Table of Contents

Donchian Channels


Donchian Channels is a financial tool used in technical analysis, developed by Richard Donchian. It consists of three lines – the upper channel, the middle channel, and the lower channel, which are determined by the highest high and the lowest low over a set period of chosen time. Essentially, it helps traders identify potential buy and sell points and evaluate market volatility.


The phonetics of “Donchian Channels” is: “Dahn-chee-an Chan-els”

Key Takeaways


  1. Donchian Channels are a type of indicator used in technical analysis to measure market volatility. They consist of an upper band, a lower band and a middle band which is the average of the two.
  2. The channels are constructed by taking the highest high and the lowest low of a set number of periods, typically 20. The upper band represents the highest high and the lower band the lowest low over that period. Therefore, wider channels indicate high market volatility while narrower channels indicate low volatility.
  3. Donchian Channels not only identify potential buy and sell signals but also help traders manage risk. When prices are close to the upper band, this might indicate a selling opportunity. Conversely, when prices are close to the lower band, buying may be preferable. However, many traders use a breakout strategy, buying when prices move above the upper band and selling when prices fall below the lower band.



Donchian Channels, named after Richard Donchian, are an important technical tool in business and finance because they help traders identify potential buy and sell points, as well as potential breakout trends in the stock or commodity markets. These channels quantify volatility trends and show price movements over a set period of time, usually 20 periods. The upper band shows the highest price over a set period, the lower band shows the lowest price, and the middle band shows the average of the two. Analyzing these channels allows traders to predict future price movements, making it essential for implementing successful trading strategies and managing potential risks.


Donchian Channels are a type of indicator utilized in technical analysis, a branch of finance that relies on statistical trends gathered from trading activity, such as price movement and volume. Primarily, Donchian Channels are employed to identify potential buy and sell signals, principally for commodities and currency markets, although they can be used for any traded financial instrument, such as stocks and ETFs. Named after Richard Donchian, considered to be the creator of managed futures, these channels are defined by a simple set of trading rules based on price and time, and they effectively visualize the volatility of a financial instrument’s price.The purpose of Donchian Channels is to provide an objective measure of whether a commodity or currency is overbought or oversold. This is done by comparing the current price with the highs and lows over a predetermined period. In essence, the channels indicate potential levels of support and resistance, which many traders use to adjust their strategies based on potential future price actions. For example, when the price hits the upper band of the channel, this could be viewed as a selling signal, as the asset might be overbought, and reversely, if the price hits the lower band, it might be a buying opportunity as it could be oversold. By this, Donchian Channels help traders to cut their emotional responses and make more objective albeit mechanical trading decisions.


1. Stock Trading: Traders commonly use Donchian Channels to identify potential buy and sell signals for stocks. For example, Apple Inc. stock may have a 20-day Donchian Channel plotted on its price chart. The upper band represents the 20-day high and the lower band is the 20-day low. A trader using this technique may decide to purchase Apple’s stock when the price breaks through the upper band (signaling a strong upward trend) and sell when it falls below the lower band (indicating a potential downward trend).2. Forex Market: Currency traders often use Donchian Channels to gauge volatility and identify potential price breakouts. For example, a Forex trader dealing in the EUR/USD pair uses a 14-day Donchian Channel. If the pair’s price breaks above the upper band of the channel, it signals a bullish trend and the trader might buy. Conversely, if the price drops below the lower band, the trader might decide to sell, anticipating a bearish trend.3. Commodity Trading: Donchian Channels also find use in commodity markets, particularly in futures contracts. A trader dealing in crude oil futures, for instance, might use a 10-day Donchian Channel to identify potential trading opportunities. If the price of the futures contract pierces the upper channel, the trader might see it as a potential buy signal. If the price slips under the lower channel, it could be a sell signal. This way, the trader uses the Donchian Channels as a guide for timing their trades.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What are Donchian Channels?

In financial analysis, Donchian Channels are a type of trading indicator used to understand the volatility and price levels of a specific security or investment. They were developed by Richard Donchian, a renowned commodities and futures trader.

How are Donchian Channels calculated?

They are calculated by identifying the highest high and the lowest low over a set period, usually 20 periods. The area in between the high and the low forms the channel.

What do Donchian Channels indicate in financial analysis?

Donchian Channels indicate potential buy and sell points. The upper channel is often viewed as a breakout level to target long trades or to sell short, while the lower band is used as a breakout level to target short trades or to buy long.

What is the utility of Donchian Channels in trading?

Traders use Donchian Channels to assess market volatility and to understand potential breakout levels. When the price of a security reaches the top channel, it may indicate a strong uptrend and a buy signal. Conversely, if the price hits the bottom channel, it may imply a strong downtrend and a sell signal.

Can Donchian Channels be used for any type of security?

Yes, Donchian Channels can be applied to any market (e.g., stocks, commodities, Forex) on any timeframe, making them versatile tools for traders and financial analysts.

How do Donchian Channels differ from Bollinger Bands?

While both tools are used to analyze price levels and volatility, Bollinger Bands focus on the standard deviation to determine the bands, whereas Donchian Channels use the highest high and the lowest low over a specific period.

Are Donchian Channels used alone or with other indicators?

While Donchian Channels can provide valuable information on their own, they are often used in conjunction with other technical indicators such as Relative Strength Index (RSI), Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD), or volume indicators for a more comprehensive analysis.

Are there any limitations to using Donchian Channels?

Like any other technical analysis tool, Donchian Channels are not foolproof. They rely on historical data, which doesn’t always predict future performance. Also, in non-trending markets, using Donchian channels may lead to more false signals. Therefore, it is always advised to use them as part of a larger, comprehensive trading strategy.

Related Finance Terms

  • Volatility: It refers to the degree of variation in a trading price series over time and is commonly associated with Donchian Channels since they determine the high and low trading values within a specified timeframe.
  • Trend-Trading Strategy: Donchian Channels are utilized to identify potential buying and selling points largely based on market trends, making trend-trading strategy a related term.
  • Breakout: This term refers to a situation in which an asset price moves above a resistance level or below a support level. Donchian Channels help traders identify potential breakouts by signalling when the price crosses the upper or lower band.
  • Richard Donchian: As the originator of Donchian Channels, Richard Donchian is a crucial term. He was a Wall Street broker and is considered the creator of the managed futures industry.
  • Support and Resistance Levels: These terms refer to the price levels on a chart where the probabilities favor a pause or reversal of a prevailing trend. Donchian Channels are used to identify potential support and resistance levels, with the upper and lower bands acting as the resistance and support levels respectively.

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More