How to use Volume and Open Interest in Trading

By | February 6, 2016

Futures volume and Open interest are significant factors to monitor when trading Futures and Options.

Let’s Understand the two terms in Detail

Open interest is the total number of futures or options position which have not been closed.It is an indicator of the depth or liquidity of a futures market, which influences the ability to buy or sell at or near a given price.

Open interest can be a tricky concept, especially for beginners. In a nutshell, here’s how open interest is calculated:

If a new buyer (a long) and new seller (a short) enter a trade, open interest increases by one.

However, if a trader already holding a long position sells to a new trader wanting to initiate a long position, open interest remains the same.

If a trader holding a long position sells to a trader wanting to close his existing short position, open interest decreases by one.

Volume is the number of transactions in a futures or options  made during a specified period of time.

You will want to exercise extra caution when attempting to trade a market with very low volume and open interest–or in other words, an illiquid market. Like we generally have in last week of December as Most of Traders are in holiday mood.

Good and timely fills (order execution) may be hard to obtain. Also, markets with lots of liquidity are less likely to be manipulated by traders. Thats why it always advised to Trade in Large caps instead of small caps.

Most professional traders agree that volume and open interest are “secondary” technical indicators that help confirm other technical signals on the charts. In other words, traders won’t base their trading decisions solely on volume or open interest figures, but will instead use them in conjunction with other technical signals, or to help confirm signals.

For example, if there is a big upside price “breakout” in a futures market (or a stock, for that matter) that is accompanied by heavy volume, then that only makes the upside move a stronger trading signal.

Also, a big upside move or a move to a new high that is accompanied by light volume makes the move suspect.

Big price moves (up or down) accompanied by heavy volume are powerful trading signals.

If prices score a new high or new low on lighter volume, then that is an indication a top or bottom may be near or in place.

Also, if volume increases on price moves against the existing trend, then that trend may be nearing an end. This is called divergence.

As a general rule, volume should increase as a trend develops. In an uptrend, volume should be heavier on up-days and lighter on down-days within the trend. In a downtrend, volume should be heavier on down-days and lighter on up-days.

Changes in open interest also can be used to help confirm other technical signals. Open interest can help the trader gauge how much new money is flowing into a market, or if money is flowing out of a market. This is helpful when looking at a trending market.

Another general trading rule is that if volume and open interest are increasing, then the trend will probably continue in its present direction–either up or down. And if volume and open interest are declining, this can be interpreted as a signal that the current trend may be about to end.

Here’s a difference in open interest, as opposed to volume:

Open interest has seasonal tendencies–higher at some times of the year and lower at some times of the year, in many markets. The seasonal average of the open interest is important in analyzing open interest figures. If prices are rising in an uptrend and total open interest is increasing more than its seasonal average (5-year average), new money is considered to be flowing into the market, indicating aggressive new buying, and that is bullish.

However, if prices are rising and open interest is falling by more than its seasonal average, the rally is being caused by the holders of losing short positions liquidating (short covering) and money is leaving the market. This is usually bearish, as the rally will likely fizzle.

The same holds true in a downtrend. Open interest increasing more than its seasonal average on the downmove means new aggressive sellers entering the market, and this is bearish. But if open interest is declining more than the seasonal average on the downmove, then it’s likely holders of long positions are liquidating their losing trades (long liquidation), and that the downtrend may be near an end.

Here are two more rules for open interest:

  • Very high open interest at market tops can cause a steep and quick price downturn.
  • Open interest that is building up during a consolidation, or “basing” period, can strengthen the price breakout, when it happens.

8 thoughts on “How to use Volume and Open Interest in Trading

  1. durairajan

    very good article sir. lot of interpretation .nice analysis and teaching thank you ji.

  2. Bramesh Post author

    As we have discussed in article should be used as trade confirmation

  3. Ram Nene

    Reformatted the above table
    Nifty Settlement price———–open interest in nifty for feb series
    7,565.35 ————————–2,00,65,575
    7,474.95 ————————–1,93,34,400
    7,383.50 ————————–1,94,63,475
    7,422.65 ————————–1,89,09,600
    7,519.20 ————————–1,84,89,150

  4. Ram Nene

    Sirji : Appreciate your reply , Link is good , The data needs to reformatted to calculate monthly Nifty index open interest average .

    Need some inputs on below data , Following is open interest data for last five days i.e feb1 to feb 5 , The data is Feb series Nifty index open interest :

    Nifty Settlement price open interest in nifty for feb series
    7,565.35 2,00,65,575
    7,474.95 1,93,34,400
    7,383.50 1,94,63,475
    7,422.65 1,89,09,600
    7,519.20 1,84,89,150

    If you see in last 2 days nifty is going up with open interest coming down ?
    what does it mean ?? shorts are getting unwind ?? And trend is not strong ??

  5. Chandrashekhar Dasappanavar

    Lucid explanation. Gives good clarity.

  6. Ram Nene

    Sirji ,
    As usual super.
    Please let us know where to get Open Interest values for index , More interested in Monthly open interest average for last 1 yr, 2yr , 3yr for Nifty

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