Unravelling the COT report: A powerful tool for traders

The Commitments of Traders report is a key tool for traders trying to make smarter decisions and maximise their profits in financial markets

By Laila Eid | @Laila Eid | 30 July 2023

28 July _ What is a COT report
  • The COT report is released weekly by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and was first introduced in 1962

  • The report shows the positions of different types of traders in the futures markets, including commodities, currencies and other financial products

  • Traders can use the report to identify trading opportunities, confirm trends and manage risk

Introduction to COT report

In the world of financial markets, knowledge is power. To navigate the often turbulent waters of trading, investors seek every available advantage to make informed decisions and maximise their profits.

One such powerful tool at their disposal is the COT report, short for the Commitments of Traders report. This report offers a unique glimpse into the positioning and sentiment of key market participants, empowering traders with valuable insights to enhance their trading strategies and potentially boost their earnings.

In this article, we will delve into what the COT report is, provide examples of its content, and explore how it helps traders in their pursuit of financial success.

What is the COT report?

The Commitments of Traders report is a weekly publication issued by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in the United States. It’s released every Friday, with data up to the preceding Tuesday.

It provides a breakdown of the positions held by different types of traders in various futures markets, including commodities, currencies, and financial instruments. The COT report categorises traders into three main groups:

  • Commercial traders: These are typically large institutions, producers, or users of the underlying commodity or asset. They use futures contracts primarily to hedge their positions in the physical market.
  • Non-commercial traders: Often referred to as speculators. These are hedge funds, money managers, and other large-scale investors. They trade futures contracts to profit from price movements.
  • Nonreportable traders: This group consists of small traders or entities whose positions fall below the reporting threshold. Their impact on the overall market is relatively minor.

Example of a COT Report

Let's consider an example to understand better the contents of a typical COT report. This example is for gold futures:


In this example, the 'Long Positions' represent the number of contracts that traders hold, indicating their bets on the price of gold rising. Conversely, the 'Short Positions' indicate the number of contracts where traders speculate on the price of gold falling. The 'Net Positions' reveal the difference between the long and short positions of each group.

As is well known, market charts consist of peaks and bottoms. In an upward trend, investors are actively adding buying positions and closing selling positions, which is visually reflected on the chart. Conversely, during a horizontal or sideways movement, buying and selling positions are added at a similar rate. This could serve as an indicator that the chart may soon reverse its direction. When a reversal occurs, it implies that the process of closing buy positions and adding sell positions has commenced, leading to a noticeable change in market direction.

Who can benefit from the COT Report?

The COT report's valuable insights extend beyond professional traders and can be beneficial to various market participants, including:

  • Retail traders: Individual retail traders can gain a significant advantage by incorporating the COT report into their analysis. By understanding the sentiment of institutional traders, retail traders can align their positions with the prevailing market trends, potentially improving their trading performance.
  • Hedge fund managers and money managers: Institutional investors, such as hedge fund managers and money managers, often deal with large positions in the market. The COT report can help them to make informed decisions, optimise their portfolio strategies, and identify potential risks.
  • Commodity producers and consumers: For individuals or companies involved in the production or consumption of commodities, the COT report offers valuable hedging information. By monitoring the positions of commercial traders, producers and consumers can better manage price risks associated with their operations.
  • Market analysts and researchers: Professionals analysing financial markets can use the COT report as a supplementary tool in their research. It can help them validate their hypotheses, assess the credibility of market trends, and support the findings of other technical and fundamental analyses.
  • Risk managers: Risk management professionals can utilise the COT report to assess potential market risks and devise appropriate risk mitigation strategies. Understanding the positions of major players can aid in making well-informed decisions to protect their portfolios.
  • Speculators and contrarian traders: Traders who thrive on market volatility and seek contrarian opportunities can leverage the COT report to identify potential turning points and profit from price reversals.
  • Long-term investors: Even long-term investors can find value in the COT report. While it’s primarily used for short-term trading strategies, long-term investors can use it as a supplementary tool to gauge the overall market sentiment and align their positions.

How the COT Report helps traders maximise profits

The COT report is a valuable tool for traders for several reasons.

Sentiment analysis: By analysing the positioning of different trader groups, traders can gauge market sentiment. When commercial traders, who are often considered smart money, significantly increase their net positions, it could indicate their confidence in an upcoming price move. This information can help traders align their strategies with the prevailing market sentiment.

Contrarian trading opportunities: The COT report can also unveil potential contrarian trading opportunities. For instance, when non-commercial traders are excessively bullish, it might indicate an overbought market ripe for a correction. Savvy traders can use this data to take contrarian positions and profit from a potential reversal.

Confirmation of trends: Traders can use the COT report to confirm or validate existing market trends. When net positions align with the overall market trend, it can reinforce their conviction in their trading decisions.

Risk management: For risk-conscious traders, the COT report can be an essential risk management tool. Monitoring the positions of commercial traders can provide insights into potential market turning points, helping traders adjust their risk exposure accordingly.


The COT report is a powerful resource that empowers traders with valuable information about market sentiment, positioning, and potential trends. By leveraging the insights provided by this report, traders can enhance their strategies, identify trading opportunities, and manage risk effectively.

However, like any tool, the COT report is most valuable when used in conjunction with other technical and fundamental analysis methods. As with all investments, traders should exercise due diligence and combine various sources of information to make well-informed trading decisions in their quest for financial success.