The Best and Worst ETFs of July 2023 by Performance

The best ETFs sailed high on crypto and oil stocks, and steered clear of shipping.

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Reviewed by: Lisa Barr
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Edited by: Sean Allocca

ETFs that invested in cryptocurrency firms and oil companies were the best performers in July, while shipping and volatility futures funds brought up the rear. 

The top and bottom performers showed strong performance from funds invested in crypto stocks as anticipation builds for a potential spot bitcoin ETF, while rising oil prices boosted energy stock exchange-traded funds.  

A slowdown of the Chinese economy—which represents a significant percentage of global bulk shipping volume—put a damper on shipping futures. The U.S. market is in a relatively calm place, causing volatility future ETFs to decline. 

The exchange-traded fund with the best total return for the month was the Bitwise Crypto Industry Innovators ETF (BITQ), with a 21.6% total return, while the worst-performing was the Breakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF (BDRY), with a return of -10.8% over the same period.  

Because they are meant as extremely short-term holdings, leveraged and inverse ETFs were excluded from the lists, as were funds with fewer than $50 million in assets under management, due to potential liquidity issues. 

Bitcoin and Oil ETFs Saw Improvement

After BlackRock Inc.’s announcement in mid-June that it would be seeking to launch a spot bitcoin ETF, followed by several more firms, the price of the asset rose from under $26,000 to over $30,000. While it has pulled back, currently sitting around $29,000, it is still at a high point compared to most of the past year, as investors anticipate increased demand from potential spot bitcoin ETFs.  

That propelled bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrency stock ETFs upward, making up four of the top 10 best-performing ETFs for the month.  

As major oil producers cut production this year to keep prices up, the price of oil rose from about $70 to $80 a barrel throughout July as those cuts have started to tighten supply. As a result, three of the top 10 ETFs for July were oil stock ETFs, particularly concentrated in oil equipment and services ETFs. However, oil and gasoline commodity funds were also up more than 14% as well. 

Bulk Shipping ETFs Slowed

BDRY led the worst performers as trouble in the Chinese economy weighed heavily on the fund. Dry bulk shipping is distinct from the shipping of oil in tanker ships, and the shipping of other types of goods carried in shipping containers. 

John Kartsonas, managing partner at Breakwave Advisors, who runs the fund, said that the fund is “very levered to the Chinese market, especially Chinese infrastructure. China makes up 65% of all dry-bulk shipping demand,” as the country’s steel industry is a major source of demand for iron ore, and the slowdown of building has put a damper on the need for steel. 

In the U.S., where the economic picture has been rosier, with good employment numbers and falling inflation, market volatility has fallen, dragging down the two ETFs that track the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX. 

Best Performing ETFs of July 2023 

TickerFund1-Month Total ReturnAssets Under ManagementExpense Ratio
BITQBitwise Crypto Industry Innovators ETF21.6%$112 million0.85%
XESSPDR S&P Oil & Gas Equipment & Services ETF20.3%$351 million0.35%
DAPPVanEck Digital Transformation ETF20.0%$64 million0.50%

 

Worst Performing ETFs of July 2023 

TickerFund1-Month Total ReturnAssets Under ManagementExpense Ratio
BDRYBreakwave Dry Bulk Shipping ETF-10.8%$63 million2.85%
VXXiPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN-8.2%$410 million0.89%
VIXYProShares VIX Short-Term Futures ETF-8.0%$214 million1.05%

Gabe Alpert is a former data reporter at etf.com with over seven years’ experience in financial journalism. He also previously contributed reporting and analysis to Barron’s Magazine, Investopedia and other publications.