Channel

What Is a Channel?

The term "channel" may refer to a distribution system for businesses; or, in technical analysis, a trading range observed between support and resistance levels on a price chart.

Key Takeaways

  • The term "channel" may refer to a distribution system for businesses or a trading range between support and resistance on a price chart.
  • Distribution channels describe the method by which a product moves from producer to consumer.
  • A price channel is a chart pattern that graphically depicts the peaks and troughs of a security's price over a period of time.

Understanding Channel

A channel in finance and economics can either mean a:

  • Distribution channel, which is a system of intermediaries between the producers, suppliers, consumers, etc., for the movement of a good or service.
  • Price channel, which is a trading range between support and resistance levels that a security's price has oscillated within for a specific period of time.
Channel
Image by Julie Bang © Investopedia 2019

Distribution Channels

Distribution channels describe the method by which a product moves from producer to consumer. These channels vary considerably in complexity depending on the product. Producers selling their products directly to a consumer (like a farmer selling their goods at a farmers market) is the most basic type of distribution channel.

Other channels are much more complex, with products sometimes passing from producers to brokers to wholesalers or retailers, before finally reaching the consumer. Each step of the distribution channel increases the cost of getting the product to the consumer. This is sometimes referred to as "margin stacking". Reducing the steps of a distribution channel is a common way for businesses to reduce expenses.

Not all channels move directly toward consumers. Some, such as a business-to-business marketing channel, involve transactions between two companies. For example, a technology company may manufacture an internal item, such as a computer chip, and sell that product to other manufacturers that use it to assemble hardware components. Sometimes, businesses may decide that bringing a process in-house and producing it themselves, may be more economical and reduce the cost of goods or services sold and, hence, increase profits. This is an example of vertical integration.

Price Channels

A price channel is a chart pattern that graphically depicts the peaks and troughs of a security's price over a period of time. If there is an observable symmetry in the oscillation, then it is considered to be a valid price channel that can be used as a tool for stock analysis. Market technicians suggest that at least four points of contact are required (two each for the upper and lower lines). Price channels can move either upwards, downwards, or stay flat, but the two lines must be approximately parallel.

If a stock is fluctuating between consistent highs and lows, a trader can use a channel to predict price peaks and troughs. For example, a trader could buy a stock when the price touches the lower channel line and set a profit target at the upper channel line. 

Using channels is best suited for moderately volatile stocks that experience regular oscillations. Traders consider an upward breakout from a channel as bullish, and a downward breakout as bearish. Temporary price spikes above and below a price channel are common, therefore, other indicators should be used to confirm a breakout. Channels lose their relevance as a predictive indicator when prices break out from the pattern.

Investopedia does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.

Take the Next Step to Invest
×
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.
Service
Name
Description