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Ventura Wealth Clients
3 min Read

Volatility is the lifeblood of many trading strategies. But how do you quantify it effectively? The Average True Range (ATR) steps in as a powerful tool, providing traders with a valuable measure of a security's price fluctuation over a given period. This blog delves into the world of ATR, exploring its calculation, interpretation, and applications in your trading toolkit.

What is the average true range indicator?

The ATR is a technical analysis indicator that reflects the average price range (volatility) of an asset over a specified period. It considers not just the closing price difference but also the high-low range and the difference between the closing price and the previous day's close. By incorporating these elements, the ATR offers a more comprehensive picture of an asset's price movement compared to using just the closing price difference.

How is the average true range calculated?

While the calculation might seem complex at first glance, it can be broken down into manageable steps:

  1. True Range (TR) for Each Period: For each period (day), calculate the True Range (TR) using the following formula:

    • TR = Max (High - Low, |High - Previous Close|, |Low - Previous Close|)
    • Here, "High" and "Low" represent the highest and lowest prices of the current period, and "Previous Close" refers to the closing price of the previous period. The absolute value (|) ensures positive values.

  2. Average True Range (ATR): Once you have the TR values for your desired period (e.g., 14 days), calculate the ATR using the following formula:

    • ATR = Average (TR for the past n periods)
    • "n" represents the number of periods you're considering (often 14 or 20 days). You can calculate the average manually or use most charting platforms that have built-in ATR calculations.

Average true range and volatility

A higher ATR value indicates a more volatile asset, with larger price swings within the chosen period. Conversely, a lower ATR suggests a less volatile asset with smaller price fluctuations. However, there's no one-size-fits-all interpretation. Here's how to contextualise ATR values:

  • Compare to Historical ATR: Compare the current ATR to the asset's historical ATR to understand if volatility is relatively high or low compared to its typical behaviour.
  • Compare to Similar Assets: Evaluate the ATR of the asset you're interested in compared to similar assets within the same sector or asset class. This helps gauge its relative volatility.

Average true range trading strategies

The ATR serves multiple purposes in your arsenal for options trading.

  • Identifying Entry and Exit Points: Periods of high ATR can signal potential opportunities during volatile breakouts or breakdowns. Conversely, low ATR periods might suggest consolidation phases where trend continuation or reversal could be imminent.
  • Setting Stop-Loss Orders: The ATR can be used as a guide for placing stop-loss orders, helping you manage risk by placing them at a distance from the entry price that reflects the asset's typical volatility.
  • Position Sizing: The ATR can be factored into your position sizing strategy. During high volatility periods (high ATR), consider using smaller positions to limit risk, while low volatility periods (low ATR) might allow for larger positions based on your risk tolerance.

Limitations of the average true range

While the ATR is a valuable tool, it has limitations:

  • Lagging Indicator: The ATR is a lagging indicator, meaning it reacts to past price movements. It doesn't predict future volatility.
  • Doesn't Account for Direction: The ATR only reflects the magnitude of price movement, not the direction (upward or downward trend).


The Average True Range empowers traders with a valuable tool to assess an asset's price volatility. By understanding its calculation, interpretation, and limitations, you can effectively incorporate the ATR into your trading strategy to make informed decisions in the face of market fluctuations.

Remember: The ATR is just one piece of the puzzle. Combine it with other technical indicators, fundamental analysis, and sound risk management practices for successful trading.