Trading Crude Oil Futures with the OVX
  • Statistically Valid
  • Ease Of Use
  • Simple To Master
  • Robustness
  • Durability


Day trading crude oil futures are extremely popular.

However, do you really know what you are doing? Are you currently a customer of this casino, or do you have the casino? The option is yours.

When day trading crude oil futures contracts, then utilize the OVX or Oil Volatility Index as a directional proxy. Or do not, and lose your money.

The following trading strategy is going to keep you on the dominant side of the crude oil market, and provide you with a little-known and seldom-used alternatives volatility model that serves as a reliable trading filter.

Learn how to test trading theories. Take control of your own future. Stop being a victim.

An Intraday Approach to Trading Crude Oil Futures Contracts

This time, I would like to share about developing a consistently reliable approach to trading crude oil futures. Then, we will expand from an ‘approach’ into a fully automated trading strategy that you can quickly, and easily implement.

Before we jump into the actual strategy, it is important to note that many readers might not be familiar with crude oil futures contracts. The basic idea are:

  • One contract of crude oil equals 1,000 barrels of crude oil.
  • The minimum price move is .01, or 1 penny.
  • 1 penny in price movement equals $10.

To put simply, if you purchase a single contract of crude oil for $50.00, and then quickly sell for $50.01, then your profit would be $10.

Crude Oil futures contracts are highly liquid. Typically, a million contracts will trade on any given day.

The best time of day to trade crude oil futures contracts is during the ‘day session’. The day session would be defined as 9 AM (EST) – 11:30 AM (EST). If you trade within this time frame, you will be participating with the majority of the daily trading volume. The advantage of only trading within the day session is that the heavy volume keeps the Bid/Ask spread (usually) at 1 penny.

It is also important to liquidate your crude oil futures contracts before the day session ends. If you do not, then you will be expected to have a maintenance margin of $2,500 – $3,000 per crude oil futures contract.

For the purposes of this blog post, we are going to be only focusing on trading crude oil futures contracts intraday. We do not want any overnight exposure or additional margin requirement. We are looking to get the most trading bang for our trading buck.

An approach to trading crude oil futures contracts

Whenever you’re in a trade, you must be asking a simple question — do I now have a statistical benefit? If you do not, then you’re the older lady playing the penny slot machine in the Indian casino. Or the sucker putting his casino chips red or black. Or the butt head wagering which Bruno ‘The Gorgeous’ Beefcake will conquer Rocky via TKO in the 8th round. You’re gambling.

When you are gambling, you are making a wager where the house has a statistical advantage. Enough wagers and the house will grind you to nothing.

You don’t want to gamble. You want to own the slot machine, or the Roulette table, or the sports book. But in order to achieve this, you need a statistical edge. Let others play against your edge, and watch them lose.

In a prior blog post, we talked about a simple and robust trading strategy that we applied to the Emini SP500 futures contract. The concept is exceptionally simple. That we only want to be trading in the direction of the dominant trend of the day. We called this strategy, the Mid-Point trading strategy. You can read all about that trading strategy here.

In an additional blog post, we expanded the concept of the Mid-Point trading strategy with a VIX volatility filter. The end result was a fully functional trading strategy.

Today, let’s take the Mid-Point trading strategy and apply the strategy to the crude oil futures contract.

Exact Rules

Using only the day session of the crude oil futures contract, we are going to be only focusing on the Buy side, or the Long side.

Entry rules as follows:

  • Wait 2 hours after the market opens.
  • Calculate the Mid-Point of the daily range.
  • When the low of a 5-minute bar crosses the Mid-Point, then we want to buy Crude Oil at the market.

Exit rules as follows:

  • If the high of a 5-minute bar crosses below the Mid-Point, then exit the trade at the market.
  • Exit the trade at the close of the day session.

Stupid simple. Nothing fancy here. Let’s take a look at the results:

Crude Oil Trading

Crude Oil Trading with a stupid simple entry technique.

Now let’s take a closer look at the individual trade performance:

Crude Oil Trading Strategy

2,443 trades, Ave Trade $65, $10k drawdown. Can we improve?

The first thing that should jump off the screen is the sample size. With a total 2,433 trades and an average trade size of $65 per trade, this is way beyond a random outcome. What is so promising is that the sample size gives us plenty of latitude to add an additional filter. We don’t need this much tortilla to make a delicious burrito. We need just enough tortilla to keep this thing together, keep it stable, make it tasty enough to eat.

How can we improve individual trading performance? And how can we do this without over optimization? How can we preserve the underlying logic, without overfitting and introducing the chance of a random outcome?

For this particular strategy, I would like to introduce a volatility filter, specifically the OVX.

What is the OVX?

Many readers are probably scratching their heads and wondering, “what in the hell is the OVX?”

The OVX (Oil Vix) was introduced by Chicago Board of Trade back in 2008. It is a measurement of the expected 30-day volatility of crude oil prices by applying the VIX calculation to the USO or United States Oil Fund. The calculation encompasses a broad spectrum of options prices.

The calculation encompasses a broad spectrum of options prices. I know, it sure sounds confusing. But don’t let it!

In a nutshell, when the OVX is down, then fear is leaving the oil market. And we can reasonably expect a rally in oil prices.

When the OVX is up, then fear has entered the market, and we can reasonably expect oil prices to drop.

Like the VIX, the OVX is not a perfect predictor. But in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Is there any scientific evidence that supports the theory that the OVX can predict crude oil prices? Yes. In fact, there have been several academic findings to support the theory. I don’t expect the audience to quickly understand the calculations referenced in the article. I simply peeled out the theory, and then tested the theory on my own platform, using my own data.

Crude Oil Trading Strategy: Using the OVX as a filter

Ok, so lets now take our original Mid-Point trading strategy and add the OVX as a filter. Exact rules as follows:

  • Wait 2 hours after the market opens.
  • If the OVX is down 2%
  • Calculate the Mid-Point of the daily range of crude oil.
  • When the low of a 5-minute bar crosses the Mid-Point, then we want to buy Crude Oil at the market.

Exit rules as follows:

  • If the high of a 5-minute bar crosses below the Mid-Point, then exit the trade at the market.
  • Exit the trade at the close of the day session.

Crude Oil Basic Trading Strategy

Now let’s take a closer look at the individual trade performance:

Crude Oil Trading Strategies

By introducing a volatility filter, our profit jumps higher.

Now we are looking at something nice. Our average trades size has jumped from $65 to $126 per trade. We have reduced the sample size of trades to what I consider to be the “sweet spot” of 200 trades. And most importantly, our draw down has decreased from $10k to $2.7k. A major improvement.

When to turn this strategy OFF

All strategies break. The markets are efficient, other participants will eventually find this edge and attempt to exploit it. Once this happens, then the edge disappears. So you need to have a mechanism in place, that shuts the system off.

If you notice on the above equity curve, there is a blue line. This line is a 100-period moving average of the equity curve. Once the real-time performance pierces the equity curve–the gig is up. The edge is gone. Probably never to return. So it’s important to have this already in place.

Wrapping things up

Once again, thanks for reading. A bit of a long post. And truth be told, I am a horrible technical writer. Applying an explanation to the obscure is definitely not my strong suit.

The key takeaway is that if an ex-con, high school dropout with little math skills can figure this stuff out…then so can you. You don’t need a bunch of fancy indicators or a mentor that runs a 5 trillion dollar hedge fund. You just need to sit down and start asking questions of the data. The answers are in plain site. But you have to ask the questions.

Once you start to ask questions…your imagination will take root. Your questions will turn into a fever swamp of research and discovery. You will become quickly obsessed, who in the hell knows where your research will lead.

But the key is research and testing.

Another fruitful benefit of testing and researching…you will quickly discover what does not work. When some trading guru professes that his “institutional order flow, hyper delta gamma kappa trading indicator is flashing a buy signal…you can pause and test the theory.

That’s it for today. If you have any questions or need any help testing your theories or ideas…please reach out. I can program just about any idea in a few minutes.