Bollinger Bands guide: how to use them in volatility trading

Bollinger Bands are a widely-used trading tool that helps analyse the volatility of a financial asset and determine its trend, whether it’s bullish, bearish, or moving sideways.

Essentially, these bands provide valuable insights into the price fluctuations of a financial instrument. Traders utilise Bollinger Bands to anticipate potential price increases or decreases.

It’s important to note that Bollinger Bands are part of technical analysis, a methodology that relies on visual tools to make trading decisions.

Furthermore, technical analysis is particularly popular among short-term traders who prefer using straightforward and efficient tools.

How to calculate Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands are derived from two key components: the moving average and the standard deviation. The calculation involves the following steps:

  • Moving Average (MA): The first element is the moving average, often calculated over 20 periods. This moving average represents the average price of the asset over the specified time frame.
  • Standard Deviation (SD): The second component is the standard deviation, which measures the dispersion or deviation of the asset’s price from its average. It is computed as the square root of the variance and provides insight into the price volatility.

Based on these calculations, three lines are plotted:

  • The central line represents the moving average over the 20-period timeframe.
  • The upper band is determined by adding twice the standard deviation (MA + 2 * SD) to the moving average.
  • The lower band is determined by subtracting twice the standard deviation (MA – 2 * SD) from the moving average.

Interpretation of Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands serve as indicators of volatility, with wider bands indicating higher volatility and narrower bands suggesting lower volatility. The amplitude between the upper and lower bands depends on the standard deviation.

When the distance between the bands consistently narrows, it signals that volatility is likely to increase soon. This can occur in either an upward or downward trend.

To determine the potential direction of the asset, one can observe whether the market price approaches the upper or lower band. If the price approaches the upper band, a breakout to the upside is expected. Conversely, if the price approaches the lower band, a breakout to the downside is anticipated.

An investment strategy involves capitalising on periods when the band width contracts. For instance, if an upward movement is anticipated, it is advisable to buy the asset and sell it once it rises.

However, it’s important to note that each investor may have their own strategy. Some traders, for example, follow the contrarian approach, interpreting a bullish sentiment as an overbought condition, potentially signalling an upcoming bearish trend.

Regarding overbought or oversold observations using the bands, an asset is considered overbought when prices approach the upper band, while an oversold condition is identified when the prices approach the lower band.

It is worth mentioning that Bollinger Bands are often used in conjunction with other indicators such as the RSI (Relative Strength Index) to provide a more comprehensive analysis.

By combining different tools, traders can gain deeper insights into market trends and make informed trading decisions.

Support and resistance with Bollinger Bands

In a sideways market, where prices are relatively stable and lack a clear trend, Bollinger Bands tend to remain flat. During this phase, they can act as dynamic support and resistance levels since prices often revert towards the average.

When the price breaks out of one of the bands and subsequently retraces back into the range of the bands, the high or low point generated by the price movement can serve as a resistance or support level respectively.

Traders often monitor these levels as they can provide valuable insights into potential price reversals or continuation within the sideways market. By recognising these key levels, traders can make informed decisions about entry or exit points based on the interaction between the price and the Bollinger Bands.

For more information, check out our article on technical analysis, or have a look at separate technical tools, such as:

To start trading, pick one of the best trading platforms and one of the best brokers for intraday trading.

In conclusion, Bollinger Bands are a valuable tool in technical analysis, allowing traders to assess price volatility, identify potential breakouts, and determine support and resistance levels. By combining the moving average and standard deviation, these bands provide insights into market trends and can assist in making informed trading decisions.


How do Bollinger Bands help in identifying potential trading opportunities?

Bollinger Bands help identify potential trading opportunities by providing insights into price volatility and potential breakouts. When the bands contract, indicating lower volatility, it suggests a period of consolidation. Traders can anticipate an upcoming increase in volatility when the bands start to widen again.

Are Bollinger Bands suitable for all types of markets?

Bollinger Bands can be useful in various market conditions, including trending markets, ranging markets, and even during periods of low volatility.

How can I use Bollinger Bands for risk management?

Traders can use the width of the bands as a measure of volatility. During periods of low volatility, when the bands are narrow, it may indicate reduced market activity and increased risk of false breakouts. In such situations, traders may choose to reduce their position sizes or avoid taking new trades until volatility expands.

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