"The major commodity indices were up 1-5 percent in H2 2013," he said. "Most of the negative performance really took place in the first half of the year as global GDP troughed and various economies were trying to gain some traction."
Losses in the first half were so deep, however, that few commodities ended the year in positive territory—niche offerings such as cocoa, cotton and soybean meal fared best. Among the more liquid commodities, only crude oil and natural gas performed well.
"Commodities have come back down to more attractive prices," Becket said.
Louie is more positive about 2014, as the trend points to an improvement in global growth. Barclays economists forecast global GDP rising by 3.4 percent this year, up from 2.9 percent in 2013.
"Economic indicators continue to improve, credit conditions are better, sentiment is up, housing prices and financial markets are up and central banks generally continue on their paths of easy monetary policy," Louie said.
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Psigma's Becket sounded a note of caution, saying an improvement in commodity prices was more likely to occur in the second half along with confirmation of the growth trajectory and increased confidence about the long-term economic outlook.
"In the short term, that is still quite questionable," he said. "There's quite a bit of complacency with regard to the economic outlook and I wouldn't be surprised to see one more selloff before things start to improve."
The supply picture also presents challenges, Heiskanen said. One reason why investors avoided commodities in 2013 was concerns about new supply coming on stream, especially in industrial metals.
Sustained low prices have prompted mining companies to curtail production and shut unprofitable lines, however.
"Western producers have started to cut capacity over the past year in metals like aluminium and nickel. This is helping to stabilize sliding prices. We've seen prices at levels where a lot of producers weren't profitable," he said.
Unfortunately for investors, the cutbacks in production growth will take two to three years to filter through. "This is not really a theme for 2014 but we are probably closer to the bottom now than we were a year ago. The risk/reward is much better skewed to the upside," Heiskanen argued.
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