The current allocation of volume, open interest, and a lot more cotton futures information, can be found on the ICE futures website under “Featured Reports”. Volume (viewed above as the green line) is defined as the total daily number of contracts traded in a session. The level of volume is often used to gauge the strength of continuing or changing trends. Typical cotton daily volume bounces around between 10,000 and 25,000 contracts. The graph above shows numerous instances of volume spiking above 50,000 contracts in the last several years. These spikes in volume happen during fund rolling periods and/or times of high price volatility. The week ending Thursday, February 14 saw above average volumes between 49,931 (on February 14) and 82,678 (on February 11, when futures sold off). On February 14 the Mar’19 had 32% of the volume while the May’19 had 51%. The high volumes are associated with fund rolling of futures positions..
Open interest (the red line above) refers to the number of active positions at the end of the day (not double counting both the buyer and seller). Open interest by contract has a similar front month concentration as does volume. For example, on February 14 the Mar’19 and May’19 contracts had 49% and 16% respectively, reflecting a rolling out of the nearby Mar’19 contract. Open interest does not fluctuate as much as daily volume, but there are patterns where sharp surges or declines in open interest are associated with sudden rallies or sell-offs (often accompanied by spikes in volume). For the week ending February 14, the open interest pattern decline as prices first dropped and then stabilized. This pattern suggests some long liquidation amidst the normal fund rolling.