technical analysis indicators

On-balance Volume (OBV)

On-balance Volume
On-balance Volume

On-balance Volume (OBV): The Trading Indicator for Analyzing Market Trends

In the world of trading, effective decision-making hinges on the tools you use. One such tool that has gained popularity among traders is the On-balance Volume (OBV) indicator. This article aims to delve into the mechanics, interpretations, and real-world applications of the OBV indicator in trading.

What is On-balance Volume (OBV)?

On-balance Volume (OBV) is a momentum indicator that relates trading volume to price changes. First developed by Joseph Granville in 1963, the OBV indicator builds on the premise that volume often precedes price movement. In simpler terms, the OBV indicator helps traders gauge the strength of a trend based on trading volume.

How OBV Works?

The OBV operates on a fairly straightforward principle: it accumulates volume on up-days and subtracts volume on down-days. Specifically, if today’s closing price is higher than yesterday’s, today’s volume is added to the OBV. Conversely, if today’s close is lower, the day’s volume is subtracted. If the closing prices are equal, the OBV remains the same.

How to Read the OBV Indicator

OBV Line

The OBV is usually plotted along with its OBV line, which serves as a running total of the indicator’s value. A rising OBV line is generally indicative of a strong trend, while a falling OBV line signals a weak trend.


One of the primary ways traders use OBV is to identify divergences. If the price is rising but the OBV is falling, this divergence could signal that the trend is weakening and might reverse soon.

Application in Trading Strategies

Trend Confirmation

Traders commonly use the OBV to confirm the existing trend. A rising OBV confirms an upward trend, while a falling OBV suggests a downward trend.

Breakout Prediction

The OBV can also be useful in predicting price breakouts. For example, if the OBV starts rising before the price does, it could be a sign that a breakout is imminent.

Risk Management

The OBV can serve as a secondary check for traders, offering another perspective for decision-making and potentially mitigating risk.

Limitations of the OBV Indicator

While the OBV can be a powerful tool, it is not without limitations. The indicator does not account for gaps in trading or sudden spikes in volume, which can sometimes lead to misleading signals.

Calculation Method for OBV

Understanding the mathematical underpinnings of the OBV indicator can help traders utilize it more effectively. The calculation process for OBV is relatively simple, involving just a few steps:

Basic Formula

The OBV is calculated using the following formula:

OBV = Previous OBV + Today’s Volume

Step-by-step Process

  1. Start with a Base Value: The OBV starts with a base value, usually zero, to serve as a point of reference for subsequent calculations.
  2. Identify Price Movement:
    • Up Day: If today’s closing price is higher than yesterday’s closing price, then today’s volume is added to the previous OBV.
    • New OBV = Previous OBV + Today’s Volume
    • Down Day: If today’s closing price is lower than yesterday’s closing price, then today’s volume is subtracted from the previous OBV.
    • New OBV = Previous OBV − Today’s Volume
    • No Change: If the closing price doesn’t change, the OBV remains the same as the previous day’s OBV.
    • New OBV = Previous OBV

Example Calculation

Let’s assume the OBV starts at zero.

  • On Day 1, the closing price is higher than the previous day, and the volume is 10,000 shares. The OBV becomes 10,000.
  • On Day 2, the closing price is lower than on Day 1, and the volume is 8,000 shares. The OBV becomes 2,000 (10,000 – 8,000).
  • On Day 3, the closing price remains the same, and the volume is 6,000 shares. The OBV remains at 2,000.

The On-balance Volume (OBV) indicator serves as a valuable tool for assessing the strength and direction of market trends. By incorporating volume data, the OBV provides a more nuanced understanding of market dynamics, aiding traders in making more informed decisions. However, as with all indicators, it’s crucial to use the OBV in conjunction with other tools and analysis methods for optimal results.

Frequently Asked Questions about On-balance Volume (OBV)

What is the significance of a rising or falling OBV line?

A rising OBV line generally indicates a strong trend and bullish sentiment among traders. Conversely, a falling OBV line suggests a weak trend and bearish sentiment.

How can OBV be used for divergence analysis?

If the price is rising but the OBV is falling, it may indicate that the upward trend is weakening and could reverse soon. Similarly, if the price is falling but the OBV is rising, the downward trend may be losing momentum.

Can OBV be used in isolation for trading decisions?

While OBV can be a powerful indicator, it is recommended to use it in conjunction with other tools and technical analysis methods for more reliable decision-making.

Are there any limitations to using OBV?

Yes, the OBV indicator does not account for price gaps or sudden spikes in volume, which may lead to misleading signals.

Can OBV be used for different asset classes?

Yes, OBV can be used for analyzing various asset classes, including stocks, commodities, and cryptocurrencies, provided that both volume and price data are available.

What is the difference between OBV and other volume indicators?

While many volume indicators just focus on the volume, OBV also takes into account the price change, making it a more comprehensive tool for trend analysis.

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