Quick Insights on Volume and Open Interest

May 12, 2015: 9:27 AM CST

Traders frequently combine volume studies with price studies and indicators to gather a larger picture of where prices may be headed in the future.

In the futures market, traders can utilize signals from Open Interest in combination with price and volume for and enhanced picture.

Open interest for any futures contract, be it index, agricultural, metal, grains, refers to the total number of contracts that are remaining open, and gives a little more insight than volume numbers itself.

The reading for open interest increases only when a new buyer and a new seller trade which creates an entirely new contract.

We are taught that “volume goes with the trend” and even that “volume precedes price” on occasion.

In an uptrend, we expect to see higher volume (and open interest) on up days than on down days.

We also expect to see higher volume (and open interest) on selling days during down trends.

But what signals are generated when these “classic” interpretations result in alternate scenarios?

Here is a table to help us understand these signals more clearly (in order of expectation):

Any other signals, such as price up, volume down, open interest up would have little forecasting or analytical value.

Recall that volume is also related to stops being triggered, which in the futures market, can be greater than that of equities.

Due to the leverage, traders must be more willing and able to take their predetermined stops, and cannot give positions more time as they can with equities.

Thus, volume readings and price moves may be artificially inflated as a result of one side of the market being “Squeezed” out of their positions.

See if you can assess what’s happening behind the scenes for a picture clearer.

Who appears to be buying? Who appears to be selling?

Might this move be generated by stops being triggered?

Is this NEW money flooding into the market or OLD money exiting?

Also, unlike stocks, futures contracts are theoretically limitless per contract month. This is not the case in equities, which have a limited float.

Even if you are an index ETF or equities only trader, you can combine the signals from volume and open interest on some of the key US Index Futures for a little clearer picture of what may be going on in your favorite index.

(originally published Feb 4, 2008)

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Corey Rosenbloom, CMT
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