Novice Traders’ Notebook


3. Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands were created by market technician John Bollinger. They are a branch of envelope analysis and use standard deviations in calculation instead of a fixed percentage. Bollinger Bands are displayed as three bands (see figure below). The middle band normally consists of a moving average of 20 days. The upper band is derived by adding two standard deviations to the middle band. The lower band is found by subtracting two standard deviations from the middle band.


Bollinger placed the upper and lower bands at a distance of two standard deviations to better correct for market volatility. For instance, in moving average envelopes, where the user would find the upper and lower bands by adding a fixed 3% (or any other arbitrarily fixed percentage), the adjustments made for periods of extreme ups and downs would be inadequate. By letting the variance of the Bollinger Bands be correlated with the standard deviation of the moving average, the bands would be more adaptable to market changes; the Bollinger Bands are far better at containing prices. Because the middle band is sandwiched between the upper and lower bands, this formation is referred to as an envelope.

Bollinger Bands can encompass a wider range of price movement, and so they are especially useful for determining when a stock is overbought or oversold. When the price is at or above the upper band, the stock may be overbought. If, however, the price is at or below the lower band, the stock may be oversold. John Bollinger observed about his Bollinger Bands:

To confirm your own observations about Bollinger Bands, John Bollinger suggests that you use his indicator in conjunction with the relative strength index (RSI). Bollinger Bands can be computed automatically within many charting programs.

— Amy Wu

Return to Topic Outline