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Keltner channels

The Keltner channel indicator is a form of technical analysis that traders use within the financial markets. It is a volatility-based indicator that shows price fluctuations through three separate lines on advanced trading graphs​.

Keltner channels can be used to predict directions of trends within the markets and in turn, these will generate trading signals. Market conditions can often prove volatile and therefore traders use technical indicators to minimise the chance of risk and loss of capital. The Keltner channel trading strategy was originally developed to be used within the commodities market​, but due to its simplicity and efficiency, it has since expanded to a range of financial markets. This applies particularly for forex trading but also for stocks, cryptocurrencies and indices that are available on our Next Generation trading platform​.

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What is the Keltner indicator?

The Keltner technical indicator​ was first proposed by Chester Keltner in the 1960s with a more simple formula. Originally, it calculated the width of the bands by using only the simple moving average​ (SMA) and high-low price range, rather than the average true range that is used today. The present day indicator instead uses an exponential moving average​ (EMA) rather than SMA as the centre line to set the distance. The average true range (ATR), an independent volatility-based indicator, calculates the upper and lower bands. In general, the channels are typically set to two ATR values above and below a 20-day EMA.

The channels are able to expand and contract depending on the volatility of an asset, although it is not as volatile as other indicators, such as Bollinger Bands. From the image below, we can see that there are three lines with the EMA at the centre. These also help to demonstrate lines of support and resistance​ for when a trader is planning to enter or exist a position. The price of an asset can fluctuate between the upper and lower bands. The trader may interpret the upper channel as representing resistance and the lower channel representing support. In an uptrend, the price action mostly occurs within the upper channel (as shown in the image for Gold), whereas the price action in a downtrend tends to fall within the lower channel.

Keltner channels vs Bollinger Bands

Bollinger Bands​​ and Keltner channels are forms of advanced technical analysis​ that aim to identify potential trading opportunities in both bullish and bearish markets. Bollinger Bands is a very similar technical analysis tool that helps to show market trends and whether the typical price of an instrument is high or low on a relative basis.

The main difference between Keltner channels and Bollinger Bands is the band settings. Bollinger Bands also display three lines on price charts, the middle line representing a moving average. However, whereas Keltner channels use the ATR indicator to set the upper and lower bands, Bollinger Bands use standard deviation instead. As the calculations are slightly different, this means that trading signals may also differ between indicators.

Keltner channel formula

The following is a simple formula for calculating Keltner channels, where the EMA is typically over 20 periods and the ATR is typically over 10 or 20 periods:

Middle line = Exponential moving average (EMA)

Upper channel band = EMA + (2xATR)

Lower channel band = EMA – (2xATR)

Keltner channel calculation

You can adjust Keltner channel calculations based on the asset that you are trading. It may vary from a clean 2.0 multiplier, for example. The higher the multiplier, the wider the channel and vice versa. As Keltner channels measure price trends, this means that the price of a highly trending asset may surpass the upper band, or a low trending asset may reach outside the lower band, whereas it should stay within the channels for optimal results.

Keltner channel calculations may be incorrect if traders do not follow the guidelines. In this case, traders should increase or lower the multiplier so that the price falls within the width of the channels. This will result in more accurate information being given from the Keltner indicator.

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How to trade with Keltner channels

Keltner channels are commonly used within the forex market​​. This is because forex trading can be particularly volatile and Keltner channels can trigger signals on whether an instrument is currently overbought or oversold. Two of the most common strategies for forex trading are day trading and scalping, which we will explore below.

Keltner day trading strategy

Forex traders are able to take advantage of small price movements through short-term strategies, such as day trading​. Let’s take an example of using a Keltner channel trading strategy for day trading.

This trading strategy​ involves opening a position to trade on the price movements of currency pairs, with the aim of closing the position before the end of the financial day in order to profit from volatility between the currencies. Keltner channels frame prices within trading charts; this is their main purpose. Therefore, instead of guessing which direction the market will go in with other forex indicators that show only strength and weakness, Keltner channels highlight the exact lines of support and resistance that the market will follow, reach and possibly surpass.

This is particularly useful for short-term day traders, as they need to stay focused and respond quickly to changes within the market. Keeping on top of price charts with Keltner channels means that day traders may be able build a more efficient entry and exit strategy for their open positions. This also applies when scalping within the forex market using Keltner channels.

Keltner channel scalping strategy

Forex scalping​​ is similar to a day trading strategy, although the positions are held for a much shorter amount of time, some only lasting for seconds or minutes. Therefore, some traders choose to plan an even quicker entry and exit strategy when trading on currency pairs. Scalping​​ with Keltner channels allows traders to identify potential breakouts and pullbacks within the charts, as well as spotting trend reversals if the market is in a particularly volatile state. This prompts traders to exit positions if they can see that the markets are moving in an unfavourable direction (surpassing the lower channel bands) and can help to minimise their chances of loss.

Although Keltner channel scalping strategies prove very effective, scalping in general is a strategy for traders with a high level of experience and can bring many risks. It is therefore important to manage your risk properly, using execution tools such as stop-loss orders in order to minimise the loss of capital. Read more about risk and money management​​ here for scalping.

Professional platform for trading with Keltner channels

You can trade the financial markets with the help of Keltner channels on our online trading platform, Next Generation. Our trading system has a large of number of technical indicators and you can customise Keltner channel settings to reflect your open positions and target profit. Our charting packages include 12 different displays to demonstrate trades, including candlestick graphs, line charts and bar charts. Read more about our extensive charting features here.

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Keltner channels and MT4

We also offer access to the international MetaTrader 4 platform for traders of all experience levels. With the help of Expert Advisors (EA), traders can add bands to measure the volatility of their financial instrument, customise Keltner channel parameters and Keltner channel alerts on MT4. This will help you to identify opportunistic price oscillations, entry or exit points. Read more about our MT4 indicators and add-ons that are available to download for your account. Get started by opening an MT4 account here.

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Disclaimer: CMC Markets is an execution-only service provider. The material (whether or not it states any opinions) is for general information purposes only, and does not take into account your personal circumstances or objectives. Nothing in this material is (or should be considered to be) financial, investment or other advice on which reliance should be placed. No opinion given in the material constitutes a recommendation by CMC Markets or the author that any particular investment, security, transaction or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. The material has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research. Although we are not specifically prevented from dealing before providing this material, we do not seek to take advantage of the material prior to its dissemination.

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