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  • Guided Allocation

    As Fears Expand, Commodities Shrink

    David Schassler, Portfolio Manager and Head of Portfolio and Quantitative Investment Solutions, VanEck
    October 22, 2020

    The VanEck Vectors® Real Asset Allocation ETF (RAAX®) uses a data-driven, rules-based process that leverages over 50 indicators (technical, macroeconomic and fundamental, commodity price, and sentiment) to allocate across 12 individual real asset segments in five broad real asset sectors. These objective indicators identify the segments with positive expected returns. Then, using correlation and volatility, an optimization process determines the weight to these segments with the goal of creating a portfolio with maximum diversification while reducing risk. The expanded PDF version of this commentary can be downloaded here.


    The VanEck Vectors® Real Asset Allocation ETF (RAAX®) returned -5.08% versus -3.35% for the Bloomberg Commodity Index, -3.57% for its custom blended benchmark and -9.57% for the S&P North America Natural Resources Index.

    Fear re-entered the market in September due to an increase in the spread of COVID-19 infections, uncertainties around further fiscal stimulus and the potential for a contested election in the U.S. in November. This resulted in a sea of red for the month in nearly all real asset prices. The largest detractor for RAAX was falling oil prices. Economically sensitive industries, such as oil, were under significant pressure as investors’ weighed a potential decline in demand on top of elevated oil inventories. The price of oil experienced a rapid decline of 14% at the beginning of the month and ended the month down nearly 6%. Companies in the energy sector fared much worse, with different segments of the energy equity market down between 15% and 22%.

    The price of gold was down 4%, primarily due to the strength of the U.S. dollar. Falling gold prices were particularly bad for gold mining stocks. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index was down over 7%. The top performing position within RAAX was its allocation to companies in the coal industry, which were up nearly 5%. Coal prices have been surging in China due to strong electricity demand and constrained supply. There was also a terrible coal mining accident in China that left 16 dead on September 28. This led to a jump in prices due to potential increases in safety measures and possible further constraints on supply.

    Average Annual Total Returns (%) as of September 30, 2020
      1 Mo YTD 1 Year Life
    RAAX (NAV) -5.08 -21.67 -18.32 -7.53
    RAAX (Share Price) -5.00 -21.62 -18.36 -7.51
    Bloomberg Commodity Index* -3.35 -12.08 -8.20 -6.85
    Blended Real Asset Index* -3.57 -14.00 -9.28 -3.26


    Average Annual Total Returns (%) as of June 30, 2020
      1 Mo YTD 1 Year Life
    RAAX (NAV) 0.66 -24.32 -21.90 -9.75
    RAAX (Share Price) 1.03 -24.07 -21.75 -9.62
    Bloomberg Commodity Index* 2.28 -19.40 -17.38 -11.17
    Blended Real Asset Index* 1.63 -18.57 -15.31 -5.93

    The table presents past performance which is no guarantee of future results and which may be lower or higher than current performance. Returns reflect temporary contractual fee waivers and/or expense reim­bursements. Had the ETF incurred all expenses and fees, investment re­turns would have been reduced. Investment returns and ETF share values will fluctuate so that investors’ shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

    Returns less than a year are not annualized.

    Expenses: Gross 1.13%; Net 0.75%. Expenses are capped contractually at 0.55% through February 1, 2021. Expenses are based on estimated amounts for the current fiscal year. Cap exclude certain expenses, such as interest, acquired fund fees and expenses, and trading expenses.

    In order to improve diversification based on the current risks in the market, RAAX reduced its commodity exposure in favor of companies involved in the global infrastructure and agribusiness. This was implemented by reducing its diversified commodity futures position from 28% to 15%, increasing its global infrastructure position from 5% to 14% and increasing its agribusiness position from 4% to 7%.

    A Deeper Dive

    The chart below shows the overall real asset composite. A score of 0 represents the lowest risk level and a score of 100 represents the highest risk level. A score of 60 or higher will result in our most defensive posture. The current score is 21. This indicates a stable risk regime for real assets. 

    Overall Risk Score

    Overall Risk Score

    The risk score can be decomposed into key factors that drive real asset prices. These include price trends, economic activity, realized volatility and investor sentiment.

    Price trends, in aggregate, are positive. The price trends that are currently negative are in the energy sector.

    Price Trend Risk Score

    Price Trend Risk Score

    Economic risk remains high across a broad range of real assets.

    Economic Risk Score

    Economic Risk Score

    Price volatility is low across real assets.

    Price Volatility Risk Score

    Price Volatility Risk Score

    Investor sentiment is not at an extreme.

    Investor Sentiment Risk Score

    Investor Sentiment Risk Score

    To conclude, RAAX will remain diversified and fully invested across a set of unique real asset investments. Its allocation shift away from commodities and towards global infrastructure and agribusiness equities is expected to further increase diversification as we approach the near-term uncertainties of COVID-19 and the U.S. elections.

    As always, RAAX will continue to monitor the current environment and adjust its allocations to balance the risks and rewards of real asset investing. 

    Real Asset Sector Allocations Since Inception

    Real Asset Sector Allocations Since Inception

    Real Asset Class Allocations

      Oct-20 Sep-20 Change from
    Previous Month
    Global Infrastructure 13.8% 4.7% 9.1% Increase
    Agribusiness Equities 7.2% 3.6% 3.6% Increase
    Energy Equities 4.7% 3.4% 1.3% Increase
    Low Carbon Energy Equities 5.0% 4.0% 1.0% Increase
    Coal Equities 3.9% 3.5% 0.4% Increase
    Steel Equities 3.8% 3.6% 0.2% Increase
    REITs 4.9% 4.7% 0.2% Increase
    Cash 0.0% -0.1% 0.1% Increase
    Global Metals & Mining Equities 3.6% 3.6% 0.0% No Change
    Gold Equities 5.3% 5.3% 0.0% Decrease
    MLPs 4.4% 4.8% -0.4% Decrease
    Unconventional Oil & Gas Equities 2.8% 3.3% -0.5% Decrease
    Oil Services Equities 2.6% 3.3% -0.7% Decrease
    Gold Bullion 22.7% 24.2% -1.5% Decrease
    Diversified Commodities 15.3% 27.9% -12.6% Decrease


    Please note that the information herein represents the opinion of the author, but not necessarily those of VanEck, and these opinions may change at any time and from time to time. Non-VanEck proprietary information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. Not intended to be a forecast of future events, a guarantee of future results or investment advice. Historical performance is not indicative of future results. Current data may differ from data quoted. Any graphs shown herein are for illustrative purposes only. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission of VanEck.

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    *The Blended Real Assets Index consists of an equally weighted blend of the returns of Bloomberg Commodity Index, S&P Real Assets Equity Index, and VanEck® Natural Resources Index. Equal weightings are reset monthly. The S&P Real Assets Equity Index measures the performance of equity real return strategies that invest in listed global property, infrastructure, natural resources, and timber and forestry companies. The VanEck Natural Resources Index is a rules-based index intended to give investors a means of tracking the overall performance of a global universe of listed companies engaged in the production and distribution of commodities and commodity-related products and services. Sector weights are set annually based on estimates of global natural resources consumption, and stock weights within sectors are based on market capitalization, float-adjusted and modified to conform to various asset diversification requirements. The S&P 500® Index (S&P 500) consists of 500 widely held common stocks, covering four broad sectors (industrials, utilities, financial and transportation).

    The S&P Real Assets Equity Index is a product of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and/or its affiliates and has been licensed for use by Van Eck Associates Corporation. Copyright © 2020 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global, Inc., and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Redistribution or reproduction in whole or in part are prohibited without written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. For more information on any of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC’s indices please visit S&P® is a registered trademark of S&P Global and Dow Jones® is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. Neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates nor their third party licensors make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the ability of any index to accurately represent the asset class or market sector that it purports to represent and neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates nor their third party licensors shall have any liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of any index or the data included therein.

    The Solactive MLP & Energy Infrastructure Index tracks the performance of MLPs and energy infrastructure corporations. The MVIS U.S. Listed Oil Services 25 Index is intended to track the overall performance of U.S.-listed companies involved in oil services to the upstream oil sector, which include oil equipment, oil services, or oil drilling. The Dow Jones Equity All REIT Index, designed to measure all publicly traded real estate investment trusts in the Dow Jones U.S. stock universe classified as equity REITs according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices REIT Industry Classification Hierarchy. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index is a modified market capitalization-weighted index composed of publicly traded companies involved primarily in the mining for gold. The Index is calculated and maintained by the New York Stock Exchange. The S&P® North American Natural Resources Sector Index: a modified capitalization-weighted index which includes companies involved in the following categories: extractive industries, energy companies, owners and operators of timber tracts, forestry services, producers of pulp and paper, and owners of plantations. The S&P® GSCI Total Return Index is a world production-weighted commodity index comprised of liquid, exchange-traded futures contracts and is often used as a benchmark for world commodity prices.

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  • Authored by

    David Schassler
    Portfolio Manager and Head of Portfolio and Quantitative Investment Solutions, VanEck