How to identify the Futures Front Month Contract

We understand that different traders have different criteria for identifying which contract is the front-month. At Topstep®, we define 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) Micro E-mini Bitcoin (MBT) 2-Year Note (ZT)
Micro E-mini S&P (MES) Micro E-mini Ether (MET) 5-Year Note (ZF)
Nikkei NKD (NKD) Crude Oil (CL) 10-Year Note (ZN)
Mini-DOW (YM) Micro Crude Oil (MCL) 10 Year Ultra-Note (TN)
Micro Mini-DOW (MYM) E-mini Crude Oil (QM) 30-Year Bond (ZB)
E-mini NASDAQ 100 (NQ) E-mini Russell 2000 (RTY) Ultra-Bond (UB)
Micro E-mini NASDAQ 100 (MNQ) Micro E-mini Russell 2000 (M2K) Eurodollar (GE)
Australian $ (6A) Natural Gas (NG) Gold (GC)
Micro Australian $ (M6A) E-mini Natural Gas (QG) Micro Gold (MGC)
British Pound (6B) Lean Hogs (HE) Silver (SI)
Canadian $ (6C) Live Cattle (LE) Micro Silver (SIL)
Euro FX (6E) Corn (ZC) Copper (HG)
Micro EUR/USD (M6E) Wheat (ZW) Platinum (PL)
Japanese Yen (6J) Soybeans (ZS) RBOB Gasoline (RB)
Swiss Franc (6S) Soybean Meal (ZM) Heating Oil (HO)
E-mini Euro FX (E7) Soybean Oil (ZL)  
Mexican Peso (6M) New Zealand $ (6N)  

Below is an 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.


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."

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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