Monday, February 12, 2007

Taking another look at the CRB index

I've mentioned before that I feel it's essential for us, as investors and market observers, to learn more about the makeup of the various commodity indexes (see, "Double Down on Commodities?").

For anyone who'd like to know more about the ins and outs of the construction of these leading indexes, with specific emphasis on the CRB, see Adam Hamilton's excellent recent article on the, "Continuous Commodity CRB".

Hamilton writes that many investors and onlookers have been misled into a bearish stance on commodities because of the recent correction in the CRB index. After all, a technical breakdown in the price chart of a leading index, such as the one that occured last summer in the CRB, is bound to be interpreted as bearish indicator.

However, changes in that index led Hamilton to believe that the price movements in the overall average did not actually constitute a bearish secular signal for commodities, but in fact were merely reflecting the recent poor performance of the new, oil-heavy index.

When prices are rising fast, bullish theories abound to explain them. Remember all the New Era bullish theories surrounding the NASDAQ in late 1999 and early 2000? And when prices are falling fast, bearish theories gain traction and prominence. If the CRB had been strong rather than weak over the last six months, almost none of the bearish theories so popular today would even exist. Prices drive explanations.

Well, believe it or not, the CRB actually really was strong over the last six months! All the bearish theories based on the cratering CRB are founded on nothing more than an illusion. Every single bearish theory you've heard lately that draws strength and credibility from the falling CRB is simply not valid. An epic misunderstanding, or deception depending on your perspective, has just taken place. The CRB is not as it seems.

Read on for the full explanation of how today's CRB differs from those that have come before it.

I've really enjoyed looking over Hamilton's articles in the past. His public articles for Zeal Intelligence (many of which are archived over at are an excellent source of information on investing and commodities, and I think we'll learn a lot from these most recent articles on the weighting and configuration of the commodity indexes.