Spread Trading and Speculators

Discussion in 'Educational Resources' started by bone, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. bone

    bone ET Sponsor

    I have personally never found a great deal of actionable intelligence from the COT reports in terms of timing a market per se. Just my two cents.

    Here is the report link:


    What strikes me as interesting is the level of disparity in spread trades between the "heavy hitters" and the "retail type small speculators".

    In the E-Mini S&P ( ES ), look at the robust amount of spread trades reported by asset managers and institutions in comparison to the 'small speculator'. Speaks volumes.

    In the grains ( CBOT ), and in the Nymex natural gas and refined petroleum products, there is also a significant level of spread trades reported by the large traders and institutions. And again, that level of participation in spread trading is quite weak in the 'small speculator' segment.

    What is fascinating to me is that most smallish speculators do not realize that it is much, much cheaper to margin and carry a spread trade as compared to a flat price futures position. Not opinion - fact. You could typically carry several different one lot futures spread positions for the margin costs of one flat price futures contract.

    It is my guess that most smallish speculators have no clue that they will get an 85 to 95% margin CREDIT from the exchange ( s ) for carrying a mini Russell versus a mini Dow position, or a mini S&P versus a mini NASDAQ, or a DJ Euro Stoxx 50 versus a CAC 40 spread position.

    And most Introducing Brokers who cater to the small spec crowd are ignorant of this, and when their customers ask they do not know how to correctly margin a spread position for their clients. And their risk systems are typically not set up for it. And some electronic trading platforms, ( like PATS J-Trader for example the last time I checked this past Summer ), do not correctly calculate the exchange's SPAN margin offsets and credits. Some silly platforms will treat each individual spread leg component as flat price directional risk. Which is stupid and incorrect.

    My point being, smallish speculators should be aware that spread trading is a viable strategy for those with very modest trading account capitalization. Spread trading is also a strategy for the risk-averse among us to consider. I am not saying that spread trading is risk free. Of course not. All I am saying is that the smaller trader is probably not aware of the strategy and that it would be worthwhile to consider as a viable option.