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What is the “COT Report” and what exactly does it tell us? How do we evaluate it and how do we use COT data for our trading preparation? This article will give you the answers to those questions.

What is the Commitments of Traders (COT) report?

The Commitments of Traders (COT) report is an exchange report that is published weekly by the American Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The CFTC was created by the US Congress as an independent authority in 1974.

It has the mandate to regulate the commodity and options markets in the United States. Through this oversight, the CFTC ensures that the futures markets perform two important functions: pricing in the commodities sector and reducing price risk in the futures and options market.

The report presents the US futures as transparent financial instruments and thereby creates fair competitive conditions for all large and small traders on the futures markets.

It is usually published at market close (at 21:30 CET) on a Friday on the CFTC website and presents the positions of the market participants subject to reporting requirements. These positions are reported by brokers to the CFTC for analysis and verification. The data refers to the market situation at market close on Tuesday of the relevant trading week.

What information does the report offer?

Firstly, one thing must be clarified: There is no ONE COT report. Instead, there are a number of different formats that have evolved over time since the beginning of reporting. They also highlight special areas of the futures markets, such as the Traders in Financial Futures report (TFF), which covers traders in financial futures contracts such as currencies, US Treasury securities, Eurodollars, stocks, VIX or the Bloomberg Commodity Index.

In this article, I will deal exclusively with the Legacy Report, the report originally broken down by exchange and, specifically, we will regard the “Futures Only” report, not the “Futures and Options Combined” report.

After downloading the current report from the website of the CFTC, you will see the following picture. (click on the graphics to zoom)

The long and short positions of the three groups of market participants can be seen (note: a special feature is the “spreads” value of the group of non-commercials, which we are not interested in at the moment). The report also shows the total open interest in this market.

CFTC Commitments of Traders Short Report – CBT (Futures Only)

Fig. 1: CFTC Commitments of Traders Short Report – CBT (Futures Only)

What groups of market participants can we find in the COT report?

There are two major groups of market participants active in the market: commercials and non-commercials. Non-commercials are also known as large speculators. These two groups are the reporting agent traders, known as reportables. The third group, the non-reportables (often referred to as small speculators or small traders) is calculated by subtracting the total number of long or short positions in the reportables from the total open interest.

Commercials aka the hedgers

The term “commercials” refers to market participants who operate on the futures markets primarily for hedging purposes. Another term for commercials is hedgers. They are typically manufacturing or processing companies that wish to hedge against price fluctuations on the futures market in order to avoid dependence on commodity prices. Commercials do not speculate. They want to protect themselves by opening positions against price expectations.

A commercial produces a product and therefore has a larger stock of the product, or needs the product for his business. Commercials could be, for example, large agricultural cooperatives or multinational production companies (Nestle, Procter & Gamble, etc.)

Non-commercials aka the large speculators

The non-commercials are different. These are the market participants who conduct speculative transactions on a large scale. Typically, this would be the institutional traders, hedge funds or large investment banks, all of whose positions exceed the limit of the reporting obligation.

Non-reportables aka the small fish

The figures for non-reportables are calculated by deducting the totals of the reportables from the total value of open interest. Non-reportables are those market participants who are not subject to reporting requirements, in other words, they are “small traders like you and me”. However, they could also be trading companies (small banks, trading houses), which do not exceed the defined limits on traded contracts.

How do we use the report for our trading?

The report is analyzed for the net positions

We use the COT report as a source of basic information for our actions. However, in the form in which it is available from the CFTC site, it is not very helpful. Compare it to Figure 1, where the raw data must first be evaluated. Let’s take a look at the net positions of the commercials.

The result comes from the difference between the long and short positions of the report. From the example above, we can see:

Net position = 113,175 – 128,957 = – 15,782

which means 15,782 contracts net short

We then present these net values graphically in order to get an overview of the development, and especially the changes of the positions.

Significance of the net positions in terms of the commercial index

After calculating the net positions, we are already one step further, but have not yet reached our goal. The net position itself does not tell us anything about how the commercials have actually positioned themselves. If we only know that the commercials are 15,782 contracts short this week, that does not help us much.

How should this figure be interpreted? Are the commercials now extremely short or are they actually in their normal short range?

We need an indicator that lets us evaluate this figure. And we get it by relating the current position to the positions over a certain period. So, we calculate an index that allows us to evaluate the current position as a percentage:

We calculate the commercial index (as a fixed period, we are looking at three years here):

COT Commercial index as a formula

Fig. 2: COT Commercial index as a formula

With the help of this calculation, we now have some informative value of the current net position, which serves as the basis for our trading.

Why do we pay so much attention to the commercials?

Commercials produce commodities and supply the world market with them. Or they need the commodities in large quantities for their business. The existence of these people depends on the commodities, and of course on the commodity prices. Because of their direct link to commodities, the commercials will predict future price developments much earlier than other participants in the market – and hedge against them.

Commercials usually trade counter cyclically. Their positions allow an inference to be drawn about the expected market movement. This data does not serve as a timing instrument, however!

In other words: Just because the commercials are now moving extremely short does NOT mean that we’re going to go short tomorrow. But it is an indication of a market situation that tends to change. It is now advisable to analyze this market and watch it closely, because there may be movement here soon, which we can then use to our advantage.

Soybeans, Pricechart und COT-Daten

Fig. 2: COT Commercial index as a formula

A specific example: Soybeans 12/2018 – 11/2019

You can see the price on the soybeans market and the net positions of the three groups of participants (weekly chart). Look at the net positions of the commercials (red line) and the soya beans price at points A and B and the subsequent price development.

COT report: the basis for further analysis

The COT report is not a timing instrument. It shows us markets in which the trend remains stable OR where there could be a change in trend. But it does not give us clear information as to *WHEN* an entry into the market should take place.

We can find this information by analyzing the market in which a COT signal has arisen over a different time period. We can now switch to the daily chart and examine the trend with the help of various indicators in order to determine a concrete entry point.

How do we analyze the daily chart? And how do we determine the right time to enter the market?

Find the answers here:

How to trade using COT report
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The COT report is published by the CFTC on Friday about 15:30 CET. The data shows positions as of Tuesday’s close. Info below has been updated 11/18/2022 after market closure and contains the newest CoT report.
* Click on the futures symbols to draw the chart!
Week to:
11/18/2022
Price change, % Trend Commercial Large Speculators Small Traders Open Interest Net Positions - Commercials 26-weeks Position Extremes Commercial COT Index
Long Change Short Change Long Change Short Change Long Change Short Change Value Change,% Net Change Change,% High Low
Indices
S&P500-0.70%1 756 09721 3851 552 95916 484257 965-5 576460 61020 010239 61312 004240 106-8 6812 343 5091%203 1384 9012%370 284-28 86458%
NASDAQ-1.06%159 3264 906145 9807 70468 167-10 14573 423-7 30335 6341 48543 724-4 155268 428-2%13 346-2 798-17%29 072-27 58672%
RUSSELL-1.76%388 943-12 825327 627-16 55847 254-18 228115 218-11 52724 7662 00118 118-967466 354-6%61 3163 7336%123 99844 77021%
DOW E-MINI0%45 5831 89829 2831 35315 004-6 24825 614-3 98112 68084918 370-87373 833-5%16 3005453%29 7563 02750%
Bonds
30-YR T-BONDS1.44%951 9313 254873 186-17 23557 233-11 106154 914-4 150174 421-4 227155 4859 3061 199 687-1%78 74520 48935%85 290-11 22493%
10-YR T-BONDS-0.07%3 054 5085 3742 649 379-49 931472 288-27 142815 30932 820379 47613 215441 5848 5584 015 8330%405 12955 30516%558 958172 61260%
Currencies
DOLLAR INDEX0.56%2 149-3 29332 130-7 16338 965-3 92212 111-5835 843-4842 7164748 382-14%-29 9813 870-11%-29 981-47 736100%
EURO FX-0.47%343 3884 170494 96123 980239 3697 052126 7031 98586 1478 00847 240-6 735682 5752%-151 573-19 81015%28 860-151 5730%
SWISS FRANC-1.47%29 249-6 3547 6122852 271-2 59419 098-2 92110 05890214 868-5 41041 966-16%21 637-6 639-23%31 69412 98646%
BRITISH POUND0.38%170 322-6 238120 88357834 699-1 93167 533-8 83219 67696236 2811 047230 102-3%49 439-6 816-12%97 04247 2174%
JAPANESE YEN-1.40%172 905-10 63495 6921 13333 797-3 40499 639-12 82024 061-2 40135 432-4 752233 346-7%77 213-11 767-13%118 08236 99450%
CANADIAN DOLLAR-1.03%70 173-5 57755 944-1 87637 456-2 13050 376-7 67430 47810831 7871 951139 753-5%14 229-3 701-21%27 366-32 12978%
AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR-0.55%110 0991 51555 9872 62633 214-7477 963-2 00815 029-1 57324 392-750162 4400%54 112-1 111-2%67 01838 80454%
NEW ZEALAND $ 0.47%24 311-61215 930-20115 285-2 80021 913-2 5392 6801484 433-52442 589-7%8 381-411-5%22 70319536%
MEXICAN PESO0.35%95 530-1 725170 0936 482197 7005 676129 849-2 5619 3903212 678351303 4421%-74 563-8 20712%37 998-74 5630%
Energy
CRUDE OIL-9.68%562 50510 756869 90016 826361 681-6 90483 414-10 38176 318-1 46647 190-4 0591 469 4372%-307 395-6 0702%-238 073-374 62749%
GASOLINE-10.50%128 82617 478184 16313 58979 551-3 71931 048-3 46920 399-1 84613 5651 793263 8907%-55 3373 889-7%-32 693-59 22615%
HEATING OIL-5.21%119 2218 401166 1544 27544 329-2 48918 669-19148 19770226 9242 530275 2543%-46 9334 126-8%-11 213-51 05910%
NATURAL GAS15.11%447 482-782326 652-1 390136 1652 966288 2792 77263 651-3 72532 367-2 923978 4250%120 8306081%133 39759 67983%
Metals
GOLD-1.25%135 0358 848269 34352 012227 2824 147101 013-39 78436 973-1 07228 934-305495 1711%-134 308-43 16447%-62 138-211 94752%
SILVER-3.76%48 39394277 8178 27852 692-95935 085-5 56324 3861 34612 569-1 386141 6231%-29 424-7 33633%5 055-29 4240%
PLATINUM-5.49%17 374-80744 4112 93533 0792 01410 535-1 0817 5671113 074-53663 3915%-27 037-3 74216%3 152-27 0370%
PALLADIUM-5.45%4 512-5733 2817691 9973303 069-1 0081 161-651 320-698 793-7%1 231-1 342-52%4 51136421%
COPPER-7.57%61 693-1 61675 2768 54160 7305 70250 909-1 20617 33284013 570-2 409168 962-1%-13 583-10 157296%31 340-13 5830%
Grains
SOYBEANS-1.67%325 0939 397374 139-2 523143 181-8 95666 3772 04946 8552 27674 6133 191616 0941%-49 04611 920-20%-30 595-159 04786%
SOYBEAN MEAL0.71%167 38713 415291 669-9 899125 175-12 97120 4263 51446 718-5 81427 1851 015400 222-2%-124 28223 314-16%-108 388-151 85463%
SOYBEAN OIL-5.55%198 0135 501318 78113 467138 8385 29533 5751341 2742 83625 769152463 0793%-120 768-7 9667%-23 477-120 7680%
CORN1.44%667 0339 752878 895-32 568386 487-50 980133 579-2 334133 045152174 091-6 1741 421 555-4%-211 86242 320-17%-138 899-372 52269%
WHEAT-1.44%138 5652 955109 255-2 66990 194-3 960112 6751 30732 8371 90039 6662 257350 0910%29 3105 62424%29 310-26 020100%
ROUGH RICE-1.03%3 958394 8306392 2338581 849-71 406-1509181157 6848%-872-600221%1 466-3 80856%
Softs
COTTON-2.95%94 503-19 498116 403-19 05966 427-37746 314-1313 814-312 027-806200 411-15%-21 900-4392%-16 183-83 53792%
COFFEE-7.02%103 544-5 65191 704-15 57937 332-5 20251 4864 26910 167-3637 85394191 743-12%11 8409 928519%11 840-52 348100%
COCOA-2.22%120 925-9 566149 5223 72585 052-7 54259 209-21 43711 816-5329 06272263 407-7%-28 597-13 29187%5 810-28 5970%
SUGAR2.09%391 034-9 998592 81369 220251 92856 99795 734-9 01595 58717 31750 0024 111832 5229%-201 779-79 21865%-30 608-255 45024%
ORANGE JUICE0.27%3 1461178 661-3945 632-2081 146-2182 193-3621 16415911 033-4%-5 515511-8%-3 740-6 88644%
LUMBER-0.84%1 17425963-43263-91 562234920677321262 38715%1 11130237%1 203-5193%
Meats
LIVE CATTLE2.55%98 0817 188147 926-88298 274-9 76650 358-25335 3071 38333 378-60284 305-2%-49 8458 070-14%-18 566-65 03233%
FEEDER CATTLE0.84%16 61559411 27884913 89627519 5511 40610 0857509 767-63649 5694%5 337-255-5%9 0394 52518%
LEAN HOGS6.41%67 5023 15399 8004 20477 8351 37036 07647317 55198627 012832194 0363%-32 298-1 0513%202-49 40134%
Other
BITCOIN2.95%137-631 05140214 0962 79313 5252 2401 231-388885017 90124%-914-465104%244-1 32726%
VIX FUTURES-4.11%186 3601 893111 6059 58046 7428 836111 587-1 54918 958-2 01228 868686323 631-3%74 755-7 687-9%108 19850 94242%
Source from CFTC. Release Schedule of COT report. Download Excel. Download PDF.
* Click on the futures symbols to draw the chart!

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