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Commodities: Winners and Losers of 2017

Big Things Come In Small Packages - Part 1

The Smartest Beta

It’s a New Day

Bull Run for the S&P BSE SENSEX Series in 2017

Commodities: Winners and Losers of 2017

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Marya Alsati

Product Manager, Commodities, Home Prices, and Real Assets

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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The Dow Jones Commodity Index (DJCI) was up 3.0% for the month and up 4.4% YTD, and the S&P GSCI was up 4.4% with a YTD return of 5.8%. In December, livestock was the worst-performing sector in the indices, while industrial metals was the best. Of the 24 commodities tracked by the indices, 16 posted positive YTD returns. Aluminum was the best-performing commodity for the year, while natural gas was the worst.

Of the S&P GSCI commodities, five industrial metals made up the top five YTD performers in 2017. Aluminum was up 30.7% for the year, which marks the third-largest annual gain for the commodity in the history of the S&P GSCI, after 1994 (up 72.9%) and 2009 (up 33.7%). Aluminum posted seven monthly gains in 2017. The gains were partly due to plans from China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of the base metal, to reduce excess aluminum production to address pollution, along with a Chinese fiscal stimulus targeting infrastructure, which bolstered demand for all base metal commodities.

Copper had its best year-end performance since 2010, as the Chinese government banned imports of scrap metal in a period of high demand. Lead, nickel, and zinc benefited from low inventories; both lead and zinc had their best years since 2009.

Coffee was down, recording its third consecutive negative year, due to a global production surplus. The wheat commodities reported their fifth negative annual decline due to increased global supply, as Russia increased production and competition with Australia, Canada, and the U.S. over the Middle Eastern import market due to its geographical proximity. Sugar was weighed down by increased output levels in 2017 plus reduced production in both Brazil and India that had failed to meet demand in 2016.

Natural gas was down 36.5%, reporting its worst year-end decline since 2014, due to two consecutive mild weather winter conditions in 2016 and 2017, as well as strong production. A report from the U.S. (Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed an increase in inventories to 36 billion cubic feet in December 2017.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Big Things Come In Small Packages - Part 1

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Jodie Gunzberg

Managing Director, Head of U.S. Equities

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Sometimes first isn’t better, and sometimes bigger isn’t better.  In this case, first and bigger are mostly worse.  Here’s some background behind the launch timing of the Russell 2000 versus the S&P SmallCap 600.  The timing and business around the Russell 2000 launch really helped the popularity of the index, but with an extra decade’s worth of research, the S&P SmallCap 600 has a higher quality design, resulting in higher performance and less risk.

This blog series will contain excerpts from our new paper where we discuss the outperformance of the S&P SmallCap 600 versus the Russell 2000, the performance of the indices compared with active managers, and the case supporting the performance.

A recent paper by FTSE Russell rightly pointed out the well-timed launch of the Russell 2000® in 1984, an index meant to measure the small-cap segment of the U.S. equity market. The launch was on the back of breakthrough research by Rolf Banz finding that “smaller firms have had
higher risk-adjusted returns, on average, than larger firms.”  At the time, the launch of this benchmark enabled Russell Investment’s consulting clients to gauge the success of small-cap managers.

However, it was not until the early 1990s when the “small-cap premium” concept was really solidified. Nobel Prize winner Eugene F. Fama and co-author Kenneth R. French introduced the three-factor model of market risk, value, and small-cap factors that now serves as the foundation for much of the current research on the topic.  Following this research, the S&P SmallCap 600 was launched in 1994.

Although the S&P SmallCap 600 took an extra decade’s worth of research into account in its construction as a benchmark, the Russell 2000 is far more widely used. According to eVestment Alliance, as of June 30, 2017, 93% of small-cap funds and 81% of assets in the space are benchmarked to the Russell 2000, compared with 3% of funds and 5% of assets benchmarked to the S&P SmallCap 600.

Source: eVestment Alliance, LLC. Data includes the eVestment US Small Cap Equity, US Passive Small Cap Equity, and US Enhanced Small Cap Equity Universes. The Russell 2000 and S&P SmallCap 600 rows include sub-indices such as Value and Growth. eVestment Alliance, LLC and its affiliated entities (collectively, “eVestment”) collect information directly from investment management firms and other sources believed to be reliable, however, eVestment does not guarantee or warrant the accuracy, timeliness, or completeness of the information provided and is not responsible for any errors or omissions. Performance results may be provided with additional disclosures available on
eVestment’s systems and other important considerations such as fees that may be applicable. Not for general distribution and limited distribution may only be made pursuant to client’s agreement terms. *All categories not necessarily included, totals may not equal 100%. Copyright 2012-2017 eVestment Alliance, LLC. All rights reserved. Table is provided for illustrative purposes.

Perhaps the longevity and prevalence of the Russell 2000 as a small-cap benchmark is why it has been widely used in research doubting whether the small-cap premium exists.  Even in FTSE Russell’s own research, they show the Russell 2000 had a lower Sharpe ratio than the large and mid-cap Russell 1000 (0.34 versus 0.41, respectively) from June 1996 through August 2015. According to eVestment Alliance, from June 1996 through September 2017 the Sharpe ratio of the Russell 2000 was 0.31 while that of the Russell 1000 was 0.42.

However, the S&P SmallCap 600 had a Sharpe ratio of 0.43 over the same period. Not only has the S&P SmallCap 600 had a higher Sharpe ratio than the Russell 2000 historically, but the S&P SmallCap 600 has outperformed the Russell 2000 over various time periods and market cycles. Furthermore, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices SPIVA® U.S. Mid-Year 2017 Scorecard, the S&P SmallCap 600 outperformed 93.8% of all small-cap funds over a five-year period.

In the next post of this series, we will show the actual outperformance of the S&P SmallCap 600 versus the Russell 2000 over the long term, the higher returns and lower risk over different time periods, and through different bull and bear market cycles.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

The Smartest Beta

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Tim Edwards

Managing Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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In the last year, plain old beta performed remarkably well in comparison to the so-called “smart” alternatives tracking large-cap U.S. equities.  Of the 17 different strategies reported in our year-end factor dashboard, less than a third outperformed the S&P 500’s total return of 21.83% over the last 12 months.

When they are criticized as the basis of investment strategies (or at any rate when alternatives are promoted) cap-weighted equity benchmarks tend to be ascribed with certain “flaws” – in particular: an undue concentration in the largest stocks or sectors; a disregard for valuations; and a propensity to overweight recent outperformers.  Ironically, it was the supposed flaws of capitalization-weighted benchmarks that drove their relatively strong performance last year.

In 2017, size mattered.  The smallest quintile of S&P 500 constituents (based on prior year-end market capitalizations) averaged a total return of only 8.4%, while the largest stocks gained 22.3%.  In between, returns increased monotonically with size quintile.

Moreover, the U.S. market’s largest sector (Information Technology) had a banner year, soaring by 39% over the year and driving strong correlations between an index’s allocation to the sector, and its total return over the year. 

These size and sector perspectives are useful because nearly all smart beta strategies will – unless explicitly controlled for – underweight the largest stocks or sectors.   (Strategies based on momentum, growth or quality can provide occasional exceptions.)

As we’ve argued previously, the performance of an equal weight index is a useful tool to gauge whether capitalization weighting alone helped or hindered returns.  Last year, the S&P 500 Equal Weight underperformed its parent by around 3% – a material hurdle for smart beta to overcome through stock selection and additional weighting tweaks.  Those that did outperform largely did so through exposures to the factors said to weaken market benchmarks – owning larger stocks, or underweighting value, or simply following the trend.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

It’s a New Day

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Jamie Farmer

Chief Commercial Officer

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Yesterday, the first markets day of the New Year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average® continued its advance, finishing up 104.79 points for a 0.42% gain. How does that stack up against the post-holiday return to trading in prior years? Meh…it was nothing special.

Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, mind you. A gain is a gain is a gain. But it’s far from the best first day ever. In fact, it only ranks as 51st of 121 observations since the DJIA’s inception. The best—Jan. 4, 1988—came as world banks reported buying dollars to curb the U.S. currency’s decline.

But wait. How does the first day presage annual performance? Is it at all predictive of the year, does it set the tone for the next 12 months? Well, when the Dow rises on Day 1, the whole year experiences a positive return 68% of the time. Sounds good, right? Not really. Similarly, when the Dow falls on Day 1, the whole year is up 65% of the time.

Fact is, the DJIA has a positive annual return 66% of the time. Period. In other words, the DJIA closes the year with a gain two-thirds of the time, regardless of what happens on Day 1. So, no. No predictive power whatsoever. But, of course, you already knew that. There is simply too much time, too many things that influence stocks over the course of a year. The first day no more sets the tone than does Bangladeshi butter production.

Turns out this post is a tale, told by this idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. Go back to your business.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Bull Run for the S&P BSE SENSEX Series in 2017

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Ved Malla

Associate Director, Client Coverage

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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The S&P BSE SENSEX Series comprises three indices, namely the S&P BSE SENSEX, the S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50. The S&P BSE SENSEX is the oldest and the most-tracked index in India and comprises 30 large, well-established, and financially sound companies within the S&P BSE 100. The S&P BSE SENSEX 50 is designed to measure 50 of the largest and most liquid companies within the S&P BSE 100. The S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 is designed to measure 50 of the largest and most liquid companies within the S&P BSE 100 that are not members of the S&P BSE SENSEX 50.

Let us now compare the returns of the S&P BSE SENSEX, the S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 for this calendar year, as of Dec. 31, 2017.

Exhibit 1: Index Absolute Returns
INDEX INDEX VALUE ON DEC. 31, 2016 INDEX VALUE ON DEC. 31, 2017 ABSOLUTE RETURN (%)
S&P BSE SENSEX (TR) 37,472 48,550 29.56
S&P BSE SENSEX 50 (TR) 9,805 12,939 31.96
S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 (TR) 31,246 44,027 40.90

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Data from Dec. 31, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2017. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Table is provided for illustrative purposes and reflects hypothetical historical performance. The S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 was launched on Feb. 27, 2017.

In Exhibit 1, we see that in the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2017, the absolute returns of the S&P BSE SENSEX, S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 were 29.56%, 31.96%, and 40.90%, respectively.

Exhibit 2: Index Total Returns

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Data from Dec. 31, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2017. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes and reflects hypothetical historical performance. The S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 was launched on Feb. 27, 2017.

In Exhibit 2, we see the total return index level chart for the S&P BSE SENSEX, the S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and the S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50. The S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 consistently outperformed the S&P BSE SENSEX and S&P BSE SENSEX 50 during the 12-month period ending Dec. 31, 2017.

Exhibit 3: Sector Breakdown of the S&P BSE SENSEX, S&P BSE SENSEX 50, and S&P BSE SENSEX Next 50 

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. Data as on Dec. 31, 2017. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes.

From Exhibit 3, we can see that as of Dec. 31, 2017, the financial sector had the highest weight in the S&P BSE SENSEX Series, while the real estate sector had the lowest weight.

For the year ending Dec. 31, 2017, we can state that the S&P BSE SENSEX Series has shown promising returns. The S&P BSE SENSEX added over 14 lakh crores of market cap during this period. We can conclude by saying that 2017 has been a great year for the S&P BSE SENSEX Series, as the indices have given outstanding returns.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.