It’s been a difficult start to 2016 for the financial markets and it can seem like we’re no clearer about what the outlook is now that two months have passed compared to the beginning of the year. With the combination of a slowdown in China and a crash in oil prices, pressure is weighing on risky assets and safe havens are taking centre stage.
Unsurprisingly, this has been reflected in the ETF arena too. For example, iShare US Aggregate Bond ETF, which contains a host of high quality, safe bonds has enjoyed a 2.1 per cent gain during the period. By contrast, the SPDR S&P 500 has slipped by 5.1 per cent despite a rally during the second half of February.
So which ETFs are offering the best returns of the year so far?
While it is usually typical for a mixture of ETFs from different sectors and asset classes to make up a top 10, this time around there is a firm emphasis on the silver and gold miners ETFs. Although in the first half of January the market was struggling, there was a sharp 17 per cent rally in the price of gold and that prompted a surge in the sector.
Taking top spot is the iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETF, boasting an eye-catching 50.7 per cent return. It offers the lowest expense ratio for the segment at just 0.39 per cent. Meanwhile, second place belongs to Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF: it has climbed by 41.3 per cent and is considered the most liquid among all miners ETFs.
Away from gold mining, very few ETFs have enjoyed notable gains during the year. Just outside the top 10, however, were the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures and the VelocityShares VIX Short-Term which both enjoyed gains just short of 24 per cent. Their success can perhaps be attributed to the notable rise of the CBOE Volatility Index.
As for leverage and inverse ETFs, which are generally designed for traders that want short holding periods and are generally aggressive, the top 10 in this area has focused on inverse natural gas ETPs, leveraged gold miners ETPs and inverse biotechnology ETPs. Among the most notable gainers is the Direxion Daily S&P Biotech 3X Shares ETF which has enjoyed a significant 143.2 per cent gain. It was followed by the Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X, which saw a 139 per cent rise. Also worth noting is the VelocityShares 3X Inverse Natural Gas ETN, which has enjoyed a 130.8 per cent increase.
ETF.com has put together a list of the top performers as of the end of February. They are below.
Top 10 ETPs (excluding leveraged/inverse)
Top 10 Leveraged/Inverse ETPs