This study examines how speculative and hedging sentiments influence the returns and volatilities of energy futures markets. We construct speculative and hedging sentiment indices based on the weekly data of fund and commercial positions of four energy futures: crude oil, heating oil, gasoline, and natural gas, traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) from 15 January 2013 to 5 February 2019. Our study demonstrates that speculative sentiment generates greater market fluctuations in the energy futures markets than hedging sentiment; and, further, speculative sentiment stimulates a reversal effect on the returns of crude oil futures. Moreover, speculative sentiment exerts positive systemic risk compensation on the four futures' returns, whereas hedging sentiment alleviates volatilities in the energy futures markets. Most notably, distinguishing it from the leverage effect in stock markets, the speculative sentiment in the energy futures markets is influenced more by good than by bad news; while hedging sentiment exhibits emotional neutrality, as opposed to its impact on stock markets as reported in the literature. Additionally, the positive hedging sentiment in crude oil futures demonstrates significant systemic risk compensation, whereas the three other futures do not have an influence, confirming the prevalence of speculation in hedging transactions in crude oil futures. Our further analysis shows cross-market volatility spillover effects, among which speculative sentiment inherent in crude oil futures causes volatility spillovers to the three other futures, while hedging sentiment has no such effect. Our study has implications for overseeing international energy futures markets, providing regulators with evidence that will facilitate the development of effective strategies to strengthen market supervision.