An Introduction to the Commitment of Traders Report
An Introduction to the Commitment of Traders Report
While the COT (Commitment of Traders) report may well be directly linked to the futures market, it can still be used as a highly useful resource for Forex trading as well, especially for those currency traders among us who like to engage in regular trading activity on the likes of the major pairs like EURUSD, GBPUSD and AUDUSD. In fact, COT can be used for any of the Major Dollar-based Forex pairs, and even the Dollar Index itself, as these pairs are all available to trade as liquid futures contracts which directly mirror their spot market counterparts, while the Dollar Index futures which trade on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) parallel the cash Dollar Index. Unfortunately, we do have to exclude the cross-pairs like the GBPCAD or EURJPY, as these pairs do have futures contracts, but they are highly illiquid and therefore, are not ideal to actively trade.
Before we look into how we can use the COT, we should understand what it is. Firstly, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) releases a new report every Friday at 3:30 Eastern Time, and the report reflects the commitments of traders on the prior Tuesday. The weekly report details trader positions in most of the futures contract markets in the United States. Data for the report is required by the CFTC from traders in markets that have 20 or more traders holding positions large enough to meet the reporting level established by the CFTC for each of those markets. This data is gathered from schedules electronically submitted each week to the CFTC by market participants listing their position in any market for which they meet the reporting criteria.
The report provides a breakdown of aggregate positions held by three different types of traders: "Commercial traders," "non-commercial traders" and "non-reportable." Commercial traders are sometimes called hedgers, non-commercial traders are sometimes known as large speculators and the non-reportable group is sometimes called small speculators. As we would expect, the largest positions are held by commercial traders that actually provide a commodity or instrument to the market, or have bought a contract to take delivery of it. Thus, as a general rule, more than half the open interest in most of these markets is held by commercial traders. There is also participation in these markets by speculators that are not able to deliver on the contract, or that have no need for the underlying commodity or instrument. They are buying or selling only to speculate that they will exit their position at a profit, and plan to close their "seller" or "buyer" position before the contract comes due.
In most of these markets, the majority of the open interest in these speculator positions is held by traders whose positions are large enough to meet reporting requirements. The remainder of holders of contracts in these futures markets, other than commercial and large speculator traders, are referred to by the CFTC as non-reportable. This is because they don't meet the position size that requires reporting to the CFTC, thus making them the small speculators. The non-reportable open interest in a futures market is determined by subtracting the open interest of the commercial traders plus non-commercial traders from the total open interest in that market. As a rule, the aggregate of all traders' positions reported to the CFTC represents 70 to 90 percent of the total open interest in any given market.
If you do a search for the COT report online, you will be able to easily find a link to it. If you are having trouble, then you can always check the website www.cftc.gov for more information. Typically, a COT report looks something like this:
The above illustration shows the net positions of the three groups as designated by the legend in the top right of the chart. The green line is the change in the open interest. Please be aware, however, that it is normal to see regular dips in the open interest line around expiry and rollover of futures contracts as traders close out their positions only to reopen in the next contract month. If you are a TradeStation user, you can also get a hold of this same COT information as an indicator built into the platform (but you will need the necessary futures feed to access it. It looks something like this:
Personally, I find this to be highly useful for comparing the COT directly with the chart of the pair itself, which in this case is the EURUSD futures. I pay particular attention to the change in open interest by using a simple logic in conjunction with my price action analysis of trend and supply and demand. For example, we can interpret the changes in open interest in the following manner:
PRICE RISING & OPEN INTEREST RISING = MARKET IS GETTING STRONGER
PRICE RISING & OPEN INTERST FALLING = MARKET IS GETTING WEAKER
PRICE FALLING & OPEN INTEREST FALLING = MARKET IS GETTING STRONGER
PRICE FALLING & OPEN INTEREST RISING = MARKET IS GETTING WEAKER
While it should be noted in advance that the COT report is lagging in nature, it does offer the disciplined trader an insight into the behavior of the key market speculator groups and can be used as a complementary analytical tool for the longer term position trader and swing trader alike. While the data may be generated from futures market activity, it can easily be used as a reflection of what to expect in the Spot Forex arena, too, as both markets trade in line with one another. Remember that technical analysis is more of an art than a science, especially when we incorporate the use of indicators like the COT, but if they are used in a disciplined manner alongside a solid and detailed trade plan, they can become a useful tool in the competent market speculator's tool bag. I hope you found this useful.
Take care and be well,
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