Getting A Feel For The DB Commodity Index: DBC

Mar 26, 2011 in Commodities

The business cycle favors different segments of the investment landscape at different times. Good relative strength analysis helps read money flows to give a view on how the market is indicating where we are in the business cycle in terms of stocks, bonds & commodities.

We highlighted the Deutsche Bank Commodity Index ETN (DBC) late last month and let's now take a closer look. One thing about the exchange traded market is that unlike being a stock generalist where various names turn over and you may never come back to some of them, what you learn now about the core ETF/ETN products will likely remain relevant for the rest of your investing life. One such family of indexes to get to know is the Deutsche Bank Commodity indices.

The DB Commodity index has four distinct components: Energy, Agriculture, Base Metals & Precious Metals. Each component has the convenient symbol structure of DB_ with the final letter telling you what it is. ie, DB[E] is Energy.

Deutsche Bank built DBC based on fourteen of the most heavily traded and important physical commodities in the world. "The Index commodity components were chosen based on the depth and liquidity of their markets and to provide diversified commodity performance." It makes sense that since Energy is the most economically important commodity group in the world, it should get the largest weight. That said, Deutsche Bank found a balance for diversification purposes and kept the energy component at 55%.

Below is a graph of the components and performance for this month. You can see that while precious metals have been strong (particularly Silver SLV), that the 10% weighting of Precious Metals is relatively small. The real driver here has been energy. Agriculture ( DBA) is down for the month but this has been dwarfed by the strength in the energy complex.

 

While commodities are less correlated to stocks than many other indices are to stocks, it should be pointed out that both commodities and stocks are at the core related to economic strength. That is, a bad economy reduces demand for commodities and also hurts corporate earnings, which negatively affects stocks. Correlations over time can be erratic so we need to be careful on assuming too much with regard to the diversification benefits of commodities.

 

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Commodity ETF Products At A Glance

Mar 03, 2011 in Commodities

ETF investors have been especially fond of energy stock ETFs. Here is a combined look at the growing popularity (and underlying appreciation) of energy equity ETFs from the 'Big 3' (SPDR, iShares and Vanguard).

 

But perhaps more important is the continued growth of commodity exchange-traded products. Many tactical participants consider commodites to have cleaner trending behavior than stocks and therefore somewhat easier to trade. We won't attempt to try to show this within a blog. We will point out though that there are also options markets made on commodity ETPs as another way to access these markets.

It's interesting to take a look at the amount of money being made off these growing asset bases by the providers. This has become significant. Even excluding Gold products (GLD, IAU, DBP etc...) and only using the top 13 as a sample, we see these products generating approximately $220 million in annualized fees at current (February month-end) levels. If you include GLD and others, this number more than doubles --- call it $450 million. While that sounds like a lot, consider that these products charge less than 1/2 of what mutual funds charge on a percentage basis. And mutual funds have $9 trillion in assets. (note that Vanguard has not entered the commodity ETN space or else things might be different).

 

By viewing assets, we see the combination of price strength and investor inflows/outflows -- which has caused this group to rise very quickly. I put these 13 together to show the growth in assets since the middle of 2009:

 

Finally, I used the free Backtest Portfolio Allocations App to create my own custom equal-weighted master index that shows the actual investor ETN return since the middle of 2010 (excludes USCI because its history is too short).

 

List of Commodity ETFs

 

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Commodity Comments

Mar 23, 2010 in Commodities

 

Gold vs Stocks (Total Return) during the Bear Market.

 

 

Don't expect historical correlations to remain constant during a crisis.

 

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Correlations During Crisis

Feb 24, 2010 in Commodities | Correlation

I know that this may be implied by others --- but its not enough that something simply be non-correlated to be included in a portfolio. It also needs to have positive expected return. 

Structurally speaking, commodities markets are both 1) quite volatile and 2) generally quite sensitive to the overall economy -- which is what the stock market is sensitive to. In times of crisis, its been shown over and over again that correlations generally rise, so that you thought you were getting non-correlation, but instead you just get a more volatile asset that delivers an even larger drawdown for your portfolio. An excellent example is what just happened with crude oil in 2008, see images:

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