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Access additional markets at any time of day during the trading week with futures and futures options.


Investment Characteristics of Commodities

Basic economic principles of supply and demand typically drive the commodities markets: lower supply drives up demand, which equals higher prices, and vice versa. Major disruptions in supply, such as a widespread health scare among cattle, might lead to a spike in the generally stable and predictable demand for livestock. On the demand side, global economic development and technological advances often have a less dramatic, but important effect on prices. Case in point: The emergence of China and India as significant manufacturing players has contributed to the declining availability of industrial metals, such as steel, for the rest of the world.


Investment Characteristics of Commodities

Today, tradable commodities fall into the following four categories:

  • Metals (such as gold, silver, platinum and copper)

  • Energy (such as crude oil, heating oil, natural gas and gasoline)

  • Meats (including lean hogs, pork bellies, live cattle and feeder cattle)

  • Agricultural (including corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cocoa, coffee, cotton and sugar)

Volatile or bearish stock markets typically find scared investors scrambling to transfer money to precious metals such as gold, which has historically been viewed as a reliable, dependable metal with conveyable value. Precious metals can also be used as a hedge against high inflation or periods of currency devaluation.

Energy plays are also common for commodities. Global economic developments and reduced oil outputs from wells around the world can lead to upward surges in oil prices, as investors weigh and assess limited oil supplies with ever-increasing energy demands. Economic downturns, production changes by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and emerging technological advances (such as wind, solar and biofuel) that aim to supplant (or complement) crude oil as an energy purveyor should also be considered.

Grains and other agricultural products have a very active trading market. They can be extremely volatile during summer months or periods of weather transitions. Population growth, combined with limited agricultural supply, can provide opportunities to ride agricultural price increases.


How to Invest in Commodities

1.) Futures

A popular way to invest in commodities is through a futures contract, which is an agreement to buy or sell a specific quantity of a commodity at a set price at a later time. Futures are available on every category of commodity.

Two types of investors participate in the futures markets:

  • commercial or institutional users of the commodities

  • speculators


Manufacturers and service providers use futures as part of their budgeting process to normalize expenses and reduce cash flow-related headaches. These hedgers may use the commodity markets to take a position that will reduce the risk of financial loss due to a change in price. The airline sector is an example of a large industry that must secure massive amounts of fuel at stable prices for planning purposes. Because of this need, airline companies engage in hedging. Via futures contracts, airlines purchase fuel at fixed rates (for a period of time) to avoid the market volatility of crude oil and gasoline, which would make their financial statements more volatile and riskier for investors.

Farming cooperatives also utilize futures. Without futures and hedging, volatility in commodities could cause bankruptcies for businesses that require a relative amount of predictability in managing their expenses.

The second group is made up of speculators who hope to profit from changes in the price of the futures contract. Speculators typically close out their positions before the contract is due and never take actual delivery of the commodity (e.g., grain, oil, etc.) itself.





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