10 Most Terrifying ETF Returns of 2023

From carbon offsets to cannabis, these funds have produced scary performance in 2023.

Reviewed by: Ron Day
Edited by: Sean Allocca

In the truest spirit of Halloween, we compiled a list of the 10 scariest ETF returns so far this year. 

To prevent things from getting too spooky, we screened out leveraged strategies, but we do wrap up the list with a bonus treat to send you off with a little sugar high. 

Keep in mind, while stalking out the list of cellar dwellers, that the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) is up 9.08% this year. 

KraneShares Global Carbon Offset Strategy (KSET)

YTD: -80.73% 

12 months: -87.5% 

Assets: $1.06 M 

Expense ratio: 0.79% 

Strategy: Passively managed to primarily hold futures contracts on voluntary carbon offset credits. The fund invests in GEOs and N-GEOs that mature in the next two years. 

ProShares Short Bitcoin Strategy (BITI) 

YTD: -57.8% 

12 months: -52.65% 

Assets: $72.6 M 

Expense ratio: 1.33% 

Strategy: Tracks the inverse daily price movements of an index of front-month CME bitcoin futures. It aims to profit from the price decline of bitcoin. 

ProShares VIX Short Term Futures (VIXY) 

YTD: -53.97% 

12 months: -65.45% 

Assets: $207.49 M 

Expense ratio: 1.05% 

Strategy: Tracks an index with exposure to futures contracts on the CBOE Volatility Index with average one-month maturity. Exposure resets daily. 

ConvexityShares 1x SPIKES Futures (SPKX) 

YTD: -53.63% 

12 months: -65.12% 

Assets: $741.6 K 

Expense ratio: 0.65% 

Strategy: Geared towards active traders and speculative investors. The fund tracks an index which continuously rolls the two nearest month SPIKES futures contracts as they approach expiration. 

Simplify Tail Risk Strategy (CYA) 

YTD: -52.67% 

12 months: -62.29% 

Assets: $12.29 M 

Expense ratio: 0.84% 

Strategy: An actively managed fund-of-funds that invests in US fixed income and income generating ETFs, while investing in derivatives to hedge tail risk. 

Global X Cannabis (POTX) 

YTD: -51.98% 

12 months: -64.72% 

Assets: $27.28 M 

Expense ratio: 0.51% 

Strategy: Tracks an index of developed market companies related to cannabis, hemp & CBD. 

United States Natural Gas Fund LP (UNG) 

YTD: -48.16% 

12 months: -63.14% 

Assets: $1.03 B 

Expense ratio: 1.11% 

Strategy: Holds near-month futures contracts in natural gas, as well as swap contracts. 

Global X Hydrogen (HYDR) 

YTD: -43.84% 

12 months: -44.51% 

Assets: $33.16 M 

Expense ratio: 0.5% 

Strategy: Tracks a modified market-cap-weighted index that provides global exposure to companies positioned to benefit from hydrogen economy. 

Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping (BDRY) 

YTD: -43.63% 

12 months: -35.97% 

Assets: $54.13 M 

Expense ratio: 2.85% 

Strategy: Tracks an index of long-only exposure to the nearest calendar quarter of dry bulk freight futures contracts on specified indexes. 

Global X Solar (RAYS) 

YTD: -43.08% 

12 months: -43.52% 

Assets: $5.93 M 

Expense ratio: 0.51% 

Strategy:  Tracks a market-cap-weighted index of global solar energy companies selected based on their revenue generated from solar-related business, and ESG criteria. 

Bonus treats: 

Had we factored in leverage, the prize for worst performing ETF so far this year would go to the $104.9 million VS Trust 2x Long VIX Futures (UVIX), which is down 85.68%. 

Also worth noting, the best performing ETF this year, with leverage, is the $191.9 million GraniteShares 1.5x NVDA Daily (NVDL), which is up a whopping 298.8%. 

Contact Jeff Benjamin at [email protected] and find him on X at @BenJiWriter.    

Jeff Benjamin is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years’ experience covering the financial markets and broader financial services industry. He most recently worked as a senior columnist at InvestmentNews, and prior to that was an analyst at Cerulli Associates and a money management reporter at Dow Jones Newswires. Based in North Carolina, Benjamin is a former Marine and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.