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  • Guided Allocation

    Real Assets Resurgent on Recovery

    David Schassler, Portfolio Manager and Head of Portfolio and Quantitative Investment Solutions, VanEck
    December 17, 2020

    TheVanEck Vectors® Real Asset Allocation ETF (RAAX®) uses a data-driven, rules-based process that leverages over 50 indicators (technical, macroeconomic and fundamental, commodity price, and sentiment) to allocate across 12 individual real asset segments in five broad real asset sectors. These objective indicators identify the segments with positive expected returns. Then, using correlation and volatility, an optimization process determines the weight to these segments with the goal of creating a portfolio with maximum diversification while reducing risk. The expanded PDF version of this commentary can be downloaded here.


    The VanEck Vectors® Real Asset Allocation ETF (“RAAX”) returned +11.34% versus +3.51% for the Bloomberg Commodity Index and +13.98% for the Blended Real Asset Index.

    November was a great month for RAAX and for most real assets due to the news of several vaccines with efficacy rates up to 95%. This sent asset prices for industries that are a direct beneficiary of improved global growth soaring, which includes most of the real assets that RAAX invests in. RAAX held over a 15% weighting to companies that are directly associated with the oil industry and these companies generated eye-popping performance last month with oil service companies up 44%, unconventional oil and gas companies up 34%, exploration and production companies up, broadly diversified oil companies up 28% and MLPs up nearly 20%. However, these impressive gains were not limited to companies in the oil industry. RAAX’s investments in companies in the renewable energy industry were up 27%, the steel industry were up 24%, the coal industry were up 22% and the diversified metals and mining industry were up 21%. In fact, besides gold, which we will get to in a minute, the worst performing real asset investment in RAAX in November was its allocation to diversified commodities, which was up nearly 10%!

    Average Annual Total Returns (%) as of November 30, 2020
      1 Mo YTD 1 Year Life
    RAAX (NAV) 11.34 -14.11 -9.59 -3.77
    RAAX (Share Price) 11.76 -13.88 -9.37 -3.68
    Bloomberg Commodity Index* 3.51 -7.71 -3.06 -4.71
    Blended Real Asset Index* 13.98 -2.80 1.81 1.54

    Average Annual Total Returns (%) as of September 30, 2020
      1 Mo YTD 1 Year Life
    RAAX (NAV) -5.08 -21.67 -18.32 -7.53
    RAAX (Share Price) -5.00 -21.62 -18.36 -7.51
    Bloomberg Commodity Index* -3.35 -12.08 -8.20 -6.85
    Blended Real Asset Index* -3.57 -14.00 -9.28 -3.26

    The table presents past performance which is no guarantee of future results and which may be lower or higher than current performance. Returns reflect temporary contractual fee waivers and/or expense reim­bursements. Had the ETF incurred all expenses and fees, investment re­turns would have been reduced. Investment returns and ETF share values will fluctuate so that investors’ shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

    Returns less than a year are not annualized.

    Expenses: Gross 1.13%; Net 0.75%. Expenses are capped contractually at 0.55% through February 1, 2021. Expenses are based on estimated amounts for the current fiscal year. Cap exclude certain expenses, such as interest, acquired fund fees and expenses, and trading expenses.

    Now let’s get to gold. Gold prices declined by over $100 per ounce, or 5.4%, to finish the month at a price of $1,777 per ounce. Why did gold fall when everything else rallied? Very simply, many view the investment case for gold to be weakened by a return to normalcy. While it is absolutely true that a vaccine will help to get this virus under control and thereby reduce the systemic risk within the market, the vaccine will not cure the excessive debt levels, liquidity and low interest rates that have benefited gold up to this point. It is for this reason that, over the long-term, we are big proponents of gold as a core allocation to serve as both a store of value and as a safe haven asset.

    The asset allocation mix at the beginning of the month was a 30% allocation to diversified commodities, a 26% allocation to natural resource equities, a 19% allocation to gold bullion, and 5% allocations to gold equities, renewable energy, REITs, global infrastructure and MLPs. There were some notable allocation changes within RAAX this month that were designed to maintain a moderate level of volatility within the fund. The largest change was an increase in allocation to diversified commodities from 15% to nearly 30%, which was funded with reductions from both global infrastructure and agribusiness equities.

    A Deeper Dive

    The chart below shows the overall real asset composite. A score of 0 represents the lowest risk level and a score of 100 represents the highest risk level. A score of 60 or higher will result in our most defensive posture. The current score is 14, which indicates a stable risk regime for real assets.

    Overall Risk Score

    Overall Risk Score

    The risk score can be decomposed into key factors that drive real asset prices. These include price trends, economic activity, realized volatility and investor sentiment.

    Price trends, in aggregate, are positive. However, price trends remain negative in the energy sector despite the recent rally due to the extreme weakness experienced leading up to last month.

    Price Trend Risk Score

    Price Trend Risk Score

    Economic risk has ticked up lately, but remains below the key threshold level to cause alarm.

    Economic Risk Score

    Economic Risk Score

    Price volatility is within normal ranges.

    Price Volatility Risk Score

    Price Volatility Risk Score

    Investor sentiment is not at an extreme.

    Investor Sentiment Risk Score

    Investor Sentiment Risk Score

    RAAX will remain diversified and fully invested across a set of unique real asset investments, while continuing to monitor the current environment. It will adjust its allocations, if needed, to balance the risk and rewards of the asset class.

    Real Asset Sector Allocations Since Inception

    Real Asset Sector Allocations Since Inception

    Real Asset Class Allocations

      Dec-20 Nov-20 Change from Previous Month
    Diversified Commodities 29.1% 15.2% 13.8% Increase
    MLPs 5.0% 4.5% 0.5% Increase
    REITs 5.0% 4.8% 0.3% Increase
    Energy Equities 5.0% 4.8% 0.2% Increase
    Oil Services Equities 3.0% 2.8% 0.2% Increase
    Global Metals & Mining Equities 3.8% 3.6% 0.1% Increase
    Coal Equities 3.8% 3.7% 0.1% Increase
    Unconventional Oil & Gas Equities 2.9% 2.9% 0.0% No Change
    Cash 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% No Change
    Gold Equities 5.0% 5.1% -0.1% Decrease
    Low Carbon Energy Equities 5.0% 5.2% -0.2% Decrease
    Steel Equities 3.7% 4.0% -0.2% Decrease
    Gold Bullion 20.1% 22.5% -2.4% Decrease
    Agribusiness Equities 3.8% 7.3% -3.5% Decrease
    Global Infrastructure 5.0% 13.7% -8.7% Decrease


    Please note that the information herein represents the opinion of the author, but not necessarily those of VanEck, and these opinions may change at any time and from time to time. Non-VanEck proprietary information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. Not intended to be a forecast of future events, a guarantee of future results or investment advice. Historical performance is not indicative of future results. Current data may differ from data quoted. Any graphs shown herein are for illustrative purposes only. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission of VanEck.

    This content is published in the United States for residents of specified countries. Investors are subject to securities and tax regulations within their applicable jurisdictions that are not addressed on this content. Nothing in this content should be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell shares of any investment in any jurisdiction where the offer or solicitation would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction, nor is it intended as investment, tax, financial, or legal advice. Investors should seek such professional advice for their particular situation and jurisdiction.

    The Blended Real Assets Index consists of an equally weighted blend of the returns of Bloomberg Commodity Index, S&P Real Assets Equity Index, and VanEck® Natural Resources Index. Equal weightings are reset monthly. The S&P Real Assets Equity Index measures the performance of equity real return strategies that invest in listed global property, infrastructure, natural resources, and timber and forestry companies. The VanEck Natural Resources Index is a rules-based index intended to give investors a means of tracking the overall performance of a global universe of listed companies engaged in the production and distribution of commodities and commodity-related products and services. Sector weights are set annually based on estimates of global natural resources consumption, and stock weights within sectors are based on market capitalization, float-adjusted and modified to conform to various asset diversification requirements. The Bloomberg Commodity Index is a broadly diversified index that tracks the commodity markets through commodity futures contracts and is made up of exchange-traded futures on physical commodities, which are weighted to account for economic significance and market liquidity. The S&P 500® Index (S&P 500) consists of 500 widely held common stocks, covering four broad sectors (industrials, utilities, financial and transportation).

    The S&P Real Assets Equity Index is a product of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and/or its affiliates and has been licensed for use by Van Eck Associates Corporation. Copyright © 2020 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global, Inc., and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Redistribution or reproduction in whole or in part are prohibited without written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. For more information on any of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC’s indices please visit S&P® is a registered trademark of S&P Global and Dow Jones® is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. Neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates nor their third party licensors make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the ability of any index to accurately represent the asset class or market sector that it purports to represent and neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates nor their third party licensors shall have any liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of any index or the data included therein.

    The Solactive MLP & Energy Infrastructure Index tracks the performance of MLPs and energy infrastructure corporations. The MVIS US Listed Oil Services 25 Index is intended to track the overall performance of U.S.-listed companies involved in oil services to the upstream oil sector, which include oil equipment, oil services, or oil drilling. The Dow Jones Equity All REIT Index, designed to measure all publicly traded real estate investment trusts in the Dow Jones U.S. stock universe classified as equity REITs according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices REIT Industry Classification Hierarchy. The NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index is a modified market capitalization-weighted index composed of publicly traded companies involved primarily in the mining for gold. The Index is calculated and maintained by the New York Stock Exchange. The S&P® North American Natural Resources Sector Index: a modified capitalization-weighted index which includes companies involved in the following categories: extractive industries, energy companies, owners and operators of timber tracts, forestry services, producers of pulp and paper, and owners of plantations. The S&P® GSCI Total Return Index is a world production-weighted commodity index comprised of liquid, exchange-traded futures contracts and is often used as a benchmark for world commodity prices.

    Any indices listed are unmanaged indices and include the reinvestment of all dividends, but do not reflect the payment of transaction costs, advisory fees or expenses that are associated with an investment in the Fund. Certain indices may take into account withholding taxes. An index’s performance is not illustrative of the Fund’s performance. Indices are not securities in which investments can be made.

    An investment in the Fund may be subject to risks which include, among others, in fund of funds risk which may subject the Fund to investing in commodities, gold, natural resources companies, MLPs, real estate sector, infrastructure, equities securities, small- and medium-capitalization companies, foreign securities, emerging market issuers, foreign currency, credit, high yield securities, interest rate, call and concentration risks, all of which may adversely affect the Fund. The Fund may also be subject to affiliated fund, U.S. Treasury Bills, subsidiary investment, commodity regulatory (with respect to investments in the Subsidiary), tax (with respect to investments in the Subsidiary), liquidity, gap, cash transactions, high portfolio turnover, model and data, management, operational, authorized participant concentration, no guarantee of active trading market, trading issues, market, fund shares trading, premium/discount and liquidity of fund shares, non-diversified and risks of ETPs. Foreign investments are subject to risks, which include changes in economic and political conditions, foreign currency fluctuations, changes in foreign regulations, and changes in currency exchange rates which may negatively impact the Fund’s returns. Small- and medium-capitalization companies may be subject to elevated risks.

    Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against a loss.

    Investing involves substantial risk and high volatility, including possible loss of principal. Bonds and bond funds will decrease in value as interest rates rise. An investor should consider the investment objective, risks, charges and expenses of the Fund carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus and summary prospectus, which contain this and other information, call 800.826.2333 or visit Please read the prospectus and summary prospectus carefully before investing.


  • Authored by

    David Schassler
    Portfolio Manager and Head of Portfolio and Quantitative Investment Solutions, VanEck