Harry M. Kat and Roel C. A. Oomen
Volume 5, Number 3, Third Quarter 2007
In this paper, we study the multivariate return properties of a large variety of commodity futures. We find that between commodity groupings (such as metals, energy, etc.) correlations are very low and mostly insignificant whereas within groups they tend to be much stronger. In addition, commodity futures are roughly uncorrelated with stocks and bonds. Still, correlations may vary somewhat over the different phases of the business cycle, suggesting that not all commodities make equally good diversifiers at all times. Copula-based tests do not indicate any deviant behavior in the tails of the joint return distribution of commodity futures and stocks or bonds. Contrary to equities and bonds, we show that commodity futures returns are positively correlated with unexpected inflation (i.e., 25% on average with CPI inflation as opposed to −30% for equities and −50% for bonds). There are significant differences between the various commodities, however, with energy, metals, cattle, and sugar offering the best hedging potential. Altogether, assuming that the observed regularities will persist, our results confirm that a well-balanced commodity futures portfolio could offer a worthwhile diversification service to the typical traditional investment portfolio.