Most Searched ETFs Of 2019

December 17, 2019

For ETFs, 2019 was the best of times, it was the worst—actually, no, it was pretty much just the best of times. Between the fee wars, the long-awaited ETF Rule and more than 200 new products hitting the market, this was yet another banner year for ETF issuers and investors alike.

As 2019 comes to a wrap, we thought it might be fun to look back on which fund reports got the most traffic in searches and talk about why they spark investor curiosity.  

No. 1: QQQ readers' favorite fund needs little introduction. The Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) is one of the oldest, largest and most liquid ETFs around. (Read: "ETF Of The Week: The Weirdest Fund Turns 20.")

With roughly $84 billion in assets under management (AUM), QQQ trades like a dream, making it by far investors' favorite proxy on the tech sector. QQQ is far from a pure play, however. Under the hood is a quirky mash-up of Nasdaq's biggest names, with more than one-third in nontech, nonfinancial securities.

Year to date, QQQ is up 35.1%.

No. 2: MJ

Marijuana had an exciting 2019, with seven new ETFs launched (including the first leveraged take) and more than a half-billion in new net inflows. So it's no wonder that the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ) remains a top draw for traders and retail investors alike fascinated by the promise of this budding new sector. (Read: "The Year In Marijuana ETFs.")

As the largest cannabis ETF, as well as the first to market, MJ has become something of a proxy for the marijuana industry writ large, even though the fund itself isn't precisely a pure play. (Its portfolio includes forward-looking stocks, such as alcohol, tobacco and fertilizer companies.) MJ is also no stranger to controversy or poor performance.

Still, with $702 million in AUM, MJ remains the go-to in the space; and while its seven competitors have tried to chip away at its dominance, so far none has been particularly successful.

MJ is down 28.4% year to date.

No. 3: SPY; No. 4: VOO; No. 9: IVV

It's telling that in a year that saw a deluge of new smart beta, thematic, active and even multifactor ETFs, the funds that attracted the most investor interest were those offering low-cost market beta—the same core equity exposure that has always made up the building blocks of any portfolio.

The SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) and the iShares Core S&P 500 ETF (IVV) together make up three of the four largest ETFs on the market. (VTI is the third; see below.)

They're also among the cheapest, with VOO costing 3 basis points and IVV costing 4 bps. (SPY costs 0.09%.) As the ETF fee wars rage on, we expect these three funds to remain top of mind for readers. (Read: "Fund Fee Wars Save Investors Billions.")

Year to date, SPY, VOO and IVV are up 28.7%, 28.8% and 28.7%, respectively.

No. 5: VYM

The Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM) is one of two high dividend ETFs to end up on this list, which makes a lot of sense in context: Interest rates may be rising, but still they remain at historical lows, leaving investors scrambling for any sort of income they can find. (Read: "Using Dividend ETFs For Income.")

VYM takes a smart-beta-lite approach toward security selection: Firms in its selection universe are ranked by their forecasted dividends over the next 12-month period, then the top half of those are included in the index. Securities are then weighted by market cap, rather than by dividend.

That leads to a diverse, yet relatively cheap, dividend-oriented portfolio. Currently, VYM offers a distribution yield of 3.01%. While higher yields can be found elsewhere, at 0.06% in expenses, VYM is the cheapest game in town.

VYM is up 22.1%, year to date.

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