Average True Range (ATR) in Algorithmic Trading

Discover how signal interpretation, combined with other indicators, enhances algorithmic trading strategies and informs decisions.



8/5/20233 min read

chart trading
chart trading

What is the Average True Range (ATR)?

The Average True Range (ATR) is a volatility indicator that measures the average range between the high and low prices of an asset over a specified period. Unlike other indicators that focus solely on price movement, ATR takes into account gaps and limit moves, providing a more accurate representation of market volatility.

Formula for Calculating ATR

The ATR is calculated using a simple formula:

ATR = (Previous ATR * (n-1) + Current True Range) / n


  • Previous ATR is the ATR value for the previous period

  • n is the number of periods used in the calculation

  • Current True Range is the greater of the following:

    • Current high minus the current low

    • Absolute value of the current high minus the previous close

    • Absolute value of the current low minus the previous close

Interpreting ATR Signals

ATR provides valuable insights into market volatility, helping traders make informed decisions. Here are some key points to consider when interpreting ATR signals:

  1. Higher ATR values indicate greater volatility, while lower values suggest reduced volatility.

  2. ATR can be used to determine the appropriate position size for a trade. Higher ATR values would require smaller position sizes to manage risk effectively.

  3. ATR can be used to set stop-loss levels. Traders may choose to place stop-loss orders at a multiple of the ATR away from the entry price.

  4. ATR can be used to identify potential trend reversals. A significant increase in ATR may indicate a change in market sentiment.

Using ATR in Combination with Other Indicators

ATR can be a powerful tool when used in conjunction with other technical indicators. Here are a few examples:

  1. ATR and Moving Averages: Combining ATR with moving averages can help traders identify periods of high volatility and potential trend reversals. When ATR is above the moving average, it suggests increased volatility.

  2. ATR and Bollinger Bands: Bollinger Bands are a popular indicator used to measure volatility. By incorporating ATR into Bollinger Bands, traders can adjust the width of the bands based on market volatility.

  3. ATR and Relative Strength Index (RSI): RSI is a momentum oscillator that measures the speed and change of price movements. Combining ATR with RSI can provide a more comprehensive view of market conditions.

Advice for New Algorithmic Traders

For new algorithmic traders looking to incorporate ATR into their strategies, here are some valuable tips:

  1. Understand the underlying principles of ATR and its applications before implementing it in your trading system.

  2. Backtest your strategies using historical data to assess the effectiveness of ATR in different market conditions.

  3. Consider combining ATR with other indicators to gain a more comprehensive view of market dynamics.

  4. Regularly review and adjust your ATR parameters to adapt to changing market conditions.

  5. Seek guidance from experienced traders or experts in algorithmic trading to enhance your understanding and refine your strategies.

Biography of the ATR Developer

The Average True Range (ATR) was developed by J. Welles Wilder Jr., an American mechanical engineer, and technical analyst. Wilder is renowned for his contributions to technical analysis and is also the creator of other popular indicators like the Relative Strength Index (RSI) and the Parabolic SAR. His work has had a significant impact on the field of algorithmic trading and continues to be widely used by traders around the world.

The Average True Range (ATR) is a versatile indicator that provides valuable insights into market volatility. By understanding its definition, formula, signal interpretation, and how to use it in combination with other indicators, algorithmic traders can enhance their trading strategies and make more informed decisions. With the right knowledge and application, ATR can be a powerful tool in navigating the dynamic world of algorithmic trading.

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