Worst Performing ETFs Of The Year

April 19, 2018

After two months of tumultuous price swings, U.S. stocks are back in the green. A steady stream of positive earnings reports helped push the S&P 500 above 2,700 on Tuesday, equaling a gain of 1.2% for the year.

Yet even as the broad U.S. stock market has been able to claw itself back from the February and March correction lows, other segments of the financial markets haven’t been so fortunate.

There’s a host of ETFs still down double-digit percentages, including a pair that are down more than 90%. Looking through these worst-performing ETFs can be informative, either to learn what to avoid or to potentially find buying opportunities amidst the rubble.

Like we did with the top-performing ETFs story from last week, we put together two lists—one that includes all ETFs and one that excludes inverse, leveraged and volatility products.

Sugar & Uranium Woes

The narrower list, which some may consider most “investable,” features two dozen ETFs, with losses ranging from 8% to 20%.


Worst-Performing ETFs Of 2018 (excluding leveraged/inverse/volatility)

Ticker Fund YTD Return (%)
CANE  Teucrium Sugar Fund -19.9
SGAR  iPath Pure Beta Sugar ETN -15.7
MLPB  ETRACS Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index ETN Series B -15.1
LIT  Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF -13.9
LD  iPath Bloomberg Lead Subindex Total Return ETN -13.6
PPLN J.P. Morgan Cushing 30 MLP Index ETN -13.6
EPHE  iShares MSCI Philippines ETF -13.3
MLPE C-Tracks ETNs on the Miller/Howard MLP Fundamental Index Series B -12.7
SCIF  VanEck Vectors India Small-Cap Index ETF -11.0
TUR  iShares MSCI Turkey ETF -11.0
GRWN  iPath Pure Beta Softs ETN -10.4
DOD  Elements Dogs of the DOW Dow Jones High Yield Select 10 Total Return ETN -10.3
SCIN  Columbia India Small Cap ETF -10.3
AMLX  Amplify YieldShares Oil Hedged MLP Income ETF -9.6
PKB  PowerShares Dynamic Building & Construction Portfolio -9.3
URA  Global X Uranium ETF -9.2
WREI  Wilshire US REIT ETF -9.2
INXX  Columbia India Infrastructure ETF -8.9
ITB  iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF -8.8
GAZB  iPath Series B Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex Total Return ETN -8.7

Data measures the total return for the year-to-date period through April 17.


The worst among the bunch are a pair of sugar ETPs, the Teucrium Sugar Fund (CANE) and the iPath Pure Beta Sugar ETN (SGAR), which fell by more than 15% each, even as commodities as a whole performed quite well in 2018.

Increased exports from India and Thailand pushed sugar to a 2 ½-year low, according to analysts.

Uranium is another commodity that performed poorly this year. Prices for the metal have been depressed in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, but the situation got so bad this year that Cameco, the world’s largest publicly traded uranium miner, had to suspend production at multiple mines.

Cameco said the uranium market was oversupplied, with “no expectation of change on the immediate horizon.”

The Global X Uranium ETF (URA), which holds shares of the company equal to 25% of its entire portfolio, is down 9.2% so far this year on the back of the uranium woes.

Tesla Weighs On Lithium ETF

Another commodity-centric ETF that’s gotten hit this year is the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT). This was one of 2017’s hottest ETFs, rising by 59%, but this year it’s swooned nearly 14%, as the fortunes of autonomous vehicles, and by extension—lithium—soured a bit.

In particular, the production and safety concerns facing Tesla have hurt LIT, which holds a 4.4% position in the stock. Some analysts also believe that lithium supply will begin to outstrip demand in the coming years, sending prices down.

Lead, natural gas and MLPs were other commodity-related ETFs to fare badly so far this year. In fact, four MLP ETFs made the worst-performers list, as the industry faces a crisis of confidence.

EM Laggards

Outside of the commodity names, a handful of emerging market ETFs are also facing head winds in 2018. The iShares MSCI Philippines ETF (EPHE), the VanEck Vectors India Small-Cap Index ETF (SCIF) and the iShares MSCI Turkey ETF (TUR) are some funds in this group.

The performance of these ETFs contrasts with the largely positive moves seen in emerging markets broadly this year. For comparison, the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO) is up 1.5% so far in 2018.


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