Top Performing Commodity ETFs

October 18, 2018

Stock and bond markets may be getting all the attention, but another asset class has been quietly making moves of its own. Led by strong prices for energy, commodities recently reached their highest level in four years, adding to a steady rally that began in early 2016.

The S&P GSCI Total Return Index, one of the most recognizable commodity indices, gained 11.7% in the year-to-date period through Oct. 16. ETFs tracking the index, and others like it, have followed suit to the upside.

High-Flying Oil ETFs

Of course, some commodity ETFs focused on specific commodities are up much more than those broad ETFs. Take the United States 3x Oil Fund (USOU). It aims to deliver three times the daily returns of oil futures, a strategy that’s returned a whopping 75.2% this year.

Even without the benefit of leverage, oil ETFs, such as the United States Oil Fund LP (USO) and the Invesco DB Oil Fund (DBO), managed to hand out robust returns—over 26%—for investors who were lucky enough to bet on rising crude prices at the start of the year.

Strong global oil demand, which topped 100 million barrels per day for the first time ever this year, combined with tumbling oil exports from two major producers, pushed crude prices to a four-year high this year.

Venezuelan oil production hit the lowest level in 15 years amid an economic crisis in that country, while Iranian oil exports dropped to a 2 ½-year low ahead of the implementation of U.S. sanctions intended to punish the Iranian oil industry.

 

Top-Performing Commodity ETFs Of 2018

Ticker Fund YTD Return (%)
USOU  United States 3x Oil Fund 75.16
BOM DB Base Metals Double Short ETN 70.26
UWT  VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN 67.93
WTIU  UBS ETRACS - ProShares Daily 3x Long Crude ETN 65.59
OILU  ProShares UltraPro 3x Crude Oil ETF 63.90
UCO  ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Crude Oil 46.54
DSLV VelocityShares 3X Inverse Silver ETN 42.42
OLO  DB Crude Oil Long ETN 32.35
ZSL  ProShares UltraShort Silver 31.78
DBO  Invesco DB Oil Fund 31.03
USL  United States 12 Month Oil Fund LP 28.54
BNO  United States Brent Oil Fund LP 26.52
USO  United States Oil Fund LP 26.48
OILB  iPath Series B S&P GSCI Crude Oil ETN 25.84
OILK  ProShares K-1 Free Crude Oil Strategy ETF 25.02

Note: Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through 10/16/2018.

 

Betting Against Metals Pays Off

Along with ETFs that bet on crude oil, products that bet against metals have also performed well this year. The VelocityShares 3X Inverse Silver ETN (DSLV) and the ProShares UltraShort Silver (ZSL) are two such examples.

Gold and silver prices dropped 6.2% and 13.7%, respectively, this year. Products that rise when precious metals prices fall—especially those that use leverage—were prime beneficiaries of the gold and silver swoon.

DSLV added a cool 42.4% year-to-date, while ZSL gained 31.8% in the same period.

Stripping Out Oil

The list of top-performing commodity ETFs is filled to the brim with oil products and the occasional inverse gold or silver product. That’s important to know—when it comes to commodities, 2018 is undoubtedly the year of oil.

But stripping those inverse, leveraged and oil products out of the list can help us spot under-the-radar funds that are also climbing and could continue to climb if the commodities recovery continues.

 

Top-Performing Commodity ETFs Of 2018 (excluding leveraged/inverse/oil)

Ticker Fund YTD Return (%)
RJN  Elements Rogers International Commodity Index-Energy TR ETN 23.81
DBE  Invesco DB Energy Fund 22.78
BEF  Aberdeen Standard Bloomberg Energy Commodity Longer Dated Strategy K-1 Free ETF 17.73
UNG  United States Natural Gas Fund LP 14.92
JJEB  iPath Series B Bloomberg Energy Subindex Total Return ETN 13.65
GSP  iPath S&P GSCI Total Return Index ETN 13.38
NIB  iPath Bloomberg Cocoa Subindex Total Return ETN 12.54
GSG  iShares S&P GSCI Commodity Indexed Trust 11.06
COMG  GraniteShares S&P GSCI Commodity Broad Strategy No K-1 ETF 11.01
DBC  Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund 8.43
GSC  GS Connect S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity TR Strategy ETN 8.42
UNL  United States 12 Month Natural Gas Fund LP 8.17
PDBC  Invesco Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy No K-1 ETF 7.91
UGA  United States Gasoline Fund LP 7.46
GAZB  iPath Series B Bloomberg Natural Gas Subindex Total Return ETN 7.02

Note: Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through 10/16/2018.

 

This narrower list is still topped by energy-related ETFs, like the Elements Rogers International Commodity Index-Energy TR ETN (RJN) and the Invesco DB Energy Fund (DBE).

Oil’s ascent has clearly bolstered the 22%-plus returns for these products. But so too has the increase in natural gas prices.

Prices for the fuel are up 10.6% this year on the back of low storage levels and a cold start to the winter heating season. According to the Energy Information Administration, stockpiles of natural gas are 17% below the five-year average, and could fall into a bigger hole if the colder-than-normal temperatures currently hitting the U.S. East Coast and Midwest persist.

One of the largest ETFs to exclusively track natural gas, the United States Natural Gas Fund LP (UNG), is up 14.9% year-to-date, outperforming natural gas futures.

Cocoa Rebounds

Outside of the energy commodities, cocoa is another outperformer. The iPath Bloomberg Cocoa Subindex Total Return ETN (NIB) advanced 12.5% year-to-date, a tad below the 16% increase in cocoa futures prices.

The cocoa bounce comes from low levels. Last year, cocoa dipped to 10-year lows amid a surplus of crops. This year, the market is seen as more balanced, leading to a slight rebound for the bean.

Broad Commodity ETF Winners

Individual commodity ETFs aren’t the only ones to rally in 2018. Several broad commodity products—those that offer exposure to all segments of the commodity market, from energy to metals to agriculture—also generated handsome returns so far this year.

The broad products that target the S&P GSCI, or a similar version of the index, have done the best as their heavy weighting in energy has paid off.

For example, the iPath S&P GSCI Total Return Index ETN (GSP) and the iShares S&P GSCI Commodity Indexed Trust (GSG) returned 13.4% and 11.1%, respectively.

The popular Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund (DBC) and the Invesco Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy No K-1 ETF (PDBC)—the latter of which has seen inflows of a whopping $1.7 billion this year—are also among the top performers of 2018.

Email Sumit Roy at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter sumitroy2

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