These 3 Tiny ETFs Are Flying Under the Radar in 2024

Crypto and Nasdaq are not the only big winners so far.

Reviewed by: Staff
Edited by: James Rubin

About one-fifth of 2024 is in the books, and while we can’t yet define how the full year will evolve, it is easy to tell what is trending for investors. With a slew of spot Bitcoin ETFs launched earlier in the year, the follow-on demand has made crypto-centric ETFs big winners to start the year. And, thanks to the Magnificent Seven stocks, 2024 has so far been another case of “tech stocks and chill.” 

However, there is more to ETF investing life than Bitcoin and the “Qs.” And while many of the horses who sprang from the gate to start the year have holdings that track back to one or both of those investment themes, there are other, smaller, quieter stories starting to emerge. Here are three ETFs that have started 2024 with a flurry and are flying high, albeit under the radar of most investors.  

Range Cancer Therapeutics ETF (CNCR), which has $21 million in assets, pursues something even more noble than giving the world a way to invest more directly in digital currencies. It invests in stocks of companies trying to treat and cure cancer. The fund has been around for more than eight years, and it is off to a strong start in 2024, posting a 28% return through last Friday. It is primarily invested in smaller U.S.-based companies developing oncology drugs or selling medicines that address different types of cancer.  

Defense, Another Way 

And while CNCR seeks stocks that aim to protect our bodies from foreign invaders, the $24 million Global X Defense Tech ETF (SHLD) has a similar mission but in a different way. It invests in companies that provide products and services that help governments ward off threats and respond to them from the outside world. This includes advanced hardware, sensors and other methods used by the military to protect people and government assets.  

A full 64% of SHLD is in U.S. stocks, but the rest is spread across companies in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. This 35-stock ETF debuted last year and so far in 2024 has generated a 14.5% return. 

Finally, for those investors and investment advisors that like the idea of trying to profit from healing a different type of “patient,” the world’s oceans, there’s the tiny $3 million Newday Ocean Health (ETF (AHOY), which debuted less than two years ago. AHOY puts its chips (pun intended) on an actively managed portfolio of 40-60 stocks that address ocean climate issues such as CO2 emissions, product waste and other pollutants that pose a threat to the water that covers more than 70% of the earth’s surface. AHOY returned 8.6% through last Friday and is up 24% in the past 12 months.  

Big Things in Little ETF Packages 

Maybe crypto, Nasdaq and S&P 500 ETFs will go up forever. More likely, they won’t. And when the big winners everyone knows about sag, advisors and investors should take that as a cue to look deeper. Whether it is deep into the ocean, playing offense by owning defense, or solving a problem more important than any ETF or investment will ever be, these three ETFs and many more are showing a glimpse of just how wide-ranging the financial markets can be for those seeking rewards in uncommon places. 

Rob Isbitts was an investment advisor for 27 years before selling his practice to focus on ETF research and education. He is based in Weston, Florida. Contact him at  [email protected] and follow him on LinkedIn.