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Jonathan Levin

Commodities Never Belonged in Your Portfolio

Grasping at straws in a challenging economy, many investors and strategists turned to oil, metals and grain. Now that’s blowing up in their faces.

Not a sound investment.

Not a sound investment.

Photographer: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg 

Earlier this year, strategists and investors came out in droves to embrace commodities to weather surging inflation. This looked like a brilliant move at first as oil, metals and grains all rallied, but investors who held on to those positions are seeing their winnings largely eviscerated by a brutal snapback. In reality, most individual investors had no business investing in commodities in the first place. 

Commodities can make for great trades, but they are often lousy investments. Unless you happen to own your own warehouse, you assume a cost to store them, which means it’s hard to make any money holding them for the long term. If investors get in at a peak chasing fad portfolio construction techniques, the returns can be much worse.