Commodities Were A Rare Bright Spot Last Week

Commodities and foreign junk bonds were the only winners last week for the major asset classes, based on a set of exchange traded funds. Otherwise, red ink dominated results for the US trading week through Friday, Feb. 19.

WisdomTree Continuous Commodity Index Fund (GCC), a broad, equal-weighted mix of raw goods, was the clear winner, rising 0.8% last week. That’s the fourth straight weekly gain for GCC, as shown in the weekly chart below. Although the fund pulled back modestly on Friday, GCC ended the week near a five-year high.

Signs of reflation are attracting interest in commodities this year, prompting discussion of whether the asset class is entering a new so-called supercycle that lifts prices over a period of years.

“The question that we’re talking about, in terms of supercycle or not, in our view, it still lies in the hands of China,” says Vivek Dhar, a mining and energy economist at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “China accounts for about 50% to 60% of commodity demand in the mining space. So, if we’re going to be talking supercycles, I’d say what is China going to do in 2021 is going to be the key question.”

Meanwhile, commodities are having a good year so far. “Real assets are outperforming financial assets big in ‘21 as cyclical, political, secular trends say higher inflation,” write Bank of America analysts in a research note.

Junk bonds ex-US were the only other winner last week for the major asset classes, in part due to a further weakening of the US dollar. VanEck Vectors International High Yield Bond (IHY) edged higher for a third week, rising 0.1%.

Otherwise, red ink dominated global markets. Last week’s biggest loser: government bonds issued by emerging markets. VanEck Vectors JP Morgan EM Local Currency Bond (EMLC) slumped 1.4%.

The Global Markets Index (GMI.F) also took a hit last week. This unmanaged benchmark, which holds all the major asset classes (except cash) in market-value weights via ETF proxies, fell 0.6% — the first weekly decline this month.

For the one-year trend, emerging markets stocks continue to lead the major asset classes. Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets (VWO) is up more than 30% at Friday’ close vs. the year-earlier (252 trading days) price after factoring in distributions. US stocks (VTI) are the second-best one-year performer with a 21.7%. total return.

US and foreign property shares are still posting the only losses for the trailing one-year period. Vanguard US Real Estate (VNQ) and its offshore counterpart (VNQI) are down 5.6% and 6.2%, respectively, vs. their year-ago levels on a total-return basis.

For drawdown, foreign junk bonds (IHY) are currently posting the smallest peak-to-trough decline for the major asset classes: -0.1%. At the opposite extreme: commodities (GCC), which are 35.5% below the previous peak.

GMI.F’s current drawdown: -0.6%.

Learn To Use R For Portfolio Analysis
Quantitative Investment Portfolio Analytics In R:
An Introduction To R For Modeling Portfolio Risk and Return

By James Picerno