China ETFs Dominate
MJ may have been the top-performing ETF of the first quarter, but another group of funds was arguably more dominant. Consider this: Of the top 20 funds of the year, 12 are China-related, and each has gains of more than 28.5%.
It’s no secret 2018 was a horrible year for Chinese stocks. Down nearly a third from peak to trough, all seemed dire for the country’s equities as recently as December. Economic growth was rapidly slowing and a full-blown trade war with the U.S. was raging.
But just as quickly as they fell, Chinese stocks rebounded. During the first quarter of 2019, investors grew increasingly confident that the U.S. and China would strike a deal to end their trade war. That deal has yet to be finalized, but most people remain optimistic that it’s coming soon.
Stimulus measures from the Chinese government also raised hopes that the slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy could be managed.
Of course, China isn’t out of the woods yet and risks remain. But at least for now, investors are choosing to see the glass as half full for the country and its stock market. Funds like the VanEck Vectors ChinaAMC SME-ChiNext ETF (CNXT), the Xtrackers Harvest CSI 500 China A-Shares Small Cap ETF (ASHS) and the Reality Shares Nasdaq NexGen Economy China ETF (BCNA) are among the top-performing China ETFs so far this year.
Biotech & Oil ETFs
Outside of marijuana and China, other ETFs working well this year are a pair of health care funds, a trio of crude oil ETPs and one IPO product.
The ARK Genomic Revolution ETF (ARKG) and the ALPS Medical Breakthroughs ETF (SBIO) are the outperforming health care funds. Both products are heavily weighted in biotech stocks, which have outperformed this year, even as the broader health care sector has lagged the S&P 500.
Meanwhile, the United States Oil Fund (USO), the ETRACS S&P GSCI Crude Oil Total Return Index ETN (OILX) and the Credit Suisse X-Links Crude Oil Shares Covered Call ETN (USOI) are oil-tracking products that have delivered handsome gains this year as crude oil prices rallied.
Starting in January, the oil cartel OPEC cut production to tighten the market and lift oil prices. So far, the move has paid off.
Leveraged Oil ETPs Double
As promised, we’ll now take a look at the list of top-performing ETFs of the year that includes leveraged and inverse funds. Including the more volatile leveraged and inverse products results in a completely different set of names, headlined by the VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil ETN (UWT) and its 103.2% return.
Several other crude oil products joins that ETN among the top 20. See the table below for the full list:
Top-Performing ETFs Of The Year (all-encompassing)
Note: Data measures total returns for the year-to-date period through March 29.