The first Commitments of Traders (COT) report was published for 13 agricultural commodities as of June 30, 1962. At the time, this report was proclaimed as “another step forward in the policy of providing the public with current and basic data on futures market operations.” Those original reports were compiled on an end-of-month basis and were published on the 11th or 12th calendar day of the following month.
Over the years, in a continuous effort to better inform the public about futures markets, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has improved the COT in several ways. The COT report is published more often—switching to mid-month and month-end in 1990, to every 2 weeks in 1992, and to weekly in 2000. The COT report is released more quickly—moving the publication to the 6th business day after the “as of” date (1990) and then to the 3rd business day after the “as of” date (1992). The report includes more information—adding data on the numbers of traders in each category, a crop-year breakout, and concentration ratios (early 1970s) and data on option positions (1995). The report also is more widely available—moving from a subscription-based mailing list to fee-based electronic access (1993) to being freely available on the Commission’s internet website (1995).
The COT reports provide a breakdown of each Tuesday’s open interest for markets in which 20 or more traders hold positions equal to or above the reporting levels established by the CFTC. The weekly reports for Futures-Only Commitments of Traders and for Futures-and-Options-Combined Commitments of Traders are released every Friday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.
Reports are available in both a short and long format. The short report shows open interest separately by reportable and nonreportable positions. For reportable positions, additional data are provided for commercial and non-commercial holdings, spreading, changes from the previous report, percents of open interest by category, and numbers of traders. The long report, in addition to the information in the short report, also groups the data by crop year, where appropriate, and shows the concentration of positions held by the largest four and eight traders.