Commodity prices post record surge, near-term inflation to follow

Commodity markets have become the center of global economic and financial market attention recently, showing unprecedented volatility. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, coming on top of the volatility caused by COVID and the subsequent policy responses, has highlighted the supply constraints now facing a wide variety of commodities.

The S&P GSCI commodity price index is a widely-watched benchmark for global commodity prices, with history back to 1970. As shown in the chart below, the rolling 3-month percent change in the GSCI index has just hit its highest reading in its 52-year history. This exceeds the moves following the OPEC oil embargo of 1973-74, the 1979 oil shock, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the rebound in prices in 2009 after the 2008 collapse, and the rebound in 2020 from the initial COVID-driven collapse.

Big divergences in commodity space still favor Materials over Energy

One of the themes in our sector research for clients recently has been to focus on relative preferences within broader style or macro categories, rather than making big macro bets on Growth versus Value or Cyclical versus Defensive areas. We find that in a more range-bound market with conflicting macro trends, a more granular view is often more effective.

One stance we have held for some time has been within the Value-oriented commodity space. While in many cases historically the Energy and Materials sectors have moved together, this year has seen a dramatic divergence between the two commodity-related sectors. We have favored Materials over Energy this year, and still do, and below are some of the drivers of that view.