Dealing commodities is an old profession, dating back further than trading stocks and bonds. Ancient civilizations traded a wide array of commodities, from seashells to spices. Commodity trading was an essential business. The might of empires can be viewed as somewhat proportionate to their ability to create and manage complex trading systems and facilitate commodity exchange, serving as the wheels of commerce, economic development, and taxation for a kingdom's treasuries. Although most of the principals were people who created or used the physical goods in some way, there were doubtless speculators eager to bet a drachma or two on the upcoming wheat harvest, for instance.
Today, tradable commodities fall into the following four categories:
Metals (such as gold, silver, platinum, and copper)

Energy (such as crude oil, heating oil, natural gas, and gasoline)

Livestock and Meat (including lean hogs, pork bellies, live cattle, and feeder cattle)

Agricultural (including corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cocoa, coffee, cotton, and sugar)


Foreign currency assets are quite simply assets that are valued based on a currency other than the firm's "home" currency. Technically, these can be any type of asset, including inventory and fixed assets, but the term most often applies to liquid assets, such as cash. Moving money between currencies tends to be expensive; you pay a FOREX broker's fee, U.S. businesses pay income tax when converting foreign earnings to dollars (even if the money was also taxed by the foreign country), etc etc. To avoid these costs, multinational companies often simply keep the earnings from foreign business in the foreign country, reinvesting it in their business presence there. However, doing that means that the amount of "home currency" assets available to pay liabilities in the corporation's home country is a smaller fraction of total corporate assets, meaning various debt-to-asset ratios that don't consider foreign currency assets (because they take too long to convert and aren't worth 100% of their "book value" once they are) are lowered.

Stocks or equities

Equities are shares of ownership issued by publicly-traded companies. They are traded on stock exchanges such as the NYSE or NASDAQ. You can potentially profit from equities either through a rise in the share price or by receiving dividends. The asset class of equities is often subdivided by market capitalization into small-cap, mid-cap, and large-cap stocks.


The use of asset indices in welfare analysis and poverty targeting is increasing, especially in cases in which data on expenditures are unavailable or hard to collect. We compare alternative approaches to welfare measurement. Our analysis shows that inferences about inequalities in education, health care use, fertility, and child mortality, as well as labor market outcomes, are quite robust to the economic status measure used. Different measures-most significantly per capita expenditures versus the class of asset indices-do not, however, yield identical household rankings. Two factors stand out in predicting the degree of congruence in rankings. First is the extent to which expenditures can be explained by observed household and community characteristics. Rankings are most similar in settings with small transitory shocks to expenditure or with little random measurement error in expenditure. Second is the extent to which expenditures are dominated by individually consumed goods, such as food. Asset indices are typically derived from indicators of goods that are effectively public at the household level, while expenditures are often dominated by food, an almost exclusively private good. In settings in which individually consumed goods are the main component of expenditures, asset indices and per capita consumption yield the least similar results.