15 Most Actively Traded ETFs Of 2016

These ETFs trade tens of millions of shares a day on average.

sumit
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Senior ETF Analyst
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Reviewed by: Sumit Roy
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Edited by: Sumit Roy

Volatility and uncertainty are abounding in financial markets so far this year. Rather than being paralyzed by fear, traders are embracing the big moves. Trading action across exchanges has spiked amid this year's stock market rout.

 

 

Volume—a measure of how many shares trade hands on a given day—is averaging 4.8 billion, year-to-date. That compares with an average of 3.7 billion for all of 2015.

 

 

 

 

This isn't unusual. Volume tends to increase during market downturns as some traders head for the hills while other hunt for bargains.

 

 

 

 

SPY Leads, UWTI Close Behind

 

 

What's true in the aggregate is also true on an individual security basis, with stocks and exchange-traded funds across the board seeing higher-than-normal volume.

(Keep in mind that, regarding ETFs, volume is distinct from fund flows, which are derived from the creation and redemption of shares. Trading of existing shares with no change to an ETF's shares outstanding affects volume but not flows).

 

 

In terms of ETFs, the most actively traded fund is no surprise. This year, the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY | A-98) is far and away the volume leader, as it typically is, with an average of 185 million shares traded each day during the past 30 days.

 

 

While SPY taking the No. 1 position is no surprise, the No. 2 spot comes as quite a shock. The VelocityShares 3X Long Crude Oil ETN (UWTI) has averaged a whopping 132 million shares traded so far this year.

 

 

Clearly, plenty of investors are trying to time the bottom in oil prices, and are using this risky leveraged ETN to do so.

 

 

 

 

Two other energy-focused products are also among the top 15 volume leaders: the United States Oil Fund (USO | B-100) and the VelocityShares 3X Long Natural Gas ETN (UGAZ).

 

 

 

 

Downtrodden ETFs Heavily Traded

 

 

Energy isn't the only depressed area where traders have been active. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM | B-100), the iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI | B-35) and the Financial Select SPDR ETF (XLF | A-93) have been heavily traded so far in 2016.

Meanwhile, the iShares MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ | B-97) has seen big volume as traders debate whether the Bank of Japan's recent move to cut interest rates into negative territory will be successful in reinvigorating the Japanese economy.

VIX & Gold Miner Products Popular
With volatility on the rise, another group of products that's been popular among traders this year is volatility ETNs. The most noteworthy of the bunch is the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX | B-47), which trades nearly 97 million shares a day on average.

The VIX tends to rise when stock markets are falling; thus, traders who buy VXX and similar products are effectively betting on continued losses in stocks.

 

 

Another asset that's risen as stocks have declined is gold. In turn, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX | C-83) has seen a flurry of activity, with almost 71 million shares trading daily this year.

 

 

Dollar Volume Leaders Tell A Different Story

Of course, simply measuring the volume of shares that trade hands for a particular ETF doesn't tell the whole story. All else equal, cheaper-priced funds tend to have more shares traded because investors can simply buy more for a given amount of money.

Dollar volume, which measures the number of shares traded multiplied by the share price, gives a more complete view of how much money is exchanging hands in a security.

 

 

Using this measure, once again, SPY leads the pack, with more than $35.2 billion worth of shares trading daily so far this year.

 

 

With only $290 million worth of shares traded daily, UWTI doesn't come close to cracking the top 15 dollar-volume leaders. A minimum-daily-dollar volume of about $1.15 billion is necessary to make this list.

 

 

In addition to SPY, other notable dollar-volume leaders for 2016 include the PowerShares QQQ (QQQ | A-66), the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT | A-83), the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG | B-68), and the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD | A-100).

 

 

See the complete list of top 15 volume and dollar-volume leaders below:

 

 

Top 15 Volume Leaders

 

 

TickerFund30-Day Average Volume
SPYSPDR S&P 500184,759,184
UWTIVelocityShares 3X Long Crude Oil ETN131,883,512
VXXiPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN96,757,432
XLFFinancial Select SPDR76,493,136
EEMiShares MSCI Emerging Markets75,191,496
GDXMarket Vectors Gold Miners70,642,696
EWJiShares MSCI Japan64,869,432
USOUnited States Oil61,617,976
QQQPowerShares QQQ57,247,232
IWMiShares Russell 200051,946,608
TVIXVelocityShares Daily 2X VIX Short Term ETN45,328,048
XIVVelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short Term ETN42,148,992
FXIiShares China Large-Cap36,026,280
UGAZVelocityShares 3X Long Natural Gas ETN35,356,952
EFAiShares MSCI EAFE35,240,496

 

 

Top 15 Dollar-Volume Leaders

 

 

TickerFund30-Day Average Dollar Volume
SPYSPDR S&P 50035,260,513,294
QQQPowerShares QQQ5,868,223,010
IWMiShares Russell 20005,268,484,336
VXXiPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN2,437,865,479
EEMiShares MSCI Emerging Markets2,230,528,549
EFAiShares MSCI EAFE1,920,771,442
XLEEnergy Select SPDR1,798,418,998
DIASPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average Trust1,797,045,056
XLFFinancial Select SPDR1,645,928,355
UVXYProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures1,496,118,807
TLTiShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond1,431,859,496
HYGiShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond1,240,897,057
IVViShares Core S&P 5001,230,398,588
GLDSPDR Gold Trust1,184,468,853
XLVHealth Care Select SPDR1,153,299,217

 

 


 

 

Contact Sumit Roy at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sumit Roy is the senior ETF analyst for etf.com, where he has worked for 13 years. He creates a variety of content for the platform, including news articles, analysis pieces, videos and podcasts.

Before joining etf.com, Sumit was the managing editor and commodities analyst for Hard Assets Investor. In those roles, he was responsible for most of the operations of HAI, a website dedicated to education about commodities investing.

Though he still closely follows the commodities beat, Sumit covers a much broader assortment of topics for etf.com, with a particular focus on stock and bond exchange-traded funds.

He is the host of etf.com’s Talk ETFs, a popular video series that features weekly interviews with thought leaders in the ETF industry. Sumit is also co-host of Exchange Traded Fridays, etf.com’s weekly podcast series.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he enjoys climbing the city’s steep hills, playing chess and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe.