Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 07, 2023

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What Is the S&P GSCI?

The S&P GSCI, or the Standard & Poor's Goldman Sachs Commodity Index, has established itself as one of the premier measures for commodity performance since its inception in 1991.

This world-recognized benchmark was a collaborative creation of Standard & Poor's and Goldman Sachs to provide investors with a reliable and publicly available benchmark for investment performance in the commodity markets.

The principal purpose of the S&P GSCI is to provide a measure of the performance of the commodity markets that is easily accessible and understood by investors.

It offers a window into the price trends and performance of the global commodity market. It is crucial in global finance, especially in risk management and investment decision-making.

Structure of S&P GSCI

Types of Commodities Included

The S&P GSCI comprises many commodities, effectively representing the global commodity market.

These commodities range from energy products like crude oil and natural gas to agricultural commodities like wheat and corn, precious metals like gold and silver, and industrial metals like copper and zinc.

This wide coverage ensures that the index accurately reflects the overall performance of the commodity market.

Weighting of Individual Commodities

The weighting of individual commodities in the S&P GSCI is determined by their economic significance and liquidity in the global market.

For instance, energy commodities typically have a higher weightage because of their high global consumption and trade volume. This approach ensures the index reflects the commodity markets, providing investors and risk managers with valuable insights.

Calculation of S&P GSCI

Pricing Mechanism

The S&P GSCI is based on a world production-weighted methodology, which considers the average quantity of each commodity produced annually over a five-year period. This approach is what makes the index a reliable representation of the global commodity market.

Rolling Contracts and the Effect on Index Value

The S&P GSCI employs a process known as "rolling contracts" to maintain continuity in the index value. This involves moving from the near-month contract to the next-month contract in a prescribed roll period.

This mechanism is vital in addressing the issues of contract expirations in the futures markets, which, if not managed, could significantly impact the index value.

Role of S&P GSCI in Financial Markets

As a Benchmark for Commodity Investments

The S&P GSCI serves as a crucial benchmark for commodity investments. It provides investors with a comprehensive and publicly accessible measure of commodity futures performance.

As such, investment professionals use it to assess the relative performance of commodity-focused funds and strategies.

Use in Risk Management

Risk managers use the S&P GSCI to understand the risk characteristics of commodities as an asset class. Its comprehensive coverage of the commodity markets makes it an essential tool for identifying and managing commodity price risks.

S&P GSCI as an Investment Tool

Direct and Indirect Investment Options

The S&P GSCI can be invested in both directly and indirectly. Direct investment often involves investing in futures contracts of the index.

In contrast, indirect investment can involve investing in financial products that track the index's performance, such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or mutual funds.

Advantages and Risks of Investing in Commodities Through the Index

There are several advantages to Investing in Commodities through the S&P GSCI, including:

  • Inflation Protection: Commodities often increase in price during inflationary periods. Therefore, investment in the S&P GSCI can act as a hedge against inflation, protecting the real value of your investment.

  • Geopolitical Risk Mitigation: Commodities, being real assets, can offer some protection against geopolitical risks. For instance, in times of political instability or conflict, certain commodities may see a price increase, which can offset losses in other parts of a portfolio.

Risks of Investing in Commodities through the S&P GSCI include:

  • Price Volatility: Commodities can experience significant price fluctuations. Factors such as supply and demand imbalances, changes in production due to weather or political instability, and fluctuations in the value of the U.S. dollar can all contribute to commodity price volatility.

  • Rolling Contracts: The S&P GSCI uses a process known as "rolling contracts" to maintain continuity in the index. This involves moving from the near-month contract to the next-month contract in a prescribed roll period.

    However, the prices of these contracts can differ, potentially leading to a "roll yield" which can affect the value of investments tracking the index.

  • Exposure to Global Events: While this can be an advantage in some instances, it can also be a risk.

    Global events, such as political unrest, natural disasters, or significant changes in economic policy, can all impact commodity prices and, subsequently, the value of the S&P GSCI.

Comparative Analysis of Investing in Commodities Through the S&P GSCI

Role of S&P GSCI in Portfolio Diversification

Correlation With Other Asset Classes

The S&P GSCI offers a unique correlation profile with other asset classes, like stocks and bonds. Typically, commodities have shown a low to negative correlation with these traditional asset classes, making them a powerful tool for portfolio diversification.

Inflation Hedging Capabilities

Since commodities often rise in value during inflationary periods, the S&P GSCI can effectively hedge against inflation. When inflation increases, the nominal value of commodities rises, which subsequently pushes up the index value.

Performance Analysis of S&P GSCI

Historical Performance

Historically, the S&P GSCI has shown a strong performance during periods of economic growth and during inflationary periods. However, like any investment, it has also experienced periods of downturn, particularly during recessions or periods of deflation.

Comparative Analysis With Other Commodity Indices

When compared to other commodity indices, the S&P GSCI typically exhibits similar trends given the similar commodities basket. However, the specific weightage assigned to each commodity in the index can lead to variance in performance compared to other indices.

Impact of Market Conditions on S&P GSCI

Effects of Economic Cycles

The S&P GSCI is sensitive to economic cycles. During periods of economic growth, demand for commodities typically increases, pushing up commodity prices and, subsequently, the value of the index.

Conversely, commodity demand can decrease during economic downturns, leading to a drop in the index value.

Influence of Geopolitical Events

Geopolitical events can also significantly impact the value of the S&P GSCI. For instance, conflicts or trade disruptions in commodity-rich regions can lead to supply shortages, causing commodity prices to rise and subsequently increase the index value.


The S&P GSCI is a benchmark index providing investors with a reliable and publicly available measure of commodity futures performance. It represents a broad-based, investable, and economically significant benchmark for the commodity markets.

The S&P GSCI offers a unique tool for investors seeking exposure to the commodity markets. The index presents several advantages to investors, from its role in portfolio diversification to its potential for inflation hedging.

However, it's also important to consider the risks and market factors influencing its value.

Given the complexities of the commodity markets and the S&P GSCI, it's crucial to have a sound wealth management strategy in place.

Whether you're an individual investor or a financial professional, understanding the role and dynamics of the S&P GSCI can provide significant advantages in navigating the world of commodity investing.


About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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