Investing, Strategies

Trade Trends and Reversals Using the Parabolic SAR

Written By: Rick Orford
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated June 30, 2023
Disclaimer

This content is not intended to provide financial advice; rather, it’s for information and entertainment purposes only.

Always consult a licensed advisor for investment decisions.

Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on a link, the affiliate may provide compensation to this site at no cost to you, regardless if you decide to purchase something. You can read our affiliate disclosure in our privacy policy.

Finally, this article has been written, reviewed, and fact-checked. Portions of this article have been written using assistive AI tools to help with tasks like research, spell-checking, grammar, and translation. Please have a look at our editorial guidelines for more information about how we create content.

trading charts for different securities

Are you having problems with identifying trends? How about exiting your trades? If you are, then the Parabolic SAR might be the tool that is right for you. It provides an excellent way to identify trends, clear exit signals, and changes in the trend direction of the market. 

What is a Parabolic SAR?

Parabolic SAR is a technical indicator that was developed by J. Welles Wilder that is primarily used to identify the direction of a price trend and its potential reversal points. SAR stands for Stop and Reverse, indicating its primary function: to provide stop-loss levels and signal when to switch positions. The indicator is a series of dots plotted on top or below the price chart, indicating the potential reversal points.

How is the Parabolic SAR calculated?

The Parabolic SAR uses the formula below based on two variables:

Acceleration factor (AF) –  determines the rate at which the indicator accelerates towards the price.

extreme point (EP) – represents the highest high or lowest low during an uptrend or downtrend

The acceleration factor starts at a specific value and then increases over time as the trend progresses. The formula may be a bit long, but the Parabolic SAR is pretty straightforward.

How do you apply it?

Traders use the Parabolic SAR differently, from buy and sell signals to risk management and trend-following techniques. Let’s discuss each:

Buy and sell signal

The parabolic indicator provides traders with buy and sell signals when the dots’ placement moves from one side to the other. For example, a buy signal occurs when the dots switch from above to below the price and vice versa.

Trailing Stop

Another way traders use Parabolic SAR is by using the dots as a  trailing stop loss for the position. For example, if the price is continuously rising, and the PSAR is also rising, traders can use the PSAR as an exit if should PSAR shifts its position. So once the price drops below the PSAR, the long trade can be closed.

Trend Identification

Traders can also use the Parabolic SAR to identify and trade with the current prevailing trend. As long as the dots are consistently under the price, this indicates an uptrend that traders can exploit by looking for complementary signals from price patterns or other indicators and vice versa. This approach allows traders to align with market momentum and capture substantial profit during extended runs.

The pros and cons of the Parabolic SAR

Even with its simplicity and straightforwardness, the Parabolic SAR does have its limitations. By understanding its strength and limitations, one can maximize its earning potential and ability to provide early signals and information.

Trend Identification

One of Parabolic SAR’s primary advantages is its ability to help identify the direction of the prevailing trend in a market. Its dot plotting mechanics provides a concise way of identifying where the trend is. Since the dots show below the price during a downtrend and above the price during an uptrend, it gives a clear visual representation of the ongoing market sentiment in just one look.

Dynamic stop-loss levels

Since the Parabolic SAR adjusts its position as the price progresses, it provides investors and traders with dynamic stop-loss levels to help mitigate risk. As the trend continues, the stop-loss levels can move closer to the current price and later on send signals for a potential change in the trend. This effectively helps lock in profits and minimize potential losses.

Simplicity

Another advantage of Parabolic SAR is how simple its applications and interpretation are in trading strategies. Its simple yet meaningful visualization makes it accessible to traders of all experience levels, from beginners to seasoned traders. This simplicity makes Parabolic SAR an attractive choice for traders who prefer a straightforward approach to their trading decisions.

Underperformance in choppy markets

While Parabolic SAR does perform well in trending markets, it can still generate false signals when the market hasn’t established its direction. These false signals, also known as whipsaws, can lead to premature entries or exits due, potentially leading to losses. Traders wishing to start using Parabolic SAR in their strategy should focus on trending markets and securities before moving into markets with unclear trends.

Lagging indicator

As with many indicators, Parabolic SAR is a lagging indicator due to its reliance on close prices. There will be a delay between the occurrence of a market event and the signal generated by Parabolic SAR. This delay means that the Parabolic SAR may not capture rapid changes in market dynamics, which is similar to most price-based indicators. This is mostly seen during periods of high volatility or sudden trend reversals. Traders can incorporate other tools to assist Parabolic SARs gaps in helping build a stronger trading system.

Additional advantages over other technical indicators

Besides its simplicity and strong trend identification capability, Parabolic SAR offers other advantages over technical indicators. Understanding these advantages allows traders and investors to enhance any of their existing strategies with the Parabolic SAR. For example:

Versatility across timeframes

Parabolic SAR can be applied to various trading timeframes for short-term scalping, long-term investing, or multi-timeframe analysis. Its adaptability makes it a valuable tool for traders with different trading preferences and time horizons. Traders can adjust the parameters of Parabolic SAR to suit the specific timeframe they are trading and to effectively capture trends and potential reversals. 

Combines with other indicators effectively

The Parabolic SAR can be used alongside other technical indicators to enhance trading strategies. For example, traders often combine Parabolic SAR with the Relative Strength Index (RSI) or Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD) to confirm trade signals, filter out false signals and identify divergences. By combining multiple indicators, traders can increase the robustness of their trading decisions and reduce the impact of individual indicator limitations. However, selecting indicators that complement each other and provide distinct perspectives on the market is important to avoid conflicting signals or redundancy.

Simplifies the risk management process

Unlike other indicators that require the use of separate risk management tools, Parabolic SAR provides clear stop-loss levels directly on the price chart. This helps simplify risk management for traders and helps lessen subjectivity in exiting trades. By aligning stop-loss orders with the Parabolic SAR levels, traders can minimize potential losses and protect their capital while allowing profitable trades to run.

Final Thoughts

The Parabolic SAR provides traders with a concise way of analyzing certain market conditions and enhancing risk management. While it has its drawbacks, it remains a popular choice among traders due to its simplicity and versatility, which is a testament to how effective it is once it’s properly utilized. By understanding the strength and weaknesses of the Parabolic SAR,  traders and investors can leverage its unique features and effectively incorporate it into their technical analysis toolkit to potentially improve their trading win rate. Remember, it’s essential to back-test the Parabolic SAR  and practice with other indicators to properly understand its application and limitation and know when it should be applied to enhance the overall effectiveness of trading strategies.

Leave a Comment

15585

Stay in Touch With Us

Get latest from The Financially Independent Millennial in our Friday Newsletter

15856