What is the difference between hard and soft commodities? - Trading Class | Trading Courses | Trading Webinars
  • No products in the cart.

Table of Contents
< Back to All Categories

What is the difference between hard and soft commodities?

Difference Between Hard and Soft Commodities

Trading in the commodity market can be a complex and intricate venture, especially when you are not familiar with the differentiation of commodities. At the heart of commodity trading are two major categories: hard and soft commodities. Understanding the difference between these two categories is crucial to successful trading and investment in the commodity market. This guide, therefore, offers an in-depth examination of the contrast between hard and soft commodities, serving to equip both novice and seasoned traders or investors with the requisite knowledge for effective participation in the market.

What are Commodities?

Before we delve into the distinction between hard and soft commodities, it is necessary to understand what commodities are in the trading context. In the realm of economics, a commodity is a basic good or raw material that is interchangeable with other goods of the same type. Commodities serve as fundamental building blocks of the global economy, affecting both the prices and availability of most products.

Hard Commodities

Hard commodities are typically natural resources that must be extracted or mined from the earth. They include gold, oil, silver, natural gas, diamonds, and other precious metals or minerals. Hard commodities have several distinguishing features that affect how they are traded. Firstly, they often require substantial initial capital to procuring the relevant extraction equipment. Secondly, hard commodities are usually affected by macroeconomic factors such as political instability, changes in monetary policy, and global economic health. This aspect makes them more sensitive to global events and inflation, which could either benefit or adversely affect their market value.

Soft Commodities

Soft commodities, on the other hand, are primarily agricultural products or livestock. These comprise goods such as soybeans, corn, wheat, cotton, coffee, sugar, and cattle. Soft commodities differ from hard commodities in that they are grown rather than mined or extracted. The primary factor influencing the prices and availability of soft commodities is nature itself. Weather patterns, disease outbreaks, and the general state of the ecosystem play a massive role in determining the production yields per annum and, consequently, the price levels in the market.

Contrasting Hard and Soft Commodities

Ease of Storage and Lifespan

One critical difference between hard and soft commodities lies in their ease of storage and lifespan. Hard commodities are generally easier to store and have a long lifespan; gold and other precious metals, for example, do not corrode easily. On the contrary, soft commodities are often perishable and need to be consumed shortly after production, making their safe storage more complex and costly.

Investment Time Frame

Investors in hard commodities often have a long-term investment strategy, capitalizing on the durability of these commodities. Conversely, investments in soft commodities are often short-term due to their perishable nature.

Market Volatility

Hard commodities have more market stability due to the slow-changing nature of the factors affecting their value. In contrast, soft commodities experience high price volatility due to their susceptibility to continuous environmental and seasonal changes, consequently demanding a higher level of risk management in trading.

Mode of Trade

Both hard and soft commodities can be traded physically or via futures contracts. However, due to the challenges in dealing with perishable goods, soft commodities are more frequently traded using futures contracts. Furthermore, the electronic commodities exchange has also made it easier for investors to trade from anywhere worldwide.


While both hard and soft commodities present opportunities for profit, their inherent differences call for varied strategies in trading and investment. Understanding these differences helps traders make informed decisions. Typically, diversifying one’s portfolio to encompass both hard and soft commodities provides stability and volatility. It is crucial, nonetheless, to keep track of global market trends and other economic metrics that shape the commodity market.