(Bloomberg) — Over six and a half years, a BlackRock Inc. commodity fund never came close to $1 billion in assets.
Yet over two days in late May, the ETF more than doubled to $2 billion — and it’s already added another $120 million in June.
The iShares GSCI Commodity Dynamic Roll Strategy exchange-traded fund (ticker COMT) is one of many raw-materials products enjoying a boom as investors ride an economic recovery from the coronavirus.
Funds tracking specific sectors including energy, industrials and precious metals have long experienced hot money flows like this. Now demand for broad-based commodity funds is surging to an unprecedented degree this year amid the global economic re-opening, with $7.3 billion of allocations to take assets to $17 billion overall.
“People are seeing that commodities are waking up, and ETFs are a popular way to get exposure to them for those who don’t have direct access to, say, the futures market,” said Eric Balchunas, ETF analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “This year, we’ve seen a lot of previous laggards finally show up” in the ETF market, he said.
These include other sectors exposed to an economic resurgence, such as value and small-cap stocks and emerging markets.
Growing expectations for a global recovery from the pandemic and rebounding demand for raw materials are taking hold just as supply constraints kick in. At the same time, the sector is seen as one of the few investments that can thrive in an inflationary regime.
Commodities could be in the “early innings” of a larger upward move, according to Ed Egilinsky, managing director and head of alternative investments at Direxion Funds. The firm’s Auspice Broad Commodity Strategy ETF (COM) has more than trebled in assets this year to $206 million.
“A lot of our investors are looking for areas where there’s still opportunity and also something that doesn’t completely correlate to stocks and bonds,” Egilinsky said. “They’re worried about reflation and want to have something in the portfolio that potentially could benefit during a period where you might see rising inflation.”
Those familiar with the historic ebbs and flows of commodities will be viewing the fund rush with caution, especially as it corresponds to massive flows for ETFs in general.
Read more: U.S. ETFs May Break Annual Flow Record With Six Months to Spare
Meanwhile, a big reason that retail investors have avoided broad commodity ETFs in the past is because of costs associated with rolling futures contracts out month-to-month. That’s not an issue now, with nearer-term contracts trading at a premium to later ones, but will become a barrier when the dynamic eventually flips.
“We’ve seen these types of short-term breakouts in these areas before, and they tend to go right back,” Balchunas said. “It’s very possible this is a new regime change, where commodities and value really lead the way, as growth and tech take a back seat. But it can go either way.”
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