The Schaff Trend Cycle (STC) is a versatile technical indicator developed by Doug Schaff. It’s designed to provide greater precision in identifying market trends, potential reversals, and overbought/oversold zones compared to some standard oscillators.

Let’s delve deeper into the STC’s intricacies, how to use it in your trading, and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is the Schaff Trend Cycle Indicator?

The STC is a cyclical oscillator that cleverly combines elements of moving averages, stochastics, and MACD concepts. Its core aims are to provide more reliable trading signals and filter out market noise. The core components of the indicator are:

  • Cycle Component: Calculates the cyclical nature of market trends, incorporating price momentum.
  • Signal Line: A smoothed (moving average) version of the cycle component, triggering buy and sell signals when crossed.

Why Use the Schaff Trend Cycle?

The STC indicator offers several advantages for technical traders:

  • Versatility: It’s applicable across various timeframes (short-term to long-term) and diverse markets (stocks, forex, commodities, etc.).
  • Trend Identification: Clearly highlights prevailing market trends, indicating bullish or bearish sentiment.
  • Overbought/Oversold Signals: Provides well-defined zones for identifying potentially overextended price moves, suggesting possible pullbacks or reversals.
  • Divergence Detection: Can be used to spot potential trend reversals when the STC line and price action disagree (e.g., price making new highs while STC makes lower highs).
  • Noise Reduction: The STC’s built-in smoothing mechanisms help filter out some of the whipsaws that can occur with more basic oscillators.

How Does the Schaff Trend Cycle Work?

The STC indicator line oscillates between 0 and 100. Here’s the general interpretation:

  • Above 75: Overbought territory. This suggests the market may be overextended to the upside, increasing the potential for price weakness or a corrective pullback.
  • Below 25: Oversold territory. This suggests the market might be overextended to the downside, increasing the potential for price strength or a possible reversal.
  • Crossovers: When the STC line crosses above its signal line, it generates a buy signal. Conversely, when it crosses below, it generates a sell signal.

Schaff Trend Cycle Indicator Formula

The STC calculation involves several steps. Here’s the basic formula:

  1. MACD: Calculate the standard MACD (Moving Average Convergence Divergence) using a 23-period and 50-period EMAs (exponential moving averages).
  2. Stochastic of MACD: Apply a stochastic formula to the MACD values, normalizing them for cyclical analysis.
  3. Smoothing the Stochastic: Apply a 3-period moving average to the MACD stochastic to create the STC’s primary ‘cycle component.’
  4. Signal Line: Apply another 3-period moving average to the ‘cycle component,’ creating the signal line for buy/sell triggers.

Schaff Trend Cycle Calculation Steps

While trading platforms calculate the STC automatically, here’s a detailed breakdown for a deeper understanding:

  1. Find the MACD: Subtract the 50-period EMA from the 23-period EMA.
  2. Locate MACD Extremes: Find the highest and lowest MACD values over a recent lookback period.
  3. Normalize MACD: Calculate Stochastic %K = (Current MACD – Lowest MACD) / (Highest MACD – Lowest MACD) * 100
  4. STC Cycle Component: Calculate a 3-period simple moving average of %K.
  5. STC Signal Line: Calculate a 3-period simple moving average of the Cycle Component.

Trading with the Schaff Trend Cycle Indicator

Here are the primary ways to use STC signals in your technical analysis:

Trend Following

Buy: STC line crosses above its signal line, preferably in alignment with a broader uptrend.

Sell: STC line crosses below its signal line, preferably in alignment with a broader downtrend.


Consider taking profits or look for contrarian trades when STC enters extreme zones (above 75 or below 25).

Extreme readings don’t guarantee immediate reversals; use them in conjunction with other tools.


Watch for price making new highs while the STC line makes lower highs (bearish divergence) or price making new lows with higher STC lows (bullish divergence).

These divergences can signal potential trend weakness or reversals.

Trading Strategy Entry and Exit Rules

Here are some guidelines for entering and exiting trades based on Schaff Trend Cycle signals.

Trading with Trend

Consider entering after an STC/signal line crossover in alignment with the prevailing trend (ideally confirmed by broader price action).

Exit on the opposite crossover of the STC and its signal line.

Overbought/Oversold Trading

Contrarian trades based on extreme STC levels are riskier; use tighter stops and consider partial position sizing.

Exit a portion of the position or the entire position when STC reaches extremes. You might re-enter on a confirmed reversal.

Using Stop-Loss Orders

Always set stop-losses to manage risk. Place them below recent swing lows (for buys) or above recent swing highs (for sells).

STC Indicator Settings

The default settings on most charting platforms use a 23/50 MACD combination and a 3-period smoothing for both the cycle and signal lines.

However, you can fine-tune these settings based on your trading style, timeframe, and the specific market’s volatility.

For Faster Response

Decrease the MACD periods (e.g., 12/26) and/or the smoothing period for more sensitive signals (but potentially more whipsaws).

For Slower Response

Increase the MACD periods and/or the smoothing for smoother signals (but they may lag slightly).

Combining STC with Other Indicators

The STC works well in conjunction with other technical analysis tools. Here are some effective combinations:

  • RSI: As a secondary overbought/oversold confirmation tool. Look for situations where both STC and RSI are signaling extreme conditions.
  • Moving Averages: To confirm the overall trend direction. For example, use a 50-period or 100-period moving average to ensure your STC trades align with the major trend.
  • Price Patterns: For additional entry/exit timing precision. Look for candlestick patterns or chart formations that support the signals generated by the STC.


The Schaff Trend Cycle (STC) is a valuable tool for technical traders seeking trend identification, overbought/oversold levels, and potential reversal signals.

By understanding its calculation, trading applications, and limitations, you can integrate it into your analysis for more informed trading decisions. Remember, always combine the STC with other forms of technical analysis and sound risk management practices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the STC a leading or lagging indicator?

The STC is best considered a leading indicator within a trend. It aims to identify potential turning points and overbought/oversold areas before they become fully apparent in the raw price action.

Can I use STC on all timeframes?

Yes, the STC is applicable across various timeframes. Adjust the indicator settings for optimal results based on whether you’re day trading, swing trading, or position trading.

Does the STC work in all market conditions?

No indicator is perfect. The STC can provide less reliable signals during choppy, sideways markets. Combining it with trend-confirmation tools is essential.

What’s the difference between STC and other oscillators like RSI or Stochastics?

The STC’s key difference lies in its use of the MACD as a foundation and the multiple layers of smoothing.

This aims to reduce whipsaws and provide clearer signals in trending environments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like