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How do I use position sizing in commodity trading?

Understanding Position Sizing in Commodity Trading


Position sizing is a key aspect of trading strategy that determines the number of units or contracts a trader will buy or sell in a particular transaction. It frequently goes unnoticed by both novice and experienced traders but can have a significant impact on a commodity trading strategy’s ultimate success or failure. Hence, understanding and appropriately implementing position sizing can drastically reduce risk exposure and simultaneously enhance the potential for profitability.

Significance of Position Sizing

For many traders across the investment spectrum, one of the most critical determinants of success isn’t the timing of trades or even the commodities themselves, but correctly determining the size of the positions they take. Effective position sizing is even more crucial in commodity trading, where supply and demand dynamics, geopolitical factors, and a variety of other unpredictable variables heavily influence prices.

Position sizing can help define the level of risk a trader is willing to accept for a given trade. A position that is too large could lead to significant losses if the trade moves in the opposite direction. Conversely, a position that is too small may not be scored as profitably as it could have been if the trade moves favorably. Hence, the position size directly impacts the potential reward or potential risk associated with a trade.

Methods for Position Sizing in Commodity Trading

1. Fixed Lot Size

A straightforward method for position sizing is using a fixed lot or contract size. This uncomplicated approach depends solely on the trader’s personal discretion and perceived risk tolerance. For example, a trader might decide to always trade in lots of 100 units. However, it does not take into account the variability in risks associated with different trades.

2. Percentage Risk Method

The percentage risk method involves deciding the amount of risk a trader is willing to take as a percentage of their trading capital. For instance, if a trader is prepared not to risk more than 1% of their total capital on a single trade and they have $10,000 in their account, they should not risk more than $100 on any trade.

The trader then calculates the position size based on this risk amount and where they intend to place their stop loss. If the stop is 20 points away from the entry, they would buy five contracts ($100 divided by $20) in this example. The percentage risk method helps ensure that the trader does not risk excessively on any single trade.

3. Volatility-Based Position Sizing

This technique uses the volatility of the commodity to determine the position size. Measure volatility by using the Average True Range (ATR), a commonly used indicator that measures the average range over a specific number of periods. This positioning technique works on the assumption that higher volatility should result in smaller positions because the risk of large adverse price movements is higher.

Consequently, for commodities with higher ATR values, a smaller position is taken, and vice versa. The key advantage of this method is that it allows for changes in the market’s volatility, ensuring that the trader isn’t overexposed during periods of high volatility or underexposed during periods of low volatility.


In the world of commodity trading, position sizing is a crucial risk management tool. Whether a trader is dealing with physical commodities like wheat and oil or financial commodities like bonds and currencies, properly assessing and taking only the right amount of risk appropriate for their risk tolerance and trading capital can have a significant impact on their overall strategy’s success.

In essence, effective position sizing can help traders stay in the game longer, reduce the probability of ruin, and potentially allow for greater returns. Therefore, regardless of the level of experience in the commodity market, proper understanding and application of position-sizing strategies are vital to risk mitigation and the maximization of trading profits.