As far as ETF launches go, this year has been pretty active so far. Through the end of April, ETF issuers unveiled 62 new products—slightly less than the 69 ETFs that had launched at this time last year.
Odds are that 2017 won't end up as a record year when it comes to the number of launches (that title currently belongs to 2011, with its 308 launches), but there are more than enough products coming out that at least a few are bound to catch an investor's eye.
Within this year's new ETFs, there have been plenty of solid offerings. From cheaper versions of existing funds to socially responsible funds of all stripes to fresh smart-beta funds, investors have a lot of new ETFs they can consider. But among those, only a handful has been novel and compelling enough to really spark my interest.
Fully conceding that "interesting" is a subjective term, here are the four ETF launches that have stood out the most to me:
SPDR Long Dollar Gold Trust (GLDW)
There's a big market for gold among investors. They like to use gold ETFs to hedge all manner of concerns―from economic to geopolitical. Inflows into established gold funds were at record levels last year, but gold prices didn't see the pop one might expect.
The culprit? The U.S. dollar, which hit a 14-year high as recently as January. As the greenback has surged during the past three years, it's weighed on the yellow metal, nipping gold rallies in the bud. Enter the SPDR Long Dollar Gold Trust (GLDW).
GLDW attempts to solve gold's dollar problem by taking a long position in the buck on top of an underlying long position in physical bullion. If the dollar rises, the ETF's currency position helps offset any resulting potential losses in gold.
That's the perfect exposure for investors who want to express a bullish view on gold while expecting that the U.S. dollar will increase in value. For others who expect the dollar to decline, plain-vanilla gold ETFs are the better bet. In any case, GLDW is a much-needed product that gives investors added flexibility when it comes to gold exposure.
The fund, which launched on Jan. 27, has a 0.50% expense ratio and $26.9 million in assets.