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4 December 2019

Commodities are a major asset class that many investors lack exposure to. Here, we discuss the benefits of investing in commodities as part of a diversified approach, such as that offered by the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy. Winton has been investing in commodities within its systematic multi-asset strategy for more than two decades.

Investing in futures

Investing in commodities allows savers to profit from price changes in the raw materials that underpin the global economy. The asset class – which includes energies, base metals, precious metals, crops and livestock – consists of a range of markets whose supply and demand dynamics differ. The figure below details the breadth of commodities markets available, by showing the 55 currently traded in the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy.

Rather than buying or selling the physical commodity, investment managers such as Winton gain exposure to these markets through exchange-traded futures contracts, which converge to the price of the underlying commodity at maturity. These contracts make it easy to open and close positions. They also provide more direct exposure to changes in commodity prices than, say, buying the shares of an oil major or mining company.

Commodity markets traded by the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy

Source: Winton, as at 31 December 2019. Certain commodities may be excluded from some portfolios.

Material improvement to portfolio diversification

The diverse nature of commodity markets means that their returns tend to vary from one another. The heatmap below shows how correlations between average commodity sector returns have been close to zero over the past 20 years. Commodities have also historically had low correlations with equities and bonds, which makes them a valuable source of diversification.

Low long-term correlations between commodity sectors, equities and bonds

Winton, as at 31 December 2019. Shows the 20-year correlation between the average 20-day returns of five commodity sectors, equities and bonds, calculated using daily back-adjusted futures returns.

These diversification benefits are apparent in Winton’s portfolios. The figure below shows the calendar-year performance by sector for the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy since 1997, ranked from most profitable to least profitable. In a given year, the strategy made money in the sectors that fall above the white line. As the figure shows, no one sector has consistently delivered positive returns, which demonstrates the importance of applying the strategy to multiple asset classes.

Ranked Sector Returns for the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy

Source: Winton, as at 31 December 2019. Shows futures and forwards sectors ranked by calendar-year contribution to performance for Winton’s largest futures and forwards portfolio since October 1997.

Overall, the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy has made money in commodities in 16 out of 23 calendar years since it started trading. These positive contributions have been particularly valuable at times. For example, profits in commodities mostly offset the strategy’s losses in currencies and equity indices during 2018. This broader investment universe has also enabled Winton’s investors to profit from some major investment opportunities outside of equities and bonds – such as the rally in gold prices after the 2008 financial crisis and the collapse in the oil market during 2014 and 2015

Room to grow

The number of commodities traded by the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy has increased from 23 at inception in October 1997 to as many as 55 today, with the addition of power markets, cheese, milk and Dalian iron ore during 2019.

Winton continues to seek out new markets to add to its portfolios and this number could increase further, providing investors in the fund with exposure to an even larger number of investment themes.

Winton Managed Futures

Find out more about the Winton Diversified Macro Strategy and the role it can play in your clients’ portfolios.

For investment professionals only. Not for public distribution.

This webpage is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy securities in any investment vehicle or account sponsored, managed and/or advised by Winton (each a “Product”). In particular, it is not an offer or sale of securities in the United States or to, or for the account or benefit of, any US person (as defined in relevant US securities laws, including residents of the United States or partnerships or corporations organised there). No fund referred to in this article (if any) has been registered under the US Investment Company Act of 1940 and no interests therein are registered under the US Securities Act of 1933. investments in Products are speculative and involve substantial risks, including the risk of loss of the entire investment. No guarantee or representation is made that any Product will achieve its investment objective.

Past performance is not indicative of future results.