By |Published On: June 4th, 2015|Categories: Managed Futures Research|

Facts and Fantasies About Commodity Futures Ten Years Later

Gorton and Rouwenhorst (2006) examined commodity futures returns over the period July 1959 to December 2004 based on an equally-weighted index. They found that fully collateralized commodity futures had historically offered the same return and Sharpe ratio as U.S. equities, but were negatively correlated with the return on stocks and bonds. Reviewing these results ten years later, we find that our conclusions largely hold up out-of-sample. The in- and out-of-sample average commodity risk premiums are not significantly different, nor is the cross-sectional relationship between average returns and the basis. Correlations among commodities and commodity correlations with other assets experienced a temporary increase during the financial crisis which is in line with historical experience of variation of these correlations over the business cycle.

Facts and Fantasies about Commodity Futures

For this study of the simple properties of commodity futures as an asset class, an equally weighted index of monthly returns of commodity futures was constructed for the July 1959 through December 2004 period. Fully collateralized commodity futures historically have offered the same return and Sharpe ratio as U.S. equities. Although the risk premium on commodity futures is essentially the same as that on equities for the study period, commodity futures returns are negatively correlated with equity returns and bond returns. The negative correlation is the result, primarily, of commodity futures’ different behavior over a business cycle. Commodity futures are positively correlated with inflation, unexpected inflation, and changes in expected inflation.

About the Author: Wesley Gray, PhD

Wesley Gray, PhD
After serving as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, Dr. Gray earned an MBA and a PhD in finance from the University of Chicago where he studied under Nobel Prize Winner Eugene Fama. Next, Wes took an academic job in his wife’s hometown of Philadelphia and worked as a finance professor at Drexel University. Dr. Gray’s interest in bridging the research gap between academia and industry led him to found Alpha Architect, an asset management firm dedicated to an impact mission of empowering investors through education. He is a contributor to multiple industry publications and regularly speaks to professional investor groups across the country. Wes has published multiple academic papers and four books, including Embedded (Naval Institute Press, 2009), Quantitative Value (Wiley, 2012), DIY Financial Advisor (Wiley, 2015), and Quantitative Momentum (Wiley, 2016). Dr. Gray currently resides in Palmas Del Mar Puerto Rico with his wife and three children. He recently finished the Leadville 100 ultramarathon race and promises to make better life decisions in the future.