Investors expect to increase commodity investments over the next 12 months, even though short-term uncertainty is keeping them on the sidelines for now, according to a new survey by Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse conducted the survey as part of its inaugural 2011 New York City Commodities Day on Tuesday, June 28, with a gathering of nearly 400 clients covering a wide cross section of institutional investors, retail distributors, mutual funds and hedge funds.

The survey found that 36% of investors classified themselves as currently “underweight” in commodities, with a further 10% having zero exposure. However, when asked about their expected investment level over the next 12 months, 40% expected to become “overweight” commodities and only 3% as still having zero exposure.

Two-thirds ( 65%) of respondents believe that commodities prices in 12 months will be around current levels or higher, with roughly half of those expecting prices to be at least 10% higher. That compares with only 13% that expect prices to be at least 10% lower, but a significant proportion (23%) admitted to having “no idea”.

Despite the recent moderation in oil prices, investors remain bullish on crude oil, with 76% believing that the oil price has yet to peak. Dismissing a dominant role of market speculation in determining oil prices, 72% said they believe energy prices are primarily driven by market fundamentals. Copper remains the favorite base metal, with 59% seeing it has having the best 12-month outlook of the group. However, the price path for commodities is expected to remain challenging, with 55% expecting realized price volatility to increase over the next 12 months.

The survey also examined the trend away from broad market benchmarks into more specialized products for commodity exposures. 45% of respondents said they view commodity ETFs as likely to receive the greatest asset flow, while 40% saw active indices and fundamentally based directional trading as the key growth areas. In comparison, only 5% said beta benchmarks will be growth products within commodities. In a separate question about Dodd-Frank regulatory changes, 74% said they expect no significant impact on their commodities investment activities.

“Overall sentiment towards commodities as an asset class is constructive, but investors are under allocated due to concerns about short term direction and volatility,” said Oscar Bleetstein, Head of Commodity Investor Sales for the Americas at Credit Suisse.  “However, the survey confirmed our views that if and when confidence starts to return, investors are likely to increase exposure significantly and find managers or products that can accommodate this new environment.”

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