as Millionaire Media LLC nor Timothy Sykes is registered as a securities broker-dealer or an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax, accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy or completeness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment, or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility for his/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment, and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing. Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes in no way warrants the solvency, financial condition, or investment advisability of any of the securities mentioned in communications or websites. In addition, Millionaire Media LLC and Timothy Sykes accepts no liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this information. This information is not intended to be used as the sole basis of any investment decision, nor should it be construed as advice designed to meet the investment needs of any particular investor. Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future returns.

Citations for Disclaimer

Barber, Brad M. and Odean, Terrance, Trading is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors. Available at SSRN: “Day Trading for a Living?”

Barber, Brad M. and Lee, Yi-Tsung and Liu, Yu-Jane and Odean, Terrance and Zhang, Ke, Learning Fast or Slow? (May 28, 2019). Forthcoming: Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=2535636”

Chague, Fernando and De-Losso, Rodrigo and Giovannetti, Bruno, Day Trading for a Living? (June 11, 2020). Available at SSRN: “https://ssrn.com/abstract=3423101”