How to invest in commodities

Coffee, cotton and even cattle. Find out how you can invest in commodities.

Commodities are items that can be interchanged, like corn or precious metals. Find out why they might have quite volatile prices, whether they’re a good investment and how you can invest in them.

What are commodities?

Commodities are, pretty simply, things that aren’t much different from one another if you were to get them from other sources. Kind of like when you’re in the supermarket buying flour, there isn’t really much difference between the different brands. If they don’t have the one you usually buy, you would generally just choose another one.

It’s helpful to think about things which aren’t commodities to understand it further. These are items that aren’t interchangeable. Say you choose a nice fluffy jumper from your favourite online retailer, but a different jumper arrived. You’d be pretty miffed – just because they do the same thing, they’re not the same.

There are two categories of commodities:

  • Hard commodities are ones that need to be mined or drilled to be found, such as metals and energy products.
  • Soft commodities are ones which are grown, like corn and wheat.

Are commodities volatile?

Commodities’ volatility (how much the price moves up and down) is generally reflective of the supply and demand. If there were loads of avocados grown just as everyone decided they didn’t like guacamole anymore, then the price of your average avocado is likely to go down. If a worldwide virus leads to everyone panic buying toilet roll, you’re likely to see the price rise.

Due to supply and demand, the volatility of commodities tends to be higher than for other types of investment, but this depends entirely on the commodity.

List of commodities

This isn’t an exhaustive list of commodities, but it gives you a good idea of what can be considered to be a commodity.

How can I invest in commodities?

There are four different ways that you can invest in commodities:

  • Purchasing the commodity
  • Investing in commodity futures contracts
  • Buying commodity exchange traded funds (ETFs)
  • Buying stocks and shares in companies that produce commodities

Purchasing the commodity

You can choose to invest in a commodity by purchasing the commodity. You can often do this by looking for a dealer that sells the commodity and purchasing it from them. You can choose whether you want to eventually sell it back to the original dealer or to sell to someone else.

This is often done with gold and silver, but you’ll need to ensure that you have somewhere to store the commodity between buying and selling it.

Investing in commodity futures contracts

If you’re not familiar with futures contracts, they’re quite simple. Instead of purchasing the stock now, you are agreeing to purchase it at a specified point in the future. These were created for sellers like farmers, who would start creating a stock long before it could actually be sold, to help manage the financial risk.

Nowadays, futures contracts aren’t solely for farming. You can purchase futures contracts in just about anything, and they don’t always end with physical items.

Buying commodity exchange traded funds (ETFs)

Commodity ETFs allow you to invest in a series of different firms or companies, allowing you to spread your investment out and reduce the risk. We explain ETFs in some detail in our handy guide if you’re not completely sure on how they work.

ETFs are a much simpler way of accessing the stock market, so they’re quite well suited to you if you’re a newbie. There are loads of ETFs for a huge range of different commodities, so you have plenty of choice.

Buying stocks and shares in companies that produce commodities

Which stocks and shares you choose to purchase will depend on what specific commodity you fancy investing in. Do some research into the commodity you want to invest in to find out some companies that produce it and buy shares in those companies.

You might need to know your way around the stock market to buy shares. The share trading platform that you choose to use will have some guidance to help you along the way.

Are commodities a good investment?

All investing carries risk, but many commodities are items that consumers continue to buy even in a recession. Everyone will still need to eat, for example, so some people view commodities as less risky, but within that, there will be a huge range – oil is a commodity and can be highly volatile.

Compare share trading platforms

All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.

Name Product Price per trade Frequent trader rate Platform fees Brand description
eToro Free Stocks
£0
N/A
£0
Capital at risk. 0% commission but other fees may apply. The minimum deposit with eToro is $200.
Hargreaves Lansdown Fund and Share Account
£11.95
£5.95
£0
Hargreaves Lansdown is the UK's number one platform for private investors, with the depth of features you'd expect from an established platform. The minimum deposit with HL is £1. Capital at risk.
Freetrade
Finder Award
Freetrade
£0
N/A
£0
Claim your free share worth between £3 and £200. Capital at risk.
Degiro Share Dealing
UK: £1.75 + 0.014% (max £5)
US: €0.50 + $0.004 per share
N/A
£0
Degiro is widely seen as one of the best low-cost share brokers, for people who are looking to trade regularly. The minimum deposit with Degiro is £0. Capital at risk.
interactive investor Trading Account
£7.99 (with one free trade per month)
N/A
£9.99 per month
Interactive Investor offers everything most investors need. Its flat fees makes it pricey for small portfolios, but cheap for big ones. The minimum deposit with ii is £0. Capital at risk.
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All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.

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