Ulcer Index (UI): What it is, How it Works

Ulcer Index (UI) What it is, How it Works

In this article, we will discuss

The Ulcer Index (UI) is among the many technical indicators you can use when trading or investing in financial securities. It can be particularly useful if you are more concerned about the potential losses than the returns you are likely to get from your investment.

Here is everything you need to know about this particular indicator, including the Ulcer Index calculation and how you can use it to support your trading decisions.

What is the Ulcer Index (UI)?

The Ulcer Index is a metric that was intended to analyse mutual funds. It was developed by Peter G. Martin and Byron B. McCann in 1987 and published in a book they authored, known as ‘The Investor’s Guide to Fidelity Funds’.

The Ulcer Index is widely used to measure risk and volatility in an investment option. Unlike traditional volatility metrics like standard deviation, which consider both upward and downward price movements, the Ulcer Index focuses solely on the downside risk. This makes the metric very valuable if you are a conservative investor concerned about losing capital rather than getting high returns.

By focusing solely on drawdowns, which are essentially peak-to-trough declines, the ulcer index indicator provides insights into the magnitude and duration of price drops in an asset.

How is the Ulcer Index Calculated?

Calculating the Ulcer Index (UI) involves three steps designed to capture the depth and duration of drawdowns in an asset's price. Let us look at each of these steps in detail.

Step 1: Determining Drawdowns in Percentage

Firstly, the period for which the Ulcer Index calculation is required is determined. Most traders calculate the UI of an asset over a 14-day period.

In this case, the first step is to calculate the percentage drawdown for each of the 14 trading days. The mathematical formula you can use to calculate this figure is as follows:

Drawdown = {[(Closing Price - Highest Closing Price Till Date) ÷ Highest Closing Price Till Date] x 100}

Step 2: Calculating the Squared Average of Drawdowns

Once the percentage drawdowns for each of the 14 days are calculated, they are squared. This emphasises larger drawdowns, making the final Ulcer Index indicator more impactful. Then, the following mathematical formula is applied to calculate the squared average of drawdowns.

Squared Average = Sum of Percentage Drawdowns for the 14-day period ÷ 14 days

Step 3: Calculating the Ulcer Index

To calculate the Ulcer Index (UI), all you need to do is take the square root of the squared average of the drawdowns you computed in the second step.

Ulcer Index = Square Root of the Squared Average of Drawdowns

How to Use the Ulcer Index?

Now that you have seen the Ulcer Index calculation, let us look at how you can use the technical indicator in different ways to support your investment decisions.

  • Risk Assessment

The UI can be used to assess the risk profile of different assets. For example, a lower UI indicates less downside risk, indicating that the asset might be a safer investment during periods of high volatility. On the other hand, a high UI suggests greater downside risk with the potential for heavy losses during volatile periods.

  • Comparative Analysis

The Ulcer Index can also be used to compare different assets and portfolios to identify investments likely to experience mild drawdowns. You can then use these findings to select investment options that align better with your risk tolerance level.

  • Performance Evaluation

You can also use the index to evaluate the performance of mutual fund managers and their investment strategies. A lower ulcer index strategy is generally preferable since it indicates better risk management and reduced loss potential due to market volatility.

  • Timing Decisions

The Ulcer Index can also be used to time your investments. For example, if the UI rises beyond normal levels, it could suggest an increase in drawdown risk. You can then use these insights to either liquidate your investments, reduce exposure or employ hedging strategies to mitigate losses.

Advantages of the Ulcer Index

The Ulcer Index offers several key benefits over other similar risk and volatility metrics. Here is a quick overview of some of them.

  • More Relevant for Risk-Averse Investors

The Ulcer Index focuses solely on determining the downside risk of an asset. This is in stark contrast to other metrics such as standard deviation, which concentrates on both upward and downward movements equally. Risk-averse investors who are more concerned about potential losses rather than the returns from their investments would find the UI more relevant and useful compared to other metrics.

  • Assesses Risk Comprehensively

The index emphasises both the duration and magnitude of the drawdowns in an asset. This makes it a highly sensitive measure of an investment’s risk profile. By capturing the frequency of declines as well as the severity and consistency, the UI provides a more comprehensive assessment of risk.

  • Easy to Interpret

Interpreting the Ulcer Index is very straightforward. Higher UI values represent greater downside risk, whereas lower UI values represent lower downside risk. Such simplicity and clarity in the index’s interpretation enable you to make informed investment decisions quickly.

  • Universal Application

One of the major advantages of the Ulcer Index indicator is its versatility. The index can be applied to almost any class of asset, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, commodities and even entire investment portfolios.

  • Historical Analysis

Although most investors calculate the index for a 14-day period, the scope of the metric can be shortened or widened according to your requirements. By calculating the UI over different time frames, you can analyse how an asset’s risk profile has evolved. The insights you gain from this analysis could be valuable in understanding the potential for future drawdowns.


The Ulcer Index (UI) is an essential tool for conservative investors seeking to minimise potential losses and manage their investment portfolios more effectively. By providing a focused measure of downside risk, UI helps quantify the potential stress investors might experience during periods of declining asset prices.

However, it is advisable to pair the Ulcer Index with other fundamental and technical indicators to support your investment decisions. This way, you can effectively navigate the complexities of the capital market and ensure that you make well-informed decisions in line with your goals and risk tolerance.

Disclaimer: INVESTMENT IN SECURITIES MARKET ARE SUBJECT TO MARKET RISKS, READ ALL THE RELATED DOCUMENTS CAREFULLY BEFORE INVESTING. The asset classes and securities quoted in the film are exemplary and are not recommendatory. SAMCO Securities Limited (Formerly known as Samruddhi Stock Brokers Limited): BSE: 935 | NSE: 12135 | MSEI- 31600 | SEBI Reg. No.: INZ000002535 | AMFI Reg. No. 120121 | Depository Participant: CDSL: IN-DP-CDSL-443-2008 CIN No.: U67120MH2004PLC146183 | SAMCO Commodities Limited (Formerly known as Samruddhi Tradecom India Limited) | MCX- 55190 | SEBI Reg. No.: INZ000013932 Registered Address: Samco Securities Limited, 1004 - A, 10th Floor, Naman Midtown - A Wing, Senapati Bapat Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai - 400 013, Maharashtra, India. For any complaints Email - grievances@samco.in Research Analysts -SEBI Reg.No.-INHO0O0005847

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