Donchian Width Indicator

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of financial markets, traders and investors are constantly seeking innovative tools and indicators to gain a competitive edge. One such tool is the Donchian Width Indicator, a technical analysis tool that provides valuable insights into market volatility and potential trend changes. In this article, we will delve deep into what the Donchian Width Indicator is, how it is calculated, its significance in trading, and practical examples of how to use it effectively.

Donchian Width Indicator
Donchian Width Indicator

Understanding the Donchian Width Indicator

The Donchian Width Indicator, also known as the Donchian Channel Width or simply the Donchian Width, is a technical indicator that measures the difference between the highest high and the lowest low over a specific period. It is named after its creator, Richard Donchian, who was a pioneering figure in the field of technical analysis and is often referred to as the “Father of Trend Following.” He has another popular forex indicator, the standard Donchian Channel which this is a variation of.

The primary objective of the Donchian Width Indicator is to assess market volatility. When volatility increases, the channel width expands, and conversely, when volatility decreases, the channel width contracts. This information can be invaluable for traders, as periods of high volatility often precede significant market movements, while low volatility periods might indicate potential consolidation or indecision in the market.

Calculating the Donchian Width Indicator

To calculate the Donchian Width, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the desired look-back period (N) for the indicator. For example, if you want to analyze the past 20 days, N would be 20.
  2. For each day, find the highest high (HH) and the lowest low (LL) over the past N days.
  3. Calculate the Donchian Width (DW) by subtracting the lowest low from the highest high: DW = HH – LL.

For instance, let’s calculate the Donchian Width for the closing prices of a hypothetical stock over the past five days:

  • Day 1: High = $50, Low = $48, DW = $50 – $48 = $2
  • Day 2: High = $52, Low = $49, DW = $52 – $49 = $3
  • Day 3: High = $55, Low = $50, DW = $55 – $50 = $5
  • Day 4: High = $54, Low = $52, DW = $54 – $52 = $2
  • Day 5: High = $56, Low = $53, DW = $56 – $53 = $3

Significance of the Donchian Width Indicator

The Donchian Width Indicator offers several key insights to traders:

  1. Market Volatility Assessment: As mentioned earlier, the primary purpose of the Donchian Width is to gauge market volatility. Widening channels indicate higher volatility, and narrowing channels suggest reduced volatility. By recognizing periods of high volatility, traders can adjust their strategies accordingly to manage risk more effectively.
  2. Trend Identification: The Donchian Width Indicator can be used in conjunction with the Donchian Channels themselves (lines that plot the highest high and lowest low over the same N-day period) to identify trends. When the channel width is expanding, it indicates a strong trend, while a contracting width might signify a potential trend reversal or consolidation phase.
  3. Breakout Signals: Breakout traders find the Donchian Width particularly useful. A breakout occurs when the price moves outside the Donchian Channel. A significant increase in the Donchian Width often precedes a breakout, providing traders with an early signal of potential trend changes and trading opportunities.
  4. Divergence Analysis: Divergence occurs when the price trend and the Donchian Width trend move in opposite directions. For example, if prices are making higher highs while the Donchian Width is making lower highs, it indicates a weakening trend. Divergence can help traders spot potential reversals or corrections in the market.

Using the Donchian Width Indicator in Trading

Now that we understand the significance of the Donchian Width Indicator, let’s explore some practical strategies for incorporating it into our trading arsenal:

  1. Breakout Trading Strategy

One of the most popular ways to use the Donchian Width Indicator is in conjunction with the Donchian Channels for breakout trading. The strategy involves the following steps:

  • Identify the Donchian Width Indicator and the Donchian Channels on your price chart.
  • Look for periods of low volatility where the Donchian Width contracts significantly, indicating a potential breakout scenario.
  • When the price breaks above the upper Donchian Channel, it signals a bullish breakout, and traders can consider entering a long position.
  • Conversely, when the price breaks below the lower Donchian Channel, it signals a bearish breakout, and traders may consider short positions.

It’s essential to use proper risk management and set stop-loss orders to protect against false breakouts.

  1. Volatility-based Position Sizing

The Donchian Width Indicator can be used to adjust position sizes based on market volatility. When the Donchian Width expands, indicating increased volatility, traders may opt to reduce their position size to account for higher risk. Conversely, during periods of low volatility, traders might increase their position size to capitalize on potential breakouts or trends.

  1. Trend Reversal Identification

The Donchian Width Indicator, when used in conjunction with other technical tools like moving averages or trendlines, can help identify potential trend reversals. An abrupt spike in the Donchian Width after a prolonged uptrend or downtrend may suggest that the trend is losing momentum, potentially signaling a trend reversal.

Limitations of the Donchian Width Indicator

While the Donchian Width Indicator is a valuable tool, it does have some limitations:

  1. Whipsawing: During periods of low volatility, the Donchian Width may contract and expand frequently, resulting in false signals or whipsaw movements. Traders should exercise caution and consider using additional indicators or filters to confirm signals during such market conditions.
  2. Lagging Indicator: Like many other technical indicators, the Donchian Width is based on past price data, making it a lagging indicator. While it can provide insights into historical volatility, traders must use it in conjunction with other leading indicators to anticipate potential market moves.
  3. Parameter Sensitivity: The effectiveness of the Donchian Width Indicator depends on selecting an appropriate look-back period (N). Different securities and timeframes may require different values for N, and finding the optimal setting requires experimentation and testing.


The Donchian Width Indicator is a nice technical indicator for traders and investors to assess market volatility, identify trends, and spot potential breakout opportunities. By understanding how to calculate and interpret this indicator, traders can gain valuable insights into the market’s behavior and make informed decisions to enhance their trading strategies. However, as with any technical analysis tool, it is crucial to use the Donchian Width in conjunction with other indicators and risk management techniques to maximize its effectiveness and mitigate potential drawbacks. Happy trading!

Free Forex Robot