The Best Bets In Agricultural ETPs

July 22, 2010

Agricultural commodities have outperformed energy as well as industrial metals in the second quarter, but not all ags are alike. Which sectors now hold the most opportunity for investors?




In early July, we reported a significant change in the commodity space ("Commodity Futures Outperforming Stocks") when producer stocks were lapped by the performance of futures. That's not the only change afoot, however.

Industrial commodities have slipped into a funk, as the prospects for a deflationary double-dip loom larger on the horizon. That's left agricultural commodities—certain agricultural commodities—an opportunity to assume market leadership.

You can get a sense of this on a macro basis by tracking the price ratios of the GreenHaven Continuous Commodity Index Fund (NYSE Arca: GCC) to various commodity sector exchange-traded notes, such as the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Agriculture Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSE Arca: JJA) and its analogs keyed to energy (NYSE Arca: JJE) and industrial metals (NYSE Arca: JJM).


Price Performance Vs. GCC


Over the past quarter (April through July), industrial metals have lost 22.4 percent relative to the equally weighted Continuous Commodity Index portfolio, while the energy sector has slipped 8.9 percent. Agricultural commodities, in contrast, have risen 5.2 percent.

Ags are ascendant now, but the sector isn't monolithic. There are upward-bound subsectors and those on a more—how shall I put it?—southerly course. Grains (represented by the iPath Dow Jones-UBS Grains Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSE Arca: JJG)), softs (proxied by the iPath JJS note) and livestock (tracked by iPath's COW) each march to the beat of its own drummer. Soft commodities provided the recent quarter's best yield, followed by grains, while livestock was a loser in the last quarter.


iPath Agriculture Sector ETN Performance Vs. GCC


The question now is whether these trends are likely to continue. To get a better sense of that, let's dial in for a close look.

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