Also on the worst-performers list is an emerging market (EM) fund, the VanEck Vectors India Small-Cap Index ETF (SCIF). It’s joined by two other EM funds, the Global X MSCI Nigeria ETF (NGE) and the Global X MSCI Pakistan ETF (PAK).
Broadly speaking, 2019 has been a modest up year for emerging markets. The two largest funds in the space, the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (IEMG) and the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF (VWO), are higher by 4.4% and 7.7%, respectively.
But as is typically the case, performance among the various emerging markets isn’t uniform. Nigeria and Pakistan, in particular, are two volatile markets with feeble growth prospects.
India is growing much faster, but concerns about the health of the country’s banks and other lenders have dogged returns this year.
Energy Sector Slammed
The group that is most pervasive on the worst-performers list this year is hands down the energy sector. Of the 15 worst performers, 11 of them are energy-related.
From the First Trust Natural Gas ETF (FCG) to the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP) to the United States Natural Gas Fund LP (UNG), it’s been a dismal year so far for the energy sector.
Crude prices couldn’t even get a sustained lift from the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities, arguably the worst oil supply disruption in history. The problem is the market is saturated with oil due to the fracking revolution in the U.S. At the same time, demand growth is tepid, with global economic growth slowing.
Put those two together and you have a recipe for weak energy prices. Making matters worse, the long-term outlook for the sector is poor. Climate change concerns translate into less demand for fossil fuels going forward, while a growing emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing further curbs the appeal of the energy sector.
Marijuana ETF Deflates
Rounding out the list of worst performers is the ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ), the first U.S.-listed marijuana fund. One of the most hyped-up areas of the market earlier this year, marijuana stocks hit the skids in the past few months, as some air has come out of their bubbly valuations.
Recent negative news flow about marijuana vaping-related deaths and execution issues at some of the large Canadian marijuana companies helped prick the bubble.
Still, the push toward legalization in the U.S. will keep this space interesting for the foreseeable future. It’s anyone’s guess if MJ will benefit from that.