I'll never forget my first meeting with uber-investor andhedge
fund manager , Jim Rogers. He was mymarket hero of sorts, having
founded the QuantumFund with George Soros. He has explored the
world by motorcycle and automobile, all while writing about his
adventures and being a fixture on financial news TV shows. I have
met some quirky characters in thefinancial markets , but he was the
first to chat with me while jogging on a treadmill.
Rogers is known as being a huge proponent of commodities. His
new book,commodity investments extensively.
He has reinforced the notion that commodities are different
fromstocks in that they represent life's necessities rather than
simply a company's profits. Commodities are all around us and are
far simpler investments than stocks -- they're purely driven by
supply and demand.
This is particularly true regarding the so-called "soft" or
agricultural commodities such as wheat, soybeans, corn, sugar,
cotton and coffee. These items are among life's few necessities and
therefore possess constant demand from an ever-growing global
population. Soft commodities are uncorrelated to thestock market,
so theyoffer excellentdiversification for a crisis portfolio.
How to allocate
Asweighted in only oneasset class .
That's why a well-diversified portfolio designed to withstand an
economic crisis should have between 5-25% allocated to soft
commodities. During times of low interest rates such as the Federal
Reserve's "easymoney ," for example, investors should allocate at
the lower percentages. As soon asthe Fed starts to tighten policy
and raise interest rates, ramping up your exposure to soft
commodities up to the 25% weighting has traditionally been a smart
[See also: "Crisis Investing 101: Everything You Need to Know
About Gold and Oil"]
Remember, the Fedwill start to tighten policy as soon as it
believes theeconomy has recovered enough to eliminate recessionary
How to invest
When most investors think of soft commodities, they think of the
openfutures markets . While this is the primary way of trading soft
commodities, it takes a specialfutures account to access this
market directly. Fortunately, investors can have exposure to soft
commodities through exchange-tradedfunds (ETFS) or
Let's look at the three most popular soft commodities -- sugar,
cotton and coffee -- and a few ways to invest in them collectively
iPath Dow Jones-UBS Softs ETN (
PureBeta Softs ETN (
are both very similar ETNs with a 0.75%expense ratio , but
are different in the way they choose to invest into the same
future contracts. JJS simply rolls theinvestment into the
next expiringfutures contract , whereas GRWN seeks to choose
the contract that most represents the returns largely
representative of the particular commodity.
While this may seem like a very minor point, GRWN returns
are more in line with actualspot prices of the three
commodities reflected. The downside ofinvesting in these two
ETNs is that thevolume is very light for both of them,
usually around 1,700shares a day for GRWN and 5,000 daily
shares for JJS.
Investors who want to invest individually into one of the three
largest soft commodities, these
fit the bill...
Teucrium Sugar Fund (
is an ETN seeks to follow the daily changes of aweighted
average of the closing prices of three sugar futures
Sugar has been downtrending in price since April 2012 and
is trading below its 50- and 200-day simplemoving average .
There has been an oversupply glut in the sugar market
resulting in the persistent downtrend. However, price is
approaching levels that are considered to be historic buying
Cotton prices have been trending higher since November,
but shares of
iPathDJ:UBS Cotton SubIndex total return (
have recently hit resistance in the $54 range.
The share price is above the 50- and 200-day simple
moving averages. This ETN is designed to reflect the
returns of an investment in unleveraged cotton futures. The
stock has bounced from the lows, setting up a potential
long entry on a breakout close above $55.
iPath Pure Beta Coffee ETN (
is an ETN that follows the Barclay Capital Coffee Pure Beta
TR Index. Aggressive harvesting has led to oversupply that
has theblack bean downtrending since early 2011.
Prices are well below the 200- and 50-day moving averages
as investors wait for signs of a rebound from these
historical low levels.
Risks to Consider:
Agricultural commodity investing is very speculative and risky.
Although there are long-term price trends, trying to time the
bottom or top can be an exercise in futility. Commodities can be
extremely volatile and take much study to be able to completely
understand their movements.
Action to Take -->
Most investors would be wiser to simply add a small percentage of
the combined soft ETNs such as GRWN and JJS as way tohedge their
stock portfolio against economic crisis. Attempting to time the
individual softs is time consuming and overly risky for the average
investor. Although soft commodities have been downtrending overall,
they are reaching levels that are considered to be "buy" zones
among professional investors.
"Crisis Investing 101: Everything You Need to Know About
Gold and Oil"
"Crisis Investing 101: 5 Assets That Could Save Your