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Fueled by rising commodity prices, energy was the S&P 500’s best-performing sector in 2021, returning a total of 53% vs the index’s 27% return. And that momentum has carried into 2022.

Year to date, the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE) is up 37%, while the S&P 500 has tumbled roughly 13%.

XLE aims to track the performance of the S&P 500’s energy sector. If the positive momentum in energy prices continues, the ETF is a good bet to keep delivering market-topping returns.

There are also more direct ways to follow energy commodities. For instance, the United States Oil Fund (USO) offers exposure to oil futures and is up 40% in 2022. The United States Natural Gas Fund (UNG) tracks movements in natural gas prices, and has more than doubled year to date.

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Slowing economic growth, paired with spiking inflation, generally doesn’t bode well for financial assets like stocks and bonds. But it could be an opportune time to check out agriculture.

No matter what the economy is doing, people need to eat.

For a convenient way to get broad exposure to the agriculture sector, check out the Invesco DB Agriculture Fund (DBA). It tracks an index made up of futures contracts on some of the most widely traded agriculture commodities — including corn, soybeans and sugar. The fund is up 11% in 2022.

You can also use ETFs to tap into individual agricultural commodities. The Teucrium Wheat Fund (WEAT) and the Teucrium Corn Fund (CORN) have gained 44% and 35%, respectively, in 2021.

Rising interest rate plays

The Fed is raising interest rates to tame inflation. Higher rates increase the cost of borrowing, which could hurt consumers and businesses. At the same time, higher interest rates imply a higher risk-free rate of return, making stocks less attractive.

However, if you own investments that are well-positioned for a rising interest rate environment, the Fed’s hawkishness could be a positive for your portfolio.

It might make sense to look into the ProShares Equities for Rising Rates ETF (EQRR). The fund tracks the performance of the Nasdaq U.S. Large Cap Equities for Rising Rates Index. As the name suggests, this ETF aims to outperform traditional large-cap indexes (like the S&P 500) in periods of increasing U.S. Treasury interest rates.

While EQRR is up just slightly year to date, it has soundly thumped the S&P 500’s double-digit percentage drop over the same time frame.

Fine art as an investment

Stocks can be volatile, cryptos make big swings to either side, and even gold is not immune to the market’s ups and downs.

That’s why if you are looking for the ultimate hedge, it could be worthwhile to check out a real, but overlooked asset: fine art.

Contemporary artwork has outperformed the S&P 500 by a commanding 174% over the past 25 years, according to the Citi Global Art Market chart.

And it’s becoming a popular way to diversify because it’s a real physical asset with little correlation to the stock market.

On a scale of -1 to +1, with 0 representing no link at all, Citi found the correlation between contemporary art and the S&P 500 was just 0.12 during the past 25 years.

Earlier this year, Bank of America investment chief Michael Harnett singled out artwork as a sharp way to outperform over the next decade — due largely to the asset’s track record as an inflation hedge.

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About the Author

Jing Pan

Jing Pan

Investment Reporter

Jing is an investment reporter for MoneyWise. Prior to joining the team, he was a research analyst and editor at one of the leading financial publishing companies in North America. An avid advocate of investing for passive income, he wrote a monthly dividend stock newsletter for the better half of the past decade. Jing holds a Master’s Degree in Economics and an Honours Bachelor of Science Degree, both from the University of Toronto.

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