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Traders Are Net Long More WTI Futures Than Ever Before

Movement Capital profile picture
Movement Capital


  • Commodities: Speculators are super long WTI crude and copper. Commercial producers are hedging future production in gold and lumber. Traders are rapidly covering agricultural shorts.
  • Currencies: Traders quickly covered shorts in JPY/USD and are still extremely long EUR/USD and CAD/USD.
  • Stocks: Traders are net long VIX futures and extremely short Nasdaq e-mini futures. Across the three major e-mini US equity contracts they're net long $95 billion, a massive sum.

Note: My approach for analyzing CoT data to reveal how different types of traders are positioned in the futures markets is outlined here. If you missed it, give the article a read to see the method behind my analysis. All data and images in this article come from my website.

This article outlines how traders are positioned and how that positioning has recently changed. I break down the updates by asset class, so let's get started.


Let's start with a deep dive into WTI crude oil (USO) positioning. Traders are currently net long $48 billion of futures. WTI crude fell 18% in early 2017. During this period, speculators reduced their net long positioning from $32 billion to $17 billion. It makes you wonder just how negatively price would be impacted if all the current longs ran for the exits at the same time.

Traders are net long 24% of the open interest in WTI. Open interest measures the total number of outstanding contracts between longs and shorts, so think of it as a metric for the size of a futures market. You can see below that the speculator share of open interest has trended up over time, meaning speculators are controlling more of the market. This is for a variety of reasons and the phenomena isn't unique to WTI. Commodities have become more "financialized" since the mid-2000s, meaning non-commercial speculators have started to play a bigger role.

The chart below shows my personal favorite metric for commodity positioning. It is based on the orange line above (net position as a % of open interest), but normalizes it with a 5-year percentile. 100% = the net position as a % of OI is higher than it has ever been over the past five years, 0% = the lowest it's ever been over the same time frame. As you can see, traders haven't been this bullish

This article was written by

Movement Capital profile picture
Eversight Wealth is an independent flat fee investment advisor offering financial planning and investment management services. We help investors build low-cost diversified portfolios, create comprehensive financial plans, and save money with a flat annual fee. Formerly Movement Capital.

Analyst’s Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

The author does not make any representations or warranties as to the accuracy, timeliness, suitability, completeness, or relevance of any information prepared by any unaffiliated third party, whether linked in this article or incorporated herein. This article is provided for guidance and information purposes only. Investments involve risk are not guaranteed. This article is not intended to provide investment, tax, or legal advice. All risks, losses and costs associated with investing, including total loss of principal, are your responsibility.

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Comments (12)

If the future open interest contains both long & short positions, how does on differentiate between the two? How much is long and how much is short? Can you kindly help me how it can be found out ?

Thanks & regards,
Movement Capital profile picture
I take the net position for each trader category, just longs minus shorts. Here's a raw CoT report, it might make it easier to understand: http://bit.ly/HQMD9I

Let me know if you have any more questions!
GoldenState profile picture
US Equities Futures chart deserves more investigation. That is a huge run-up and subsequent spike. WTI and US equities markets are closely coupled. I don't know what the right question or analysis may be but you just put a 800lb gorilla chart up and ignored it.
Christopher Wallace profile picture
Thanks for the article. As of what date is the COT data?
Movement Capital profile picture
Positions in the current CoT report cover positions as of last Tuesday's close
Aventador profile picture
WTI will be printing in the $50 range very soon. Goodbye $60
No it won't Ave OSD's will be a 10 bagged! Oil bulls just don't realise... just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's a buy.
*bagger. Thanks for the article 👍
Viking75 profile picture
Brave call Aventador when you see where inventories are going and how little they built in jan/feb ... the world is consuming more oil than it produces. Wake up! Prices cant go down in these conditions ... A spike is coming ... unless demand and the Euro (vs$) collapse ! very very unlikely ...
and then there is VZ ... well well
Thats going to end well...lol
IamTheWolf profile picture
Very comprehensive perspective. Thanks for the article.
Movement Capital profile picture
No problem, glad you enjoyed it
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