How to identify the Futures Front Month Contract

Different traders have different criteria for identify which contract is the front-month. Topstep defines the front-month as the contract that currently has the most volume. Markets that have more participation and volume are more liquid. With more participation, traders can get in and out of positions with greater ease, reducing your overall risk.

1. Identifying the contract month with the most volume is the first step in identifying the correct product symbol to trade. An easy way to do this is to view the product quote page from the CME website. Below are links to the CME page you can use to verify the volume for our supported products.

E-mini S&P 500 (ES) Mini-DOW (YM) Soybean Oil (ZL)
Nikkei NKD (NKD) Crude Oil (CL) 2-Year Note (ZT)
E-mini NASDAQ 100 (NQ) E-mini Crude Oil (QM) 5-Year Note (ZF)
E-mini Russell 2000 (RTY) Natural Gas (NG) 10-Year Note (ZN)
Australian $ (6A) E-mini Natural Gas (QG) Ultra-Note (TN)
British Pound (6B) Lean Hogs (HE) 30-Year Bond (ZB)
Canadian $ (6C) Live Cattle (LE) Ultra-Bond (UB)
Euro FX (6E) Corn (ZC) Eurodollar (GE)
Japanese Yen (6J) Wheat (ZW) Gold (GC)
Swiss Franc (6S) Soybeans (ZS) Silver (SI)
E-mini Euro FX (E7) Soybean Meal (ZM) Copper (HG)

Below is am example from October 2019 which illustrates December is the front-month based on the highest volume among the available contract months at that given time.

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2. Next, you will need to Identify the Contract Symbol Month Code.  From the example above you would use for December. 

January - F May - K  September - U
February - G June - M October - V
March - H July - N November - X
April - J August - Q December - Z

3. The next step is to build your full product symbol.  Combine the Product Symbol, Month Code from the contract that has the most volume at that given time, and add the year.  

Tip: Some platforms will use "9" for 2019 and other platforms will use "19."  In addition, on the TradeStation platform, some of the product symbols are different than this list above. Click here to see which ones are different.   

If you are trading Crude Oil (CL) and the front month is December your would trade CLZ9 or CLZ19 (depending on your platform.)

4. Now that you know how to identify the current front-month, check out How do I change the contract month on my platform article to see how to change the contract month in your platform and also tips for knowing when a contract roll occurs.  

 

 

 

 

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