When is a commodity fund not a commodity fund? When is an ETF with CRB (three letters that are virtually synonymous with commodities) in its name and CRB in its ticker symbol not a commodity ETF? The answer is when it’s the Jefferies | TR/J CRB Global Commodity Equity Index Fund (CRBQ). The key word in the name is “equity” because this is not a commodity fund, it is an equity fund focusing on commodity producers.
CRBQ began trading on September 21, 2009 and seeks investment results that tracks the price and yield performance of the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies In-The-Ground CRB Global Commodity Equity Index. When naming the index, the firm did their best to avoid confusion by including an “In-The-Ground” prefix, but that phrase apparently didn’t survive when it came time to name the fund. It is also the first fund to use the “|” character in its name.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking the ETF. I’m sure it has the potential to be a great fund. I’m just saying investors might get confused by the name. After all, investors have been known to file class action lawsuits when ETFs don’t behave like investors think they should. Any side bets on how long it takes someone to claim this fund has enormous tracking error versus the widely followed CRB index?
Anyway, back to our story. The equity index that CRBQ will track is a modified capitalization-weighted, float-adjusted, rules-based index that currently consists of 142 companies engaged in the production and distribution of commodities and commodity-related products and services in the following four sectors: agriculture, base/industrial metals, energy, and precious metals. Each component must derive more than 50% of its annual revenues from the production and distribution of commodities and commodity-related products and services. Hence the “In-The-Ground” designation.
The CRBQ fact sheet from ALPS lists all 142 stocks and their weightings with Monsanto (MON) at 7.3%, Exxon Mobil (XOM) at 5.9%, and Potash (POT) at 4.6%. The top ten holdings represent 37.9% of the fund and 13 receive less than 0.1% weighting. Total fund operating expenses are 0.65%.
The CRBQ fund overview provides good background on the fund and indicates that current sector weightings are energy 39%, agriculture 38%, base/industrial metals 14%, and precious metals (9%). The top country weightings include USA 37.0%, Canada 13.9%, UK 8.5%, Russia 6.8%, Switzerland 5.3%, and Brazil 3.5%. The four sector weightings will be revised annually in June and the index is rebalanced quarterly, with the most recent rebalancing occurring last Friday (9/18/2009).
The prospectus also covers four additional funds for the CRB-EQ family, which are not being offered at this time. They are Jefferies | TR/J CRB Global Agriculture Equity Index Fund (CRBA), Jefferies | TR/J CRB Global Energy Equity Index Fund (CRBE), Jefferies | TR/J CRB Global Industrial Metals Equity Index Fund (CRBI), and Jefferies | TR/J CRB Global Precious Metals Equity Index Fund (CRBG). There was no indication when they will start trading.
Given the current uncertainty surrounding true commodity ETFs due to CFTC activities, the launch of these new commodity-oriented ETFs could prove to be very timely.