What Are Bollinger Bands?

Bollinger Bands are an effective and common technical analysis indicator that is used by traders in order to understand the price volatility of a specific financial instrument.

This indicator was named after its creator, John Bollinger, a famous technical analyst, who created them back in the 1980s. It is made up of a simple moving average (SMA), an upper band above it (positive standard deviation), and a lower band below the moving average (negative standard deviation).

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A standard moving average plots a series of average prices which results in a smoothed-out price action line, but Bollinger Bands incorporate standard deviations to ensure price action is observed within a channel-like tunnel.

Another unique feature about Bollinger Bands is that they are quite flexible. For example, they are dynamic in the sense that they can adjust to different trading market conditions and to trade various financial instruments, including stocks and forex trading. This means that they can be an attractive tool for all types of traders.

The Bollinger Band calculations are quite easy. The middle band is calculated as a 20-day simple moving average (SMA) as below:

Middle Band = 20-day simple moving average

Lower Band = (20-day standard deviation of price x 2) + 20-day SMA

Upper Band = 20-day SMA – (20-day standard deviation of price x 2)

In this calculation, the SMA is the sum of closing prices over n periods / by n.

How to Use Bollinger Bands for Trading

Bollinger Bands are used for trade analysis. Based on how the indicator is performing, we are able to extract information on the direction and strength of a price trend. We can then use this information in order to confirm trade signals from other indicators or strategies.

The secret to trading, using any technical indicator, is to understand its behaviour in different conditions. For example, the asset price is said to be in the overbought zone when it touches the upper Bollinger Band. Similarly, the price is in the oversold zone when it touches the lower Bollinger Band.  Overbought and oversold conditions have a higher likelihood of price reversal.

Traders who prefer to trade on strong bullish trending markets should look for a situation where the price moves between the 20-day moving average and the upper Bollinger Band. Consequently, a steady downward trend is characterized by price movements between the lower Bollinger band and the 20-day moving average.

There are other characteristics that traders can look out for when using Bollinger Bands. For example, they can watch out for ‘the Squeeze,’ which is a situation where the Bollinger Bands seem to converge or come together.

A squeeze (the bands contracting) is an indication that the price is experiencing low volatility. Low volatility periods will always be succeeded with high volatility.

When high volatility returns to the market, the upper band will rise, while the lower band will fall. If the price breaches the upper band, it will imply a bullish breakout, whereas a bearish breakout will be spotted when prices breach the lower band. As a rule of thumb, the longer the squeeze, the stronger the expected breakout.

Traders should also avoid being misled by breakouts, which are usually situations where the price moves past either the lower or upper Bollinger Bands.

Unfortunately, this is not often an accurate or reliable indication that the price will behave in a certain way. Price volatility alone is not enough to help make decisions that can help traders to achieve success in trading.

This means that using Bollinger Bands alone is not a reliable approach to market analysis. As a result of this, traders need to consider using this indicator in conjunction with other technical indicators.

Combining Bollinger Bands with other indicators can help traders to make better-informed decisions regarding their trades. The best combinations with Bollinger Bands are oscillators such as the RSI indicator and MACD indicator.

Bollinger Bands are great at pinpointing value price areas in the market, but they do not show the price strength or weakness at such areas. This is where oscillators come in. In addition to evaluating overbought and oversold conditions, oscillators also provide much information using divergences.

For instance, if the price is trading near the upper band of Bollinger Bands, but the RSI is showing a bearish divergence (price rising but indicator value falling), it is a signal for price weakness and traders can place sell orders in the market.

Bollinger Bands Strategies in Options Trading

The fact that Bollinger Bands adjust well to volatile market conditions, makes it one of the most important technical indicators for options trading. This indicator can be used to identify periods when volatility changes as well as potential changes in an asset’s price.

In terms of volatility, Bollinger bands are able to show when volatility is reaching extreme lows, relative to the asset’s recent history. They do this by moving toward each other and ‘squeezing’ together.

Option traders refer to these low-volatility periods as consolidations. They will then place their trades in line with the new price trends that form when the asset’s price breaks out and volatility is present in the market.

A big benefit of using the Bollinger Band indicator is that it is visually very easy to identify periods when the market is more likely to break out in the near term.

The main benefits of this is that it enables options traders to control the risks present in the market, while also providing the ability to pinpoint potentially profitable trading opportunities.

Bollinger Bands squeezes and expansions imply low price volatility and high volatility respectively. This makes Bollinger Bands efficient trading indicators for volatility plays in the options market, where traders can apply long straddles and strangles when they expect high volatility in the market, or short straddles and strangles when they anticipate low volatility.

Bollinger Bands in Cryptocurrency Trading

Cryptocurrencies are an exciting new financial asset to trade online. Traders can also use Bollinger Bands as one of the indicators that can help them trade effectively in the crypto space.

This indicator still serves the same purposes as it does in other financial instruments, which is to indicate volatility in an asset’s price. As a result, traders will closely observe the contraction and expansion between the lower and upper Bollinger Bands.

Cryptocurrency traders can position themselves accordingly when Bollinger Bands squeeze in anticipation of high volatility in prices of their favourite crypto coins and tokens.

Interestingly, Bollinger Bands are able to capture about 90% of the price action in a given asset or cryptocurrency. When the asset’s price moves above or below a set Bollinger band, this means that trading opportunities are being presented.

That is, when a crypto’s price moves above the upper Bollinger band, this is an indication that the coin is overbought and is likely to correct shortly. This presents an ideal time to sell before the coin’s price will fall.

On the flip side, if a crypto’s price tags at and falls below the lower Bollinger band, this is an indication that the coin is oversold. For crypto traders, this is a sign to buy.

This approach can be used to trade a wide range of cryptocurrencies on the AvaTrade platforms, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and many others.

It is important to note that the bounce or reversal strategy can also be applied to cryptocurrency trading. That is, you can prepare for a price reversal when the price approaches the upper Bollinger band in a bullish trend, or the lower Bollinger band in a bearish trend.

In many cases, it is important to understand that just because the price hits the respective Bollinger bands, this does not indicate oversold or overbought conditions.

To verify this information, this approach needs to be combined with other technical indicators that will help the trader narrow down the best possible reversal points.

Traders can develop their cryptocurrency trading strategies using Bollinger Bands, moving averages, the RSI, and oscillators. While a combination of indicators will not necessarily provide perfectly accurate reversal points, they can help to narrow down the potential reversal points.

Using Bollinger Bands with AvaTrade

Gaining knowledge of how Bollinger Bands work can really boost your trading accuracy, and hands-on experience is the best way to familiarize yourself with this indicator.

This involves opening a trading account with the multi-regulated and award winning AvaTrade and then testing Bollinger Bands and other technical indicators and tools that are available on our platforms.

Another major benefit is that AvaTrade provides you with direct access to trade a wide choice of assets including forex, stocks, cryptocurrencies, indices, futures, and many more.

To assist traders on their trading journey, AvaTrade offers access to a free demo trading account. A demo account enables a trader to test the trading platform and the available indicators and tools without the risk of losing any money. This is the ideal environment to test Bollinger Bands and how they can effectively be added to your trading strategy.

Main Bollinger Bands Trading Strategies FAQ

  • What are Bollinger Bands?
    Bollinger Bands are a technical analysis tool created by John Bollinger in the 1980s. The bands are used to gain insights into the price and volatility of a number of asset types, including currencies, stocks, and commodities. Bollinger Bands are supremely useful because they can help determine overbought/oversold levels, monitor breakouts, or be used as a trend following tool. On the chart Bollinger Bands consist of three lines. The middle line uses a simple moving average, and the upper and lower lines are placed two standard deviations away from the middle line.

  • How do you trade using Bollinger Bands?
    The first thing to understand about Bollinger Banks is that they basically show you how far price is from the average. This can be very useful information since prices tend towards the average over time. That means a price that is near the top of the Bollinger Bands channel is considered overbought, while a price near the bottom of the Bollinger Bands channel is considered oversold. When another indicator is combined with the Bollinger Bands to confirm the overbought or oversold nature of the market it becomes a simple task to trade the market.

  • What are the best Bollinger Bands trading strategies?
    A basic overbought/oversold trading strategy can work well using Bollinger Bands, but it can’t be used blindly without consideration for the overall market. So, it won’t work to just buy when price reaches the bottom of the bands or sell when it reaches the top. While this strategy can work very well during range-bound markets, it is a recipe for failure during a trending market. If the trader determines the market is range-bound then trading off the tops and bottoms of the Bollinger Bands will yield success. If the market is trending the trader should only trade in the direction of the trend if they want to be successful.

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** Disclaimer – While due research has been undertaken to compile the above content, it remains an informational and educational piece only. None of the content provided constitutes any form of investment advice.