The Tactical and Strategic Value of Commodity Futures

46 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2005 Last revised: 1 Sep 2010

See all articles by Claude B. Erb

Claude B. Erb

TR

Campbell R. Harvey

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2005

Abstract

Historically, commodity futures have had excess returns similar to those of equities. But what should we expect in the future? The usual risk factors are unable to explain the time-series variation in excess returns. In addition, our evidence suggests that commodity futures are an inconsistent, if not tenuous, hedge against unexpected inflation. Further, the historically high average returns to a commodity futures portfolio are largely driven by the choice of weighting schemes. Indeed, an equally weighted long-only portfolio of commodity futures returns has approximately a zero excess return over the past 25 years. Our portfolio analysis suggests that the a long-only strategic allocation to commodities as a general asset class is a bet on the future term structure of commodity prices, in general, and on specific portfolio weighting schemes, in particular. In contrast, we provide evidence that there are distinct benefits to an asset allocation overlay that tactically allocates using commodity futures exposures. We examine three trading strategies that use both momentum and the term structure of futures prices. We find that the tactical strategies provide higher average returns and lower risk than a long-only commodity futures exposure.

Suggested Citation

Erb, Claude B. and Harvey, Campbell R., The Tactical and Strategic Value of Commodity Futures (March 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11222. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=693083

Claude B. Erb

TR ( email )

CA 90272
United States

Campbell R. Harvey (Contact Author)

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7768 (Phone)
919-660-8030 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

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United States

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