Lagging vs Leading indicator

Lagging vs Leading indicator

To decide whether to purchase, hold, or sell in online share trading, investors keep an eye on a variety of business, economic, and stock price factors. These measurements often fall into one of two categories: Lagging Indicators or Leading Indicators. 

While leading indicators are predictive in nature and indicate what is likely to occur, lagging indicators provide information about an event after it has already occurred. There are more types of indicators outside just those used in the stock market. Additionally, they appear in areas like management, finance, and economics.

Leading indicators include things like bond yields and consumer confidence. On the other hand, some notable trailing indicators include unemployment rates, inflationary measures like the wholesale pricing index and consumer price index, the number of loans issued, and auto sales. 

Advantages and Drawbacks of Using Leading Indicators vs Lagging Indicators

  • Lagging indicators don't reflect the present trend, although being simpler to spot. These indicators, for instance, will alert you when a price reversal in the direction of a stock has occurred. By then, it could be too late to turn a profit or stop a loss. 
  • Leading indicators could keep a stock market investor aware of developments, but they might also send out misleading indications.
  • Since leading indicators typically react quickly to changes in stock prices, false signals can be a problem.
  • Due to the delay in responding to trend reversals, lagging indicators may also provide incorrect signals. 
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Table of Content

  1. Advantages and Drawbacks of Using Leading Indicators vs Lagging Indicators
  2. Commonly Employed Lagging Indicators in the Stock Market
  3. Commonly Employed Leading Indicators in the Stock Market
  4. Four Key Distinctions Between Lead Indicator vs Lag Indicator
  5. Lagging vs Leading Indicators - Which one wins?
  6. Conclusion 

Commonly Employed Lagging Indicators in the Stock Market

Exponential Moving Average (EMA)

This technique emphasises the most recent observations. It differs in this way from the basic moving average, which prioritises all data points equally. Any duration can be created for an EMA. For the EMA of a certain stock, it is recommended to utilise as much historical data as possible to increase its accuracy. The longer period EMAs change direction more slowly.  

Convergence/ Divergence of Moving Averages

Investors can use the moving average convergence/divergence (MACD) technique to determine if a trend is bullish or bearish. It is a function of two EMAs and, among other things, may show the strength and length of a trend.

Average Directional Index (ADX)

Using the Average Directional Index (ADX), a technical analysis tool, one may determine the trend's strength. Any number between 0 and 100 can be used to represent it.

Commonly Employed Leading Indicators in the Stock Market

Relative strength index (RSI)

True to its name, RSI is a lagging indicator that alerts investors when an asset is excessively overbought or undervalued in the market. 

Stochastic Oscillator Indicator

By correlating a security's historical price range to its closing price, the stochastic oscillator indicator anticipates market turning points.


This measure shows how close security is to both its high and low points during the course of a certain trading period, which is typically two weeks. 

Four Key Distinctions Between Lead Indicator vs Lag Indicator

Less false signals are generated by lagging indicators, which may reduce the likelihood of stop-out losses.

Another significant distinction between leading and lagging indicators is that the latter is often more accurate since it is the outcome of post facto data collection and analysis.

The signals might not appear early enough to make significant gains by catching a larger portion of the move due to the delayed nature of lagging indicators.

The fact that leading indicators are often more effective in day trading while lagging indicators are more beneficial in swing trading is another significant distinction between the two types of indicators.

Lagging vs Leading Indicators - Which one wins?

It might be difficult to choose between several leading indications and trailing indicators at a given time. Instead of ignoring one fully and believing the other without question, an effective trading strategy may be developed by incorporating the conclusions from both.

Investors often balance both types of data while making market decisions. Because of this, the lagging vs leading indicators paradigm does not need a Hobson's decision.


Investors, economists, directors of central banks, decision-makers in government, and chief executives of businesses all want to know how the economy is doing and where it seems to be going. Indicators and signals used to forecast and comprehend financial or economic developments are heavily scrutinised since money and the general welfare are at stake.

Both lagging and leading indicators are critical in trading. Lagging and leading indicators each have advantages and disadvantages. Trading professionals run the risk of being deceived by signals if they just employ leading indicators. When using solely lagging indicators, traders run the risk of losing money by holding positions for too long. These metrics counterbalance one another.

Lagging vs Leading Indicators - FAQs

There is no clear answer for this question. While leading indicators can offer early warnings of probable reversals, lagging indicators are valuable for validating trends.

Lagging indicators are seen to be more trustworthy when confirming existing patterns.

Yes, a lot of traders combine lagging and leading indicators while conducting their research.

Leading indicators do not provide precise forecasts of upcoming market changes. They try to foresee possible market reversals or changes in direction, although false signals might happen. 

Stocks, commodities, currencies, and indexes are just a few of the instruments for which lagging and leading indicators may be used.