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Commodities shine as a path less taken by the typical investor. These natural resources form the bedrock of our global economic system and harbor a unique allure for those seeking a good investment from the alternative investment market. 

Unlike traditional bonds or stocks, commodities are an asset class that offers a direct line to the forces shaping economies and plays a significant role in diversifying one's investment portfolio.


What are Commodities? One of the 3 Main Investment Categories

For inexperienced investors, commodities might evoke the images of bustling markets or vast farmlands. However, in financial markets, commodities refer to raw materials or primary agricultural products that are interchangeable with other goods of the same type. This broad definition encompasses a variety of tangible assets, from precious metals and agricultural produce to energy resources, all of which can prove to be good investments.

The 3 Types of Commodities

Hard Commodities

Hard commodities consist of natural resources that are mined or extracted, such as precious metals and energy resources.

Precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium are widely traded commodities that have, for centuries, charmed both casual admirers and discerning investors. These timeless materials, typically valued for their scarcity, malleability, and luster, are not merely ornamental. Precious metals can potentially offer stability in tumultuous economic climates, serving as a shield against currency devaluation and geopolitical uncertainty.

Soft Commodities 

Soft commodities are agricultural products that are commonly traded on a global scale. Agricultural products like wheat, corn, coffee, and sugar are the foundation of sustenance and a cornerstone of global trade. They are subject to Mother Nature's will and global distribution's complexities. Weather patterns, crop yields, and trade policies converge to create an intricate market landscape, making agricultural products a compelling area for investment.

Energy Commodities - Natural Gas and Oil

Powering the engines of global industry, energy commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, and coal hold a place in the narrative of human progress. Investors in this market navigate a realm that can easily be influenced by geopolitical tensions, technological advancements, and ever-evolving consumption patterns.

Understanding the distinctions between these types of commodities can help investors tailor their investment strategies to specific market dynamics and risk profiles.

The Benefits of Commodities Investing

For those looking to start investing, dabbling in commodities can open a gateway to many benefits, each beckoning with the potential for enhanced returns and a fortified financial strategy.

Diversification Like No Other

Commodities boast a unique characteristic that sets them apart in the investment world: low correlation with traditional asset classes. By including commodities in their investment account, investors can potentially hedge against the uncertain tides of the market. The rollercoaster-like movements of stocks and bonds become quieted by the steadier inclination of the value of commodities over time.

Fortification Against Inflation

Commodities have historically served as an inflation hedge because as the cost of living surges and paper currency struggles to maintain its value, the tangible assets within the commodities umbrella tend to rise in price, potentially preserving the capital of savvy portfolio builders. When inflation looms, commodities can uphold an investor's purchasing power.

Leverage Global Dynamics

Commodities typically do not move with the rise or fall of a single entity. Global supply and demand usually propel their value. Investing in commodities means riding the complexities of world economics, where the slightest imbalance can lead to potential substantial gains for those who weather the storms and make the correct moves within their investment strategy.

A Safe Harbor in the Storm

Historically, commodities tend to be stable in times of economic downturn. As investors turn to the stability of tangible assets, commodities often see a surge in demand, transforming them from small hedges to massive gains.

Strategies for Effective Commodities Investing

Investing in commodities is both an art and a science, requiring a firm hand and a keen eye for market shifts. Here are strategies to harness the full potential of this alternative investment vehicle.

Delving into Futures Contracts

Futures contracts are a powerful tool in the commodities investor's arsenal, allowing for the prediction of future price movements without ties to physical ownership. The futures contracts approach offers leverage, potentially magnifying returns and, regrettably, losses. Although futures contracts are a great investment avenue, they can be complicated and hard to understand for new investors. 

Exchange-Traded Funds

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are a type of exchange-traded product that has revolutionized the landscape of commodity investing, offering diversified portfolios accessible to everyday investors. ETFs that track specific commodity indices or baskets of commodities allow for easy investment in broader trends.

ETFs and other exchange-traded commodity funds offer a convenient way to gain exposure to commodities without directly owning physical assets. 

The Tangibility of Physical Ownership

For the purist seeking the tactile reassurance of ownership, direct purchase of physical commodities is an option. Whether it's mounds of gold or sacks of wheat, the sense of security that comes with direct possession of physical commodities can be an invaluable addition to one's investment strategy.

The Magic Of Fractionalized Ownership

If you are seeking to physically own commodities, but can’t overcome the high purchase price of some of the assets, fractionalized ownership can be an option for you. Fractionalized ownership is possible in the realm of soft commodities, as there are funds that allow you to gain fractionalized ownership of farms and other types of property that produce various agricultural and other commodity products. 

The Derivatives Dimension

Structured products like commodity-linked notes and certificates offer exposures to commodity price movements through derivative instruments. This avenue allows for finely-tuned portfolio construction, tailoring investments to specific commodities or sectors.

 Before diving into commodity investing, beginners should educate themselves about market fundamentals, risk management strategies, and investment vehicles available to them.

Assessing the Risks of Commodities Investing

While the allure of commodities is undeniable, so is the risk accompanying their potential rewards. Before embarking on a commodities investment journey, comprehending these opportunities' downsides is vital.


Commodity markets are renowned for their volatility. Commodity prices can swing wildly due to factors ranging from supply shocks to changes in investor sentiment. Such fluctuations can spell disaster for those unaccustomed to the nature of this asset class.

Absence of Income Generation

Unlike dividend-yielding stocks or interest-bearing bonds, commodities seldom generate income. For investors reliant on consistent cash flow, this aspect of commodity investing may pose an unattractive option.

The Cost Conundrum

Investing in physical commodities requires a consideration of storage, insurance, and transportation costs. These often-overlooked expenses can significantly eat into returns, especially when scaling up to larger investments.

Market Complexity and Lack of Clarity

The commodities markets are by no means simple or transparent. Those navigating these waters must contend with many factors, from weather patterns to geopolitical events, and often face a lack of reliable information, making solid decision-making difficult.

Regulatory Ripples

Commodities investing is subject to a maze of regulatory oversight, with rules that can vary significantly from those governing traditional asset classes. This regulatory mire can be a significant deterrent, particularly for those unaccustomed to its intricacies.

Is it Better to Invest in Stocks or Commodities?

Deciding between investing in stocks or commodities depends on individual investment objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Here are some considerations for comparing the two asset classes.

Risk and Return Profile

Stocks historically have provided higher long-term returns compared to commodities but also come with a potentially higher volatility and market risk. Commodities, on the other hand, offer diversification benefits and can serve as a hedge against inflation but may exhibit greater short-term price volatility.

Market Dynamics

Stock prices are mostly influenced by company performance, industry trends, and macroeconomic factors, while supply and demand dynamics, geopolitical events, and global economic trends can drive commodity prices.

Investment Goals

Investors seeking capital appreciation and long-term growth may prefer stocks, while those looking for portfolio diversification and inflation protection may allocate a portion of their assets to commodities.

A well-diversified investment portfolio may include a mix of stocks, bonds, commodities, and other asset classes to achieve optimal risk-adjusted returns based on individual financial goals and risk tolerance. It's essential for investors to conduct thorough research and consult with financial professionals to develop a suitable investment strategy

A Roadmap for the Novice and Veteran Alike

Commodity investing is a world of untapped potential, a domain where the soil of the Earth yields wealth not measured in currencies but in the demand for gold, the consumption of harvested grain, and the burning of fossil fuels.

As with any income-generating investment, preparedness is critical. Explore the markets, seek expert advice, and approach each opportunity with a mix of prudence and courage. Whether you're looking to start investing or you’re a seasoned trader, the world of commodities can create limitless potential if you navigate it correctly.

The content presented by the office of Dutch Mendenhall at RADD Companies (RADD) does not guarantee outcomes, and it should be noted that past performance is not indicative of future results. Please read our full disclosure for comprehensive information on our company. [Read Full Disclosure]

Dutch Mendenhall
Post by Dutch Mendenhall
Mar 20, 2024 5:25:00 PM
A husband, father, and man of faith. He's a force of nature marked by extraordinary achievements. He is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of "Money Shackles." President of the Alternative Investment Associations (AIA). Recipient of the Patriot Legacy Award. Dutch has partnered with thousands and thousands of people who have achieved direct results in their money game.