Technically, you should buy eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) right now.

We examined the company using Moving Average Convergence-Divergence (MACD), which is one of the most popular and long-used technical analysis indicators. Technical analysis is the field of buying and selling stocks not based on the underlying merits of a company, but rather on the patterns and formulas around its price movements.

Signal line crossover is one of the more common ways to interpret MACD. It uses a series of moving averages (in this case, 9, 12, and 26 days) to look for bullish and bearish crossovers that indicate a stock has momentum in one direction or another. Below you can find a current chart of eBay's MACD profile:

Confused? Well, that's preposterous! How could you ever be confused by something as simplistic as a Moving Average Convergence-Divergence chart! OK, we're jesting -- but in all seriousness, this is actually one of the simpler methods for technical analysis.

Still, if you'd strictly followed the rules, seeking out upward and downward momentum, you would have seen the stock move between buy and sell categories a fantastic 18 times!

A better way to size up companies
Here at Fool.com, we're more interested in other measures of company value. When we look at eBay and its peers, here are the areas that interest us:

Company

eBay

Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK)

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN)

Yahoo! 

Market Cap (millions)

$28, 146

$387

$57,465

$19,862

Annual Revenue Growth

9.05

17.55

39.77

(3.56)

Revenue (TTM, millions)

$9,020

$955

$28,665

$6,506

Operating Margin (TTM)

21.84%

1.03%

5.03%

9.92%

P/E (TTM)

11.28

25.30

53.13

23.48

PEG

1.22

1.51

0.00

1.34

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's. TTM = trailing 12 months.

We prefer to look at the fundamental drivers of value. Investors should closely watch statistical fields like return on equity as well as qualitative values like competitive advantage and managerial effectiveness. These areas led investors like Warren Buffett and Seth Klarman to decades of outperformance. Buying and holding great companies is the best solution for individual investors to build lasting wealth and achieve their financial goals.

So when you look at eBay, don't evaluate it for crossing a momentum line. Buy or sell it because:

  • Ebay's PayPal unit is now adding one million new accounts per month, which is without question the bright spot in eBay's product portfolio, increasing 22% in the most recent quarter.
  • Ebay is still one of the largest sites on the web. It attracted just over 80 million unique visitors to its website in June 2010, which ranked it as a solid 5th among all U.S. websites.
  • Sales in the U.S. are getting harder to come by, up a mere 2% in the most recent quarter.

Want to buy eBay based on technical merits today? Technically, odds are that you should flip and sell eBay sometime very soon. If that sounds like madness to you, well, we here at Fool.com agree. In every market decline, technical analysis gets its share of proponents. The cries that "buy-and-hold is dead!" get louder, and individuals race toward schemes that promise greater wealth in a shorter amount of time.

I don't deny that technical analysis could make investors money. In any random, short-term transaction, you're essentially playing a 50/50 game of chance. However, at the same time, most technical analysis schemes are a relatively simple science, eliminating the vast complexities of evaluating true company value. However attractive, this theory is ultimately the wrong path for individual investors. Technical analysis relies on long-held beliefs about exploiting momentum and consistent patterns throughout the market.

The real reason to forget about technical investing is what we mentioned earlier: eBay crossed the crossover 18 times across the past year! While traders might not buy and sell with each crossing, cases of high momentum are normally short-lived. The amount of trading in most technical analysis schemes racks up commission fees and short-term capital gains taxes, eating away at profits. More importantly, it takes away from the idea of holding a portfolio of great companies that can accrue wealth over a long time horizon.

That's why, at Fool.com, we recommend that individual investors establish a portfolio of well-managed companies with strong advantages over their competitors. In the end, we find that to be the best contributor to long-term wealth. More importantly, it'll spare you from sitting bleary-eyed in front of a computer with a Big Gulp full of coffee, frantically buying in and out of companies. But hey, if your idea of protecting your future is charting the ups and downs of Moving Average Convergence-Divergence charts, then eBay looks like a buy right now. Just don't expect to hold it for very long.

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Jeremy Phillips owns shares of no companies listed above. Amazon.com and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.