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2020 Year End Commodity Recap.

January 19, 2021

COM ETF Outshines Peers in 2020

The Auspice Broad Commodity Index (ABCERI) was one of the lone bright spots in the commodities category in 2020 as it finished the year up over 6 percent.  This was in sharp contrast to other notable passive commodity benchmarks that all finished negative for 2020. The ability of the strategy to be tactical in nature by getting defensive and going to cash with an individual commodity allocation when showing a downward price trend proved to be prudent. 

The Direxion Auspice Broad Commodity Strategy ETF (symbol COM) which seeks to track the rules based index of the ABCERI had very few Long positions (was mostly in cash), in the second quarter of the year, which enabled it to avoid some of the major declines that occurred with other commodity indices, particularly in the Energy and Agricultural sectors.

Overall the commodity markets in 2020 showed some resiliency after a rough start to the calendar year. The onset of the COVID pandemic led a majority of the commodity markets to exhibit downward pressure in the first few months of the year. Despite a strong rebound in the second half, the notable passive broad commodity benchmarks were not able to overcome the rough start as all finished negative in 2020. The major commodity indices finished down ranging anywhere from -3.0% to -24% in for the year. The benchmarks with the highest exposure to energy suffered the largest losses.

Most commodities in the first half of 2020 were adversely hit by the COVID pandemic, as the shutdown of the global economy created a demand scarcity in most individual commodities pushing prices down.  The exceptions were the precious metals (specifically gold), where the flight-to-safety** trade was prevalent.

In the second half of the year, optimism about the reopening of the global economy and hopes of a vaccine started to move commodity markets higher. 

The commodity sector that represented the biggest gain for COM in 2020, was agricultural. Corn and soybeans led the way with the majority of those gains achieved in Q4. Grain markets have been a performance laggard for a number of years, but the combination of an anticipated global recovery, China increasing their imports, and weather-related conditions impacting crop prospects; pushed grains to roughly their highest levels in over 6 years.

The metals complex produced some significant gains for the strategy as well, with all three metals (gold, silver, and copper) showing a positive return for the year. Silver and copper provided the biggest boost as lack of demand created earlier in the year by the pandemic, gave way to supply concerns and global industrial demand started to resurface. Gold had its best year in a decade as the flight-to-safety mantra really never dissipated throughout 2020, as a number of factors (including COVID-19, U.S. Presidential election, weaker U.S. Dollar, and global stimulus) kept a bid for gold.      

The energy markets rallied significantly off its lows, but still the complex performed poorly overall in 2020. Crude oil and gasoline accounted for the biggest losses within COM.  The shortfalls in the energy sector were drastically mitigated in the fund, as there was no exposure to these markets for a number of months. Energy markets were significantly impacted by the slowdown of demand created by COVID-19 and if OPEC+ didn’t take aggressive measures by cutting supply significantly, the damage might have been worse for the energy complex. There has been a strong rebound energy as crude oil recently crossed over $50 per barrel once again.  

As we enter 2021, the overall outlook for commodities seems to be the best environment that it has had in quite some time. The new administration agenda appears to be aligned with potentially higher commodity prices as sizable stimulus and infrastructure spending seems to be their top priorities, and with the control of the Senate, this agenda has become more feasible.

In addition, the continued weakness in the U.S. Dollar, along with interest rates starting to move higher, has created the possibility of reflation, which would bode well for this asset class.

Last, commodities continue to be trading at historically low levels relative to U.S. equities, creating an opportunity to invest in an asset class that provides additional diversification within your portfolio, as well as having the ability to behave differently than stocks and bonds.

COM continued to outshine its peers  as it approached a 4-year track record and holds an overall 5-star Morningstar rating within the Broad Commodity category, while also exhibiting high marks for its risk metrics.  

 Out of 101 US Fund Commodities Broad Basket funds based on risk adjusted returns as of 9/30/2020


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** Flight to Safety is a term for the financial market phenomenon occurring when investors sell what they perceive to be higher-risk investments and purchase safer investments, such as gold and other precious metals.

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