Likewise, the physically backed iShares Silver Trust (SLV | A-99), which has $5.4 billion in assets, also gained 22% in the period.
Just as with gold, it's been a rough ride for silver since 2011. But something suddenly changed early this year, when prices bottomed out just below $14. Today they reached more than $17, the highest level in about 11 months.
YTD Returns For Gold & Silver
A weaker dollar, a resurgence in commodities across the board, and a new paradigm of negative interest rates around the world have all served to bolster the appeal of gold, and by extension, silver.
The cheaper metal often rides the coattails of its more prominent cousin, and is a favorite of retail investors in particular.
Currently, there are nine ETFs focused on silver in the market and another three focused on silver miners.
SLV is by far the most popular fund tied to silver on the market. That's followed by the ProShares Ultra Silver ETF (AGQ), with $294 million in assets; the ETFS Physical Silver (SIVR | A-100), with $292 million; and the VelocityShares 3X Long Silver ETN (USLV), with $154 million.
SIVR is a physically backed ETF like SLV. However, it is the cheaper alternative, with an expense ratio of 0.30% compared with 0.50% for its larger competitor. Year-to-date, SIVR is slightly outpacing SLV, with a gain of 22.3% compared with 22.1%.
Meanwhile, AGQ and USLV are leveraged products designed for aggressive short-term traders with an appetite for higher risk. As is typically the case, buyers of these products must contend with the effects of daily rebalancing, which could skew their returns from the advertised leverage factors for longer holding periods.
AGQ is up 45.6% for the year so far, while USLV is up 70.6% in that period.