Forex Blog: Currency Trading News & Analysis.

February 3rd 2010

Commodity Currencies Remain in the Spotlight

In 2009, so-called commodity currencies – both individually and as a group – registered record-breaking gains. The Brazilian Real and the South African Rand finished up more than 30%, while the Australian and New Zealand Dollars finished up about 25% each, and the Canadian Dollar not far behind. While the outlook for 2010 is slightly less rosy (if only because of the law of averages), investors would still be wise to keep such currencies on their radar screen.

With the appreciations of 2009 canceling out the depreciations of 2008, currency markets are close to “equilibrium.” Going forward, then, investors will to find a rationale other than sheer momentum for making bets. Strong commodity prices represent one such rationale. This is not only the case because currency prices are rising and are underpinning the recoveries in the respective countries that are rich in their production, but also because economic recovery – and “normal” growth as well, for that matter – in many other economies is built precariously on debt and the expansion of sovereign money supplies.

Commodity currencies – and commodities in general – have always held allure as investment vehicles because of their tangibility and necessity. Simply, modern economies depend on commodities for their functioning. Thus, countries rich in natural resources would seem to represent safe bets, since they can be assured of demand both during periods of expansion and during economic downturns.  The strong performance of commodity currencies in 2009 underscores this point, since despite the fact that prices for many commodities are well below the record highs of 2008, these currencies are very close to their 2008 highs.

More specifically, the Canadian Dollar often tracks the price of oil; this correlation will probably only strengthen when the oil sands of western Canada are developed. While rich in many natural resources, it is gold that both Australia and South Africa are famous for, and to which their currencies are often tethered. Brazil and New Zealand deal in a more diverse array of commodities, and the Kiwi and Real often move in tandem with broad-based commodities indexes. There is also the Mexican Peso (oil), the Russian Ruble (natural gas), the Norwegian Krona (oil), and Chilean Peso (copper), but the correlations between these currencies and the respective commodities for which they are famous tend to be looser.

Of course, there are many other economies that are rich in natural resources, but for various reasons (lack of liquidity, fixed exchange rates), their currencies aren’t (as) appropriate for investing. Even the currencies I listed above don’t always reflect commodities prices. For example, Canada’s fiscal problems and South Africa’s monetary easing will arguably weigh down the Loonie and Rand, respectively, in 2010.

For commodity pure-plays, your best bet, then, would be to invest in the commodities themselves. Of course, commodities don’t pay interest and their costs associated with holding them (whether directly or indirectly) and they tend to fluctuate with greater volatility than currencies. Another option is the just-announced WisdomTree Commodity Currency Fund, an ETF composed of a basket of commodity currencies, many of which I listed above.

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© 2004 - 2023 Forex Currency charts © their sources. While we aim to analyze and try to forceast the forex markets, none of what we publish should be taken as personalized investment advice. Forex exchange rates depend on many factors like monetary policy, currency inflation, and geo-political risks that may not be forseen. Forex trading & investing involves a significant risk of loss.