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How to use the Commitment of Traders Report?

Guest Post: QuantShare

The Commitment of Traders report (COT report) is a weekly report, which is issued on every Friday by Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). This report contains the details of the positions of all the market participants. Every report that comes on Friday contains the data as of the preceding Tuesday.

The role of CFTC is to Commodities Future & Options market what SEC is to equity markets. The COT is a very handy, reliable and important report as it has good deal of data related to the market positions and trends of various trader groups. It is very useful in understanding the current and future market movements.

The structure of the COT report is detailed and it provides data segregated into different trader groups. The three main categories being: commercial traders, non-commercial traders and non-reportables.

Commercial Traders: They are the main players of the Commodity future markets. They are essentially hedgers and their trades are for actual delivery of the underlying asset. They have the largest positions in the markets and are big entities like Producers and users/consumers. They have the best knowledge of demand, supply & market movements etc. and enter into contracts as per their requirements and forecasts.

Non-commercial traders: They are also generally big traders but unlike the commercial traders, their positions are mostly for speculative profits. They enter a position with a view to make money and exit the position long before the due dates.

Non-reportables: This is the smallest group of traders and consists of individuals or other small entities that trade on speculative lines. Their holdings are individually too small to be required to report to CFTC and hence the name.

Over the years, CFTC has been providing the report with the aforesaid three categories of traders. But in the recent years, it has started providing disaggregated reports, further categorizing the traders. The picture below illustrates the disaggregated trader categories.

In the above classification, Swap dealers represent the Pension funds, endowments etc. These funds rather than directly trading in the future markets, work through the services of Swap dealers.

Basics of COT report

The COT report is a very valuable source of information, which can be used to get an idea of the future market movements and accordingly device a trading strategy. Let's take a sample COT report of Gold Futures dated 11th June and try to understand the basic data sets and their implications.

A gold future contract is of 100 Troy ounces and the above report is a part of the COT report on metals issued by CFTC on 14th of June, 2013. The report shows the category wise positions as on June 11th. In each category, the long and short positions represent the number of contracts held. The total open interest shows the sum of all contracts (both long & short), that have neither expired nor settled. From the above data, we can get the following perspectives about the current market conditions.

The total open interest is 373,844, which is marginally up by 783 from the previous week. This indicates a bit higher market participation. The benefit of an increased open interest is that a higher number of transactions take place increasing the liquidity. At the same time it also indicates better market conditions for trading and may be a sign of trend reversal.

The net position of Producers/Merchants category is still on the bearish side but compared to last week it shows increase of 3,251 in long contracts. Remember that this group has the best knowledge of the markets and they are bearish with slight movements towards bullish side of the fence. This movement towards long position may be short term or long term. Now if we look at the data of past few weeks, we will observe that there is a gradual increase in the long position of this group. The total extent of their short positions has been decreasing over the time. This may indicate a positive outlook for gold in the future.

The swap dealers reflect the same approach as far as the net position is considered.

Managed Money traders have a contrarian position. This may be due to the longer time frame that they generally target, eliminating the reflection of short-term market sentiments in their position.

Other reportable and the non-reportables are generally market followers. They are mostly in a position opposite to that of commercials. One thing that you should always avoid is to follow the trend of non-reportables.

The current COT report can further be compared to the past data and more inferences can be deduced. For example, if you compare the open interest with past data, you would see that it has been falling and has dropped quite low. Also this drop has somewhat stabilized over the past few weeks and it seems to be bottoming up. This indicates that a strong level of support for the gold prices may have been achieved and there are pretty good chances of a trend reversal.

Some takeaways

Now since you have some understanding of how to use COT report, you must keep the following points in mind while using it.

COT report comes with a time delay of 3 days. This is a dampening factor to the uses of the report in framing intraday and very short-term trade strategies.

The data content is excellent and reliable. This makes it a great source of getting market insights.

Further derivations of the COT report in the form index creation or indicators etc can further add to its utility.

Use other tools in combination with COT insights to validate your analysis.

COT report as such is of great value. No wonders why CFTC has to give in to the demands of weekly reports from the market participants, rather than the bi-monthly report that it used to provide in the past. That's all as of now. Happy trading!!!

From quantshare.com

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