Intraday Futures Calendar Spreads and the Impact of Transaction Costs


The mechanics of trading calendar spreads

To backtest an intraday calendar spread strategy for crude oil futures (symbol CL), I first collect 1-minute bid/ask bars for all CL futures contracts from Interactive Brokers.

After loading the prices into a pandas DataFrame, I use the function get_contract_nums_reindexed_like to obtain a DataFrame showing each contract’s numerical sequence in the contract chain as of any given date:

>>> from quantrocket.master import get_contract_nums_reindexed_like
>>> contract_nums = get_contract_nums_reindexed_like(bids, limit=3)
>>> contract_nums.head()
ConId            CLM9       CLZ9       CLK9       CLJ9       CLN9
2019-03-04        3.0        NaN        2.0        1.0        NaN
2019-03-05        3.0        NaN        2.0        1.0        NaN
2019-03-06        3.0        NaN        2.0        1.0        NaN
2019-03-07        2.0        NaN        1.0        NaN        3.0
2019-03-08        2.0        NaN        1.0        NaN        3.0
2019-03-11        2.0        NaN        1.0        NaN        3.0

I isolate the bids and asks for contract months 1 and 2 by masking the prices with the respective contract nums and taking the mean of each row. In taking the mean, I rely on the fact that the mask leaves only one non-null observation per row, thus the mean simply gives us that observation.

are_month_1_contracts = contacts_nums == 1
month_1_bids = bids.where(are_month_1_contracts).mean(axis=1)
month_1_asks = asks.where(are_month_1_contracts).mean(axis=1)

are_month_2_contracts = contacts_nums == 2
month_2_bids = bids.where(are_month_2_contracts).mean(axis=1)
month_2_asks = asks.where(are_month_2_contracts).mean(axis=1)

I then use the bids and asks to compute the calendar spread. To reflect the fact that I must buy at the ask and sell at the bid, I compute the spread differently for the purpose of identifying long vs short opportunities:

# Buying the spread means buying the month 1 contract at the ask and
# selling the month 2 contract at the bid
spreads_for_buys = month_1_asks - month_2_bids


# Selling the spread means selling the month 1 contract at the bid
# and buying the month 2 contract at the ask
spreads_for_sells = month_1_bids - month_2_asks

I use the spreads to construct Bollinger Bands set two standard deviations away from the spread’s 60-minute moving average, and I buy (sell) the spread when it moves below (above) its lower (upper) band.

Any trading symbols displayed are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to portray recommendations.

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Any trading symbols displayed are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to portray recommendations.

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